Shake-ups happen all the time in TV nowadays, and this year, ITV’s hit talent show The X Factor was no exception. With music mogul Simon Cowell having hopped across the Atlantic to remodel the show for the States, Dannii Minogue’s commitments to Australia’s Got Talent and Cheryl Cole being snubbed left, right and centre, an almost entirely new line-up of judges and tweaked format injected some much-needed excitement into a show which had, without doubt, become a little bit repetitive.
However, perhaps the producers of The X Factor could have done with listening to that old adage, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’, since the eighth series has been hit by controversy, in-house fighting and ratings sinking faster than a stone in water.
The new line-up of judges was most likely the first pitfall. Two in particular have, for me, stuck out like a sore thumb on the show. Some may say Tulisa Contostavlos (from RnB group N-Dubz), never quite seemed the most likely candidate for a judge, and hasn’t quite paid enough of her dues in the music business to judge. Gary Barlow appeared to slot into Cowell’s “Mr Nasty” role quite well, though perhaps too well. Part of Simon Cowell’s charm was that despite his (often harsh) criticism, he was always fair, something Barlow has failed to grasp. His near-constant slating of contestant Janet Devlin borders on plain mean, and his catty “Amelia [Lily], I felt you shouted your way through that” following her sing-off against his own contestant Craig Colton came across as unprofessional and bitter. The only original judge left standing, Louis Walsh, has almost become that tatty pair of jeans that don’t quite fit, yet you can’t bring yourself to throw away. However, since the fiasco that was Jedward, many have questioned his musical judgement, fuelled by the fact that he has not had an act win the competition since Shane Ward in the second series. Newcomer Kelly Rowland seems to be the only judge who has fitted the mould this year, bringing to the table a fresh sass and constructive, informed and fair criticism, and being very entertaining to watch. For me, unlike Barlow, the success of Destiny’s Child and her own solo career has not gone to her head, and her down-to-earth attitude reflects that of Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue before her.
Louis Walsh, has almost become that tatty pair of jeans that don’t quite fit, yet you can’t bring yourself to throw away.
The series has had its fair share of controversies, too. In-house feuds between Kelly and Tulisa mirror the tension between Sharon Osbourne and Dannii Minogue in season 5. Louis Walsh has continued to tease the other judges, with spats regularly breaking out across the panel. One member of boy band The Risk walked from the competition, to be replaced by another boy band member who lost out at the judges houses, and Little Mix were forced to change from their former name, Rhythmix, following copyright issues. The biggest controversy arose over the sudden departure of contestant Frankie Cocozza. After weeks of glamorising binge drinking and promiscuity and performing in a lacklustre, under-rehearsed fashion, the contestant was spectacularly given the boot after apparently boasting about taking cocaine. He was then replaced by former contestant Amelia Lily (ousted by Kelly Rowland in the first week under a judge’s vote) in a slightly messy turn of events. The truth is, as a viewer, this has started to bore me. The talent of the contestants is very often overshadowed by pantomime antics of producers, judges and a few contestants alike, who appear to be there to do little else than cause a stir.
All considered it’s quite apparent why The X Factor’s once steely grip on Saturday night ratings has started to weaken. This year even saw viewer figures falling below that of BBC arch-rival Strictly Come Dancing at times, for the first time in years. Perhaps this year’s facelift was one shake-up too far, and as interest in the series begins to wane (I myself, a life-long fan, have struggled to get into it at all), and boss Simon Cowell reportedly unhappy with the series performance, you can only wonder how much longer the show will go on. With its star quickly fading (and all of Cowell’s efforts seemingly being poured into the new US version of the talent show), it remains to be seen whether any measure of shake-ups can salvage anything from wreckage of this car-crash series.