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Telegraph : Verdict on the new judges

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  Quote Bren Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Telegraph : Verdict on the new judges
    Posted: 22 Aug 2011 at 13:46

X Factor 2011: verdict on the new judges

Michael Deacon watches episode 1 of The X Factor 2011 on ITV1 and assesses the new judges, Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa Contostavlos.

The%20X%20Factor%20judges%20%28l-r%29:%20Kelly%20Rowland,%20Gary%20Barlow,%20Louis%20Walsh%20and%20Tulisa%20Contostavlos.%20Photo:%20%20ITV%20/%20SYCO%20/%20TALKBACK%20THAMES
The X Factor judges (l-r): Kelly Rowland, Gary Barlow, Louis Walsh and Tulisa Contostavlos. Photo: ITV / SYCO / TALKBACK THAMES 

7:00AM BST 22 Aug 2011

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So, the first episode of The X Factor without Simon Cowell. Well, sort of. It wasn’t entirely without him. Cowell may not appear on the judging panel until December’s final (he’s busy in the US, launching the American version of ITV1’s pop talent show) but he is still in charge: scrutinising each new edit from the other side of the Atlantic, he orders revisions and restructurings practically up to the minute of broadcast. So really he remains the most powerful judge: the judge of the programme itself.

The opening episodes are always stitched together from audition sessions filmed earlier in the summer. I don’t know what instructions Cowell gave for the stitching together of this episode but I can make a good guess. Saturday’s contestants were, even by X Factor standards, extremes: an extremely flirtatious jack-the-lad, an extremely needy blonde, an extremely aggressive young thug, an extremely shy 16-year-old girl, and an extremely odd middle-aged woman from Hong Kong (imagine Margarita Pracatan has fallen on hard times since The Clive James Show and resorted to work as a lapdancer).

The aim of cramming such vivid caricatures into the first episode, surely, was to reduce the pressure on the new judges – so that, instead of bemoaning the absence of Cowell, Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue, viewers would chatter about the contestants (“Did you see that thug swearing at the panel and being led offstage by security? Oh well, at least he didn’t loot the studio. I wonder why he was so angry. Maybe it’s the cuts”).

Ultimately, though, the ratings for this series will depend on how well the three new judges go down. At this stage we can see that Cowell got one appointment right. I wouldn’t say that Gary Barlow from Take That is Cowell’s Mini-Me – if he were any more mini than Cowell he wouldn’t be able to see over the top of the desk – but he shares Cowell’s air of bored unflappability, as well as his withering candour (to the thug: “You’ve matured like a bad curry”). Already, Barlow has mastered Cowell’s favourite device, the dramatic pause. “Janet, we’re looking for people who can sell records all over the world. [Pause long enough to inwardly recite five times table.] And you could just be one of those people. Janet Devlin from Northern Ireland. [Pause long enough to complete cryptic crossword.] Four yeses, you’re through to the next round.”

The personalities of the new female judges aren’t so clearly defined. Kelly Rowland, of the American pop group Destiny’s Child, talks as if she were on one of those US daytime talk shows in which couples undergo a live marital breakdown for the pleasure of a baying audience. She addresses contestants as “girl”, or “baby girl”, or “mama”, regardless of how old they are (the middle-aged Hong Kong woman was “girl”; the shy 16 year-old was “mama”).

The other new female judge, 23-year-old Tulisa Contostavlos, didn’t do much more in the episode than get sworn at by the gentleman who’s been maturing like a bad curry (“Now it’s time for my opinion. Shut up, you…”). Still, she stood up to him well. She does, after all, have experience of dealing with the outspoken: she’s in N-Dubz, a group who were dropped from a Government campaign against cyber-bullying after her bandmate Dappy texted a death threat to a young mother who’d contacted the Radio 1 breakfast show to call him “a little boy with a silly hat”.

Whatever we think of the new judges, at least we can always depend on the non-new one, boy band manager Louis Walsh – who, having complained to the press about contestants’ clichés, told the woman from Hong Kong that she’d “owned the stage”. The stage is really, of course, owned by Simon Cowell, but Barlow may challenge him for it yet.


Telegraph
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