THE COUCH POTATO: Change is needed if X-Factor continues

IMPOSSIBLE: X-Factor winner James Arthur promotes his single

IMPOSSIBLE: X-Factor winner James Arthur promotes his single

First published in News South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

FOR the three finalists it’s been a journey. Jahmene flew by helicopter back to Swindon, the spiritual home of gospel choirs, to perform in front of 28,000 screaming fans.

James Arthur rode pillion on a Harley-Davidson to a hero’s welcome in his hometown of Saltburn-by-the-Sea. And Christopher Maloney was given a one-way Virgin Trains ticket to Liverpool Lime Street, next to the buffet car, to see his nana Pat and her neighbour Val.

So began the final of The X Factor, a suitably chaotic end to a dreadful series, live from Manchester’s second largest concert venue seven days earlier than usual, what with Wembley Arena being double booked the following weekend by Korean hip-hop group BigBang (who?) and a Bollywood showcase.

Malfunctioning microphones, sob stories, tears, ludicrous Louis Walsh comparisons, stage-diving TV cameras, Dermot O’Leary’s ill-advised audience interaction, a “Good Luck, James” pizza, the mayor of Redcar and Cleveland, it had it all.

Four hours over two nights it lasted, during which only ten songs were performed competitively.

And we ended up with the result that’s been painfully obvious since Ella Henderson was voted out three weeks ago, a carefully manipulated James Arthur victory, with everything stacked in his favour and cynically against Simon Cowell’s nightmare, cheesy Christopher, winning: The finalists’ mode of transport back to their homes, the giant cassette player Christopher emerged from that yelled “I’m from the 1980s”, the judges’ undisguised contempt for him, the negative headlines, nana Pat’s neighbour Val, representing his grey army of supporters, comparing him to cutting-edge acts like Tom Jones and Nat King Cole, and the fact that everyone suddenly dropped his first name for the final and referred to him impersonally as: “The Maloney,” a ploy that grates even more because of Dermot’s introduction of Kylie Minogue: “She’s reached the rarefied level of worldwide stardom where no surname is required.”

In fact I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d made Christopher sing a cover of Golden Brown.

Not that there wasn’t at least something to take away for posterity over the 240 gruelling minutes.

I’ll hold dear the memory of Nicole Scherzinger’s microphone packing up during her Greatest Love Of All duet with Jahmene Douglas, forcing them to pass the remaining working mic between each other, with his very next line being: “They can’t take away my dignity.”

I think you’ll find they just did.

James Arthur thanked his family and friends, who for some reason had hired Timmy Mallett costumes, for their: “Unconditional support which has been unconditional.” Funnily enough.

I very much enjoyed the brief cameo by Swindon Pastor Tim who found himself telling Caroline Flack: “Tonight, Jahmene becomes a full lamb,” and is probably still trying to work out why.

And there was the wonderfully disgruntled look on Gary Barlow’s face when he unwrapped The Maloney’s present, an empty picture frame.

But these small morsels can’t paper over the cavernous cracks that resulted in the smallest X Factor Final audience in seven years.

The series has been beset by producers choosing the wrong joke act (Rylan), petty squabbles, a dearth of talent, Jahmene’s giggle, money-grabbing tactics like opening the phone lines before anybody’s sung, endless clichés, Dermot’s contractually obliged questions about the guest acts’ albums and tours, and the best singer being voted out in sixth place.

I’ve previously pronounced this show dead, but if it does continue, urgent changes are needed, starting with the judges.

Barlow is dreary, Tulisa looks as if she’d rather be anywhere else, and Louis Walsh is now in on the joke of his own buffoonery.

On top of this clearout, the arena auditions never worked for me.

For now, though, last thought goes to the 2012 winner, James, who admitted: “I was nothing before this.”

Don’t worry, son. Give it 18 months and chances are you’ll be nothing again.

Spudulike awards

● The BBC delaying Alan Yentob’s Imagine arts show for a Sir Patrick Moore obit.

● Gino D’Acampo, on Let’s Do Christmas With Gino and Mel, making me rewind by exclaiming: “That’s how to make a cheat microwave Christmas pudding,” pronouncing “cheat” as in “Juan Sheet” from those kitchen roll adverts.

● Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves, at the Manchester derby, choosing to ignore Hollywood legend Robert Duvall’s all-too-American pre-match question: “Will there be a shootout today if there’s a tie?”

● Computer-animated meerkat Aleksandr Orlov’s Roger Moore impression, involving a murmur and one raised eyebrow (two for “surprise”), on Wednesday’s This Morning.

● Jonathan Ross’s politically incorrect return to form at the British Comedy Awards.

● Channel 4’s TV listing on Tuesday, 9pm, which said, unless my eyes deceived me: “Heston Blumenthal: The Massive Lunchbox.” Well, you said it.

Spuduhate awards

● ITV1 providing no explanation whatsoever for The McFly Show.

● Channel 4 spending an hour to answer its own question: “Is Our Weather Getting Worse?” with: “Looks that way, yeah.”

● Joan Collins turning into Marie Antoinette, complaining about the cost of luxury on BBC2’s good but overrated-by-the-broadsheets Inside Claridge’s (I’m not sure if you know but there’s a recession on, love).

● Everyone on telly who wears Christmas knitted jumpers, even in jest.

● Channel 5 repeating the ridiculous conspiracy theorist Did We Land On The Moon? in the week Sir Patrick Moore died (yes, we did, get over it).

● Jack Whitehall being crowned King of Comedy at the British Comedy Awards. Because that man’s not even the Jonathan King of comedy.

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