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Can Simon Cowell Find The X-Factor In The UK?


by Luke

This week Simon Cowell launches the biggest ever talent show on television, casting his critical eye over yet another group of fame hungry wannabees hoping to become the next big thing. It features TV’s so called “Mr Nasty” in his usual role – verbally abusing the contestants with his trademark put-downs, two other judges at his side, and rounds of gruelling auditions with only those that make the final cut getting to square off in a series of exciting live finals. It may just sound like another season of “American Idol” (or “Pop Idol” as it’s called here in the UK) but if the hype is to be believed we are about to see something more X-treme, X-citing and X-ceptional as “The X-Factor” hits our screens.

While the format owes a lot to Cowell’s other co-creation there will be a few subtle changes – not least of which are among the judges. Swap the ever calming influence of a person like Paula Abdul for the fiery temper of new judge Sharon Osbourne and Simon may finally meet his match. The role of the third judge is taken by Louis Walsh – the middle aged manager of Irish boyband “Westlife” who is not quite as loud as most other reality TV judges but can be quite cantankerous and moody if he disagrees strongly enough. Another change is to the age limit of people who apply to enter. Put simply, there isn’t one. Simon has often commented how hard it is to find talent suitable for grooming amongst the nations youth so this time around he will have three categories of contestants to berate – the usual under 25 year olds, vocal groups, and for the first time the possibility of coming face to face with geriatric grandads in the 25+ age group. Early reports suggest the show will feature identical twins, a choir and none other than a Simon Cowell lookalike – scary!

While the judges have made shows like these worth watching for the past few years they’ve never actually competed …. until now. Once the initial audition stages are over the 120 top acts will make it to the next stage – a boot camp. In fact there will be three separate boot camps as for the first time ever the judges will compete against each other putting their industry reputations on the line to see who can groom the act which goes on to win the show. Each judge will be taking charge of a category, putting their musical wards through various tasks and challenges to weed out the best five. Where to go from that? It’s off to the judges own homes where it looks like a few lucky contestants will get to take tea at the Osbourne house with Ozzy. There’ll be yet more work to do though as each judge and their industry “people” develop and style their young (and not so young) potential pop superstars picking the best three to compete against each other in a series of live shows. From then on, it’s up to the viewers to narrow down the field by voting each week until just one act is left, the one that has “The X-Factor”.

The show, developed by Simon Cowell himself (although there have been legal moves to dispute this) is the first reality series to be produced by his own company, “SYCO TV” which has production deals with both ITV in the UK and Fox in the USA. It will replace a third series of “Pop Idol” which has been rested for a year as its future hangs in the balance. If Simon can prove to TV bosses he has “The X-Factor” himself when it comes to making reality shows it’s possible he may no longer have to share the spoils of his success with producers of the “Idol” format – “19TV”. Going it alone when his current contract is up in 2006 could mean an end to both “Pop Idol” in the UK, and if this show makes it across the pond, “American Idol” in the USA. After all, what would these shows be without their biggest star?

X-Factor is to be hosted by Kate Thornton – herself a past conquest for Simon Cowell, albeit a romantic one. Thornton, past presenter of behind the scenes show “Pop Idol Extra” has an immediate spark when interacting with Cowell and an obvious but non-vindictive grudge to bear with the judge, although that reason is never openly revealed to viewers. Past exchanges between the pair have included Kate offering to sing for Simon but being rebuffed with the words “No thanks, I’ve heard you singing in the morning” with his quick witted former lover replying “Yeah, he used to be my postman”. Cowell has also hired another ex – 80’s singer Sunita onto his team of “people”, sounds like Simon has taken the name of the show literally!

Don’t miss “The X-Factor” show updates and episode recaps each week here at Reality Shack and check out the shows official website at www.xfactor.tv for video clips, competitions and the latest news.

You can contact Luke with comments or questions at luke@realityshack.com.


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