As much as it pains me to admit it, I am one of the sad X Factor enthusiasts of our generation who devotedly watches the show year after year. It may be repetitive and over-dramatised, and I may not particularly like it, but after ten years The X Factor still remains one of the most watched and most talked about TV shows of our time. Why am I still watching I hear you ask? Because I am a sucker for reality TV. But ‘reality’ is the word in question here.
Rumours have sparked in recent years over the sincerity of the TV show as allegations of rigged phone in results have seen the likes of Wagner, Rylan and John and Edward reach respectable positions in the live shows. Moreover, last year saw a botched camera man capture a producer crawling along the floor to deliver information to the judges for the outcome of a deadlock decision. Such unconfirmed accusations have been accumulating increasingly over recent years; however, I can tell you from a first-hand account earlier this week that the X Factor is certainly just manufactured moments of a pretend production.
Acknowledging myself as a bit of a TV enthusiast, I have a tendency to attend the recordings of many different television shows as a nice afternoon out in the city. Therefore, when I won tickets for The X Factor auditions in London earlier this week, I was rather excited to see what the making of the show had in store. Having arrived at Wembley Arena for 3pm and waiting in the blistering heat for more than 3 hours, the show eventually began at an overrun time of 6pm. This may sound rather long, but I suppose it is to be expected as recording a TV show must be prone to delays, particularly with the likes of Gary Barlow and the amount of time he spends in hair and make-up.
However, what I was not expecting was to be greeted with an hours’ worth of pretend standing ovations for the invisible contestant on the stage. We were told by the producers to record multiple fake cheering, booing, clapping and shouting at the cameras before any contestant had even walked onto the stage. Clearly, then, these edited moments of applause will be constructed and used in post-production for whichever contestant they choose to create whichever atmosphere they like. The audience reactions you see on screen are false, simulated and completely pretend to create a façade for their favourite contestants. Therefore, perhaps we can question the authenticity of infamous audition moments such as Susan Boyle or Cher Lloyd as any pre-recorded audience reaction could have been amended for the aired show.
Moreover, when the contestants finally did make an appearance, it did not run quite as smoothly as you might expect. Before the arrival of each contestant, a producer would appear at the judges desk with a laptop and notes for five minutes feeding the judges information about who is about to appear, totally undermining the element of the “surprise” reactions to particular singers that we so often see on TV in the audition rounds. And if you thought that the almighty Gary Barlow and “his hand of God” used to interrupt a singer half way through their performance because he thinks they could do a better song was because he is a musical genius, well you are mistaken again. Every contestant sings two songs, and every contestant gets interrupted by Gary Barlow and his “hand of God”. So when we are watching at home and thinking, wow Gary Barlow, you always know what’s best, well he really doesn’t. He is told what to do, how to act, what to say and what to vote. And so are all the other judges. I would even go as far as to suggest that the producers have already chosen the contestants they want to see in the live X Factor shows before the auditions have even begun.
This may not come as a complete surprise to a lot of you, but it does seem that so many people have faith in such ‘reality’ TV shows that I thought I would bring to light my first-hand experience so you may think again before you pick up a phone to waste your hard-earned cash! I’m sure it will still exceed at being the most watched and most talked about TV show for many more years to come, but my opinion has certainly changed!