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 “When Ray sings, music itself throws up. Not just a bit, like when you unexpectedly bring up half a gobful of baby sick and have to swallow it back down, but a lot. When Ray sings, music buckles in two, swings its jaws open and unleashes an unprecedented jet of acrid vomit. And it doesn’t stop vomiting until strips of stomach lining are hanging off its teeth and it’s spat its own ringpiece out like a hot rubber coin.”

– Charlie Brooker on Ray Quinn, X Factor runner-up 2006.

Life can be divided into two neat sections: before and after Big Brother 1, the moment when reality TV invaded the nation’s living rooms, and has remained there ever since like an undetected puddle of cat wee stagnating behind the DVD player. We have Big Brother to thank for cultural landmarks such as the sight of Keith Chegwin’s shrivelled jonson in The Naked Jungle, Paul Dannan’s career-ending of an ended-career in Love Island and – from the Big Brother archive itself – Kinga raping a poor wine bottle in BB6.

However the undoubted star of the reality stable has been the X Factor, an indestructible programme that seems to have occupied our screens for almost as long as Brucey, including its previous incarnation: Pop Idol. I’ll admit to having dabbled with the X Factor from time-to-time, much in the same way as many otherwise law-abiding citizens will smoke a reefer every once in a while. Prior to the experience described below, my memories of the show were neither favourable nor adverse, a shrug-of-the-shoulders nonchalance would be the first sensation that I would experience whenever the topic was raised in casual conversation.

This all changed on Sunday, my X Factor version of an alcoholic’s moment of clarity. Having watched the excellent first episode of BBC One’s Life on iPlayer, my casual channel-hopping led me to the scene of the crime, ITV – X Factor results night. Firstly, I was surprised it was being shown on a Sunday, as my memory told me that the entire show took place on a Saturday night. Fair enough, I thought, ITV’s not exactly a hot-bed of telly gold so I wasn’t going to begrudge them stringing it out over two nights. As I got settled, Dermot O’Leary appeared before my eyes, doing his usual inoffensive piece of presenting, and I noticed a seismic change in my mood. Whereas once I liked Dermot’s regular-but-slightly-geeky-guy shtick, I had become annoyed at his mere presence. Several second passed before I realised what it was: the skinny tie, a male fashion accessory only marginally less offensive than a Lyle & Scott jumper, or one of those cardigans with the Donnie Darko rabbit. Dermot, shame on you.

Once the anger had taken a hold, nothing could stop it. I was psychotic and vengeful with a thirst for violence. The judges – none of whom have ever done anything to offend me personally – became sinister representations of a culturally bankrupt society: Cheryl Cole, national treasure convicted of racial assault and married to a footballer with a penchant for mobile phone abuse; Dannii Minogue, a has-been piece of tail and unmitigated pop failure; Louis Walsh, a beady-eyed, rubber gnome whose sole contribution to the show is to look sad and say, “well, Dermot, it’s a very hard decision”; and – finally – Simon Cowell, the modest media mogul who calls his company Syco, apparently a play on his own name (but with the “y” replacing “i”, for obvious reasons), and a man who boosts a rack that wouldn’t look out of place in a copy of Razzle.

The performances for survival didn’t get much better, either. First up was scary female three piece outfit, Miss Frank. Not content with having the worst band name in history (at least Mystique made sense) they made a charge for worst band in history with some gash big-band number, which they tried to “make their own” with some cringe-worthy rapping (I say rap – it consisted of one member saying the same words over and over again at a speed slightly faster than traditional singing). Next was a pleasant looking chap called Danyl who it turned out could sing, but spoilt it by jumping around a lot and smiling nervously, as if he needed the bog really badly.

As the judges were asked for their verdicts, I turned to Clare and said, “watch Louis look upwards, roll his eyes, and say that it’s such a hard decision while not blinking”, before he duly obliged, in pantomime fashion. Such a prediction would normally have provoked a smug reaction, but no smile formed and I instead felt hollow at the predictability of it all, a sensation that was heightened when Simon began speaking, his eyes dead like a zombie and his mouth offering tried and tested comments, the sign of someone desperate to be elsewhere. I then realised that this was the problem with the X Factor: it has become a cliché: the Big Momma with the best voice who never wins; the crap band who stay in long after the joke ceased being funny; the boy and girl who look like they should be in Hollyoaks; the precocious youngster which makes Cheryl/Sharon cry. Simon and Louis have seen them all. Enough is enough. It’s time for change and we – together – can make Saturday night TV a better place and put a smile back on Simon’s leathery face. Here are some of my suggestions.

1. “The X & Y Factor” – the show controversially ditches singing in favour of biological debate. Kinga makes a guest appearance as the chairman, leading the mixed panel of judges and contestants through a history of genetic exploration. Chico returns to make a surprisingly moving speech on how we – the human race – should be wary of playing god through science, before flashing his pecs victoriously and shouting “Its Chico time!” Critics the world over rejoice.

2. “The A Bomb Factor” – topical one-off special designed to raise nuclear awareness across the globe. Each contestant is asked to sing a song in some way relevant to the issue. Guest act, The Cheeky Girls, kick things off with a playful nod to their past, “Touch My Bomb” before the contestants reel off a string of covers, including “Sex Bomb”, “Mr Bombastic” and “Mardy Bomb”.

3. “The Max Factor” – back stage, the remaining boys have their members touched up with expensive foundation by a Hollywood make-up artist. As the show starts, they are forced to stand behind comedy cardboard cut-outs, each with a special hole through which they dangle their stylised equipment for the panel’s approval. Cue much laughter and Carry-On gags.

4. “Factor Ten” – For the show’s grand finale, the contestants are whisked off to Death Valley in the height of the American summer. Each is forced to sunbathe wearing five pairs of jeans and a puffa jacket, protected only by an Asda own-brand suncream. Last one left alive wins.

Anyway, just ideas at this stage but I think some of them have legs, which gives me an idea for a bad taste spoof called The X Ray Factor, but I think I should stop there.

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