Do we have the talent for the X Factor?

05:54, Apr 22 2013
X-Factor: Judges, from left, Daniel Bedingfield, Ruby Frost, Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt.

Talent shows haven't lost their appeal. At least not for the hopefuls around the country.

More than 6000 have tried out for the X Factor in a 27-town pre-audition marathon, the biggest for a local reality television series. Forty-eight hours of auditions have been shot for the first local season of the Simon Cowell-invented format, which premiered last night and continues this evening.  

Then four groups of six acts each - boys, girls, over-25s and groups -  will go to the judges' bootcamps.

In contrast to New Zealand's Got Talent, the audience will have much more time to see the contestants grow (or fail to do so) which makes bonding with them even more important for a successful TV format.

But are we ready yet for another talent quest? Do we have enough talented personalities to keep us entertained?

At first glance it's a bit of a pity that we don't seem to have a great pool of home-grown judges.

There's Stan Walker who won 2009's Australian Idol. He has since recorded two albums and took his first steps in acting in this year's Mt Zion.

Ruby Frost who is also no stranger to singing competitions, having won MTV's newcomer search 42Unheard in 2009.

She's released an album, her single Water to Ice peaked at No 3 in the New Zealand charts, but does she have the experience to pick somebody for an international career in the music business? 

And then there are the international judges: Nineties girl group All Saint co-founder Melanie Blatt and New Zealand-born Daniel Bedingfield, who had some hits in the early 2000s. Neither are at the height of their respective careers but, to be fair, if they were they would not have a couple of months to hang out in New Zealand to work on a TV show. The questions now is: Will the judging quartet be entertaining and engaging?

TV3 obviously had a lot of footage to choose from for the debut episode.

And so the season started in great voice. Wellington teen Finlay Robertson belted out a remarkable rendition of House of the Rising Sun. And Stan Walker tells her, she's got a "beast of a voice" which - he feels the need to add - is a good thing.

We're introduced to people from all walks of life who hope to get their 10 minutes of fame. Or, as they put it, a "life-changer", because "that's what they're born for" although everything is a bit "overwhelming".

And then we're treated to some highs and lows.  

There's charming linesman Nick van de Vlierd, pretty singer Sian Mair who has left school to follow her dream but is being sent back to her New World checkout job, apprentice embalmer Ethan Shepherd, who doesn't quite convince and Mason Cairns who delivers a decent performance - if we were talking karaoke bar - and his sister who is not faring much better.

Half an hour in, pretty standard, pretty boring stuff, to be honest.

But then we're introduced to Auckland bogan hipsters (is that a thing?) who call themselves The Streamrollers and have their harmonies down while brimming with adolescent charm. "You remind me of Bill and Ted," judge Blatt says, and of course they get the nod from the judges.  

Now it's time for the oddities segment. There's Roger McCaw, whose performance is reminiscent of a middle-aged Irishman on speed and suit-clad American Mitchell Wahl from Kerikeri who at length declares his love for his favourite chicken, Phoebe.

Then he sings (screams) Elvis' I can't Help Falling In Love and we instantly wish he had sent his beloved Phoebe to sing instead.

And, finally, some people with a lot of talent: Benny Tipene from Palmerston North, who could give Ed Sheeran a run for his money, delivers a stunningly charming acoustic version of Outkast's Hey Ya. Everybody likes it, and we're finally hearing the format's standard accolade: "You've got the X Factor."

To finish the show on an emotional note we're introduced to 16-year-old Te Ao Te Huia, who lost her mother to cancer and who's now helping look after her two little brothers. We really, really want to love her because nobody is more deserving.

Luckily she's great and Walker joins her on stage.

But the question remains: will the judging panel convince us to get invested?

Walker definitely has a boyish down-to-earth charm, Bedingfield seems nice enough, Mel Blatt seems a bit removed and posh and as likeable as Ruby Frost is, I am not sure yet if she's seasoned enough to pull off being an expert in this business.

The X Factor is pretty average talent show grub. Some likeable contestants but are they really great talents? Will they make us want to follow their journey? The jury's still out. 

What did you think?