Simon Cowell’s new reality show “The X-Factor” stormed onto UK screens this week and with its impressive graphics and catchy theme tune quickly presented itself as an update to the “Idol” format rather than just a spin-off. There were the usual tears and tantrums as the first round of auditions were shown, and not just among the contestants. Judges Simon, Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh found that with the age limit on entrants removed and vocal groups allowed auditioning glamorous grannies and barbershop quartets might be more fun, but the reality soon set in that if the public actually voted one of their more eccentric acts the winner they would have to manage them.
For the 50,000 hopefuls who applied for the show the preliminary auditions were much the same as you would expect from any of the “Idol” shows. The best and worst of the entrants were given the chance to perform in front of the judging panel, chaired by Sharon Osbourne. From then on the panel voted yes, no, and sometimes even maybe as to whether they should return for the next stage. It didn’t always work like that though. The judges were dismayed that one barmy (or should i say, baaaa-rmy) young man used his fifteen seconds of fame to rip off his trousers and dance around them wearing only a posing pouch in the shape of a sheep’s head. He was escorted away from them by Simon’s personal bodyguard, the rather large Tony Adkins who has become quite a star on the UK shows.
Amongst those who did actually come to sing were the usual mix of tuneful and completely tone deaf people. Like the sheep man, there were also some entrants who were just plain weird. In fact, Simon Cowell himself has said that if you thought you had seen “weird” on the “Idol” shows before then you ain’t seen nothing yet. This weeks worst included two sisters who had formed a double act called “Sweet Harmony” and looked like even less polished Christina Aguilera clones. After being booted out and coming back to argue against the judges decision Sharon Osbourne held nothing back as she described them as like “.. two ropey old strippers that pick up $1 notes with their crotches.” Also feeling Sharon’s wrath was Benjamin, who she nicknamed “The Yorkshire Rapper”. Well, all Benji had was a bad attitude rather than being able to rap and after his ejection from the show decided to insult Sharon with a comment about her children having been in rehab. Simon on the other hand was most admired by the contestants. In fact many of the maturer ladies attending the first round heats were there specifically to swoon at him, including the scarily obsessive Sharon Hornsby (pictured) who brought along her husband who she had styled to look exactly like Cowell. His unconvincing look-a-like was invited to sit at the judges desk while Sharon struggled through a rendition of “I Just Called To Say I Love You”. She was denied going any further on account she could not be trusted to stay loyal to her man if she had to work closely with Simon and left after the other judges had forced him to kiss her – no tongues.
Amazingly there was some talent on hand. Barbershop quarter “G4” performed an excellent version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and were given the thumbs up for round two. A boy band called “Lyce” followed them with one member of the group moved to tears as Simon singled him out as the best. Rumor is that he will be asked to choose between his loyalty to the band or the chance of a solo career if he is to progress much further which should provide some dramatic moments. Most surprisingly, 81 year old senior citizen Renay was invited to the next stage after she sang old time songs. While Simon asked her if she knew anything from the charts judges Sharon and Louis were genuinely moved and put her through. The sentiment was not shared by “Mr Nasty” who jokingly threatened to leave the competition as he thought the others were deliberately trying to sign a singing grandma to his record label.
While the debut of “The X-Factor” achieved respectable ratings it was not watched as widely as some past episodes of the UK’s “Pop Idol” – though this may have been because an international soccer match was being shown live on another channel. There were definitely many similarities with “Idol” but the original parts of the show format should become more visible as the competition progresses and the judges begin to compete against each other. One thing very noticeable with the lack of any age limit on contestants was a greater focus on the life stories people had to tell, bringing some more depth and emotion to the talent show realm. It also meant a greater focus on “fun” too with various Elvis impersonators and other humorous acts there just to have a laugh. If anything, the best performance of the show came from Sharon Osbourne. She is the perfect reality TV judge showing an emotional side but also not being afraid to tell the auditionee’s and other judges what she honestly thinks of them. It will be interesting to see how this develops when the series goes live and she is not subject to as much editing. Her fresh take on the harsh judge role seemed to eclipse Simon Cowell somewhat, perhaps he has met his match.
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.
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