December 14, 2011

X Factor Final: A Content Analysis

So, on Sunday we had the final episode show of X Factor 2011. Lauren and I have taken to Sky+ing the show (this is like TiVO) and watching it an hour behind live so that we can fast forward through the gumpf. But how much gumpf can there really be in one episode of the X Factor? If you looked at Twitter between 19:30 and 21:30 on Sunday, you'd see a sea of people screaming, 'Oh god how long can this go on for?' and 'Just tell us who won! JESUS CHRIST!'

So I took the liberty of analysing the 2 hours and 3 seconds of SyCo ejaculate that might make you realise that Simon Cowell and ITV are taking us all for a ride.

The two hour show represented as a clock. Imagine the show starts at the 12 o' clock position and travels around the clock face until it ends.

So, the naive me might think that the whole point of watching the X Factor is to watch the contestants perform and to find out the winner, right? Some people enjoy watching the judges opine, but as this was the final, they all just spout hysterical love for everyone - the bitchy comments are long gone.

Well, if you wanted to see the contestants perform you got a total of 19m31s of singing in your two hours. And that includes the winner's song, which is just a repeat of what they sang earlier in the show. That's one sixth of the show. So what do they do with the other 5/6 (83%) of the show?

Well, you might have enjoyed the other performances from Westlife, Coldplay and the pre-recorded compilation for all the finalists that opened the show. I say, 'might', because I didn't enjoy it very much, but this does count as the programme attempting to put on a show for its audience, so I'm not going to snootily sniff at it. Anyway, that's another 16 minutes (13%) of entertainment so there was still a lot of show to fill. Can you guess what else took up our precious time?

Yes! Adverts! A whopping half an hour (or a quarter of the show time) was taken up by adverts. The biggest break we got from adverts was in the third quarter of the programme when both acts performed the winner's single and had to see their highlights and Olly and Caroline pissed about with their 'fans' in the audience. So basically, in the biggest amount of time free from adverts they treated us to the same song twice, a clip reel of stuff we'd already seen and two idiots trying to shout over a crowd of locals who'd baked Little Mix into a pizza. YES.

So, in total, the performances took up the most of the show - as it should be. But almost half the show was taken up by Dermot telling us what we'd just seen/what we were about to see, video clips of things we'd already seen, the judges (who I suspect were drunk) telling everyone how brilliant they are, and Caroline and Olly.

So let's break it down a different way:

If we separate out the contestants performances from the other performances, we'll obviously get 'adverts' as the biggest player of the night. So what I did was strip out all the necessary parts of the show that are required to keep the flow between the performances and the judges' comments. So, this includes Dermot's links between actual stuff happening, telling us the phone numbers, introing the acts by means of intense montage and announcing the results. Those are the required parts of the show (and I'm being generous. I don't think anyone benefited from the judges on Sunday).

This leaves the gumpf, or the 'padding'. The stuff they threw in to make up the time. There was twenty minutes of padding - more gumpf than singing. Olly Murs and Caroline Flack were padding; the VTs of the contestants family telling them they were awesome was padding - partly because they see their friends and family enough not to need a VT of them saying generic Canderel but also because Olly and Caroline are standing with the families constantly asking them how proud they are.

By the way, I included the live link to Philip Schofield talking about Text Santa. It was an advert. It was an advert masquerading as... god only know what.

So the lesson here is - always tape the X Factor and fast-forward through all the gumpf. Take that, Cowell. I've proven your show has too much rusk and not enough sausage.

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