A popular TV conspiracy theory that pops up every year is that ITV’s The X Factor is fake, fixed and staged. Are we all being manipulated?
For those who don’t know (and if you don’t, you must’ve been living in a box underground with no access to the Internet, TV, newspapers or human interaction since 2004), The X Factor is a televised singing contest masterminded and controlled by Simon Cowell. It’s been going since 2004 and shows no signs of leaving UK screens despite the bad press and conspiracy theories that accompany the show.
Literally every year people accuse The X Factor of being a fix. They claim that comments made by the judges are staged and scripted. That loads of the ‘tough choices’ made by the judges have already been made by the producers; in other words, the judges are told to save novelty acts like Jedward, Wagner and Rylan Clark for entertainment value. And that certain contestants, the ones the show wants us to like, are deliberately elevated above others because Simon Cowell – frequently misguidedly – sees pound signs in their eyes. This year, for example, Andrea Faustini was given an inordinately disproportionate amount of screen time and now he’s the audience favourite – funny, that.
Are the judge’s choices staged?
This year X Factor’s been in the tabloids again. In August it was reported that the bootcamp audience was outraged by Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh changing their minds about their acts following unheard conversations with the producers. One audience member tweeted:
“The X Factor is a total fix. Both Cheryl and Louis have now ‘changed their minds’ (been told) and let a novelty act replace a genuine act.”
According to the reports, X Factor sources said that the judges don’t wear earpieces and needed to let the producers know that they were changing their minds. That’s baloney if you ask me. Why would they need to do that?
Interestingly, when the bootcamp episodes were aired, we were shown clips of the judges being spoken to by producers, and we could ‘hear what was being said’. Now I’m using speech marks sarcastically because it was obviously a voiceover recorded later. I highly doubt these producers were given microphones (and judging by the audience outrage that ended up in the papers, they clearly weren’t). According to the voiceover, they were reminding the judges about the ‘no swapping’ policy for under-16s. I doubt the judges would need reminding of that in the middle of the process.
I reckon this voiceover was completely manufactured to ‘explain’ the producers’ mysterious interventions that were reported in August. It’s also at odds with the explanation that was given to the papers.
A similar thing happened in 2012 during the judges’ vote on the first live show. Louis Walsh was seen speaking to the show’s executive producer during Carolynne Poole’s final showdown performance. After this he declared he was going to save her instead of Rylan Clark, then changed his mind a second later and took it to deadlock, eliminating Poole. 2011 contestant Frankie Cocozza tweeted:
“The X Factor just showed the whole country how set up it is, not that we didn’t know that anyway.”
This time a spokesperson for The X Factor simply said, “Producers always chat to judges during the show.” Mmmm.
Deceptive editing – Chloe-Jasmine and the reuse of clips
In 2013 it was reported that X Factor had been caught out misleading its viewers. People spotted that the same clip of two audience members looking confused and unimpressed was used during two completely different auditions! I also remember years ago on Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe, he revealed that the same clip of Danni Minogue voicing approval of a performance had been used for two different contestants!
Then there is the very intriguing deception that is Chloe-Jasmine Whichello in this year’s competition.
Firstly, the show has insisted on not revealing to viewers that Chloe had been in the competition before. She was on the show in 2006, squealing like a cat in front of Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh.
Secondly, when she was on the show in 2006, she didn’t have her trademark posh accent. Now she’s been voted off, her 2006 audition and different accent have been acknowledged on The Xtra Factor (she said she was ‘hiding’ the posh accent in 2006). But why was it never mentioned on the main show? Why did Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh pretend they’d never seen her before during the room audition?
Thirdly, Chloe-Jasmine completely fluffed her arena audition with a terrible version of Ella Fitzgerald’s Misty, forgetting her words and bursting into tears. Remember that? No – me neither! TV viewers only saw her sing Why Don’t You Do Right (famously sung by Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit). This was actually on a subsequent night, after the producers had decided to give her a second chance. But the judges pretended they hadn’t seen her since her room audition!
The auditions we’re not supposed to know about
What I find most bizarre is that the show continues to pretend that everyone who auditions appears before the TV judges. But you only have to go on Wikipedia to find out there’s a whole load of producers’ auditions that happen prior to this. The contestants pretend that their audition in front of the judges is their first audition, and the judges pretend to not know anything about them before they come in. (They must think we’re stupid. The questions are so obviously scripted. We’ve had things like, “So… anything really awful happen to you last year?”)
I also read a very enlightening article from someone who attended these producers’ auditions. She revealed that it was a long, unpleasant process and that the producers were deliberately putting terrible acts through for entertainment value. Her funniest revelation was that the huge ‘hand-made’ posters saying “I have the X Factor!”, “I love you Cheryl!” and “Pick me Simon!” were actually being handed out by producers!
It’s not even live
I actually went with a friend to the live final of the 2012 show, when James Arthur won. There wasn’t too much scandalous fakery, but what I do remember is that the show actually started fifteen minutes before it started ‘live’ on TV. I was texting my Mum and had fifteen minutes of foreknowledge about what was coming!
Until an insider blows the whistle, we’ll probably never truly know the extent of the staging and the fakery (maybe the phone votes are all rigged too!). But there’s certainly no denying that The X Factor is – in a lot of respects – one big lie.
Next week: Was the Gunpowder Plot an inside job?