I Had The X Factor.. 25 Years Ago Review: Real Sob Stories

I HAD THE X FACTOR.. 25 YEARS AGO: Monday 12th December, BBC2, 9pm

Before Simon Cowell became the botoxed and uber-tanned face behind the promise of modern-day international stardom, there was New Faces; a show which attempted to uncover the brightest talent Britain had to offer during the seventies and eighties. Giving the chance for its contestants to gain exposure on television, as well as apparent exposure to a whole load of hairspray; like Britain’s Got Talent with perms, it proved to be a ratings winner.

So where are the contestants now? Due to air soon after the X Factor final, this documentary (in very timely fashion) attempts to find out. We’re not looking at the Victoria Wood or Lenny Henry-school of success story however. Instead, it follows up on the lives of those who appeared in the 1986 final; club-singer Wayne; violinist Gary; singer Julie; soulful James; comedian Billy; and ‘funny-man’ Vinny.

Little Mix, look away now!

This documentary could act as a veritable warning label against even thinking ‘I could do that’ whilst watching a reality TV talent show, let alone actually entering one…

The stories of those featured make for a riveting watch, and what strikes the viewer is the ambition which each contestant so desperately conveys and seemingly still holds to this day. If this year’s X Factor contestants seemed a little keen, hearing comedian Vinny declare that “shaking hands with God could not top winning New Facesâ€? reminds you that despite the advances in strobe lighting and auto-tuning, not much has really changed if you so desperately want fame, no matter the cost.

It so happens that Vinny hasn’t achieved the recognition he so dreadfully craves, and neither have any of the contestants, not really anyway. It is interesting to note that those who have achieved moderate success – such as comedian Billy with his posh house and pretty wife – seem to have an acceptance of the type of fame they can achieve. Additionally, the ones that seem the most content are the ones who did not focus on the fame or money, but who went on to have families and to live their lives in typically mundane fashion; going on holidays to Benidorm instead of Barbados, shopping at Marks and Spencer instead of Marc Jacobs. They seem happy compared to the people who continued on in their quest for New Faces-style glory. Take poor Julie for instance, a woman so career focussed that she never had the chance to be a mum, someone who seems desperately sad now that she is at a stage when it’s too late. ‘I think I’d have made a good mum’ she says. Ironically, it’s now also too late for her to make it as a good singer. (Ouch… do excuse me, I seem to have gone all Gary Baaarlow).

It materialises that all the finalists of the 1986 New Faces seems to have suffered the pitfalls of their appearance in some way or another, and it will no doubt leave you feeling very sorry for each one.

So what does this programme tell us? Fame is vacuous? Celebrity won’t make you happy?! We all know it deep down; don’t buy into it for crying out loud! Perhaps it would be sensible to give every contestant of X Factor a copy as they queue up for next year’s series?

The sad thing is I doubt they’d take any notice. A question posed to Vinny throughout the programme, after regaling us with his sorry tales of becoming homeless, depressed and broke, he is simply asked: “Well why haven’t you gotten a normal job?â€? ….Why?… “Because it’s boring!â€? he utters.

You might be left with a feeling that it wasn’t the appearance on New Faces which proved dangerous; but what such an appearance can do to an already inflated ego. Some people just can’t be told; Frankie Cocozza consider yourself warned.