Susie Rushton: X Factor's demise isn't over the terrible singing, but the judging


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Never mind trying to dismantle global capitalism. If the campers outside St Paul's Cathedral had only set their sights a little higher - say, the hegemony of the formatted TV talent show, this weekend they might be able to claim some small victory. For I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the X Factor. In previous series, the programme's mighty audience numbers grew with each episode. This year, the numbers have remained static with an average of 10.1 million tuning in. By the same stage in the competition last year, 12 million viewers watched Simon Cowell and his primped co-judges deliver verdicts on Britain's mildly talented amateur singers.

And, in even worse news for Cowell, who abandoned the UK show to appear on the US version (although his company Syco of course owns the rights to both), many of those two million disillusioned viewers aren't baking Victoria sponges or reading Kierkegaard on a Saturday night instead of watching ITV's biggest money spinner of the modern age. They're glued to Nancy Dell' Olio being manhandled around the dancefloor on BBC1 - this weekend, Strictly Come Dancing managed to outpace the X Factor by more than a million viewers during the 15-minute period the two shows overlapped.

A panicked Cowell has reportedly ordered the judges to improve the show "by 50 per cent". Viewers have complained that the song choices have been boring, the "genre contests" predictable - and certainly this weekend's "rock" showdown reminded me of a horrible afternoon I once spent in a bad karaoke bar in Las Vegas. But the problem with the new series isn't the contestants, who are as desperate as they always were; it is the judges who have begun to pall.

On Sunday, clearly under orders from producers to generate "tension", an entirely fake on-camera spat was concocted between the two female judges, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa Contostavlos. "You’re bullying the other contestants backstage!" snarls Tulisa to dullard contestant Misha B. "What happens backstage, stays backstage!" squeaks Kelly. A pair of five-year-old girls arguing over a skipping rope would sound more venomous.

Then there are the two men: Louis Walsh, the wet blanket; and Gary Barlow aka the talented one from Take That. It is Barlow who really lets the proceedings down. Dressed in a dark three-piece suit, with dark shirt and tie (in the style of a strip-bar proprietor), the cuddly crooner adjusts his eyebrows into what he hopes will be a terrifying glare, before delivering a half-hearted put-down.

Noel Gallagher has claimed that Simon Cowell asked him to play the X-Factor baddie, replacing himself, but that he turned it down, and that is a shame, because you can't really fake being an asshole, and that’s what this show is now missing.


The story of how Steve Jobs, who was adopted as a child, avoided meeting his biological father, is intriguing in many ways. Talking to CBS before his death, the Apple boss said that after tracking down his blood sister, the pair had discovered that their real father was John Jandali, of Syrian origin, who worked in a bar in California. Jobs refused to meet him, so the sister went alone. Not knowing that Jobs was his son, Jandali bragged about previously owning a restaurant in Silicon Valley where everybody important - including Steve Jobs - had eaten at one time. Jobs was, the unknowing father added, "a great tipper". Much has been said about Jobs's lack of interest in philanthropy, so on the surface this snippet might seem to challenge the image of the self-obsessed, and selfish, entrepreneur. But tipping big is partly an act of ego, not of charity. It's flash. But it also bespeaks a certain personal generosity, a quality that hasn't come out so far in the myriad unsympathetic recollections of the man.