Couch Potato: The X Factor ‘is tying itself in new knots’

Louis Walsh with Paul (second left) and the other contestants in the X Factor boys' category.

Louis Walsh with Paul (second left) and the other contestants in the X Factor boys' category.

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What’s the one thing The X Factor was lacking?

Talent? Wit? Honesty? A shred of humility?

All valid answers.

The one the producers went for, however, was: “More padding.”

Yes, that crucial missing ingredient in ITV’s Saturday night entertainment exclusion zone.

After the double auditions, Bootcamp’s Argos waiting room and the compulsory sobbing at Judges’ Houses, they’ve really gone to town with the twists in the live shows.

Five I’ve counted so far, including the already-tired “Dermot has genitals” hilarity.

As for the others, only one actually contributes something, and that’s by accident – Caroline Flack’s seat-of-her-pants backstage interviews, from the C-Deck of a container ship.

They’re both a terrible idea and a stroke of inadvertent genius, the only place, in the absence of anybody vaguely amusing, where something unexpected and glorious might occur, like Sam “Screwbo” Bailey airing her fears that “the Mitchell brothers” might make an appearance.

If they’d truly intended to add a real element of danger to proceedings, they’d have kept that yodelling tool in the competition.

Instead, while the consistently brilliant Strictly is winning the ratings war at a canter on the only night that matters, Saturday, X Factor is tying itself in new knots, like the moronic “Tweet Wheel” and the commercial breaks before the judges’ comments (yeah, that’ll bring back the millions of lost viewers).

Its gravest error, though, is also the biggest tweak of all.

The Flash Vote, a gimmick that’s destroyed the only thing keeping the results show worth watching – Deadlock.

Without which, it’s a dead loss.

There’s only one good singer (Screwbo), one potential pop star (Tamera) and, aside from those four minutes a week, the talent pool is dry.

Shouting has replaced singing, and the judges aren’t helping matters.

Sharon Osbourne, billed as the show’s great saviour, can’t remember her acts’ names, even with a crib sheet, and has started talking and acting like Ann Widdecombe auditioning for the part of Alexis Colby.

Nicole Scherzinger seems to be mentally wondering whether she’s left the gas on and is spouting gibberish like: “I’m going to call you Hairland, not Kingsland, because you are the land of great hair right now.”

Misery guts Gary Barlow’s forced enthusiasm is fooling no one, especially as his groups comprise five Andrew Ridgeleys, a pauper’s Little Mix and three blokes who’ve “shown courage” by singing a Phil Collins song off key.

And human answerphone Louis Walsh is leading them in a chorus of clichés: “You owned it.” “You nailed it.” “You’re what this show is all about.” “You’ve got great energy.” (Translation: “You can’t sing.”)

We’ve already had a hurty throat and a doctor’s orders to rest a voice, which would be great if they could just extend that to everybody.

Strip everything away, however, and the real killer blow is the Flash Vote, which prompted this rallying cry from Barlow: “I usually hate Sunday nights but now I can hate Saturday and Sunday nights.”

Welcome to my world, Gary.

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This week’s Viewers’ Poll award goes to...

This Morning’s Stephen Mulhern in the Hub: “The average person uses an internet device 34 times a day. So, do we use the net too much?

“Let us know by email, Facebook or a tweet.”

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From the school of thought that says you can’t have too many sodding TV shows about dogs came Dogs: Their Secret Lives.

It discovered that, left home alone, they howl. A lot.

A fact C4 unearthed by “commissioning an unprecedented study from the world’s leading scientists”.

So, while a cure for cancer was put on hold, 40 homes were rigged with hidden cameras, so the animals didn’t realise they’re on telly.

Host Mark Evans concluded: “The vast majority of dogs struggle to cope. It’s clearly a welfare issue but it’s both preventable and treatable.”

The alternative is to have them put down.

Only, who’d look after the dog then?

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The Jonathan Ross Show host last Saturday: “We have some amazing guests this series.”

Jonathan Ross last night: “Please welcome Harry Redknapp and Frank Lampard.”

You reckon, do you?

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Psychologist Ian Wallace explained the meaning of dreams on The Alan Titchmarsh Show: “A house is the classic symbol of the self.

“The Latin word ‘creare’ is the root for ‘creating’ but also ‘creature’, so if you dream about an animal, it’s about your creativity.

“A milk float is how you nurture people, and snow is about thoughts crystallising.”

Titchmarsh: “I didn’t realise they could all be analysed. You would think we’d been making it up.”

Making it up? Surely not.

I mean, it’s not like Wallace has a book out called The Top 100 Dreams or anything.

He does, you say?

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Man Down.

Do not resuscitate.

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This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...

ITV4’s Night of the Fight: Hatton’s Last Stand.

Roy and Hayley’s Corrie trip to Blackpool.

Dave Gorman’s magnificent “Found Poems”, with the Billroth String Quartet, on Dave channel’s Modern Life Is Goodish.

BBC1’s The Prison Restaurant showing Gordon Ramsay how to do this kind of documentary intelligently.

Phillip Schofield totally losing it with This Morning adversaries Sonia Poulton and phoney-opinion peddler Katie Hopkins.

And Superstars and Superfans’ Love Gods special, with Jonathan Agnew’s commentary: “Alex Reid is in his limo, considering his place in the pantheon of the world’s greatest minds.”

Take your time, Alex.

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Hello Ladies?

Goodbye Stephen Merchant’s career.

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This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...

Homeland getting waylaid with the hero’s boring daughter, like 24.

Jack Branning forgetting he runs a car lot before leaving Walford.

Kelly Hoppen, Lisa Snowdon and Flavia Cacace & Vincent Simone competing to be the week’s most desperate QVC product flogger.

TLC’s Bizarre ER narrator completely misjudging the tone, describing a poor bloke who lost a hand in a freak circular-saw accident: “It left Damian left-handed. But he wasn’t all right about it.”

C4’s Up All Night documentary, about a nightclub toilet, failing to include Cheryl Cole in an altercation.

And everyone from Loose Women to Dermot O’Leary using the Jeremy Kyle Show phrase: “National television.”

Because we can distinguish between big programmes and Look flamin’ North, you know.

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Christian Jessen, on The Sarah Millican Television Programme: “There’s a condition called diphallia where you have two penises.”

At least that’s its technical medical name.

It’s more commonly known as Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, with Julian Clary.

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When Gastric Bands Go Wrong...

I switch over.

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Entertainment royalty paid glowing tributes on The One and Only Cilla Black, marking her 50 years in showbiz.

Sir George Martin, Burt Bacharach, Cliff Richard, Barry Manilow, Bruce Forsyth, Ringo Starr, Dale Winton, they were all there.

The biggest bombshell came from the ex-Surprise Surprise host herself: “I hate surprises.”

Yet there was no mention of her 2012 guest appearance on Keith Lemon’s LemonAid as a career highlight.

Keith Lemon omitted from an ITV show?

Now that is a surprise.