The X Factor: Gary Barlow steps into Cowell’s Mr Nasty role

August 20th, 2011

Simon Cowell may no longer be a judge but the recipe for ITV1’s The X Factor remains resolutely familiar – ordinary looking singers with extraordinary voices and ambitious wannabes who turn out to have no talent at all.

ITV looked to fill the Cowell-shaped hole at the heart of its most popular and important programme with as much vajazzle as it could muster at the launch of the new series on Wednesday.

Some of it worked – Cowell’s replacement Gary Barlow looked a natural in his role as the show’s “Mr Nasty” alongside fellow new judges, Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland and N-Dubz’s Tulisa Contostavlos. Cheryl? Dannii who?

But other aspects of the launch at London’s O2 Arena, in front of the press and around 600 fans complete with a “red carpet” arrival by the judges, did not go entirely to plan. the screening was delayed by 90 minutes and hacks increasingly took to Twitter to vent their frustration. There is only so much anticipation a crowd can take.

But all was forgiven – at least among the fans – when a sneak preview of the launch episode was finally shown.

The most memorable appearance came from 19-year-old George, a former contestant on the show two years ago with the group Triple Trouble. He promised to make amends after that 2009 appearance in which he threw the microphone to the floor and stormed off stage.

He described his previous appearance as “a train wreck” slamming his microphone down and telling Cowell to “shut up”.

“I came across as aggressive. it is not the sort of person I am,” he said. “I hope people see the real George and not the clown from 2009.”

It turned out otherwise, with the singer once again exiting in a huff – but this time with a stream of four-letter words. “I experienced a lot of aggression, it is not a good vibe,” said Tulisa. “No dogs allowed,” he responded. “I would have brought my Alsatian.”

His outburst came after his performance of the song Gimme everything was cut short. He swore at the judges and gave a one-fingered salute to the crowd as he was booed off.

Tulisa said George had “embarrassed yourself in front of the entire nation”. the teenager later swore backstage, his expletives bleeped out by the pre-watershed show and had to be calmed down by presenter O’Leary before storming out.

As the teenager was escorted from the stage by a trio of black-clad burley-looking security guards with the crowd booing merrily away, it was not so much the X Factor as a scene from a wrestling match.

Simon Cowell would have been proud.

Otherwise, Teenage singer Frankie Cocozza set the tone for the show – and possibly the entire format – when he was asked by presenter Dermot O’Leary why he had turned up to the first London audition.

“I don’t know … I just want to be famous,” said the 18-year-old from Brighton. Don’t they all, Frankie.

But Cocozza’s ambitions ran even deeper than that. “I want to sleep with as many women as possible.” He may well do that after wowing the four judges with his rendition of Valerie.

“Bit of a young Robbie,” said Louis Walsh, the self-professed “last judge standing” and the only one to survive from the last series of the X Factor. Fellow judge Barlow, who praised Cocozza’s “Rod Stewart vocals”, should know.

Janet Devlin from Northern Ireland was another teenager to impress, the 16-year-old stunning the judges with her take on Elton John’s Your Song.

Every X Factor needs a comedy contestant, and the first episode didn’t disappoint. Hong Kong-born Tai Chi instructor Goldie split the judges with a performance chiefly memorable for putting her leg over Barlow’s shoulder and an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction which didn’t quite hit the heights – or lows – of Janet Jackson’s infamous appearance at the Super Bowl.

Then there was Kitty Brucknell, a 26-year-old from Gloucestershire whose “viva glam pop” – and penchant for never knowing when to stop talking – has her lined up as the show’s first “love-hate” figure. Or possibly just the latter.

The X Factor returns to ITV1 at 8pm on Saturday

The X Factor: Gary Barlow steps into Cowell’s Mr Nasty role

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