last night the X-Factor hit Australia. but despite a huge marketing push by Seven, the launch episode achieved only a disappointing 1.186m, making it the fifth most watched programme of the night behind four news and current affairs efforts. the winner, Nine's A Current Affair, won the ratings battle with - ironically enough - an interview with the family of Matthew Newton, the X-Factor host recently dumped by Seven.
as a big fan of the show in the UK - where it's fair to say it's a bit of a national institution - I've spend much of today (amongst other things) pondering why it is that Australia just doesn't seem to 'get' X ...
on paper it should all add up. Australia likes Reality formats (as evidenced by the huge success of Masterchef); there's a gap in the schedule (the aforementioned Chef has just finished); there's a natural audience underserved by reality music shows (Australian Idol is a distant memory); and awareness of the show's imminent arrival was more than apparent.
but even during the day yesterday there were worrying signs. I asked a few people if they were looking forward to X that evening to which the most upbeat response I got was "oh, maybe". in fact the only person with any enthusiasm for rushing home for a night in with the format was another Brit, who assured me that his fellow Brits were similarly excited. but it seems, as judged by the shows performance, it was a decidedly British sentiment. a hangover from the glory of the show in the Motherland.
having watched the show there's clearly some issue with the content. the production quality lacks the shine of the UK version, but this may very much be a result of the hastily re-edited version that Freemantle had to get out of the door following Newton's departure. but the issues don't stop there - the judges lack conviction; Ronan's quiet as a mouse, Guy is far too puppyish and whilst he had valid comments they just weren't packaged; the Imbruglia seemed to be focusing on how attractive the talent was and poor Kyle just seemed to hold an expression of mild boredom before rolling off a pre-prepared put down. the judges, ironically, lacked a confidence that's fundamental to their role.
but the content on the other side of the table didn't fair much better. there was some good but certainly not spectacular singers; if X is hoping for an international recording artist to emerge it better have had more up it's sleeve for the second round of auditions.
but none of this explains the poor performance of last night's show - as none of this would have been apparent until the show went to air, by which time not enough people were watching (and by my straw poll of six they were mainly Brits).
we can only hope and expect that the show gathers pace. the talent needs to come through and the judges need to find their feet, and the production quality of the live finals will surely increase. but in the meantime serious questions must be being asked at Seven... about just why Australia doesn't seem to want the X-Factor; because whilst it's going to be a yes from me, how Australia votes is another matter entirely.