X Factor Live Shows week 8

Did you know, if you’re lucky enough to have V+, you can watch the X Factor in less than 4 minutes once you skip the adverts and Louis?  Awesome, seriously, a revelation.  Hurrah for the theme this week – a million times better than a tribute week.

Double elimination this week – THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING.  For two of them, obviously.  Isn’t it silly that Tesco Mary, Hatie and Wagner are still there so late in the game?

This week’s breakdown:

Wagner – is still in the contest.  Actually, his version of “Creep” wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, which in Wagner terms constitutes a fail.  If it’s not “funny”, why bother?

Wand Erection – sang two of my least favourite songs this week.  I love how no-one mentions how the wee scamps are blatantly lip synching for much of their performances (especially “Summer of 69”, in which, incidentally, they were minus 40 years old).  It’s almost as if they’re meant to win or something.

Tesco Mary – Horrendous. This week, the Sea Witch managed to awaken a repressed memory of my intoxicated mother doing a “sexy” karaoke version of “Brass In Pocket” at a party when I was little.  I shall be billing Byrne for my therapy.  LOVE Cheryl’s increasingly patronising feedback, “jus cus ya owld an fat, dunnee mean ya can’t have a go.  Good fa yoo fa tryin.”

Call Her Miss Lloyd – On the ropes, but a vallant effort.  The Lil Mama section of “Girlfriend” was clearly the best thing to ever be on the X Factor, but “Walk This Way” is always crap, whoever sings it.  I suspect had Miss Lloyd been allowed to select her music and staging each week, she’d have been incredible and, as the judges keep saying, “credible”.  As it is, she’s a doll in Brian Friedman’s twisted vision of “street”.  I fear this will be the final hurrah for my Cher.

Rebeczzzzz… – So boring at this stage I can hardly be bothered to write anything.  Also, I wish I was able to hear her sing in tune like the judges obviously can.  So forgettable, might not be safe.

Painter & Decorator – His performance of “I Love Rock and Roll”  managed a rare mixture of creepy and uncomfortable, quite an achievement.  The second performance was sufficiently pant-moistening to see him through to next week, however.

Hatie – Woo!  Yay!  C’Mon!  Desperation was the name of the game once more for Miss Vogel/Waissel/Whatever.  Her version of “Sex On Fire” was a refreshing reminder to the days when we alll wanted to tear her head off and eat it.  “Everybody Hurts” was similarly painful, and turned “earnest” from a concept into a living entity.  Her sex must be on fire, this is the only reason I can imagine for Simon’s disproportionate praise.

“Bottom Three”, you all cry?  Hmmm.  At a push…Cher, Rebecca and Wagner.  Of course, I’ve been wrong every other week, why would this one be any different?

Things I have Learned from Publishers

As regular readers will know, my debut novel has been darkening the desks of London’s publishing houses since the summer – with more success at some than others.  Anyway, as part of my ongoing adventures, I’ve been lucky enough to meet with several lovely editors to discuss “my future”.  Exciting stuff.  I wish I could divulge more about what’s going on with the book, but I’m terrified of jinxing myself.

However, along the way, I have picked up some glimmering gems of tips from “the inside” that I thought might be of interest to fellow writers…

1.  Do not try to predict trends in publishing.  The editors are still on the lookout for books they adore, regardless of genre or content.  Originality is more precious than trends.  Furthermore, release schedules are booked up into the first half of 2012 – who knows what Meyer/Rowling-like shock bestsellers could emerge between now and then?

2.  The bookshelves are only an indicator of what was happening 18 months ago.  One editor said if she received another gloomy dystopian YA thriller she would kill herself.  Seriously.  Same with supernatural/paranormal – several houses said they would only consider highly original concepts at this stage if they were to compete.  As one explained, at some point, they have to go to Waterstones and convince them to give up shelf space to something new by an unknown author.  If you were the buyer which would you go for?  The newby or whatever Meyer launches next?

3.  “Series Potential” – conflicting info on this one.  One editor said she wouldn’t consider anything that didn’t have series potential, while another said rarely do books 2 or 3 match the sales of book 1.  The pro-series editor added that what readers are interested in is the character, not the set-up.  The series must follow “the journey” of a likeable MC.

4.  Be flexible.  Again, I can’t say a lot about this, but I’m learning to be yoga-dynamic, Samantha from SATC flexible.  Selling out to get published?  Absolutely not, I’m developing a career as a writer, not a prima-dona protecting my “art” at all costs.  Each editor has given me invaluable (if not conflicting) advice about the direction I should move the manuscipt in.

5.  America is the home of YA fiction.  One editor explained that YA fiction was wholly American until very recently – in the UK we did kids and adults.  According to her, too many British YA works are lacklustre copycats of US output.  She says what she’s looking for is the pace and slickness of the American books, but with a unique British quality (which, thankfully, mine had – phew).

6.  If a lunch is paid for on expenses, have pudding.  Self-explanatory.

Now, if you’re a British writer writing a series of nine books about Fallen Angel Vampire Fairies set in a dystopian High School, you might see this post as crushing.  Not my intention, as the final thing I’ve learned is that these people can spot potential a mile off.  As I said, my debut will not be published in it’s original shape or size, but what all the “insiders” have done is WORK WITH ME to make it better.

I think the most important lesson learned is, write the best book you can.  And cross everything.

X Factor Live Show 7

An Elton John week and a Beatles week?  I would literally send a postal order to the value of £10 for a Girls Aloud week.  In a week where an attention grabbing haircut, a John McClane vest and a disembodied spiral staircase stole the show, you have to question if this was an hour and a half well spent.

This week, I simply have no idea who’ll go.  It seems that each act is Marmite this year, for every fan there’s a HATER.  Last week, Team Aiden were busy listening to The Smiths and back-combing their quiffs and look what happened!  It’s anyone’s game, so I’ll disect each act in turn…

Painter & Decorator – In the words of Caitlin Moran “sang like Honey Monster”.  Matt’s been doing so well, why risk it with that bizarre performance?  For the second week in a row, an Olly Murs 09 performance rehashed in an inferior way.  Dressing him like a street-drinker was also ill-advised.

Cher – I was annoyed by the judges after this one.  She sung beautifully and was then criticised for another Brian Friedman monstrosity.  Louis knocked her for rapping last week and for not rapping this week.  Clearly someone had told Miss Lloyd to “smile more”.

Wand Erection – Was about to say their performance was recycled footage from last week, when a hungry tribe of twenty-something Boden-clad yummy mummies ran on and started clawing at their legs.  Curious.

Tesco Mary – this woman is not a popstar.  Please stop voting for her.

Rebecca – Despite what I said re. Cardle, Rebecca is the act who most needs to pull something new out of the bag.  Same old, only with ropier vocals.  Probably not a great move for her to admit on Xtra Factor that she “murdered” a Beatles song.

Paije – If I was going to identify an “unsafe” act, he’d be it.  I feel like he should be better than he is.  For whatever reason, I can’t get even vaguely excited about Paije, which is a shame as I like his style A  LOT.

Wagner – the joke has definitely stopped being funny.  Maybe this week will be the week.  Fingers crossed.

Hatie – The brave caller that got booed on the Xtra Factor, I salute you.  As she wisely pointed out, no matter how much the judges tell us she’s lovely, she still comes across as a vile wannabe.  We are taking about a woman who cut off her hair to make us love her.  All I could think was Rosemary’s Baby, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine her as the bride of Satan.  If that wasn’t bad enough, her bronchial performance of Help! had us rolling around on the floor in prolonged agony.

If I could choose, I’d land Mary and Wagner in the bottom two.  That’s right – at least Katie inspires something in me, like the grand theatre of pop music should.

X factor Live Show Week 6

My gift is my song, and this one’s for you.  Thanks, Elton, you’re really spoiling us.   What an utterly forgettable installment.  Without wanting to cast aspersions about Sir Elt, perhaps he’s a TERRIBLE choice of theme.  The fact they did it last year (and used many of the same songs) doesn’t help either.  It almost makes you miss the cover-all early themes like “songs to sing to” or “words and music”.

Before we start the autopsy, a word to the annoying Facebook campaigners.  As long as you’re voting, do you think Simon Cowell cares who you’re voting for?  Go topple empires somewhere else, Che Guevaras.

Who’s Safe?

Tough to say this week as the field closes and no one made happy wee come out.  But, best of a bad bunch…

Rebecca and Cher – both given “easier”, more accessible songs to perform.  Both sang nicely – should carry them through.  I’m with Dannii, though, in that I wish Cher had stuck to “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” instead of shoe-horning in the Eminem.

Matt and One Direction – although only by trading on former glories.

Wagner – only because I think the Facebook scamps are still at it.

Who’s Unsafe?

Tesco Mary – When singing’s all you’ve got going for you, you’d better bloody sing well.  She screamed like a foghorn throughout.  Mary peaked far too early in the contest.

Paije – some clever sideways insults from the judges might seal his fate.  Plus, I’ve noticed that the sixties go-go dancers have been a bad omen for the acts this year (Belle Amie, Diva Feva).

Katie – has absolutely had it.  Oh, she a gonner.  Plus, as my friend commented, she sings “like she has one lung”.

DVD Corner

As you know, I’m a big, BIG fan of long-running BBC Science-Fiction masterpiece Doctor Who. One of my earliest memories, in fact, is actress Nicola Bryant in a bald-wig having undergone a brain transplant to become the evil Lord Kiv in 1986. That sort of thing stays with a child. My love for the show continued through the “dark days” after it’s cancellation in 1989 and the brief glimmer of hope when the Doctor briefly resurfaced as Paul McGann in 1996.

Despite what any hardened Doctor Who fan will tell you, Doctor Who was never as good as it’s 2005 revival helmed by Queer as Folk creator Russell T Davies. This week sees the release of the fifth series on glorious lenticular DVD boxset, along with it’s spin-off show The Sarah Jane Adventures Series 3.

The genius of Doctor Who is it’s ability to evolve like no other show. Running since 1963, with more cast and crew changes than most soap operas, and yet it feels as fresh now as it did then. The fifth series saw (arguably) the biggest shake-up since the TARDIS reappeared. New show-runner, Steven Moffat, and new leads Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.

Matt Smith is the clear success of the season, with even the most poisonous online forums full of love for the new Doctor. Yes, he’s very young, but as I said, Doctor Who is all about evolution – a geriatric lead like William Hartnell simply wouldn’t work for the Saturday night audiences of 2010 (although, we’ll discuss this later in regards to Sarah Jane). For me, Matt Smith settles into the role far more quickly than his predecessor, the much-loved David Tennant. Tennant’s early Doctor was trying too hard for me; Laid back Smith, establishes his own effortless, believable quirkiness from his first seconds on screen. Bonkers, unpredictable, sexless, just like every good Doctor should be.

The series gets off to a strong start with The Eleventh Hour, a showcase for Smith with an eerie villain to chase around a very Avengers setting of leafy middle England. I didn’t hate it’s follow up The Beast Below as much as everyone else either; dark mystery in space with a most unusual monster. More importantly, it gave viewers a chance to get to know new companion Amy Pond (Gillan). Ignore the overwrought final scenes and this could be Amy’s best episode.

Let’s ignore the hideous new Daleks (even writer Mark Gatiss admitted the hunchback look is woeful) and skip straight to what is, for me, easily the highlight of the year – The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, the anticipated return of the Weeping Angels from 2008’s Blink. Not unlike Aliens with elements of Ringu, Moffat didn’t disappoint, adding new layers to the genuinely scary stone assassins. These are the monsters school children want to be. Alex Kingston’s River Song is also on hand to add humour and glamour.

Sadly at this point, I lost my way with the series. With the exception of the giddy run-around Vampires of Venice, the rest of the series fell into a somewhat cerebral lull; lots of clever ideas, not a lot of action. While Amy’s Choice and Vincent and the Doctor were certainly very nice…it wasn’t the Doctor Who I signed up for. While I wholeheartedly approve of Doctor Who trying new things (Blink, for example, should be hung in the Tate Modern), I can’t imagine the school children of our great country jumping out from behind a climbing frame pretending to be James Corden’s entry phone.

Perhaps more controversially, I’ve struggled to like Amy Pond. There, I said it. To me, both the writers and Gillan didn’t quite get a handle on who Amy is meant to be. Occasionally callous, sometimes vulgar, frequently child-like – it was an odd mixture and I was left unsympathetic to her fate. Throw in a morose, whining boyfriend and I was even more turned off. Since the show returned in 2005, the companion has been more vital the programme’s success than ever before. Rose and Donna (Billie Piper/Catherine Tate) worked, and their series flourished. Martha (Freema Agyeman) and “no companion” didn’t feel so right and consequently neither did the episodes featuring them. I feel bad admitting this for some curious reason, but I really hope Amy and Rory don’t stay in the TARDIS much longer.

While Doctor Who was trying thoughtful, dark mystery and Memento time travel mind-benders in The Big Bang/The Pandorica Opens, The Sarah Jane Adventures on CBBC was more Doctor Who than actual Doctor Who. Grumpy old time-traveller with a super computer and a team of teenage helpers. Sound familiar? I adore SJA, children’s television shouldn’t be this good. Well-scripted, acted and pitched perfectly at it’s audience with plenty of corridors to run up and down. It feels like Doctor Who used to be when I was ten.

The third series contains an eclectic bunch of yarns featuring body stealing aliens, haunted houses and Nigel Havers. No, really. I suspect for fans, this DVD will be worth the cover price purely for the final performance of David Tennant as the Doctor when he gate-crashes Sarah Jane’s wedding. Sadly, the final episode does feature my least favourite monster the Slitheen, but I’m willing to forgive this as the children in my last Year 5 class genuinely loved the fart gags.

Being in the position to be able to review not one, but two Doctor Who universe series is a treat that I still don’t take for granted (after all, I remember the dark days of reviewing “The Missing Adventures” BBC novels in the 90s). You can keep you Sherlocks and Downton Abbeys – there is no finer drama on British television.

Doctor Who: The Complete Series 5 and The Sarah Jane Adventures Complete Series 3 are available now from 2Entertain.

Ps. Dear Steven Moffat, even though I dislike Amy am I still allowed to one day write for Doctor Who? Love from James Dawson aged 29 and a ½. XXX

X Factor Live Show 5

It’s becoming clear that this is one of the stronger years of the talent show.  The years in which the winner is obvious (Leona, Shayne) tend be less interesting to me; my favourite year was the close finish between Alexandra and JLS.  What I love about this year is that there are probably 5 or 6 acts who could theoretically win – Matt, One Direction, Cher, Aiden, Rebecca…too close to call.

Simon’s comments to Cher Lloyd were spot on though – no-one can afford to be lazy and rely on tried and tested performances like Cher’s Empire State of Mind (the second time she’s done JayZ).  After some of the last stragglers are gone, the competition will run off fan power and show stealing performances like Cher’s Stay last week.  Let’s hope Wagner goes soon so we can get on with battle.

Who’s Safe?

Matt Cardle – I thought it was shrill and dull, but, for some reason, his shrieking seems to touch the hearts of ladies (and a certain type of man).  The disproportionate praise heaped on him will see him through.

Aiden – Still annoying, but at least Nothing Compares 2U made perfect sense for him.  He’s this year’s Diana Vickers, the artist least adaptable to the theme.

Rebecca – Could well be this years Joe McElderry, creeping up the outside lane and making very good progress.  Less devisive than Cher, my prediction for top 3.

One Direction – GENIUS song choice.  Outside the box thinking about the “direction” of the band; dusting off a slightly forgotten classic with a modern spin is “so hot right now” (see Stay, Mad World, Dub Be Good To Me, Baby, One More Time).

Who’s Unsafe?

Treyc and Hatie – Frantic, desperate performances from two girls unable to find their role in the competition.  We actualy joked before Hatie came on that she might as well throw in the towel and be Gwen Stefani…oh, I see.  This was a last chance shot for both girls.  Suspect it’ll be a Cheryl bottom two tonight.

Paije – Sixties revival didn’t work for Belle Amie and I don’t know if it’ll work for Paije.  The Hey Ya section was hideous.  I like Paije, though and I hope the change in direction buys him another week.

Tesco Mary – Sounded like a bag of cats being hit with a spanner.  A lot.  When Cher breaks down she’s fragile, but what about Mary, a woman on the edge of a sinking cruise ship?  Lord knows who’s voting for her – I’d rather vote for Wagner, seriously.

Wagner – the joke is wearing thin.  When kids and Facebook “jokers” stop voting it’ll be the (merciful) end of the wife-beating sleaze.