Did we like it?
The first part sailed far too close to becoming homage rather than parody, and was torturous and needlessly reverential towards some of the former talent show conspirators. The second part was much better, and very funny. However, we’re not sure if this was cruel enough to be the satirical zenith about the most culturally destructive and loathsome programme of its generation.
What was good about it?
• The previews of the Jesus Christ musical, which the winner of the Pop Factor might get a part in – “featuring Todd Carty as Jesus H Christ!”
• R Wayne’s path into the final 10. At first he is eliminated because his “story isn’t sad enough for our judges”. On returning to tell his family the bad news, his grandma collapses and dies of a heart attack. Her funeral is gatecrashed by Pete Waterman (even this inept ogre couldn’t mess up the gag) who invites R Wayne to the final as his story is now sad enough to take part.
• And from that moment on, R Wayne’s gran is exploited in every which way possible to coerce the dim voters into wasting their money. A medium, superbly played by Alex Lowe, tells him that Our Gran is following his story, and that tonight “she’s going to a pub quiz with Thora Hird and Heath Ledger”.
• The best character by some distance was Peter Kay’s awkward Geraldine. She had her hair dyed each week to preserve the illusion of originality and innovation that Cowell enjoys preaching while churning out the same shapeless brown turds week in week out, year in year out.
• Her ‘sob story’ is also exploited. Geraldine is a recent transsexual, and has been disowned by her mother – who inevitably turns up in the studio in the second part of the final to present a dubious reconciliation. She also said: “It would be fantastic to be on Top of the Pops or CD:UK, or get on the cover of Smash Hits!”
• The sorry tale of 2 Up 2 Down’s fortunes following the double marriage of the two sisters to the two brothers on 11th September 2001. On their honeymoon, the sisters became paralysed from the waist down after an accident on the Niagara Falls, and then the sisters’ mum died, followed shortly after by their dad. To cope with their grief they all bought Black Cock Farm, but were ruined by the foot and mouth outbreak.
• The little details, some of which we missed because the music was no utterly mind-numbing. We did catch Cat Deeley console 2 Up 2 Down with: “After this, I think you’re gonna walk it!” And Deeley’s interview with R Wayne, during which he simply repeated her questions but with the words slightly jumbled up. Deeley: “It’s been in every single way an emotional journey?” R Wayne: “It’s been an emotional journey in every single way.”
• The best moments were after Deeley had interviewed each act and they had to stand on the edge of the stage unable to leave because of the precipitous drop as the lights dimmed and Deeley sauntered off to introduce the next act.
• The scene at the CD pressing factory managed to be funny even though blighted by the presence of Andi Peters. As Peters, Deeley and the judges gushed about who of Geraldine or 2 Up 2 Down would enjoy their “debut number one single”, a factory worker grabbed a handful of obsolete R Wayne CDs and dumped them in a bin.
• Lionel Blair can act, and played a vicious grotesque of himself striving to teach the finalists to dance.
• Cat Deeley was surprisingly good as the automaton host, mindlessly and mechanically reading out the script brimming with insincerity and lies but brilliantly mocking the melodrama of the vainglorious facade. “I am now walking to the centre of the stage with an envelope” “I’ve been handed another envelope. I’m walking down the steps towards the two acts. I’m here.”
• As the contest reached its climax she breathlessly informed the viewers, “We’ve had an amazing 37 million votes, and there are just six votes separating them! It’s the most important vote you will ever make!”
• As the restless crowd continued talking as she prepared to announce the winner, she importuned them fruitlessly for silence before she snapped: “Fucking shut up!” And then executed a superb satire on the declaration of the winner: “After an incredible 52 million votes, the winner, in no particular order, is… 2 Up 2 Down…” Cue, wild celebrations. “… proved to be popular, but the winner is Geraldine!”
• Geraldine choking to death on the copious confetti that swamped the stage during her victory serenade, as all around her the finalists doomed to oblivion sing their hearts out.
What was bad about it?
• The revolting presence and collusion with former talent show judges ‘Dr’ Neil Fox and Pete Waterman – Nicki Chapman, meanwhile, reprised her irrelevant role as diaphanous cipher. It was as ludicrous as producing a war film in 1946, and getting Goering, Hess and Himmler to play themselves as valiant agents vying to thwart Adolf’s megalomania.
• Casting these two musical criminals – Fox was responsible for eulogising the flaccid virtues of corpse music on his radio shows (and probably still does), while younger readers may be ignorant of Waterman’s heinous dissonant atrocities in the late 80s that meant he competed for the most hated man in Britain with Margaret Thatcher – offers them an undeserved chance of redemption. It must not be permitted.
• Both must receive life sentences of absolute vilification, tossing them on to the same pyre as Phil Collins, so that they cannot re-write history with playful appearances on shows such as this.
• It also begs the question: what is their motivation? Are we to assume they have come to their senses, comprehending that talent shows no longer celebrate talent, but are instead refuges for bleeding heart yarns, leaking avalanches of tears crocodiles would be ashamed to shed, and that Waterman and Fox have decided to take a stand? Or should we suspect that both have been cast out of talent show judge heaven, like squalid, petulant little Lucifers, and are now impotently striking back? Either way, they are redundant in the process of talent shows, and few individuals in the entire human race can be more worthless than that.
• The liability of Fox and Waterman is exacerbated by the fact that neither can act, Pluto elicits more empathy orbiting in the inky blackness of deep space than this diabolical duo. Waterman’s ‘catchphrase’ was to mimic Simon Cowell inanities such as “You’ve got the best voice I’ve heard in 20 years since Glen Medeiros”, and “That’s the best harmonising I’ve heard in 25 years since Brother Beyond”. They were funny lines, but the notion that Waterman is paying some kind of penance for his previous sins makes them unpalatable.
• Fox, meanwhile, was even worse. As Waterman aped Cowell, so Fox aped Bruno Tonioli with his off-kilter, nonsensical metaphors, but did so with the thespian aptitude of a brick imitating the ocean.
• The freak show that makes up a large part of X-Factor’s appeal suffered simply because the fictional deluded souls dreamt up weren’t half as absurd as the real thing. A couple of attempts were made to mimic the chicken factory worker who did all the voices from Barbie Girl, yet none came close to being as disturbing, hilarious or as inventive as him.
• The three finalists performed the life-sapping pap familiar to X-Factor, and there was little effort to make it bearable. R Wayne’s medley included for example Michael Jackson’s Earth Song, while 2 Up 2 Down sang morose ditties such as We Built This City on Rock And Roll and I Need A Hero. And we could have done without being reminded of BWitched’s C’est La Vie during Geraldine’s turn.
• Almost as bad as the resurrection of Waterman and Fox was the sight of Andi Peters.
• ‘The Winner’s Song’ was co-written by Gary Barlow, and we have a horrid feeling that someone has already started a Facebook petition to get it released as a single so they can revel in the empty triumph of getting a song that supposedly satirises the cynicism of X-Factor to number one despite the fact that one of the most nefarious agents of disposable pop music had a hand in its composition.