“They can’t do that!” people shouted at their televisions as desperate karaoke hopefuls fought over six plastic chairs on stage in front of a packed crowd at Wembley Arena a week ago.
X Factor bootcamp 2013 really threw the cat amongst the pigeons for viewers; how could a show that is built on foundations of mocking the afflicted and pitting the fragile hopes and dreams of a disenfranchised youth against one another stoop to this level? How could Cowell et al make the would-be popstars sit on a chair and think they might be through to the next round, only to find out that they were not? This is a fundamental breach of human rights, or something - or maybe just great TV... Whatever it is, the tabloids are going to ensure X Factor gets more publicity out of it. (Nice one, Simon)
Well, for those who like to get incredibly angry about young people being "exploited" by "cruel reality TV", let me throw a new player into the ring - Sky Living's no singing, all modelling search for a "brand ambassador".
The new show sees uber models Naomi Campbell, Erin O'Connor and Caroline Winberg pick teams of young girls to mentor with a view to becoming super models, and then pitch against each other in a cruel game of musical clotheshorses.
Set in the famously bitchy modelling industry, The Face certainly doesn't disappoint if bitching is your bag. A highlight of episode one saw Naomi Campbell uncontrollably laughing at a young girl in a big hat and a bikini because her catwalk walk wasn't up to scratch - but that's nothing on what the second instalment had to offer.
Just when you thought there might be a star search amongst the egos and bravado of the mentors – the show took an even more bizarre twist as Caroline Winberg eliminated a contestant “because she didn’t choose me” as her mentor.
You see, just like The Voice, the show sees the mentors bid for their favourite contestants – and in the event of overlapping interest, it is the girl who gets to choose the “team” they join.
Each week the winning team’s mentor has to choose one person to go from two put forward by the other judges. This week, that honour fell to Victoria Secrets model Caroline Winberg.
“I always get my revenge” snarled the Swedish beauty as she dispatched Jess, a girl who made one fatal modelling mistake – she picked team Naomi, rather than team Caroline.
There was no suggestion she was worse at modelling, worse looking, or less likely to make it in the industry than the girl who survived – she was simply a pawn in a ridiculous game between three stick thin mega models.
A cruel twist that left Jess in tears and the mentors pantomime feuding – but, presuming Jess isn’t an actress - this was a really horrible incident.
You see, not only did it unfairly and unjustly upset an innocent young girl – it completely destroyed any element of pretence that this was a star search, or that in any way “being the best” is something to aspire to. What is more, the calous shattering of the hopes and dreams of a young girl to satisfy the petty "revenge" of a multimillionaire businesswoman is something that a well-healed audience of thirty somethings are meant to consider entertainment as they fill their faces with Ben & Jerry's and choose the style of their new bathroom suite.
The Face says loud and clear, this isn’t about talent, or in the slightest about contestants – it’s simply about over inflated egos, big pay checks and more opportunities for the “mentors” to promote personal shopping services at Heathrow and perfume ranges as they head for retirement.
Yeah, the X Factor can appear cruel. But this programme is needlessly brutal.
Perhaps it reflects the horror and randomness of the real modelling industry? But if that is the case, make an undercover documentary – don’t dress it up as a talent contest and lead young impressionable people to think they have a chance of succeeding in this process.
If The Face continues in this way, it’s hard to see it inspiring a new generation of aspiring models, or indeed achieve anything more than confirming the worst fears of a disfranchised youth that they can’t win… so why bother trying?