STOP CRYING YOUR HEART OUT: X Factor and the Musical Chairs debacle

This week saw X Factor’s ‘Hunger Games style musical chairs’ making their way to the USA with The Four Chair Challenge, and it wasn’t long before the controversial format was making headlines Stateside.

Since the dawn of the Reality TV age we’ve been arguing about shows like X Factor. Are they exploitative? Do they deserve air time? Why does anybody watch them in the first place? Last weekend that debate took another interesting turn on this side of the Atlantic at Boot Camp, when each of the acts had to sing for their survival and a seat in each judge’s final six only for some of them to be booted off again in favour of another contestant.

Within minutes of the first singer falling victim to the ‘cruel’ twist (which had been revealed months ago in the tabloids) Twitter was going berserk. Half the timeline was screaming blue murder and threatening to turn off the television set due to the Colosseum-like antics, while the other half couldn’t get enough of the production team’s latest ratings driver.

The debate raged on as contestant after contestant nabbed one of the coveted chairs, before being unceremoniously booted out in favour of someone else the judges quite simply thought would make better telly.

It was no surprise to see the Boot Camp bloodshed (if you could actually call it that) making headlines on Sunday morning. Ousted contestant Lydia said the whole thing was intolerably cruel and likened the experience to having a carrot on a stick dangled in front of you, only for it to be snatched away.

Sure, the girl has a point, there was no need to make it so harsh, but isn’t that what X Factor is all about? Everyone bar one contestant having their hopes and dreams snatched away? The majority of them are kicked off at some stage and, as they always say, it’s the ‘journey’ and the soap opera like drama involved that makes X Factor a successful TV format. Considering we’re on Series 10, that’s something we should all know by now.

“They’re doing it for the ratings. Messing with peoples’ lives and they don’t care!” several angry tweeters have blustered over the past 24 hours alone. Again, they have a point, it seems cruel to mess with someone’s hopes and dreams.

However, the show has been around for 10 years and done pretty much the exact same thing the whole way through. Surely at this stage there’s no excuse? You sign on in the full knowledge that you’re joining a TV show. You sign on in the full knowledge that you might lose, and lose badly. Nobody said those 15 minutes of fame came cheap. You need only look back at 13-year-old Rachel Crow’s elimination to see that.

Now it doesn’t seem as though the Four Chair Challenge is causing quite as much uproar in the US of A, but that could be something to do with the government shutdown claiming every inch of tabloid newsprint at the moment. Or perhaps the Americans just have a deeper understanding of the concept of the show after just three seasons.

After all, when it comes to X Factor there’s only one winner really: The man pulling the strings. Sure haven’t his producers cooked him up a nice ‘evil’ new format that’s got us all talking about a show we either love or love to hate?

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