FOR the three finalists it’s been quite 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 home town 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 double booked the following weekend by Korean hip-hop group BigBang (who?) and a “Bollywood Showcase” (why?).
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 & Cleveland, it had it all.
Four hours over two nights it lasted, during which only 10 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 everyone suddenly dropped his first name for the final and referred to him impersonally as: “The Maloney”.
This was a ploy that grated 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.”
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.
THIS week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:
* BBC4’s When Wrestling Was Golden: Grapples, Grunts and Grannies.
* The Beeb delaying Alan Yentob’s Imagine arts show for a Sir Patrick Moore obit.
* The thrilling nine-ball pool Mosconi Cup between Europe and the United States, on Sky Sports, especially commentator Jim Wych describing the Ryder Cup as: “The Mosconi Cup of golf.”
* 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.
* And Channel 4’s TV listing on Tuesday, 9pm, which said, unless my eyes deceived me: “Heston Blumenthal: The Massive Lunchbox.”
Well, you said it.
THE shortlist of all-time greats who could be considered seriously for the title of UK King of Comedy is very short indeed.
It would have to include Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Frank Carson, Tony Hancock, The Two Ronnies, Les Dawson, and Spike Milligan.
A very, very long way down the long-list’s first draft, you’d stumble upon the star of The TNT Show, Hit the Road Jack, and Big Brother’s Big Mouth (2008-09).
And yet, ladies and gentlemen, I heard the words, I saw the coronation, complete with a fanfare and a blast of Bring Me Sunshine by the Royal British Legion Band & Corps of Drums, Romford, at the British Comedy Awards, on Channel 4 on Wednesday night.
“Jack Whitehall, King of Comedy.”
Say it twice and it doesn’t get any less preposterous.
He’s not even the Jonathan King of comedy.
It was the only public-voted gong at the bash and Whitehall himself had to concede: “This feels a little bit like when TOWIE got a Bafta.”
Not true. It’s a lot like that.
Though it wasn’t the only travesty on an evening which began with Charlie Brooker, the mastermind behind and in front of the loathsome 10 O’Clock Live, named Best Comedy Entertainment Personality ahead of Harry Hill and Graham Norton, which demonstrates where the judges were coming from.
Their logic was barmy, awarding Breakthrough Artist to Very Important People’s Morgana Robinson over Seb Cardinal and Dustin Demri-Burns from Cardinal Burns, which won Best Sketch Show, ahead of Morgana Robinson’s Very Important People (work that one out).
Sky Atlantic’s Hunderby won two categories, neither of which was Least Heard-Of Sitcom.
And you can gauge how truly dire most of the guest presenters and recipients were when I say Ben Kingsley was the third funniest person there, behind Peter Capaldi, who along with fellow The Thick Of It star Rebecca Front gratifyingly took the comedy-acting titles, and host Jonathan Ross.
Ah, Wossy. After several years on a verbal leash, he was politically incorrectly back on form at traditionally his best annual television performance.
Nothing was off-limits in an excellent opening monologue (after which the writers appeared to go on strike) that covered Al-Qaeda, Abu Qatada who’s “more of a feminist than Justin Lee Collins”, and Jimmy Savile: “The police have been busier than a Top Of The Pops 2 edit.”
Sue Perkins was shaking her head so you knew it was good stuff.
Even better, there was no mention of Michael McIntyre at any point, Sacha Baron Cohen accepting the Outstanding Achievement award in character reminded us how great Ali G was before Richard Madeley ruined it, and the knowing, raised-eyebrows look Jack Whitehall’s girlfriend gave him when the camera cut to the couple as Jonathan Ross told the room many of them were responsible for some of the worst TV comedy in the world was priceless.
But if it’s laughs you were after, the two-hour occasion could have been all over in a few seconds with the funniest five words you’ll hear all decade.
Jack Whitehall, King of Comedy.
THIS week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:
* ITV1 providing no explanation whatsoever for The McFly Show.
* Everyone on telly who wears Christmas knitted jumpers, even in jest.
* 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).
* 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).
* And Chris Tarrant concluding the intro to his panto-themed ITV1 quiz show: “Tonight we’ve got Captain Hook, a fairy, Prince Charming, Wishy Washy, and two Fairy Godmothers. It can only be...” with: “...Celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” And not with the equally valid: “The least freakish X Factor panel ever.”
THERE was a butcher’s shop window of porky pies on ITV1’s This Morning sofa, on Tuesday, where X Factor’s fourth-best judge Tulisa was being interviewed.
Phillip Schofield: “It’s been a great series of X Factor.”
Holly Willoughby: “It was one of those series where you could see there was more than one star.”
Tulisa: “There was just so much talent.”
Jeff Brazier: “I thought Tulisa was great on the X Factor.”
And, once again, Tulisa: “This hasn’t been a good year for me.”
At last, a semblance of truth.
ON Tuesday evening, Channel 4 spent an hour trying to answer the quintessentially British question: Is Our Weather Getting Worse?
Dr Peter Stott, head of the Met Office’s climate monitoring team, had a stab at it: “The atmosphere has got four per cent more moisture than it had in the 1970s, and this is having an effect on extreme weather.
“Temperature is increasing, rainfall patterns are changing, and there’s more moisture in the air, and that’s feeding our weather systems.
“When we have rainfall, it’s making the chances of having extreme rainfall increase.
“We looked at the summer of 2003 and we said, well, has the chance of such a heatwave changed as a result of climate change, and we did some research on this and found that indeed it has.
“What we found was the summer of 2003, which then felt to all of us like a very exceptional event, could become the norm in 40-50 years.”
Or, in other words: “Looks that way, yeah.”