Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cheryl Cole's loss could be the US X Factor's gain

Special relationship? Special relationship? Let me tell you something, Mr President (he'll be reading this – never misses a week): nothing says "you guys are so special to me" like hightailing it to the airport just as news breaks of what America has done to Britain's Cheryl Cole. Yes, there may be the odd distracted Yemeni or Syrian dissident who hasn't heard the story – though I hear it's the talk of Tripoli – but Cheryl Cole has been axed from the US version of The X Factor. Whether or not Obama personally

delivered the death blow to Cheryl's American dreams is irrelevant. My sources tell me the president was watching the entire operation via videolink in a mobile situation room, and that he and the joint chiefs were scarcely able to breathe until Fox operatives confirmed the takedown using the code alert "Geordio EKIA! Geordio EKIA!" The result? You may chalk up another victory for Simon Cowell's weather control programme, as the Karaoke Sauron engineers another shitstorm. Those of you not putting the finishing touches to a strychnine martini will likely have some questions. Like, how quickly is the Sun's original line about Cheryl "resigning" because she was "homesick" going to die? (Answer: it's not only already dead; it's been buried at sea.) Or you may wonder: was it her accent? After all, it's not as if The X Factor lacks unintelligible judges with Paula Abdul on the panel. Some will just want to know if they're hiring on Geordie Shore. Wherever you stand, there is much to discuss, not least the role of a man who has long been one of this column's more esoteric obsessions. I speak of Mike Darnell, the Fox network's post-moral president of alternative entertainment, and the man we might call Simon's US line manager. But first up, how big is this news? Well, Daybreak decided to lead on it, as opposed to the Care Quality Commission's shockingly grim report on how the NHS is failing elderly patients. (I'm sure the show's producers will retort that they know their market. And yet the ratings insist otherwise.) So while you may regard Cheryl as a somewhat oxidised nation's sweetheart, for a generation of reality-addled youngsters this is the equivalent of Vera Lynn being told not to let the door hit her on the arse on the way out. On one level, the sacking of a judge during filming, before the show airs, feels like a vaguely familiar piece of Cowellpolitik. Brian Friedman, Louis Walsh . . . a rollcall of previous oustees might put this into perspective. Except, when you are Cheryl, you don't expect this to happen to you. You are a big fish – with even bigger hair. The discovery that in the big pond of America, you are the amoeba-like equivalent of Kelly Brook is what Spinal Tap's David St Hubbins once described as "too much fucking perspective". Cheryl's giant bouffant – acquired somewhere on the 42nd parallel during the flight over – now looks like a classic reverse Samson. Looking back, there were warning signs. On Tuesday, Max Clifford was quoted saying that Simon had called him on seeing Obama's bomb-proof Cadillac and declared: "I need one." It isn't beyond the realms that Simon had deemed himself 24 hours away from requiring an armoured vehicle, to protect him from pitchfork-wielding Cheryl fans, or just your standard psychopathic drag artist acting alone. Anyway, the rumour is that Cheryl's seat is to be taken by Nicole Scherzinger, who had been slated to co-host the show. Those who listened to Daybreak's quarterwitted LA correspondent Ross King gibbering that the American TV market is "brutal – just brutal" might wish our own was similarly cutthroat, as Ross wouldn't have survived one botched red carpet interview, let alone the thousands he has racked up. For once, though, he speaks sense, as it really is a jungle out there. An American sketch show was once pulled during the first commercial break of the first episode, and while that could never be The X Factor's fate, it needs to be the biggest show on TV. Back in 2007, American Idol was estimated to be worth $2.5bn (£1.78bn) to Fox. Adjusted for inflation – and the continued slide of western civilisation into late-capitalist dementia – the US X Factor will ideally be worth more than Obama's entire economic plan to incentivise democratic change in the Arab world. It will certainly be 20 times more important. And so to Mike Darnell, former child actor, now the cowboy-hatted, ringletted munchkin in charge of Fox's apocalypse-beckoning reality schedule. If you are unfamiliar with Mike's work, he regards extreme plastic surgery as a plot device. He gave the world Temptation Island, and would have gifted it the TV special OJ Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened, had a joyless old prude – Rupert Murdoch – not cancelled it. According to one interview, Mike's favourite idea yet to make it to air is a "female prison beauty pageant. It was done in Croatia and is a big number waiting to happen. It's empowering to women, it's empowering to prisoners. The whole idea of going from prisoner to hot babe is interesting." Mike's single regret about airing Who's Your Daddy?, in which an adult adoptee had to pick her biological father from a line-up, was that the controversy generated "was outside the programme – so it doesn't translate into ratings". And in that deliciously post-moral aside, one can't help feeling, lies the ideological context for Cheryl's dumping. The "painful decision" can become a plotline in the first shows, and the aforementioned transatlantic shitstorm currently raging is guaranteed to translate into even higher ratings for the series. So it wouldn't be remotely contradictory for Mike to hail Cheryl as "the whole X Factor package" one minute and demand her head the next. As he once said of how he treats the Idol audience: "We want visceral emotions, regardless if they are good or bad." The question, of course, is when Simon knew it. He must have spotted what was bleeding obvious to even vaguely discerning viewers when Scherzinger guest-judged on the UK X Factor some months ago. Namely, that whatever "it" is, Nicole has more of it than Cheryl. Neither is exactly Vivien Leigh, obviously, but we get the stars we deserve. Did the Karaoke Sauron always know that Cheryl was going to crash and burn, which is why he had Nicole in a holding pattern, or whatever we're calling this oddly confected "co-host" role? It's such a riddle, isn't it? Never mind bomb-proof glass – Lost in Showbiz does hope the mirrors with which Simon's home is said to be lined are shatterproof. Otherwise they'd crack when he meets his own eye.

No comments:

Post a Comment