Monday, 13 December 2010

Wider Watching | Silkworms Ink Gets Drunk And Watches The X Factor.

It looks bad, I know. I was forced to watch the X Factor final last night against my will. Now, I could still argue that by being made to watch it as part of a large group, although I added to the actual number of people watching it, I'll have brought the viewing figures down by the law of averages, so, in the end, I helped to slow its climb. It's a bit like how car-sharing helps the environment.

Nevertheless, I've been told things I had no desire to know, like why that little over-effusive Irishman is famous (Boy bands, it turns out. Makes his bow tie seem even creepier). I'm still a little uncertain as to why Dannii Minogue is famous; but that's okay, because I think she is as well.

Anyway, as the man who stared into Cthulu's gaping maw said, 'It was an eye-opening experience, and I'm glad I lived through it.' 

The format, as it turned out, was fairly simple. An apparently perfectly pleasant human being or group of human beings would come onstage and do a bit of karaoke. Just to ensure that we didn't get bored by, y'know, singing, each act seemed to have been given a million pounds to spend on fireworks, A-list celebrities, violinists and cavorting mime artists. Then the panel of four transparently horrible human beings would applaud these apparently perfectly nice human beings and tell them how nice they were.

Needless to say, this made for a riveting fifteen minutes of television, which was for some reason bulked out by tearful retrospectives, talking heads, some tedious bloke in a dinner jacket endlessly shilling the programme's phone lines, and, finally, an extremely high-looking Robbie Williams and some other middle-aged men. (Presumably this last act was intended as a dire warning to the boy band that was participating, about the ravages of time and why they shouldn't do drugs or try to pursue a solo career.) All in all, it went off with all of the speed, casual modesty and grace of a Royal Coronation, if a Royal Coronation was punctuated by shots of the Queen begging for money and a stadium full of people howling enthusiastic white noise at her.

The contestants, as I've said, seemed perfectly decent. One act was a collection of small children who'd apparently made it through to the final thanks to the confused feelings they elicited in other small children with access to a phone, and enough worldly wisdom to say 'Yes' when asked if they had their parents' permission. For some reason these ordinary young lads - who in their pre-act video gurned and mickeyed about for the camera - had been wardrobe-departmented up as if they were adult super-hunks, and they even sang a slightly dreary version of that Natalie Imbruglia song about adult feelings as if they were world-weary, sex-weary adult super-hunks. I guess they were the opposite of mutton dressed up as lamb. Veal dressed up as beef, if you like, and with much the same implication of their handlers' cruelty towards them.

You can find plenty of groups of fans devoted to photos just like these online. Or, as the police call them, 'rings'.

The second contestant; again, amiable enough. A pudgy-faced Daniel Bedingfield clone who appeared to be wearing a toupee. 'Harmless', you would have said, even if he did fall over a lot dramatically at the end of his songs.

The third contestant I found myself unexpectedly rooting for. Her first song was just...well...'Sweet Dreams'. You know. Android dancers. Weird hair. Cold, emotionless sexuality. 80s stuff. And throughout this song she did the thing we seem to admire in our female pop stars nowadays, which is to be a weird funky unattainable cold android sex robot. (Rihanna. Hi!) 

And then as soon as the song ended, she started doing something else. She smiled, with delighted bewilderment, as if not quite sure what she was doing there, and her body language shifted perceptibly from 'Superstar diva with potential back problems in later life' to 'ordinary person; or, big unco-ordinated lummock like the rest of us, who has absolutely no idea what it is these PR people keep telling her to do with her hands.'

Bugger the singing, this woman has a future in the yearly Derbyshire County Awards for 'Looking Happy, Uncertain of Yourself and Completely Flummoxed'.

'Hurrah!' I cried, cradling my half-empty vodka bottle. 'This woman doesn't have the X Factor! She has the opposite of the X Factor! She's a perfectly good singer who's far too self-effacing, unerotic and un-self-conscious to rub up to 50 Cent in a leather catsuit while warbling a chorus about how big his penis is. Let her win this golden ticket to a year of fame and a long-term future of appearing in a Never Mind The Buzzcocks 'guess the singer' lineup.'

More tedious events ensued. The young children were booted off the show. Simon Cowell said a very bitter thank-you 'to the people who bothered to vote', which seemed to me a fascinating step towards actively chastising those apathetic wastrels who didn't agree to give him money. Then there were some more songs, more retrospectives, advert breaks every ten minutes, more shilling. This went on for some time.

'Christ,' I thought, checking my watch, 'is this how ordinary people feel when I make them sit through the last Lord of the Rings movie?'

Finally, the inevitable happened; Daniel Bedingfield won and was immediately presented with a copy of his album. One of the panel judges thanked the public for 'supporting the show', much as the RSPCA might thank people for supporting them by keeping them in doggy bandages, cat-food, fireworks, vaultfuls of cash and guest appearances by Christina Aguillera. 

You're right; I'm just being silly about the toupee. Plenty of people have real hair that looks just like that. Well, maybe not hair. You know. A hefty splodge of greasy chocolate meringue perched on the top of their heads. 

I left the show confident that if I were to vote for a Christmas number one, I'd probably buy a copy of the latest cover version of John Cage's piece of silence 4'33", which seems to me a far funnier joke than 'Killing in the Name Of'. 

But I was struck by a last final image; as the boy band and some other non-entities ran onstage and began to congratulate Bedingfield with a bouncy enthusiasm which suggested that either they wanted to show how magnanimous they were, or they'd been snorting cocaine in the green room, I caught sight of the third contestant, the single mother. The frenzied contestants had pushed past her to hug the winner and fondle his dubious hair; her head poked through at the back, smiling, not quite sure what to do with herself.

Jon Ware is recovering from post-traumatic stress caused by his X-Factor experiences in a very secure clinic. We're hoping nobody tells him that Susan Boyle is in the same ward.

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