Due to the insistence of a very vocal visiting friend, I found myself watching the X Factor on Saturday night for the first time in years. I have made a conscious decision to migrate my eyes to Strictly, which leaves me feeling all warm and sparkly compared to the X Factor which leaves me bewildered and angry. I found Saturday’s show increasingly surreal and boring. I didn’t actually know it was possible for something to be both those things simultaneously but it manages somehow. I feel like I’ve seen the garish soulless merry go round a thousand times before and all they can resort to to drum up interest is squabbling and bizarre staging. The only contestant I can even remember is Stevie. He might be a nice guy but I’m sorry he’s so weird looking and gives off a disturbing vibe (he claimed to get to “sixth base” with a fellow contestant. The mind boggles then retreats squealing to less wonky things). The rest washed over me leaving no trace other than an impression of unease.
Strictly has been running a similar amount of time as the X factor but has aged better, I think due to the fact that everyone’s having a good time is palpable and infectious. I also love the sequins. X Factor contestants give the impression of having been horsewhipped backstage by Dermot O’Leary, harangued into dreadful outfits and perplexing stage treatments. In short, it is looking a bit dated.
The fundamental difference is that X Factor is about humiliation and people literally singing their pipes raw for their supper, while Strictly is more cuddly, folding even the terrible ones in its warm glittery embrace. Even waspish Craig seems to have a bit of humour under his pantomime bitch act. It has improved immeasurably with old Brucie’s departure it has to be said. The show is about half the length without his rambling and cantankerous asides. Tess Daly, after years of wrangling the legendary but slightly befuddled, now appears like a head girl being led astray by naughty hellraiser Zoe Ball and zany arty girl Claudia Twinklefringe. That reminds me, I’ve realised I’ve missed Ball’s presenting acumen on my screen, she’s so fun and natural.