So aside from it being tainted with Gary Barlow’s ever-present serious face another big change to this year’s X Factor has been it’s propensity to pull back the fourth wall and really show the full machinations of reality television. What was once considered taboo in the world of reality tv suddenly seems to be en vogue. We’re hearing producers ask questions to contestants instead of just hearing them talk seemingly abstractly about their lives, we’re seeing the dreaded waiting areas before contestants are shoved on-stage for our enjoyment and even little things like seeing hair and makeup prep between performances really change the look and overall feel of the show.
The X Factor is not alone here: I was catching up on Australian reno-reality phenomenon The Block a while ago and I found that aside from adding – the frankly brilliant – Shaynna Blaze to the judging lineup they had also upped the “reality” of the programme by allowing viewers a glimpse at the producers and crew and how they get the contestants to provide the kind of colour commentary that keeps reality television on the air.
It feels like like a distinct corner has been turned in the world of reality television; like we’ve crossed a barrier that will be tough to retreat from. Largely as a result of scripted shows mirroring reality shows – such as in The Comeback, The Office (UK), or Summer Heights High to name but three brilliant examples – reality shows that stick to what was once a pretty groundbreaking format seem dated and passé. In order to keep up reality television has to include some of the actual reality of what goes in to making these shows. The lack of that kind of insight has begun to make programming not only feel out of date or old-fashioned but outright fake. Thanks to shows like the innumerable Housewives or similar we no longer trust that reality television actually presents something approaching even approaching reality.
It leads one to wonder where this will take us culturally. How much “reality” needs to be presented in order for something to feel real? Continuing along the same trajectory, if scripted shows continue to peel back the slick veneer of reality-based programming what will be left? Or perhaps reality-based and scripted television will call some kind of truce each agreeing to producing television within set parameters? These are the worrying questions of our times!
Moving swiftly along though my favourite contestant was unceremoniously dumped from The X Factor this week after what will go down as one of the greatest “Save Me” performances of all time. Needless to say it was tears o’clock for me as she intoned “I will go down with this ship, and I will hold me hands up and surrender.”
In another case of Gary Barlow being a complete and utter tit he chose to send her home – keeping these idiots – despite going on and on for weeks now about how “it’s all about the voice.” And so departed lesbian single mother, and expert puller of my heart strings, Jade Ellis. One can only hope that someone (ahem, XENOMANIA) gets to working with her as soon as possible and she doesn’t get shunted off to one of the lesser Syco labels to put out an album of shitty covers come February.