X Factor 2011 - Gaga vs Queen week...

So it turned out that the high point of tonight's show, was wondering whether there was actually going to be one or not. Whilst ITV struggled with their technical difficulties, we were treated to a montage of the auditions, which served to confirm that: Goldie really was rubbish; Johny was brilliant before Louis got his hands on him; Janet, is definitely a one trick pony; Frankie's Dad must be one of the show's producer - that can be the only reason he got through....

Amelia Lilly returns
 The Gaga vs Queen week turned out to be people singing Gaga's covers of Queen songs vs Queen week.  I couldn't help but feel the injustice of Johnny having already gone, he was born for a Queen week (boom, boom). In any event, most of them, predictably, were awful, but on the upside, Dermot danced a bit :-) Am I alone in finding dancing Dermie ever so slightly sexy? Yes? Oh well... (Side note: Why was Kelly dressed like Harry Hill - or a 1920's lesbian, for those of you not familiar with Mr Hill's wardrobe?)

The show began with the chilling announcement that Frankie's demise meant 'someone had to take his place'. I began to wonder whether the X Factor contestants are actually hostages who are being released one by one at the kidnapper's whim. Said kidnapper obviously has a schedule in mind that meant 'someone had to take his place'. So began the pantomime that was the phone vote to determine which of those released earlier, would be coming back. (I assume that Johnny and The Risk have cut some sort of a deal with the kidnapper as they were excluded from the vote...) It was all an elaborate ruse anyway, everyone knew Amelia Lily was coming back and strangely, it was announced that she did, before the voting was closed... (Another quick side note: I thought Amelia would have had the good sense to get rid of the pensioner's pink rinse the stylists had given her. Clearly suffering from Stockholm syndrome, she decided to keep it).

Tonight's show was more than a tad boring, with the high point being Kitty's (who looks more like a transvestite each week) leather, gimp horses. (You had to see it, I don't know how else to explain it... ) She did, however, come fully clothed this week, so that was an improvement. Little Mix did the same song they do every week. Craig, didn't do his stroke face as much tonight, but that was possibly because he was concentrating on murdering Gaga's "Paparazzi".  Apparently, Craig still reminds Louis of a 'young Gary Barlow' - Gary having felt the insult of the comparison keenly last week, managed to do a decent job of looking unconcerned this week. (I assume that, as the camera didn't cut to him for a reaction). 
Kitty and the leather clad gimp horses
Janet sang her song at 78 speed, I say sang, I am being charitable, most of it was off key. Like the gorgeous Gazza Barlow, I am so over Janet now.  Apparently though, she'll be better once she's found' the middle ground between sad and happy'? Where's that? 'Sappy'? Based on tonight's performance she's already there and it's not a good place...Marcus did his best with a ridiculous arrangement of 'Another one bites the dust'. It seems he spent the last few weeks searching for himself (not sure why when he was clearly on the show) only to find out that he is Jackie Wilson. I suspect that means that whatever the theme is going forward, it will be done in the style of Jackie Wilson. There goes my dream of 'Grime Week'...

Mischa's was the best performance of the night for me, topped only by Louis realising that she reminded him of a "young Chaka Khan". Amelia, who won the phone vote (quelle surpris), sang 'The show must go on'. She sang it like she meant "sirrus bizniz" according to Kelly, which I'm sure Amelia felt was extremely useful feedback. I spent the vast majority of her song worrying that this was a signpost telling us we were to be subjected to one of those awful group songs instead of ending the madness. Thankfully, the nightmare ended there, leaving me to conclude that prolonged technical difficulties would probably have been more than marginally preferable to this weeks show.


The Killing Second Series

At last!!! The date for the second series of 'The Killing' revealed. It starts on 19 November BBC4 and apparently is only 10 episodes long this time, which is a shame but beggars can't be choosers. On the upside, it seems as if Lund's jumper will be back by popular demand. Wait, 19 November is in a couple of weeks, must start brushing up on my Danish....

Taster below, I am beyond excited!


Top Boy - Top quality viewing

Ra'Nell, Dushane, Sully and Gem
I’ll have to be honest, I was worried about Top Boy. Set in Hackney, Top Boy is a 4 part mini series that portrays life on the streets of Hackney for it’s for young protagonists. I worried that it would paint the mainly young black youth that it featured in a bad light. Whilst their actions and are appalling, the storyline is such that you do find yourself rooting for the main characters. Even Dushane and Sully, brilliantly played by Asher D and Kano, who are trying to make they way up the criminal hierarchy, by any means necessary. Ra'Nell, with a mother suffering from metal health issues, is left to fend for himself; and Gem, abandoned by his mother and living with a Dad, who’s long hours mean he’s never at home.  The two youngsters Malcolm Kamulete and Giacomo Mancini deserve a mention for their understated and mature performances

There are a number of negatives, the portrayal of Hackney – I don’t live there, but know people who do and it’s not as scary as the show would have you believe. Due to the subject matter, it will, inevitably, reinforce a lot of the negative stereotyping that young black men are already subject to. It does, however, have an awful lot going for it. Whilst it isn’t exactly an advert for Hackney, the acting particularly and cinematography are superb. There are some very poignant moments, such as Ra'Nell's visit to his Mum in hospital, or Dushane bumping into his Father for the first time in years. There are also some light moments, like tonight, post a meeting with their ‘boss’ where they talked about drug, guns and sorting out rival criminals who robbed them, they get in their car and Dushane tells Sully to put his seat-belt on!

So leaving aside, reluctantly, my worry that this will inadvertently glamorise the lifestyle, rather than warn of the dangers, Top Boy is brilliant. If you've missed the first couple of episodes, catch up on line, it's definitely worth it. A great showcase for British actors, writing and production, I’ll be watching through to the end.


Young Apprentice - Just not the same without Mo's watch...

Harry, Lewis and Baby Darth Jim
This week, the candidates had to design a product for the parent and baby market and pitch it to a number of large retailers. It should have been a breeze, as they are (technically) all children themselves, naturally, it wasn’t. Mainly because the girls all behaved like the leads in the ‘Witches of Eastwick’ and the boys spent much of the episode demonstrating their inability to work as a team.

The candidates were then whisked away to a talk about babies, how heavy they are, what it’s like to look after them etc, all in lieu of development research. None of them seemed particularly comfortable around the baby, with Lewis the PM looking positively horrified. One of the girls proved just why it’s never advisable for teenagers to have babies with the comment “Would you have to change the nappy every time or could you leave it for a bit?” It didn’t bode well…
The boys elected Lewis to be Project Manager who told us he had, “every single ingredient to make this fantastic cocktail of success”. Except, as it turns out, any ideas that he had confidence in. The girls, went with Gbemi, mainly because in her words “ I’m quite out there, in your face, aggressive, intimidating and loud,
Lewis looking uncomfortable
but I believe that this is what helps me get what I want”. Basically, the girsl were terrified and felt they had no choice but to pick her.

The girls product, which they settled on quickly, was a sling that had built in support for the baby's head called the "Comfy Curve". A simple enough concept, which Gbemi, despite claiming to be a dab hand at pitching, was unfortunately unable to articulate in the later pitches. The boys spent a considerable amount of time bickering and bitching like, well, like girls, before deciding upon a bottle warmer in the shape of a Hippo. A much better product, in fact, than the girls'.

On to the marketing and design phases where one of the girls decided it would be a good idea to cast a black mother with a white blond child for their advert, deep sigh.... When chastised (in no uncertain terms) by Gbemi and her cronies, she moaned that as PM, Gbemi should instead, come up with suggestions to fix it. “What do you want me to do?", Gbemi quite reasonably retorted. "Change the colour of the baby? Give it a tan?”  It turned out that the advert was irrelevant, as Gbemi’s pitching managed to confuse retailers so much, (one being moved to ask what the product actually did), that no one really noticed the advert….

Gbemi centre, “What do you want me to do? Change the colour of the baby? Give it a tan?”
I began to suspect Lewis could see the writing on the wall when he announced: “I'm going to eat loads, so I don't have to eat at that cafe." (The first real evidence we've ever had that the cafe actually serves food by the way.) Lewis is possibly a bit sharper than I am giving him credit for as, despite, for the second week in a row, having: an inferior product; a bad ad campaign and; a disorganised team, the girls won. So as well as behaving like a bunch of witches, they also appear to have magical powers. Gbemi and the idiot who was in charge of the advertising campaign both, undeservedly, lived to fight another day. The boys, meanwhile were once again treated to a stint in the losers cafe.

I thought Gbemi ballsed her pitch up, until, that is, I heard the lad from Liverpool...Lewis, despite having his pitch WRITTEN DOWN, fluffed it up. Largely because it appears he can’t read. (Side note: So the last two weeks have shown that: the girls haven't mastered basic maths; and the boys can't read. A damning indictment of our Education system....) Despite completely destroying his teams chances of a sale in the first pitch, he then insisted on leading the next one and surprise, surprise, he fluffed that too. Gbemi showed a modicum of common sense by allowing Raki (?) to pitch to Mothercare – the largest retailer - a decision that would ultimately pay dividends for her.

So to the boardroom where the boys were taking no prisoners. Question: 'Was he a good PM?" Answer (without a moments hesitation): "No". Baby Darth Jim the annoying Irish one went so far as to comment, "It was a bit like having an enemy from the opposing team in your own team" They boys are all evil!

Somehow, Baby Darth Jim got away with it again, despite being desperately irritating throughout the task. (Do all Irish Apprentice candidates have 'the force'?) Lewis, miraculously, given the fact that he basically conceded that the failure of the task was his fault, survived. Instead Ben (Who? Who is Ben? Did they swap him for Mahamad the Don? I don't remember seeing him last week), was given the chop.
Ben who?
If I’m honest, I didn’t find this week anywhere near as interesting as last week, the absence of Mo’s watch and suit being keenly felt - in my mind anyway. I will however, continue to watch, if only to determine how powerful Baby Darth Jim’s ‘force’ is…

Childhood is Paradise

(Very) loosely translated as "It is happiness, it doesn't demand happiness. Childhood is paradise"


X Factor 2011 - Week 4, not so frightening then...

Tonight, as the narrator announced, was 'Fright Night' and the contestants certainly warmed to the theme, with their terrifying singing and hideous outfits. The scariest thing, however, was the absent Kelly Rowland being replaced by Alexandra Burke. Alexandra appeared to think that standing in for Kelly, meant: doing a terrible impersonation of her – (No Alex, Kelly has never used the phrase “keeping it real”); Repeating everything Tulisa said; being rude to poor, doddery old Louis and; calling everyone ‘babe’. I can’t believe I am about to say this, but I almost found myself longing for Cole…In other, more pressing news, Tulisa was wearing cats ears, presumably as a punishment for her bitchiness last week?

The show kicked off with The Risk, who spent the majority of their VT in tears because one of their members (who’s name I’d like to say I forgot, but I didn’t actually know in the first place…) left. I tried to feel sympathetic, I really did, but instead I found myself longing to send them for a week on a chain gang to toughen them up... Back to their ‘performance’, which at least showed they were taking the ‘Fright Night’ theme literally, by performing one of the scariest renditions Thriller I had ever heard. I'm fairly certain there wasn't a note sung in tune. At one stage, they sang, " You close your eyes and hope that this is just imagination" I tried it, it didn't make them go away. It wasn’t a great start…

The lovely Johnny came next singing and by that I mean actually singing well, That Ole Devil Called Love. He was brilliant and his performance put him well on the way of achieving his aim of, getting Gary Barlow behind him (phnar, phnar). Gary, probably secretly believing this would be the only decent performance of the night showed Johnny his via a big hug. Tulisa indicated that she was happy that Johnny was finally singing a ‘ballat’. I didn’t have time to ponder on what ‘ballat’ was, as Sophie was up next.

Sophie sang Bang Bang, a song that is comprised (at least the way Sophie sung it) of one note. As usual I fell asleep for the majority of her performance, but what I remember of it was dull, dull dull. It seems I didn’t miss much, her performance was clearly so dreary that Louis was reduced to calling her a 'nice girl'. Alexandra decided that she would be "keeping it real" re her criticism and then went on to say there were 'slight' tuning problems. Erm, only slight????.

Next up was Marcus wearing enough ‘guy liner’ for the entire production team. Marcus, was great, that's right, I said great. Hang on X Factor contestants, good?? I was starting to become confused….

The marvellous Mischa arrived, somewhat confusingly dressed as a red, mono-browed Rhino. She sang Tainted Love, which admittedly has nothing to do with Halloween, but I was assuming by this point that the narrator (and The Risk) had made a mistake. This weeks theme was clearly sing songs that have  ‘Nothing to do with Fright Night, whilst wearing Halloween costumes." In the absence of Kelly, I have to say that she "put it down", unfortunately, so did Louis. Dermott voiced what we were all thinking by begging Louis never to impersonate Kelly again - It was freaky and not in a good way. Tulisa looked like she was sucking lemons throughout the whole thing and grudgingly attempted and apology/not apology. She ended up seeming more childish than last week. Louis, wisely, kept his mouth shut….

So quick recap: At this point, The Risk and Sophie, in true X Factor style were awful and no one was bothering to stick to the theme. However, Johnny, Marcus and Mischa were all good. My confusion was growing, but it short lived…Janet came as an extra from the Thriller video, but as The Risk had already butchered that song, she went for Every Breath You Take. Janet really terrified me with her off-key singing, so brownie points for embracing the theme. Louis found it haunting, which I couldn’t disagree with. Meanwhile, Gary pointed out that she sounds the same every week, not that I didn't agree with him, but it was ironic coming from the person mentoring Frankie Crappozza.

The amount of airtime X Factor is given to Crappoza’s pathetic attempts at carousing is appalling - anything to detract from the lack of talent I suppose. On the upside for Frankie, he didn’t need to dress up as he always looks very, very scary. "Tonight” he said, “it's me, a class song, a load of fit dancers and a bed. I'm just gonna go out there and 'ave it". Fortunately for Frankie, he was given a song that doesn't require any actual singing, thus Louis was able to say that, vocally, it was better than he expected. His choice of song was "Should I stay or should I go?" I assumed he didn’t want me to answer that question... Alex, critique was basically nonsense, but we had, by this point, established this as her modus operandi. Gary reassured me by saying “don't worry mate, she'll only be here for one week”. Wait, does that mean we have to put up with her on the results show? Bugger…

Kitty said during her VT "if I was a viewer at home, I'd wanna slap me", I began to worry that Kitty actually has supernatural powers or possibly has my living room bugged… That aside, I had high expectations of Kitty, who, it seemed to me, is perpetually ready for a Halloween/Fright night theme. I hate to say it, but Kitty was good. To be fair, the narrator did warn us at the top of the show that it was Fright Night, but all these competent performances were really scaring me....

The boring girl band have changed their name to Little Mix – not sure why, but hey ho… Tulisa, yet again reminded us how normal the girls are. I am beginning to suspect her motives, maybe she’s doing it because they're not normal? They certainly didn’t look normal, made up as marionettes and sitting on swing, it didn't bode well. The name change, however, appears to have worked miracles, Little Mix were much better than the crap Rhythmix. The judges gushed, Alex talked crap and then offered to do a duet with them. Dermot restrained a couple of the girls to stop them from running screaming in horror, at the the thought of it, from the room.

The final act up was Craig, who's VT proved that nearly everyone in Liverpool wears braces (odd..) Also, his supplier, aka the lady in the fish and chip shop, is annoyed with Gary Barlow for having cut of a massive income stream for her. “I can’t believe Gary Barlow’s got him (Craig) eating lettuce” she said bitterly. I’m sure I heard Craig say he wasn’t doing a ballad in his VT, but then he proceeded to sing yet another ballad from Adele’s back catalogue. Set Fire To The Rain, to be fair to Craig, is marginally more up-tempo than some of the others he’s done. On the downside, it was awful, basically, he should stick to slow ballads. The mystery of why he was wearing a donkey jacket for the performance was neither commented on, nor resolved. I think he may be preparing for his alternative career as a dustman once this is all over. As usual the judges all loved it & Louis positively shrieked, “This guy could sell albums”. He could only mean photo albums based on that performance..

Dermot cleared up the mystery of why Kelly was not around, at the end of the show, by announcing that Cher Lloyd will be appearing on the results show tomorrow. So Fright night is actually tomorrow then….


Romanzo Criminale - Must see TV

Not sure when the Killing 2 is supposed to start – we were promised it in ‘the Autumn’. It’s Autumn now, where is it? Anyway, in order to stave of my Killing ‘Cold Turky’, Sky Arts have kindly started screening the brilliant Romanzo Criminale. Set in Rome in the 70’s (though apparently it runs through to the early 90s), it’s based on La Banda della Magliana, who were a gang of what were essentially criminal street kids, who took over Rome, Mafia style. 

It is set against the backdrop of student demos and the Red Brigades who tried to destabilise Italy in the 70's/80's and is brutally honest about the country’s criminal past. The political and social tension at the time appears to have had the focus of the authorities, which would explain, in part, how they got away with it. It’s very violent, so not for the squeamish, but it's also incredibly well written, shot and acted. The main characters are very believable and given they are basically, violent thugs, actually quite likeable. It is also, at times, surprisingly funny and the attention to detail, including: the 70’s outfits; comedy moustaches; and cars is amazing. Its on Tuesdays at 9pm (Sky Arts) and the first 3 episodes have screened, but you can catch them on Sky Player/Anywhere. Yes, it's subtitled, but don't let that deter you, its definitely one to watch.


Young Apprentice candidates unveiled

Mohammed was a Don, he was robbed. Darth Jim wannabe, James should have gone. Mo, I'll miss that suit....

Young Apprentice - The Demise of Mo the Don

Mo the Don
First episode of the Young Apprentice tonight and I’m sad to say I’m hooked! 8 more weeks of 12 (sorry, now 11) odious little monsters bickering and making fools of themselves. At first, I struggled to work out whom I liked least. I quickly concluded that it was James, the Darth Jim wannabe Irish one. Then Mahamed, the Don appeared, like a ray of light in his one of a succession of what could only have been his older brothers suits. I wanted him to stay for a while, just so I could see what else he’d be wearing as the series progressed. I was to be cruelly disappointed.

Lord Allen kicked off the proceedings by announcing that he loves to encourage youngsters and that he was looking for “Entrepreneurial spirit” and a “spark of genius”. As the camera panned around the boardroom at the candidates, you knew he was going to be bitterly disappointed before the 8 weeks were out. To start with, most of them looked to be in their early 30’s, so not 'young' at all, apart from Mo the Don, who can’t be a day over 8 years old. Secondly, as the girls later proved, by having no command of basic maths (no, 3x4 is not 28…), there are no geniuses amongst them…

Once LudAllen had resolved the contentious issue of what to call the 2 boys named Harry, (I thought ‘Harry’ might do, but what do I know?), he announced the task. The candidates would have to make and sell ice cream based treats at a profit at a location of their chosing. To ‘make things simple’, teams would be girls vs. boys.

Every last one of them appeared to have attended the same school as Stuart Baggs, announcing on their VT’s how: charismatic; unashamedly mercenary; great leaders; super talented and other such tripe, that they were. Yet, when it came to displaying any of those characteristics, no one volunteered to lead and the girls couldn’t add up. (I repeat, 3 x 4 is NOT 28. What are they teaching them in schools these days??).

Performance of the task involved, as expected, both teams squabbling and messing up. The shows producers are obviously more resourceful that we give them credit for, as they managed to magic up a hot sunny day in England, conducive to the sale of ice-cream. The boys were marginally better, (strike that, they were just marginally less incompetent), than the girls. They should have won with their Pirate theme, (suggested without irony by Mo, who is a Somali….), some effort at costing and reasonable pricing. The girls, initially decided to go for a 'Treat and Trim' theme which frankly, sounded more like bikini wax, than ice cream to me and as Ludllen put it 'would be good if it were true'... They finally, however, settled on a 'highway robbery' theme, that included: charging 30p for a cone; asking between £3 and £4.28 for and ice cream; and foisting ice cream on children followed by demanding money with menaces from their unsuspecting parents. So despite making numerous mistakes and being generally shambolic, they won.
Mo & his suit, plus odious James (2nd from left)
We were eventually transported to the boardroom where LudAllen did not disappoint with such gems as: "..never mind Ben and Jerry's, it's more like bloody Tom and Jerry," and my personal favourite; "Even though this was a task about ice cream, you're going to find out that I'm no Mr Softy." The usual bickering ensued, punctuated by LudAllen’s demands to know “Ooo was responsible for the fayure of the task”. Frankly, I didn't care who was responsible, I just wanted the annoying Irish one to be fired. To cut along story short (but not quite as short as poor Mo, who looked like he could have done with a booster seat in the boardroom), Mo was fired.…..

It was at this point that I began to wonder what unfortunate incident in their lives made these kids like this? Why aren’t they out clubbing, or getting drunk, or just generally being annoying like normal teenagers (except Mo, who at 8 really should be in bed by 9pm at the latest)? Actually, to be fair, they seem to have the "generally being annoying" bit, in hand.  Are Social Services aware of this situation and what action are they planning to take??? Cut to Mo struggling, under the weight of his ENORMOUS watch, to clamber (up) into the back of the cab home. "It's gonna be Lord Sugar that regrets it" he said (a tad malevolently I thought…) Finally and perhaps, more worryingly for the future of the UK, LudAllen said this lot are the country's "young prospects". Really??? The country is doomed...Roll on next week!


X Factor 2011 - Week 3, other wise known as Rock "Weak"...

Thankfully, I missed week 2 and wasn't privy to the horror that was Frankie Crapozza's performance. (Though I will confess to watching Johnny doing Kylie, whilst dressed as a Geisha on You tube. Gary: "You look like something out of Aladdin". Johnny: "You can rub my lamp anytime". Classic!). Sadly, I didn't manage to miss him this week, or any of the others for that matter. It was Rock week and it was very, very, weak. In fact, by the end of it, I could quite happily have thrown rocks at every single one of them. The only exception to that being the lovely Johnny, who is my guilty pleasure, as well as Kelly's, even though Louis had him back in a Bacofoil suit again this week. (Still, it was a step up from the Geisha outfit...)

So I was watching X factor on + 1 and missed the beginning and as a result, was treated to Sammi, followed by RhythmX. Both were truly awful and I quickly concluded that this did not bode well for the remainder of the show. My initial thoughts were proven sound, things did not improve as the show progressed...Comment of the night, which came pretty early on for me, went to Gazza. Gazza to Sammi post her performance, “You know what Louis does - he takes bad acts and makes them even worse". That pretty much summed Sammi’s situation up in one concise sentence.

Thankfully, this years true winners of the X-Factor, old people rapping and singing 'Can I have, it?', to the tune of A Tribe Called Quest‘s ‘Can I kick it?' arrived on an advert for Clover butter. (See below, they put all this years acts to shame). The Yeo Valley Boy Band will have to settle for second place now – sorry boys.

Things did not improve with Sophie...... I think I fell asleep half way through her performance and woke up to see her hobbling across stage as though she was dying for a pee. (I suspect it was those shoes, or possibly the leather troons. Did the stylists have a job lot of leather garments that they had to get through this week? I don’t even want to begin to talk about Sammi’s dress, it appeared they dressed her in an amalgam of all of them….) On the upside, Sophie looked very pretty. On the downside, she sounded awful. On the back of Sophie’s performance I had a ground breaking idea for a ‘week’ on X factor (don’t worry, I have finally put the ‘Doris Day’ week idea to bed), how about “Songs that actually play to the contestants’ strengths” week? Just a thought….

Side note: Are Craig’s ears getting bigger every week? That’s all I could focus on during his performance - anything to distract me from that lopsided grimace he keeps doing. (Just thought, perhaps Craig suffers from some complaint that causes his face to go lopsided when he sings. If that's the case, then, Craig, please accept my profuse and heartfelt apologies. if it isn't the case, SOMEBODY MAKE HIM STOP IT). Also, why does everyone keep saying Craig is a great singer? He sound like a bleating goat to me. It could of course be that as a result of all the damage done by the ear bleedingly bad contestants over the years, I can no longer recognise good singing when I hear it. Does that mean Misha B is actually really bad? Your thoughts on this conundrum are welcome.

Please make Kitty stop
Kitty the Killer, like all the other contestants, got the theme wrong this week and came as a Dominatrix. She did, at least, attempt a rock song and got a few brownie points for that. The Brownie points were, alas, immediately deducted when her weird performance began.  Louis mentioned that she had plenty of ideas, ''sometimes they’re absolutely weird" he said, "others are a little bit scary". So basically none are good, not unlike her odd performances... The judges were clearly watching an alternate performance to the one I saw, as they all thought she was good. Gary thought Kitty was "the only contestant trying to say something with your music". If that something is "run for your lives", I am receiving it loud and clear... Louis also mentioned that she's on the phone to him 'day and night', making death threats? Perhaps that's why they're pretending she's good.  Apparently though, she’s an artist, (she must be because Tulisa said so), I wish she’d stick to painting and just stop singing then.

I decided at this point to rewind to the start. That decision turned out to be a bit of a mistake, as I was confronted by Marcus, looking incredibly camp and surrounded, once again, by half naked girls. Are none of the X factor producers in possession of gaydar? News flash for the Producers: the dancers you keep asking him to writhe around suggestively with, are not his type. THAT's why he always looks ever so slightly uncomfortable… Suffice to say, Rock ‘Weak’ did not play to the lovely Marcus’s strengths. I would worry about his chances of continuing in the contest, were it not for Frankie Crapozza’s dire performance…

Marcus, looking less than comfortable...
As I mentioned earlier, I missed last week, but I understand Frankie was in the bottom two. I thought that would mean he'd make a special effort tonight to save himself, but clearly, he decided against that. It seems he was busy living it up and chasing girls all week, with Gazza's full backing. (Why exactly were we shown that anyway? It certainly didn't endear him - or The Risk who were shown in a similar setting - to me). Gazza’s strategy of ‘letting Frankie go out and do his thing as he is, after all a youngster’ was a bit of a mistake. It resulted in Frankie giving a performance that can, at best, be described as worse than dreadful. He talk/shouted throughout the whole song and despite the fact that he didn’t actually sing, he still managed to be off key. (A talent in itself one could argue). On the upside, his asthma appears to have cleared up a bit. Louis constructive criticism post the performance was: "…you're over confident...I think you're better than you think you are." Is it just me or does that not make any sense at all???? Gary said that, whilst he had lied for Frankie last week, he wouldn't this week. He then either: blatantly lied again, with his comment that Frankie's performance “...was a comeback this week, not an incredible comeback, but closer to where you need to be”; OR, if this week's performance really was a 'comeback', last weeks performance must have been the worst ever performance, in the history of all performances since the dawn of time. Kelly thought the only thing he was lacking was the vocal. Surely that's the key ingredient in a singing contest???? Oh I forgot, this is X Factor UK, the ability to sing in this singing contest, is an unnecessary distraction.
Frankie must have incredible neck muscles to be able to support all that hair

The Risk went out of their way to prove the whole, ‘the ability to sing in tune is an unnecessary distraction in this contest’ thing. Every time someone hit the correct note, the other three promptly pulled him away from it. Apparently, Ashley (which one’s he?) had glandular fever - that'll teach him to kiss so many girls in one evening (refer to their pre-performance VT for further explanation). That'll be why they sounded shite then...

I used to be Janet’s biggest supporter, but to be honest, I'm starting to get a bit bored with (to coin Louis’ phrase) the whole “Celtic Soul" thing. “Celtic Soul", if Janet’s singing is anything to go by, means, "making all songs sound exactly the same". In summary, she managed to make a rock song, sound nothing like a rock song and her arrangement included a Harp. It wasn't great, I feel no need to comment further…. That said, I will comment further. I feel fairly certain that Axel Rose would be turning in his grave, if he were dead, in fact, there’s a good chance that if he saw Janet’s performance, the horror will have killed him. Even Louis was forced, for what must be the first time in X Factor history, to criticise an Irish person. I found myself, for what must be the first time in X Factor history, forced to agree with Louis - ENOUGH WITH THE SLOW SONGS NOW JANET. I did not however, agree with his, “I'm glad you didn't over style her with the hair and things” comment. Erm, did he not see that mop of orange stuff on her head??? Side note: What was the nonsense with the Reporters this week? Where did they find time to harangue the contestants, in between all that phone hacking they're (allegedly) doing? I’m certain Janet’s parents breathed a huge sigh of relief when they heard the guy from the Daily Star(?) announce that his paper isn’t writing about her. I know I did.
Janet, not looking 'over styled'...

Misha B sang Purple Rain, without any of the rapping or grunting that she usually does. I was far from happy with the performance in that basis. She didn’t completely disappoint though as (a) she sang brilliantly and in tune. She obviously hasn't read the competition guidelines...(b) she had on a ridiculous outfit. Shouldn't we just end the madness now and give her the trophy? Louis, in an attempt to show that has been 'genning up' on black superstars, compared her to Eartha Kitt and Grace Jones. Deep, deep, deep, deep sigh. (He also threw in Tina Turner, but to be fair, she brought that on herself by wearing that outfit...) Tulisa made herself look snarky and childish by bringing up back stage stuff, instead of actually critiquing the performance. This is the X-factor Tulisa, not a school playground. Calculated ploy to make the public turn on the favourite, as she isn’t one of your acts anyone? Tulisa, Tulisa, Tulisa, have you learned nothing from Cole’s similar faux pas last year???? Such tactics will only serve to diminish your popularity young lady – and you were doing so well… Gazza, (we all love Gazza), gallantly declared: 'I don't care what goes on backstage. We shouldn't be getting involved in that. I'm looking for an artist, someone to sell albums, and there she is.' Did I mention that we all love Gazza?

Misha, bring back the rapping and grunting. Don't let X-Factor, 'sanitise' you
Got to dash, am off to pen my letter to the producers suggesting “Songs that actually play to the contestants’ strengths” week. I have high hopes for it’s inaugural appearance next week, but a note of caution, do not to hold your breath whilst waiting for it...


Thoughts on X factor so far......

The Gorgeous Marcus, who sadly, moved like Jagger
(a) Why did they make the lovely Marcus sing the hideous "Moves like Jagger"? 

(b) why did Marcus feel the need to actually move a la Mr J? His dancing was worse than hideous. Did Gary make him do it?

(c) Why was he forced to pretend he found his female dancer sexy???? Poor thing looked completely out of his depth as one of the half naked female dancers writhed around him. Bloomin' good singer though. Perhaps next week he'll be allowed to choose something slightly less cheesy.....

Turban Sami
Transvestite Sam
(d) Why did Sammy come dressed as a transvestite? More importantly, we know she's not going to win (Micha B should, Janet D probably will), so why couldn't Goldie have stayed in the contest?  Goldie would have been much more fun. Sami is a bloomin' good singer too though. Perhaps next week, she'll be allowed to wear that awful turban she had on in boot camp. THAT was funny...

(e) Why was Johnny wrapped in Bacofoil? 

(f) Kitty? Why? Just Why? Louis said her performance was 'captivating'. He failed to mention that it was also hideously out of tune and that she looked criminally insane throughout. (This years Aiden the axe murderer possibly? Kitty the Killer?)

(g) Matt Cardle still appears to be a stranger to soap, water and all products created by Gillette. I found that I still wanted to 'run for my life' when he started singing. Can I have the Yeo Valley boyband now please? (More on them later...)

(h) Dependable old Louis clearly has no plans to disappoint us this year. He has already used the phrases: "Diva in the making" and "I believed every word". He has also started comparing the contestants to "random celebs he knows".  None of them current, which I guess is to be expected given he must be way past his three score and ten by now...Unfortunately for him, there are quite a few black celebs this year and he already used the Lenny Henry card on Piage/Piaje/Page last year. This year, he may be forced to resort to the only other black (and once famous),  person he knows, Paul Robeson. Louis also felt it necessary to point out to 2 Shoes that they 'could sing'. Naturally, they faced the axe tonight, people who can sing have no place in this show...Luckily for Micha, people were so distracted by the fact that she was dressed as a budget version of the Queen of Hearts (and possibly trying to read the newspaper she was dressed in),  they didn't notice that she actually has a great voice.

Apparently it was custom made...

(i) Not so for poor Amelia Lily. Not to be outdone by Dr Conrad, Amelia Lilly also decided to (allegedly...) murder Michael Jackson this week, via a hideous rendition of Billy Jean. Frankly, it seemed an odd thing for a 16 year old girl to be singing anyway. Sadly for her, it resulted in her early and (in my view) untimely demise. Kelly should be sent home, she chose the song. Poor Amelia Lilly was robbed.

(j) I realise that I'm not his target demographic, but am I the only one that doesn't get Frankie? Since the infamous 'buttock reveal' during the auditions, he's gone downhill fast for me. Can he actually sing? It sounded to me like he was talking, in a faux cockney accent, whilst in the midst of an asthma attack. Plus, he also looks as if he is being slowly suffocated by all of that hair.

Kitty - Why?
(k) The groups were all alright, the 'super group' (i.e. one quite good group and another mediocre hastily formed group, spliced together) being the best. The girls, seemed strangely pleased to be told that they were the best girl band ever on the X Factor. Have they never watched the show? That is so, NOT a compliment... Also, is it just me, or is one of them missing a chin?

(l) Why does Craig keep making that stupid "I'm struggling with a particularly difficult poo here" face when he sings?

(m) Why did Kelly keep calling the girls 'Mama' and insisting people were 'throwing it down'?  Am I alone in finding that desperately annoying? Also, why did she look like she wanted to rip Louis' heart out when he compared Micha to her? (After all, she's probably the only black female celeb, aside from Billy Holiday, the he knows. Largely because she was sitting next to him but...)

Micha to win
(n) In summary,  Micha (minus the dress made of newspaper and the Yorkshire pud on her head) to win. If not her, then The Risk (but only because the Yeo Valley boy band is officially out of the running). The stylist must be sacked immediately, the vast majority of the contestants looked MUCH worse post the makeovers. (Aren't these people supposed to be experts???) Finally, Kitty the Killer to go, as soon as possible.

Yeo Valley boy band now - Just because :-)


An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List episode 1

So the much anticipated (in my household anyway. Ok, not my entire household…. OK, if I’m honest just by me as (a) I loved, loved, loved the first series - I will be watching it ad infinitum (b) Entourage is over….) ‘Idiot Abroad 2’ or to give it it’s formal title “An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List’ started on Friday. The inaugural episode saw Karl presented with a list of the one hundred most popular things that people want to do before they die and asked to choose what he’d be interested in. As expected, Ricky and Stephen force him down a path that suits their ends – neither of them are any less irritating this series btw and that goes double for Gervais….

Episode one saw Karl choosing to spend a night on a desert Island alone and Ricky and Stephen tacking on a few extras, for the general amusement of themselves and the viewer. This included: bungee jumping The Happiest Place on Earth – the island of Vanuatu, which is the birthplace of the bungee; Preceded by a standard bungee jump, somewhere in New Zealand which Karl (wisely in my book) refused to do.

In Vanuatu, he got a chance to rectify that by jumping of a large construction (put together by the locals) made of branches, with a bungee cord wrapped around his ankles and landing in mud. He only managed to jump off of the children’s ledge, 5ft off of the ground, but the locals seemed pleased….

He is then transported to a volcanic Island where then locals, who for some bizarre reason, worship Prince Phillip (yup the mildly racist husband of the Queen. Actually, is it possible to me ‘mildly’ racist?) On the Island he dances a traditional dance, which obviously involves him dressing up in a grass skirt. He complains of having taken advice from a cabbage”, which was “mildly funny and he ass boarded down the volcano, which wasn’t funny. Finally he builds his own shelter from twig and leaves and gaffer tap, whilst being pelted by torrential rain on the Dessert Island that he had originally wanted to spend the night alone on. Suffice to say, it wasn’t quite the experience he had expected...

Karl wasn’t the only one disappointed, the first episode just wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be. I’m not writing it off yet though as, despite everything, Karl was his usual engaging self. Roll on next week (sort of...)


X Factor - Cheryl who?

Louis, Tulisa, Kelly, Dementor
So we have 3 new judges, Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa Contostavlos, joining reliable old Louis (why wasn’t he replaced?). So far, Tulisa, despite being a member of N-Dubz has talked a lot of sense. I’m young and current”, she said. As opposed to whom? Cheryl and Dani? Surely not...Kelly, as expected, was polite to everyone and inordinately excited by the sight of some boy’s bottom. (I guess young boys don’t have bottoms back where she comes from?) Louis, forget his judging style, let’s talk about his hair. On one of the VT’s it looked like he’d borrowed William Shatner’s toupee. Having reviewed the VT before airing, he clearly realised the error of his ways and appeared on the show au naturel (phew..). Gary, according to all the newspapers, is supposed to be this years Mr. Nasty i.e. the Simon replacement. He’s certainly not reticent when it comes to giving his opinion, but he’s no Simon. Simon was rude in a pantomime villain sort of way and some of his analogies were positively hilarious. “It was a little bit like a Chihuahua trying to be a tiger.” “It would be like coaching a one-legged man to win the 100 meter sprint. I may be a great coach, but if you haven't got it, you haven't got it.” Love it!!! Gary, on the other hard, is a bit like a Dementor, sucking the life out of the contestants and if we’re not careful, the show. We’ll see…

Looks like there may actually be some Talent this year, Janet Devlin a Northern Irish girl who did a jolly good rendition of Your Song and the boy who showed his bum were both very good. 

This years Katie Waisell, is Kitty Brucknell, who can actually sing, but if I never see her again, it will be too soon. This years Wagner will doubtless be Goldie Cheung an ‘interesting’ Chinese lady who tried to wrap her leg around Gary’s neck, prompting him to drone: “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a stranger’s leg around my neck. I loved it. But I can tell you now you’re wasting your time with Louis.” Ok, that was funny, but he’s going to have to work on his delivery…
Goldie Cheung
Another contestant of note was Ashford, who was on the Xtra Factor, not the main show he did a great audition. For those of you who didn’t see it, don't worry, there were many, many awful contestants too. Quality viewing basically!

Speaking of Xtra Factor, who on earth is the girl with the long face that’s co presenting with Ollie Murs? Also, surely having Ollie Murs presenting must be a bit off putting for the contestants? They must be looking at him and thinking, if that’s the shape of things to come, why bother? On a brighter note, aren’t you glad the gorgeous Dermot O’Leary didn’t get the gig on the US X Factor? (Sorry Dermie I know you wanted that job but…) Many weeks of perving over Dermott to look forward to - Life is good (contented sigh).


So to the critical question: Given the absence of Cowell, Cheryl Cole and Dani Minogue, will, (as the the tabloids keep insisting), the show crawl quietly into ratings wasteland and die a miserable death? My answer to that is: Cheryl who?


The Apprentice - So she has actually met Desmond Tutu....

I, like most people, was sceptical of Melody's claim's to have “been trained by 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners including Desmond Tutu and Al Gore and they were extremely influential“. Put in mind as I was of Stuart Baggs’ wild claim that he owned a ‘licensed telecommunications company’, that wasn't in reality actually a licensed telecommunications company at all. (I think he owned a mobile phone, or maybe he sold a couple once). It does appear though, the she has at least met these people…..

Check out Melody's website : http://www.melodyhossaini.com/ looks pretty impressive...


A couple of my favourite 'arty' blogs

Something Clever I just love her quirky sketches. Here's a recent one that struck a chord, as I know exactly how that feels...

Dark Days

Kristen and Kayla - a photo journal of 2 sisters. This proud Dad takes the most fantastic pics of his girls. It does help that they're super cute, but his ideas are terrific.

Mom always said never to ride bikes in the house

The Apprentice - Episode 7 and it's official, Darth Jim is invincible

Finally got around to watching Episode 7 of The Apprentice and based on the outcome of the episode, I have concluded definitively that Darth Jim is invincible. The high point of the episode had to be Nick’s increasing horror as team Venture proceeded to patronize and insult a significant section of our society, the over 60’s. More on that later…. 

So this week the candidates were tasked with creating a new free magazine and generate revenue from the sale of advertising space. Team leaders were Jim, who was moved over to Venture and traded for Leon who went to Logic, lead by the hideous Natasha. The candidates had been transported to Fleet Street, the seat of the newspaper industry…30 years ago… to receive that news. That in my mind said it all really….
The Candidates arrive at Fleet Street
The team brainstorm was preceded by Helen pointing out that whatever concept they went for, they should ensure they appealed to the "advertisers target market. Forget everyone else…forget what we’d be interested in reading…That should be the focus.” The fact that it sounded like a sensible strategy and that Inspector Gadget agreed, meant it was a strategy doomed for the scrapheap.


An Idiot Abroad is coming back - I am beyond excited!!!

I don't know when exactly, but it seems like it will be in the Autumn. It's called "An Idiot Abroad 2 - The Bucket List". The premise being that Karl does things that people would like to do before they die. He has already started amusing me and the series isn't even out yet!

"I don't get the concept of.." doing things before you die, "...say if you're dying are you in the mood to do anything?"

Equally, the concept of a last meal if you're on death row is a puzzle to him,"the last thing that would be on my mind is a pudding." (Fair point though!)

It appears that the series is currently being filmed, with Ricky Gervais commenting on his blog in April: “Karl got back from Alaska today. It was the first trip of An Idiot Abroad 2 : The Bucket List. He's not happy. It's not what he expected at all. Still too late now. He signed the contract and cashed the cheque....Why did he trust us again? I have the angriest message saved on my phone. Really. He's so angry, and sick and tired that... it's hilarious.” Angry message in question below - lots of swearing in it, so be warned...


OK, America really Does have Talent!!

Love these babies!! "I'm a little G and the G's for Genius"

And this guy is amazing too


The Apprentice - Not 'every dog has his day' (sorry couldn't resist..)

So tonight was the much anticipated (by me anyway), advertising task, where the teams have to create a product and an associated marketing campaign.  This year product was pet food. This is the task that in the past has bought us gems such as Pantsman - Was he to be knocked off of his perch as the most ridiculous (and thus funny) product ever? Sadly no. Whilst they did make a bit of a dog's dinner of the whole thing (thought I’d get that out of the way early), it was dull, dull dull…

The episode started well with Glen ‘sans’ shirt, but was quickly ruined by Inspector Gadget’s (aka Tom) bright blue pants. The same pants as last week - not lucky, clearly, as he lost whilst wearing them…LudAllen informed the candidates that they had to “come up with an innovative product”, so basically, both teams were doomed. 

LudAllen decided to increase the comedy potential by putting Vince/Mickey, who declared that his “confidence and charisma can overpower certain people”, in charge of Logic. Glen was put in charge of Venture and I was instantly convinced of his imminent demise when he declared himself to be a 'designer'. Apparently, he does this sort of stuff everyday and is happiest when coming up with innovative products. That sort of statement is usually the Apprentice sign-posting who'll be in the boardroom at the end of the show. There was, however, light at the end of the tunnel for Glen as he was up against the incompetent Vince/Mickey....


The Apprentice - I know it's for a good cause but....

...I am still finding it difficult to understand how Cosmo felt this was justified. The image of Bagg's bottom is now seared into my memory - needless to say, it's not a pleasant image. I may never sleep again... I suppose he gets a couple of Brownie points for being a good sport?

The Apprentice - I suspect the Candidates will make a bit of a Dog's breakfast out of tonights task...

(Sorry, I couldn't resist it!) Tonight's episode apparently has the candidates making Pet food (Dog and Cat food) and creating the related marketing campaign. Cue plenty of mayhem and my personal favourite, the making of the (traditionally very bad) commercial. Please let there be a character to rival 'Pantmans'

The episode shows promise in any event...!


The Apprentice - Eureka moment

It's been bugging me (I know, I know, I need to get a grip/a hobby/a life etc.....), Leon really reminded me of someone and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I had a Eureka moment in the early hours of the morning, he is a dead ringer for Barbie's Ken!

The conundrum of Leon's immovable hair, is finally explained


The Apprentice - Did you know that Susan sells skincare products?

This week kicked off with a strangely unprepared Inspector Gadget (aka Tom), the courier arrived and he wasn’t wearing his suit. Was this an omen? I took it to be a bad sign. (He did, however, have on bright blue pants. Not sure whether that was significant, but you can never tell with this show….) Anyway for some bizarre reason, the team were chauffeured to the British Museum (which might have ‘dinosaurs and stuff’ according to Violet/Susan) to be told by LudAllen that the task was beauty, “A massive business” and they had to “get a piece of that action.” LudAllen added that there was money to be made "if you know what you’re doing." Unfortunately for LudAllen's bank balance, it transpired that none of the candidates (not even Violet/Susan who sells skincare products for a living) knew what they were doing...

LudAllen mixed the teams up a bit, moving Darth Jim over to Logic in the hope that they might break their duck and actually win something this week. Sadly the team also included Vince/Mickey and to add insult to injury, he put Felicity in charge. So despite the presence of the all powerful Darth Jim, things weren't looking promising for team Logic...

Meanwhile Team Venture was being led by Zoe, (so a girl was clearly going tonight...) whose voice could successfully be utilised as a method of extreme torture - In the event that her team won, I was hoping the prize would be elocution lessons, with an emphasis on how to modulate. (I had momentarily forgotten what a tight wad LudAllen has recently become with the prizes. It ended up being a dance lesson with a couple from the 'Strictly' team - Personally, I'd have preferred a trip back to the losers cafe...) Anyway Zoe got Violet/Susan (who by the way, sells skincare products for a living) on her team and as she later said in the boardroom, felt "all her birthdays had come at once." That feeling was to be short lived...