It’s around this time of year when I have to sit myself down and remind myself of the great British institutions which define and enrich our culture. I count them: the church, the monarchy, the government and, of course, the X-Factor. And now, in this great year of 2019, we, the viewing public, have been blessed with Cowell’s new brainwave: X-Factor: Celebrity. This version (which airs in October) will see celebrity contestants who have ‘no previous singing experience’ compete against each other to claim the infinite riches, artistic respect and record deals promised to them with their X-Factor victory and, ultimately, allow them to have one last bite of the cherry.
When looking at the line-up of the 15 ‘stars’ I felt a diverse mix of emotions: anger, pity, bewilderment and exhaustion from the constant Google searching of who they were. If I were to explain to a friend who the cast members are, I imagine the conversation would be something like:
“You know, the one from the Chase? She was in a couple of last year’s Comic Relief sketches. Umm. She’s done an online bingo ad I think? Oh, nevermind.”
The big names include: Megan McKenna from TOWIE, Brendan from Strictly and, depending if music.ly is still installed on your phone, Max and Harvey Mills. The rage I felt when reviewing the ‘celebrities’ was not due to the fact I didn’t know who they were but at the X-Factor bosses’ assumption that the audience is stupid. The idea is simple; to find the best performer out of a group of celebrities who have no formal performing experience and reward them with a recording contract. With this information I looked at contestants such as Megan McKenna and Kevin McHale, both of whom are professional singers, and threw my fist straight through my wall. Megan McKenna has recently toured the UK following her debut album and Kevin McHale was a long-serving cast member on Glee and, handily, has just released a new EP. The show is founded on deceit and cash-grabbing, but I suppose Cowell needs to raise the funds to keep those veneers shining somehow.
My pity stems from seeing people of genuine talent subject themselves to the modern-day colosseum of the X-Factor. The sad fact widely known is that the popularity of the X-Factor is due to the preliminary rounds; where the talentless and deluded come out from under their rocks to make their dreams come true, only to find the British public does not root for the underdog but batters and laughs at it. A few years ago, it was enough for such people to be unknown. Now, we must watch people who have achieved something, such as Martin Bashir, make a fool of themselves. Having done intense and careful research, I’m now of the opinion that the greatest phenomenon of the 21st century is not, for example, global connectivity via social media, but the cult of the reality personality. British evening television entertainment is becoming increasingly reminiscent of a gangbang; reality stars are passed from one channel to another, sacrificing their privacy with each appearance until they are left empty and gaping (metaphorically, of course). A prime example of this is the upcoming X-Factor: Celebrity’s group called ‘The Islanders’. The four members forming this ‘supergroup’ are ex-Love Islanders Eyal, Samira, Zara and Wes. I can already see their trajectory after Love Island and the X-Factor; if they’re lucky they’ll get a presenting job, if not, I’m A Celebrity, getting married live on This Morning and, finally, obscurity.
And yet, I will still watch it, knowing full well that I will be the loser of the relationship. As Cowell and his fellow dream-makers rake in the money and secure commissions of The X-Factor until well after Britain is submerged under the sea, and the celebrity contestants do indeed manage to have a final moment of relevance, I will be the one seething and heavy breathing, all while being entertained. With this in mind, I call for everyone with access to ITV to watch X-Factor: Celebrity, if only to help it in the ratings war against its even sadder sister; Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions.
Photo Credit: Metro