Hey, everyone good news! After the quiet summer we’ve been having, this week sees the return of the bombastic TV juggernaut that is The X Factor. Yes, a stampede of gifted people competing to prove their talents. It’s what the country needs.
Or possibly, not. My hunch is that the true, planet-spanning talent show we’ve witnessed over the past few weeks has left us so awed by the Olympian feats of our athletes that The X Factor suddenly feels howlingly out of place, like a stripper at a street party.
How are we supposed to get excited by the show’s self-absorbed wannabes, whose highest aspiration is to get papped into the pages of Heat and the tabloids, when we’ve seen what the likes of Mo Farah, Laura Trott, Greg Rutherford and Jess Ennis can do? It’s a question of timing. Arriving hot on the heels of the 30th Olympiad, Simon Cowell’s parade of quavering prima donnas risks coming over as sickly and flat. We’re just not in the mood.
You can understand ITV wanting to get back into the action after being forced to lay low for weeks, reheating old episodes of Poirot. It can’t have been easy to have to watch the BBC monster the ratings with triumph after sporting triumph.
But as a once-great show that is feeling its age (this will be the ninth series), The X Factor does not need a tough act to follow at this point, and the London 2012 Games have certainly been that. In offices, pubs, parks and front rooms around the country we’ve been exhilarated by the extraordinary human drama, but also (as we sip a beer or slouch on a sofa – or both) a bit humbled by the effort and sacrifices put in by our athletes on the road up Mount Olympus.
Jess Ennis told Radio 5 Live after her heptathlon victory that she was looking forward more than anything to a glass of wine and some “rubbish food”, having denied herself such things for years. Compare that kind of self-denial with the coming antics of the X Factor stars who, according to sources on the show, will be encouraged to misbehave more this year, in order to get the tabloids’ attention.
“The X Factor is supposed to be a cool programme, with young people having the time of their lives,” a show insider told The Sun. “Last year it was decidedly flat. Only Frankie [Cocozza] got up to anything newsworthy and he ended up pushing it too far [Cocozza left the series amid rumours of drug-taking]. But he had the right idea. Pop stars don’t stay in and ‘work on their vocals’, that’s just rubbish. They go out, get trashed and fall out of nightclubs.”
Isn’t that lovely? Drunker, lazier, trashier – The X Factor ideal.