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TV review: X Factor
X Factor's Zoe Alexander. Image. Rex
The new series of the X Factor; a little-known ITV1 karaoke talent show whose return means it's nearly time to put the central heating back on.
Without question, 16-year-old Ella Henderson's beautiful voice and self-penned song
Pink tribute act Zoe Alexander attacking the set and production crew like a python launching itself at a mouse.
The last two Saturdays have given us arguably the most thrilling and entertaining nights of television in many years, with Mo Farah and Team GB's other Olympic heroes capturing the nation's hearts and lifting our spirits.
So how do you follow that, ITV1?
By setting up a stroppy, loose cannon Pink tribute act to go ballistic after getting rejected from a talent show and then editing the results to ensure there's no doubt who's the villain here. That's how, apparently.
In other words, The X Factor is back, with a minor tweak to the judging panel in the form of Nicole Scherzinger.
The first question that needs answering is which of the quartet came out on top? Gary? Louis? Tulisa? Nicole?
"You can't deny that Mel B was the only judge anybody was talking about"
A no-brainer; it was Mel B. Yes, Mel B of the Spice Girls. The girl from Leeds who announced her arrival as guest judge by saying: "This is my home town" at the Manchester auditions.
She then spent the entire episode throwing stones from her glass house, telling singers they shouldn't be singing.
Mel B may have been too harsh - particularly on the series' oldest contestant, 82-year-old Louis Dilke: "I actually wanted to fall asleep," she told him - but you can't deny she was the only judge anybody was talking about.
And that's a highly worrying sign for The X Factor.
Louis Walsh, Gary Barlow and Tulisa Contostav.. Costantinov... Tulisa were great at the 2011 auditions, but lousy during the live shows.
The onus on the new fourth member to add some much-needed firepower and humour was immense. Sadly, in Nicole Scherzinger they have a wallflower who seems to specialise in the sad-face-look-of-sympathy, as perfected by Holly Willoughby on This Morning.
That's not to say the opening episode wasn't good. It was... once somebody actually started singing, that is. We only had to wait 11 minutes.
Nando's waiter Sheyi Omotayo kicked off the vocal part of the show; he turned out to be the comedy turn who gave us the Fozzie Bear remix of Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World and was nothing if not funny.
Asda price-reduction executive Jahmene Douglas surprised everyone by channelling the ghost of X Factor's Johnny Robinson to Etta James' At Last and had Louis pleading: "He's the one I want to mentor."
Louis, we all know you'll be mentoring the category that's loaded with the most fruit-cases.
It was nice to see Rod Stewart impersonator Alex McCleish getting some work, what with him having been sacked by Aston Villa (don't worry, the Aston Villa fans will get it).
Curtis Golden (George Osborne Jr) was OK, although the judges missed a trick by failing to tell him: "Silence is Golden."
The X Factor clichés were almost entirely absent. I heard just one "You nailed it," from Gary Barlow, Louis Walsh made only the solitary ridiculous lookalike comparison, and it was 66 minutes until a dead grandad showed up.
"Zoe going berserk was the moment The X Factor truly returned"
Yes, the sob story we'd all been waiting for! It came from 16-year-old Ella Henderson, the good one they always finish with, who's a cross between Claire from Steps and Katie Price. Only with talent.
Young Ella dedicated her self-composed song to her grandfather. Tell you what, the sentiments in her lyrics: "You try to hurt my feelings, you stopped me dreaming," could have easily been written by Steve Brookstein about Simon Cowell. That's how good it was.
And it may have been a stitch-up job, but Pink tribute Zoe Alexander kicking off was almost comfortingly familiar.
With an eff here and a blind there, Zoe going berserk was the moment The X Factor truly returned.
In fact, I wouldn't put it past the producers to involve her in the twist they always pull out at boot camp, one which I'd certainly welcome - get Zoe Alexander back and put her in the manufactured group.
And then get Louis Walsh to mentor them. TV gold guaranteed.
Verdict: For all the cynical editing and same old, same old, The X Factor remains a great Saturday night TV show.
The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft
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