I should start by saying this is not something I am proud of and I thought long and hard about even blogging about it, due to the impact it would have on my street cred (which, let’s be honest, isn’t high to start with). But, I am going to steel myself for the negative barbs and admit to it anyway. I am, without a doubt, a fan of New Zealand X Factor. I know what you are saying – but don’t I abhor all reality TV and blame it for most bad things that exist in the world today? Well, yes, I do…but, as we learnt in school (i before e except after c!) there are exceptions to every rule. And New Zealand’s version of X Factor is my only exception to the Reality TV Sucks rule.
I place the blame fairly and squarely on my sister, who guilted me into watching the first episode a few weeks ago as apparently I had to ‘show loyalty to her employer’. In retrospect, I should have countered with the ‘and who do you bank with?’ question, which would have resulted in a confused face and then a brain strain on her part trying to remember for time number 156 which bank I actually work for. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. Instead I watched the first episode and got sucked into the X Factor vortex. And I have to say, as far as vortexes go, it has been a fun ride so far.
On the reality TV scale, singing shows are much more acceptable for me than the others. Mainly because, as my friends will tell you, I quite like singing, and when I was a kid I was pretty sure I was going to be the next Mariah Carey. Instead, I have settled with being the best Sing Star player in my family/extended friend group (happy to be challenged on that point) and knowing full well that those limited talents wouldn’t translate to actually, you know, singing properly in front of people. But I have nothing but admiration for people who can, and watching amateurs turn into real stars can be quite an addictive thing. So, I guess the same would apply to people who have a passion for cooking (and therefore cooking shows), dancing (and therefore dancing shows), evading/assisting the police (and therefore Police 10-7) and……no, I have nothing to explain why in the hell anyone watches The Bachelor or Ice Road Truckers.
I would also argue that, as far as these kinds of shows go, X Factor has been put together incredibly well. The production values are high, the drama doesn’t seem too manipulated and it focuses on people’s talents in the main – only pulling in their back story when it is just so compelling that you can’t avoid it (like the widower from Invercargill). The judges are also pretty entertaining, though I was sceptical to begin with. Daniel Bedingfield walks a fine line between hilarious and ridiculous, but the show knows how to mock itself (and it’s judges) to keep the audience on board. Ruby Frost I had never heard of but is a delightful fairy of a thing and seems to know enough about the business that is show to be capable of mentoring ably. Stan Walker is just a lovely guy and while he goes overboard occasionally, he also knows what he is looking for and brings some real ‘kiwi bloke’ to the judging panel. Melanie Blatt plays her role of tough talking ‘International celebrity judge’ with conviction, and doesn’t turn being bitchy into an all encompassing thing. She knows and recognises talent when she sees it.
But the judges aren’t what the show is about (though they probably think it is). It is about the talent. And despite New Zealand’s Got Talent struggling to find any, X Factor has found it in droves. The number of performances that just blew the roof off the place during the first set of auditions was astounding and to be honest that is the main reason I am still watching. They have 24 acts now, any of whom could win this thing and a number of whom will win recording contracts regardless of whether they win the competition (and as we all know from singing show history, coming second in a show like this normally means you will have a more lengthy and successful career). I already have my favourites and am interested to see how it all plays out. There will be drama I am sure, along with decisions that make me go ‘really??? Are you guys nuts???’. And that is all part of the fun. Sure, it is sensationalised and sometimes manipulated, but it is still fun.
My pick for the winner at this point? It’s a tough call. I would have to say I am backing young wee Taylor Swift lookalike Cassie but also think Jessie Matthews has a decent shot at it. I also have soft spots for Benny and Tom in the boy’s category, but I don’t think they quite fit the X Factor mould. I have to say though, the thing that has struck me the most watching this show rather than it’s American equivalents is how humble and surprised our kiwi contestants are when they get through. They are all kind of shocked and amazed. They shouldn’t be, as they all have a great deal of talent and if I could sing like they can, then I would be doing more than beating my sister at Sing Star on a regular basis. Trust me 😉