THE X FACTOR (UK) “2011 Auditions Round 1” Review

THE X FACTOR UK “2011 Auditions Round 1” Series 8 Episode 1 – Bon voyage Saturday nights! See you in 2012! The X Factor UK returns this weekend sans Simon and Cheryl (oh yeah, and Danni) and packed with three new judges representing the NEW GENERATION (or so the awesome big loud voice tells me) and Louis Walsh, who is still on the judging panel, and still on the end.

Poor Louis. Even when Simon left to pursue his megabucks kareoke venture in America, Louis was unable to chair the judging table, and instead the task fell to Gary Barlow. Barlow is an acclaimed singer, songwriter, lead of superstar UK manband Take That and the most qualified judge on a table whose standard has lifted substantially since the early days when the only musical qualification you needed was a relative in the industry and the inability to move the muscles in your face. So why is Barlow the dullest judge there? He sounds like an old fart with his look of extreme contemptuousness cranked up to max volume, rolling his eyes at the hapless acts who dare attempt to use The X Factor stage to wean fifteen minutes of fame. He references The X Factor as if its a sacred Mecca of music and not a really popular kareoke show which will obsess the nation for the next four months, and then be forgotten about forever. All of Britain is now asking themselves, Cheryl who?

By contrast, the two women additions (Kelly Rowland and Tulisa from N-Dubz) on the panel come right out of the gate as the stars of the show, armed with witty quips, intelligent comments, and, most importantly, they’re clearly having a bit of fun. They create the best moments – like when Tulisa challenges the veracity of a contestant’s claim to have the names of seven girls he’s slept with tattooed on his bum, and the world gets a full face of Franzie Cocozza’s rear, or when Kelly Rowland stands up as the security guards are leading George Gerisimou off stage after he tried to intimidate Tulisa, it’s as if she’s challenging him to a scrap right then, right there. It’s brilliant fun – and the two snoozes bookending the panel are useless pies, moaning on about cheese and curry and red wine. Kelly and Tulisa are astute in their criticisms, and they have fine perception for knowing which contestants they can tease, and which ones they have to coddle.

It all comes down to the contestants however. No one remembers the man/woman/boy/girl/human/sealion who won the competition last year. All they know from 2010 is Cher Lloyd. And Joe McWho? No, that was Jedward all the way. No matter how good the editing is, how sharp the critiques, if the contestants are boring, the show is boring. And for the opening episode, the auditions featured were a mix of crazy and talented, and more of the former than the latter, of course. The talent brings out the best moments – like Janet Devlin of Tyrone (yargh!) who’s nervous and fluttery as a bird but whose cover of Elton John’s Your Song brings about the show’s most enchanting moment which encapsulates much of its appeal: that we’re witness, from beginning to end, of a life changing series of moments of someone’s life – and set to music to boot.

Of course there’re also the crazies, and with Goldie Cheung’s Tai Chi leg slippery, this episode promises crazies more sincere and more insane than ever before. She’s far more entertaining that Wagner, and a Kitty Brucknell, a pretty woman with a good voice, evil eyebrows but who comes across as fake and unlikeable offers a perfect case study for the importance and necessity of that elusive X Factor.

Have you parted ways with your Saturday nights too? Are you on team Frankie or team Janet or team Goldie, or are you totally unimpressed with this year’s crop of contestant and judges? And does it surprise anyone else just how easily the king of mean and the nation’s sweetheart were replaced?

Sound off in the comments below.

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