Since Friday evening – and all the fuss about the missing X-Factor judge – I’ve been thinking about the nature of judging… and indeed of entertainment itself.
What struck me so strongly about The X-Factor ‘crisis’ was the immense hype about how dreadful it would be if there wasn’t another glamorous, narcissistic, beautifully presented, judge (preferably a female) who could say inane things which were based on very little knowledge (or interest) of the supposed purpose of the contest . Tweets were flying everywhere, there was chaos and panic at The X-Factor studios, and everyone and his dog had a suggestion of who might be the ideal stand-in panel list.
Nowhere in this ocean of hyperbole was there a mention of the contestants – the people with the hopes and dreams, without whom there would not actually be a show. The people who have to face the millions of viewers and be judged – kept in or thrown out at the whim of a quick text on an iPhone.
And there’s the rub, it’s not the people on the panel who do the actual judging… its Joe Public and his family. They are, of course, in many ways, as good a judge as anyone else, they know what they like, and they will be the ones buying the outcome of all this hype… the actual record/album of the winner’s song – so their opinion counts.
And this is where the real value of the people behind the table kicks in. Because, after the ‘audition’ shows, they don’t judge… they are supposed to mentor these people., help them forward, point out what needs strengthening, what might be best to abandon, what the ideal song would be – for the PERSON – not the TV programme. How many times have we heard a contestant say that (s)he wasn’t allowed to sing a song (s)he felt at ease with?
Mentoring… it’s what we were busy with on Showboaters… assessing the weaknesses, and looking for the strengths, but then we were looking to try and give someone the building blocks for a career – one which would last a lifetime if possible. Mentoring is a full-time job for the period that the contest exists – it demands commitment.
I had a very big birthday in the first weeks of the contest – I could not have missed it – friends and family were waiting to celebrate the achievement of a lot of decades with me (more than I’d like to admit maybe… but it’s on my profile). So I went home, (24hr. flight) and it was a fab party, never to be forgotten. I went to bed at about 3am – and then arose at 7.30am and travelled for 30 hours (car, plane x 2, limo and 3hrs. sleep) to be back in time for the first live show for the teams. No medals required, but is what’s expected. A sore throat would not have been an opt-out clause (or even a broken leg, I think – it’s a family company).
There is a duty of care towards those who are maybe in some cases a little bit fragile. Just because people have ambition, it doesn’t always make them robust. They rely on someone who is strong, and hopefully wise, and who cares enough to persevere with them. We know that on The X-Factor there will be other behind the scenes pros, who are tasked with making sure that the singing and dancing moves forward but the contestants have formed a bond with those who have been ‘given’ them . The very famous people who are now their lifeline – the ones who dazzle, and who they wish to emulate, the reason that they joined this circus in the beginning – because they wish to be famous, to be recognised, and to affirm that they have the talent they believe they demonstrate. Sadly, in so many cases, it is not true… their entertainment value to the TV mogul is their weakness – either as a performer, or team player etc. Looking through the lens they want drama and tension by the yard – the more tears the better.
Simon Cowell (to whom I’ve been compared by the Daily Mail) I think is probably a perfectly pleasant man, truthfully, I prefer his persona to that of his fellow judges… but he is a business man – not a mentor – he doesn’t have the time. He is able to make the (often truthful) very blunt remarks that he utters because the company is his. The others are more hesitant because they worry what he will think – it’s a sort of cat and mouse game for them. Simon Cowell is also very experienced, and he knows what he wants to be the outcome. Louis Walsh doesn’t have any real warmth – I know a lot of Louis’: small minded men with very sharp business instincts, and strong self-preservation instincts. Sharon Osborne was perhaps nearer the mark, real warmth, and a care for those in her group, but a complete loose cannon, and in the end it all curdled. Cheryl Cole, a girl who truly knew what it felt like, but who had become a bit of a caricature of herself – another one who left her girls to fend for themselves when she had a busy diary.
Hopefully, the Showboaters will be able to say that they felt they had been cared for, and had people who were there 24/7 to help when needed. Well, there’s nowhere you can go on a moving ship (as the great boxer Joe Louis used to say ‘you can run but you can’t hide’). We were there for them – we always will be really.
As well as her formidable presence on Showboaters every week – Mollie is the casting director for PEEL Talent who are holding cruise ship auditions now as they look for the next showboater.