Tune in, Switch off - X marks the spot

25th September 2009 at 01:00
Imagine the outcry if we did this to kids in assembly. Hugging followed the hanging. It was exploitative and sick. I'm calling Childline

I've changed my phone and broadband provider. The service is fine but I've now seen what it spends my rental on. I'm not paying it to sponsor television that's tacky, tawdry and tasteless. For The X Factor (ITV1) has to be the cruellest blood sport since the Romans threw Christians to lions.

Take Shanna, 18. We have to know their age. Her winning would move her family out of poverty and their council house, offering life chances to all her sisters. Hope in our hands. Still dry-eyed? As she sang, the watching family wept rain clouds, her sisters' faces contorted. By the end, Shanna looked as if she'd been hosed down during a performance of Singin' in the Rain.

Simon Cowell, 49, detected "raw talent". The 2,000-strong audience, proving Derren Brown's "wisdom of crowds" theory a myth, roared approval as this victim avoided being eaten by the lions. And the family hugged and cried some more, desperate for a lifeline to riches. ITV should at least get some well-known tissue manufacturer to be sponsors. It could then be called The Clean X Factor.

I'm really surprised there isn't some child protection legislation to stop us witnessing scenes like the plight of Demi, 17, who sparkily proclaimed that she didn't want to go through just on her character. No danger of that, m'dear. Even her perky personality cracked at the public humiliation of the brutal verdict: "Your voice isn't good enough."

A tragic figure standing alone on the stage, it seemed sweet innocence had been destroyed forever. Imagine the outcry if we did this to kids in assembly. Hugging followed the hanging. If this was fiction, I'd say it was sentimental. But it was real, exploitative and sick. I'm calling Childline.

There's a Ray Bradbury short story I used to teach, set in a future in which reality TV contestants play being hunted to the kill. The winner becomes rich; the rest are slaughtered to audience cheers. Remind you of anything?

The sheer awfulness of many contestants must explain why advertising revenues are down. Several would have been thrown off stage at an infants' karaoke concert. They really were tone deaf, off-key, discordant droners. And they gave Cowell a headache.

Duo Diana, 59, and Jazz, seven, had spent seven years practising for the big night. Diana couldn't sing and her other half stayed mute. Not surprising really as Jazz was a dog, cuddled and mauled around the stage. Now I'm phoning the RSPCA.

I switched on Record Review hoping for some late-night music to soothe. But I'd found the BBC Parliament channel where I discovered the "record" was continuous clips of our legislators passing laws. No wonder Bills have so many readings. MPs rise to speak and everyone laughs and jeers. It could be Comedy Club without the jokes. Or The X Factor audience.

I might form a Society for the Protection of Viewers. And if that original sponsor will back us, they can have my custom again.

Ray Tarleton (age withheld) is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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