The X Factor ITV 1

Hop, Skip and Jump: The Story of Children's Play BBC 4

This year's 'Battle of the Blands' is still the stuff of dreams, but it's the judges who'll steal the show

Never mind about Olly (poor man's Robbie) Murs, Stacey (the second-rate Streisand) Solomon or Joe (see you next year in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) McElderry, this year's
X Factor has been all about the judges.

And with one of the contestants now gone in last night's "shock" exit, tonight's final final will be all about the show's Fab Four, the real reason that anyone over the age of 12 is still tuning in to this fading format that, this year in particular, has been little more than a Battle of the Blands.



There's been Louis "Jobsworth" Walsh and his rule book and Simon "Cowardly" Cowell and his ducking of the decision that would have spared the nation Jedward's execrable Wham! medley. Better still, who with the Grazia gene can have failed to find riveting the fabulous parade that is Cheryl Cole versus Dannii Minogue, as the pair vie for our attention in a range of outfits that only they, drag acts, or Lady Gaga would be seen dead in. OK, perhaps it wasn't Dannii's finest moment when she decided to "out" Danyl on live TV, but we'll forgive her because clothes and TV have always made uneasy bedfellows (The Fashion Show, anyone? Exactly), and The X Factor must be applauded for finally giving fashionistas their water-cooler moment.



This isn't quite how things were supposed to turn out. Just as previous generations were dished up Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz to distract them from the small matter of the Second World War, Pop Idol, the precursor to the global X Factor brand, first aired in the weeks following 9/11. Then, we needed something to hold on to, something to reassure us that television could still be the stuff of dreams as well as nightmares. And Pop Idol and The X Factor gave us that in spades.



Less than a decade later, tonight's winner (dare I say Joe, this side of deadline?) will, of course, make all the right noises ("incredible journey", "life-changing experience", "all I've wanted since I was a kid", etc), but they'll know, and we'll know, and they'll know that we know that the X Factor frisson died the moment they unearthed Leona Lewis. If the series' ambition was to find an ordinary Brit who could hold their own against the Whitneys and the Britneys, Lewis was its "mission accomplished" moment.



So we are left watching Simon get smugger with every passing week; Louis desperately trying to keep up with what the kids of today want; Cheryl morphing into a part-mom, part-sister, part-sexual fantasy superwoman; and Dannii gamely attempting to fit in and earn her place at the table. It's still great viewing but there have been, for the first time in the programme's history, wrong turns.



The live Britain's Got Talent-style first round lacked the intensity of the closed auditions; the Jedward circus detracted from the fact that Lucie Jones, a sort of British Miley Cyrus, was misunderstood as an artist and lost far too early; and the splitting of the show from the results delayed gratification but also greatly tempered the Saturday-night excitement.



A more modest triumph, then, but a triumph no less, and still the stuff of dreams for a generation who can't remember how things were before reality TV took over both the airwaves and our collective consciousness.



To remind them, BBC4's Hop, Skip and Jump: The Story of Children's Play attempted to recall the days when playing on bomb sites and stealing eggs from birds' nests provided the sort of thrills kids now have to find in videogames, DVDs, Facebook, Twitter and The X Factor.



I say attempted, because after a promising start, the two-parter strayed from its brief and lingered too long on inner-city kids' memories of evacuation and the Blitz. It was a time as far removed from X Factor glitz as it's possible to imagine, though the playground songs of the day still sound considerably better than Jedward.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea