|Stop being such spoilsports, you mean old judges! She's having fun, and he deserves a medal.|
Generally, people are either fans of The X Factor OR Strictly Come Dancing – and you can usually hazard a guess at which way the cookie crumbles, just the way you could pretty much tell which girls in your class would have Barbies and which would be Sindy fans. Much as I hate to say this, as I am firmly in The X Factor camp, this is the slightly chavvier option. While we guffaw at mentally ill people trying to sing, the swankier folk have switched channels, where "Strictly" as we must call it, epitomises the Beeb's very own brand of light entertainment.
X Factor does have more star power – compare Katy Perry, The Black Eyed Peas and Nicole Scherzinger with "Hello" regulars such as Gavin Henson and Patsy Kensit. There were some genuine big names (not least Michelle Williams, one third of Destiny's child) but for some reason the tabloids preferred to concentrate on the C-listers.
As I write, the nation is gripped by controversy as both shows feature a "joke" contestant who just won't go away.....Ann Widdecombe is having the time of her life tangoing with Anton du Beke, while Wagner is butchering lyrics in between sleazing all over the makeup artists (yes, showbiz is a small world... I hear things). Oddly, I have disparate views on the two anti-heroes. While people are calling for Widdy to back down, she is refusing and I say, good for her! This is democracy in action – and if the BBC don't want un-co-ordinated frumps to win, they shouldn't have them in the show. The viewing public will vote how they like and all the judges' snidey put-downs will not change that.
However, over in the X Factor world, I feel affronted that Wagner has managed to cling on for so long; the situation is now teetering between "Well, it was funny for a while," and "Let's bring in a sniper". Perhaps it is a fix (it's hard to imagine anyone repeating the success of Jedward if Louis Walsh wasn't involved somewhere). But here is the thing; Ann Widdecome is in a silly, fun contest which is designed to find out which celebrity can prance about in the way that is most surprising and impressive to the general public. Wagner is actually preventing more talented singers from getting further in a competition which could transform their lives.
We all benefit when unknowns make it – instead of relying wholly on record execs, we get a say in who rises to the top. Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, our own Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke, Amanda Jensen (super talented Swede) and my fave, Kelly Clarkson, all emerged from Idol shows. And this is why I've always been a sucker for a talent contest. They make perfect fodder for water cooler conversation and can change somebody's life. It's what television is FOR.