X Factor: Ministry of meh
Let's start with some good news. With only six contestants left, Sunday's live show of The X Factor has shaved off a good hour from its original 135 minutes of screening time.
But I think the producers were a bit slack on this one: At this stage of the competition we want back stories, we want to love or hate the contestants. We want emotions!
And what did we learn about our last six acts standing?
The SBWs - Moorhouse - like living in a hotel, Jackie Thomas was really sad about Tom Batchelor leaving ("best friend" - yeah right!) but she likes shopping with Cassie Henderson.
Whenua Patuwai, who copped some criticism for being a bit boring, got put into a boxing ring.
We also learned that Henderson actually really likes Taylor Swift (who would have thought?), were reminded that Gap 5 are really fun, by seeing them in a fun park, and watched Benny Tipene contemplating if there was an X Factor god who just kicked him in the butt?
All revelations that could be summed up with one word: Meh.
Also only mildly exciting was the show's theme: Made in the USA.
That's almost as creative as picking cupcakes as the theme for a children's birthday party.
But at least the judges were a real pleasure to look at.
There's still the lingering doubt that with TV3's mothership MediaWorks being in receivership cutting costs might be high on the agenda and they have started with removing all lightbulbs from Daniel Bedingfield's dressing room so the poor man has to dress in the dark.
Ruby Frost seemed to have borrowed her outfit from some guys who were shooting a sci-fi short-film. There apparently wasn't any budget left for Stan Walker's hairdo so they just went with a clean shave (but gave him some glasses so he had something going on in his face) and they entrusted a five-year-old with Mel Blatt's make-up.
But before we got into the performances, we learned one more thing: Bedingfield has brought all of his battling personalities to the judging table, and apparently they live in his pants. Weird.
Moorhouse opened the night with Usher's O.M.G. They were wearing white outfits and some of their trousers looked like oversized nappies.
There were a couple of shaky moments, but all up they delivered a decent boy-groupy performance with some sleek moves.
Still, Bedingfield wasn't overly impressed, Frost loved it, Blatt thought she was in a stadium and Bowden called them "four hot dogs".
Next up was Jackie Thomas with a sultry version of Britney Spears' Toxic.
And although her voice is one of the best in the competition there's always a bit of high-school-musical flair going on when she performs.
Walker told her he loved Britney because "she's gangster" and then went off to deliver a nonsensical compliment sandwich and Blatt made some jokes about her "good friend" Batchelor's toxic smell.
Then it was golden voice Patuwai who brought a taxi cab onto the stage to perform Alicia Key's Empire State Of Mind Part II.
This was the performance meant to finally make him a bit more edgy and although he pulled off the rap part, he was a bit out of tune at times.
Blatt thought he was looking comfortable but still wasn't better than last week.
Bedingfield felt his voice sounded sore and missed some sort of ground-breaking something and Walker bro'd it up and served another compliment sandwich.
Host Dominic Bowden greeted him with the words "you're so gangster" - because that's probably the only thing that pops into his mind when he hears people rap.
Time for little Cassie Henderson to return to what many think she does best: Pretending to be Taylor Swift.
While she performed her idol's Love Story Bedingfield was looking like a super proud, but rather creepy dad.
And who thought up those background dancers that looked like dominatrixes from a Burlesque show?
Frost stated it was the perfect song for the 14-year-old but missed her heart. Blatt criticised her funny faces and suggested that although she didn't like it, Henderson would be a good fit for the Ellen show. Just like Sophia Grace. Which was, considering Sophia is eight years old, a tad insulting.
Then it was girl group Gap 5's turn. Although their mentor, Blatt, was clapping along like a maniac they failed to convince with their version of Destiny's Child's Bills, Bills, Bills/Independent Women.
Bedingfield was still not a fan and told them that this might have been their best performance but their best performance needed to be better.
Walker thought they were awesome but called them out for forgetting their words. Frost said she was reminded of karaoke.
Blatt didn't seem to be really sure what to say, so settled on the idea they were bringing a lot of presence and promised that if the audience voted for them they would give us even more presence.
But how about a good performance?
Bowden just bantered about pretty wicked lipsticks and the girl who fudged her lyrics looked close to tears.
Speaking of close to tears: Closer for the night was soulful singer Tipene The O.C's title track California.
Thank god they didn't make him awkwardly bounce around the stage and kept him well contained behind his guitar.
Sadly it wasn't one of his best performances. Obviously the boy has talent, but he never seems to feel that comfortable with the songs he ends up performing.
So it was time for Walker to serve the last nonsensical compliment sandwich of the night.
"You have so much more potential I have seen, that New Zealand hasn't seen, but that was the weakest of the night."
Bedingfield called him a great musician who had a hard time connecting. Blatt was just gutted that this was what had become of him and told him the most exciting thing about him were his socks. Ouch.
They almost made the poor kid cry.
And here's another piece of good news: At tomorrow's result show we will actually see a great, international band perform, although my guess is that the majority of the target audience might not really know them.
I'm really looking forward to seeing the Manic Street Preachers, anyway.
And how fitting would it be if they played If You Tolerate This Your Children Will be Next?