The French call it "je ne sais quoi": that ineffable quality some special individuals are simply born with, that sets them apart from the common crowd, the impossible-to-define characteristic that marks out great from good, the quality, for want of a better description, of being the winner of a television talent contest. It is The X Factor, and we are about to find out who, among all the people in this wide brown land, has it, and who is a hopeless failure.
We begin with a spectacular exploration of the safety features of the new Mitsubishi Outlander. Wait, no, that was an ad. We actually begin with a reminder of what happened in the last episode, in which the contestants, as is their habit, sang some songs. We then get a promise of what’s to come, including a visit from Boyz II Men, so apparently a time machine will be involved.
Cut to a music video in black and white - a tribute to the golden age of Hollywood - as our finalists demonstrate the incredible vocal talent and complete inability to match their lip movements to a recorded track. Then things get a bit confusing as the show tries to induce seizures in its audience and an army of unholy living corpses begin thrashing around on stage. We may never get to find out who has The X Factor, as the zombie apocalypse has clearly begun.
But no! There is a purpose to this after all, as our finalists are spotted hanging in their cages above the stage. Jason and Samantha Jade have a cage to themselves, but the Collective is forced to share a cage, and it looks extremely cramped. But then it’s their own fault – do they really need so many members?
Enter Luke Jacobz, card-carrying member of the Bernard Curry Society for Hosts of Popular TV Shows Who Somehow Still Remain Anonymous. He introduces the judges, and there is a sad moment as Mel B reveals she tore her dress backstage and had no time to mend it. Luke informs us the voting lines have closed, meaning the result has already been decided and we are about to see two hours of completely pointless filler. Still, it will be very entertaining, what with the exhumation of Boyz II Men and a special performance by a TV with One Direction on it.
The show has only just begun but we’re already onto our second reminder of what happened last night. What happened last night is that the Collective sang a song, and the judges said they did well, and then Jason sang a song, and the judges said he was good, and then Samantha Jade sang a song, and the judges told her how nicely they thought she did it. We’re then told the Collective didn’t get much girl attention at high school, but that’s all changed now they are Australia’s answer to One Direction, if One Direction found their clothes in other people’s bins. We’re also reminded that Jason is best-known for playing Chuck Bass in TV’s Gossip Girl, and that he sang Annie’s Song because the world just does not make sense.
We see a clip of Ronan Keating saying the Collective is "everything The X Factor 2012 is looking for", so I guess we were never exactly shooting for the moon. Tonight, Ronan believes the Collective will win, manfully delivering his opinion despite Natalie’s incessant poking. Guy, who is dressed as Satan, is of course barracking for Samantha Jade, while Mel B is still doing her uncanny Geoffrey Boycott impression.
Next we are to hear the "thoughts" of the Collective. Apparently they encourage each other, give each other positivity and are like brothers. "No dream is impossible to reach," says one Collective dude, having absorbed all the reality-denying lessons television imparts. Then ... we have an ad? But we just came back from an ad! And that’s when we realise The X Factor is pulling that MasterChef crap on us.
But then we’re back from the ad! And it’s getting confusing! And the finalists are going to sing Good Times with Owl City! I guess if you put all The X Factor finalists together, they almost add up to one Carly Rae Jepsen.
Anyway, they sing the song, and Owl City looks reasonably aware of where he is, which is a win, and the camera, cleverly, does not linger too long on any shots which might reveal how he is "playing" his guitar, and the contestants wander around the stage in clothes stolen from the set of the Dick Tracy movie, and everyone gets a line to sing, and ... my god, there’s more than 90 more minutes of this to sit through. Then everyone claps and cheers and sings because everyone in the room is on drugs and thinks they’re covered with bugs.
Time to interview Owl City, and Luke "the male Jana Wendt" asks him about Australia and Owl City says he likes the fish and chips and, wow, that was good television. Luke then promises us we’re "so close to the moment of truth", which we know is a lie because this baby’s going all the way to 9.30pm. We then cut to an ad and I immediately forget what Luke Jacobz’s face looks like.
I actually think those people are going to void their warranties on those Microsoft tablets.
Back to the show, and it’s time for the most important part of the final – finding out what website to go to for all the hot inside info. Luke then tries to make us believe the fact that the runner-up will receive a Nissan Micra is "exciting news". Is anyone buying that beyond the hallucinogen-addled tweens in the crowd?
But there’s a long way to go to the end of the final, so it’s time to pad a bit more, and hark back to everything that’s happened already. It’s amazing how the judges on The X Factor all agree the contestants in this series were incredibly talented. A lucky break, really – if they’d been untalented the show might have dragged. Mel B then directs a racial slur at Ronan, and Guy reminds us all how inspirational it is when he wears a yellow hat at a slightly crooked angle. The whole segment is a wonderful way for everyone to recall the way all those people sang songs on TV and the judges said things, and how that girl who loved Ronan was really, really stupid.
Remember that time Guy cried? Ha ha, what a girl.
Now a recap of "super boot camp", the gruelling program of listening to singing that was pretty similar to basic training for the armed forces; and Mel B says the other judges are wanky.
"It was the wink that stopped the nation," says Ronan, of the earth-shattering moment when a girl winked on The X Factor. Truly, history is now divided into Before The Wink and After The Wink. Natalie confesses that if she could wink she would definitely wink at One Direction, and then she does a weird thing where she winks while trying to pretend she can’t wink. Or she’s being a pirate or something, I don’t know.
Luke then says something about Fango, so that’s pretty irrelevant. He asks Mel B if she will sing Gangnam Style, and Mel says she has a slit up to her thigh. Then the audience chants something for five seconds and immediately runs out of energy. We then cut to an announcer telling us what will happen later, rather than anything actually happening, and then an ad.
Then Luke tells us The X Factor is back in less than 15 seconds. And then The X Factor is back. It’s like the producers have discovered the technology to literally slow down time.
And now it’s time for 1992! Enter Boyz II Men, who have not only sold 60 million albums, but also have recently recorded with Justin Bieber. Whether Justin Bieber is aware of this is not stated. Anyway they’re about to sing a song with The X Factor finalists, because the Rooty Hill RSL was fully booked tonight.
It’s noticeable that Boyz II Men are wearing the same clothes they were wearing the last time you saw them, 20 years ago, and also that there are only three of them, the other one presumably having finally made the transition from Boy II Man. It is also noticeable that since they ruled the charts, they have made some subtle changes to their act, like removing the concept of "singing".
All this excitement is a bit too much, so we need to take a break from the issue of musical competition and consider the issue of Skylanders and people flying in supermarkets.
As we near the halfway point of this chronological behemoth, it is time to eliminate one of the finalists, because it is important this final takes longer to reach a conclusion than the US election. Luke begins to read the votes, and then apparently suffers a major stroke, since he stops mid-sentence for about half an hour. Finally he gets around to talking again, and Jason survives until the next round, which is already finished in real life. Luke then suffers another stroke, and then reveals that the second member of the final two is ...
Samantha Jade! Wow, boy v girl, who’d have thought, right?
Which means the Collective must now, alas, return to the New Kids On The Block hard rubbish collection whence they came. Which means, of course, it’s time for a look back at the Collective’s journey. This journey involved some singing, some crying, some hugging and discovering some embarrassing secrets about One Direction in order to blackmail them into meeting them. Then some more singing, and Ronan telling them they’re going to be a global success, and everyone having a good laugh at that, and then one of the boys said they had showed that what goes up must come down, and everybody looked awkwardly at each other and wondered what the hell he was talking about, and then Mel B told them they were crap, which was true because they were wearing horrible silver suits, and then wow, it turned out that they were good again!
Luke asks the Collective if they’d like to thank anyone, and Trent drops the stunning revelation that they all have families. He also thanks the fans who voted for them, which seems unnecessarily sarcastic, and then the one who looks like a five-year-old girl thanks Ronan, who is very proud of the guys. He then repeats his assertion that they will be international stars – why do you lie, Ronan? Does it make you feel like a big man? Does your fantasy world give you more comfort than the real one?
Anyway, the Collective will be on tour in January, so get your tickets now! Nah, just kidding, there will probably be some left on the door.
So, only two left, and yet even now, I can’t remember Luke’s face. As we move, glacier-like, towards the end of the show, desperately attempting to finish this competition before the Mayan prophecy comes to pass, it is time to see One Direction perform their new single! Isn’t that amazing! They are right there in The X Factor studio, in a pre-recorded video, which is being watched LIVE by an Australian audience on an actual monitor! Even better they are performing on the same set the Jackson Five played on in 1974 on Top of the Pops.
Anyway, One Direction sings their song, which is very popular among the young girls who aren’t actually there. One of them wears a sweater, and one of them wears a suit, and Harry hasn’t done his hair, and one of them is dressed as Joey from Degrassi Junior High. If I had to describe the performance, I would say it’s very reminiscent of the Collective, only actually likely to make money.
And then it is over, and we cut to some girls screaming and holding up a sign saying "Niall". Hopefully Niall is watching The X Factor final live on Channel Seven, or that sign will have been for nothing. We then cut to the contestants at home, where they are having a party and marvelling at LG’s new fridge door. Actually that’s not the contestants, it’s just some people with a fridge.
Back to Luke, who explains that either Jason or Samantha Jade will win tonight, an extremely helpful refresher on the rules of the game for all of us at home. He is also talking to Samantha Jade’s parents, who are, unexpectedly, proud of their daughter. They have made little videos about how much they love her, although there’s a definite undercurrent there, and you can tell if she doesn’t win, she’s in big trouble.
With 40 minutes left in the show, I have a chilling feeling Jason has parents, too. But now it’s time for Devil Guy to introduce Samantha Jade, singing a song in the company of what are either back-up dancers or extremely lithe stage-invaders. Following the beginning of the song, she comes to the end of the song, and ... that’s that. Once again we are exposed to the live audience’s stunning lack of perspective. We’re also exposed to Guy saying "that was your last performance", a statement that would probably seem a lot less threatening from someone in a more conventional suit.
Apparently every judge needs to give a separate opinion on Samantha Jade, even though they all say the same thing and many of us are beginning to fear for our fading youth. Luke tells us we are "minutes away" from revealing the winner, but technically we’re "minutes away" from the sun exploding, too – it is no comfort unless he puts a number on it.
We’re treated to an ad for Les Miserables, which is said to be "the musical experience of a lifetime", but it’ll have to be pretty damn good to top the final of The X Factor Australia 2012, I’ll tell you that for free.
Back to the show, and my worst fears were realised: Jason DOES have parents. Luke says it has been as big a ride for them as for Jason, which is pretty obviously untrue, and asks his mother how much her son means to her. Amazingly, he means quite a lot to her. They both know Jason can do this: they are understandably reluctant to claim that he will.
And now Jason will sing Dancing in the Dark, great news for Springsteen fans everywhere. He adds some spice to his performance by almost-dancing in the manner of a man with a long-standing hip injury, and then sliding down a pole in a tribute to our brave firemen. He then jumps up and down a bit, which is pretty exciting. Then he walks across the stage, and back again. His ability to move slowly and sing at the same time is phenomenal, and his idiosyncratic style of looking like he doesn’t quite remember the words really adds an edge.
Then the song ends, I guess, and the judges say some things, and everyone wonders, not for the first time, exactly why Natalie is even still there. "You really are the epitome of ..." says Guy, at a loss as to how to finish the sentence. He finishes off by saying music has a depth. I think he’s drunk.
We cut to an ad for Darren Percival’s new album, A Tribute to Ray Charles, a CD that can stand proudly on the shelf next to Agro’s Tribute to Dusty Springfield. Following this we are forced to ask some very hard questions about what happened between Rhonda and Ketut, and whether Rhonda is trying to murder her friend.
Back to the show, and with 17 minutes still left, we have finally reached the point at which international terrorists break down and confess.
Once again Luke reminds us that one of the top two will win the competition. I am grateful for these reminders because I keep forgetting how "winning" works. Jason comes on stage and Luke says we need to have a look back, because tonight just hasn’t had enough retrospectives. We go back to his audition, a performance strikingly reminiscent of Sam Gamgee at a Christian youth group camp, and have a jolly old time looking at a bunch of old footage, as the producers continue to recycle more enthusiastically than Chris Judd. But if nothing else, this look back at Jason’s journey reminds us of just how baffled we all are that he is in the final.
Jason says the show has been the best experience of his life, but he comes from a farm, so the competition wasn’t fierce.
I bet now it’s time to have a look back at a bunch of stuff that Samantha Jade has done before. It’s a good time to remind everyone that back at 7.30, Luke said voting was closed, meaning we could have ended this nearly two hours ago.
Yep, here’s Samantha Jade, and during the competition she reconnected with music and went to New York and met Alicia Keys and sang some songs and sat on white couches and, good god, why won’t this just END? At one point Ronan told her she was better than Katy Perry, which she took as a compliment. Then there were more songs ... dancing ... she nearly lost, but then she didn’t ... Natalie said a thing ... Guy said a thing ... you know it is really getting repetitive here.
"We are so close to finding out the winner," says that sadistic bastard Luke Jacobz, and he gives Samantha Jade the chance to thank her family. "I probably can’t talk," she says, and hearts swell with hope, but she was lying, and she does talk, and we wait, and then Luke promises us that we will find out who wins after the break, and then he introduces a promo for My Kitchen Rules, just to prove the impossibility of a just god. But the good news is that MKR in 2013 will be sticking to its tried-and-true formula of incredibly obnoxious people making mediocre food. The bad news is that the promo actually seems to be the entire next series of MKR, played out before the ad break. There are probably some fantastic bargains in the ad break, but I’m long past caring.
It’s now more than two hours since this thing started, and Australia is mourning its lost innocence. Finally Luke Jacobz welcomes us back and says "the wait is over", which is not true because he’s still talking. "It’s decision time" – also not true, decision time was ages ago, you’re just screwing with us. He then introduces the judges AGAIN, even though they could clearly have just stayed in the room from before. Then we think Luke is about to say the name of the winner, but actually he’s going to talk some more. And then we cut to the final two’s faces, and he talks some more, and FINALLY says "The winner of The X Factor 2012 ... is ...
Half the audience is now dead from exposure and dehydration.
And so in a stunning twist, the singer everyone thought would win has won, and being obviously much better than the other guy has paid off in spades for Samantha Jade. There is glitter everywhere, people are shouting and whistling, Jason says he could not be more happier, proving himself a liar and an inept grammarian, and Samantha Jade thanks everyone for believing in her. Which is presumptuous of her. In the audience, her father is almost smiling. Guy Sebastian gives her a hug, during which he steals her soul, and talks some crap about how inspirational she is. Finally, Luke bids us all farewell, and we immediately forget what he looks like.
Now Samantha Jade is going to sing again, so I guess we can probably turn off now. Yes? Please?