X Factor Live Shows Week 1. In the audience, Cheryl Tweedy. On the stage, her partner and the father of her child, Liam Payne. He is about to sing his latest single after leaving the biggest boy band in the world to launch a solo career. When he goes off to put in his ear monitors, Cheryl is interviewed by Dermot about the public’s Wildcard choice in the Boys section.
But before she answers, she turns straight to camera and addresses the show’s absent master, Simon Cowell. He’s been widely reported as having toyed with Cheryl over a potential X Factor re-hire before finally dropping her for the lush Ms Scherzinger. Tonight, the boss has a leg injury and is unable to attend the show.
“We love and miss you Simon” says Cheryl, with a dewy, strained sincerity. Her Bambi eyes, her expectation of being watched by him, her deliberate care in showing that, above all, she is thinking of Si sitting with his foot up and a glass of Boerl & Kroff, are chilling.
‘Cheryl’ and ‘Liam’ (the single-named stars, not the humans themselves) were both made by the talent show machine and together they have now made a baby (a single-named human called Bear), who leads a new generation to carry the gene forward. It feels something like a totalitarian state, the world of X Factor in which the fat, the awkward, the rough-around-the-edges are all streamlined into one homogenous citizen.
The public judges contestants and panellists not only on their talent but also on their humility and work ethic: Cheryl needs to show just how humble she is and how much their beloved leader is missed, regardless of her own fate at his hands. Even if it’s all a lie, those wet lashes within that beautiful face are now more ‘1984’ than Orwell’s image of a stamping boot.