Last year on the Yard I wrote in praise of The X-Factor. Yeah, well I now come to bury it. On Sunday, for various inexcusable reasons, I saw that nasty episode between the end of the Boot Camp stage and the beginning of the interminable Live in the Studio stage, which isn’t but ought to be called The Weeping Episode.
It’s the one where the various judges take six hopefuls each to some exotic location and whittle them down to three apiece. The hopefuls are tortured in tellyland’s usual style: made to wait around in a state of funk for ages while the judges ‘deliberate’, then given the news in double and triple bluffs (At first I was very impressed with you… but now I’m very sorry to say that…you’re not going home because you’ve made it through!).
Before the judgements are delivered the contestants weep because it all ‘means so much to them’. After the judgements the losers weep because they haven’t made it through and, conversely, the winners weep because they have. All of the men weep these days, even the judges, and the women howl like banshees. Nobody takes it well.
I had previously suspected the Weeping Episode was unnecessarily exploitative, even by reality TV standards. Since we’re months away from the finishing line, by which time these early fallers will all be long forgotten, why do we need to see them being tortured and crushed? But then I also thought: well, they know what they’re getting into by choosing to appear on it. And they only weep so much because they saw contestants weeping last year; they don’t really invest all their pitiful hopes and dreams on the huge improbability of winning, do they – surely that’s just something they say? And surely they’ve realised by now that even winning the whole thing is no guarantee of lasting success?
Sadly not. One of the failures in this year’s Weeping Episode was one Daniel Pearce, a 31-year old father of two from Kent, who, seven years ago, was successful enough on Popstars: The Rivals (the X-Factor precursor that also spawned Girls Aloud) to make it into the boyband One True Voice. The band and its members disappeared from public consciousness almost instantly, so Pearce has been chasing fame since, culminating in the final humiliation of ejection from the X-Factor at the Weeping stage in 2009.
So here is a man who has actually won one of these shows, lived through the experience of it singularly failing to make him an international star, and yet is still sufficiently deluded and desperate that he believes the X-Factor represents his sole shot at happiness and fulfilment. Rather than let him back on telly, they should have set him up with a desk job and a shrink; these are seriously fragile people that ITV is torturing for our weekend entertainment.