The X-Factor returned for a 7th series and the talking point was not the crazy eliminations and auditions but the accusation that the programme makers used auto-tuning to improve or enhance contestants that the judges favour to make them sound better.

Auto-tuning is used in studios to improve performances by correcting pitch and key errors. It is often used in shows as are click-tracks and mega base or increased gain.

While not admitting to it, the X-Factor producers conceded that such post-production was necessary as the show used 48 microphones and that such technology was used for the viewers enjoyment. Well, they would say that.

For the nerds who need to know such things – auto-tuning was used in 1998 for Cher’s big hit Believe. At the time, the record people said it was a technique called Vocoder – a robot sounding effect. But these days it is used in studios to remove bum notes and glitches.

Last year Jay Z released a song – Death of Auto-Tune and Christina Aguillera wore a t-shirt with the logo – Auto-Tune is for Pussies.

But the row will probably enhance the viewing figures already up at audition stages from last year’s 9.9 million to over 11 million. Surely it is an issue of a singing competition that authenticity is an importance factor.


If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake. Yerra, would ya? Well, BBC2 have a surprising hit on their hands with The Great British Bake Off with the unlikeliest of presenters Mel and Sue (Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins). It is serious stuff , running over six weeks and it show just how seriously people take their teacakes, fairy cakes or cupcakes. No wonder in the sympathy stakes more women like the Trudi character in Mistresses – “Let’s talk, we need to talk and have cake.”

Surely BBC has to have yet another series of mistresses and another series of Bake Off. Crumpet anyone?

Faith Schools

While More 4 took on a very topical and thorny subject in Faith School Menace? The crusty voice of presenter Richard Dawkins is not an inspired one. He is too educated and too prickly and too sure he is right. He poses the question and then dismisses any other point of view. But during the programme it emerged he communicated with his ten year old daughter by letter asking her to think for herself about how we know the things we do. He told her to seek out the facts, the evidence. His daughter wrote back – Hey Dad, you could always talk to me you know, I’m the one sitting at the other side of the table in the morning.

He does make a good point, however, that the state pays for children to be divided and indoctrinated with irrational belief. He couldn’t understand how schools and religions worked in Northern Ireland but the best bit was when a girl asked him – “If we have evolved from apes, why do apes still exist?” He left his reply in the film – “We have not just evolved, we are apes who have evolved from a shared ancestor.” Hairy or what?


Some time ago Martin Clunes did a series on dogs and they were his best friend and now he has a new best friend – Chester the horse – in Horsepower. It has a hippy dippy horse whisperer touch to it and Clunes does an almost reverent voice over about whether horses know they are in races. Like some big game but a trainer and part psychologist (horse psychology?) says they run out of fear and to be the fastest to escape. At one point he was pitting his mind against a horse and he described himself as an actor – seeking approval on a grandiose level. No money was spared on this series as one day he was in Dubai watching Frankie Dettori guide 1,000lbs of muscle and feeling to victory on a racecourse developed on a sandy oasis in the sea. Next, he was off in a helicopter chasing the fabled Takhi horses of Mongolia, now down to the last 250 and facing extinction.

More Comedy

Must be the season when BBC test out new comedy programmes and if it’s a really bad choice not too many will see it or complain. Well, BBC3 have a pilot show called The Adventures of Daniel, where a young stand-up youth does routines about sexual urges, girls, pimples and growing up and then he acts out the routine as a naff sitcom, sort of. But if it wasn’t funny to start with two slaps of a wet fist is too much to accept. There is a lot of experimental theatre about real life family stories and I suppose TV is trying to stay ahead of the trend.

The Numbers

The success or otherwise of shows is the awful phrase – has it done the numbers, brought in the viewer, audience, the bums on seats. So how about these random numbers from the media gossip and statistics shop. BBC’s Mistresses only marginally ahead with 3.7 million viewers as against ITV’s Police Camera Action. Sherlock got 7 million as again the last of the Heartbeats got just under 5 million. The Deep got a respectable 4.5 million despite awful reviews but the surprise number if that Hugh Laurie’s salary for House is stg£225,000 per episode making him the highest paid actor in a US TV drama.