X-Factor South Africa What Went Wrong? | Executive Producer Answers

On Saturday 6 September at 18h00, the South African version of international talent search show format The X Factor, made its debut on SABC1. Award winning singer and musician Zonke, rock artist Arno Carstens and top DJ/producer Oskido took the reins as mentors and TV personality Andile Ncube was the host. 

Like many South Africans my excitement about the show faded very quickly when it became apparent that our version of the show will not live up to the standard set by its international sister shows.

The first 2 minutes of the show promised an exciting ride as we watched hopefuls take their place on the long queues to put their talents on the spotlight. Sadly everything from that 2 minutes point on-wards went downhill. 

Viewers of the show took to Twitter to express their disappointment. A glance at the comments made on Twitter quickly revealed that the common dismay about the show is low standard of talent making it through to the next rounds. 

It also became apparent that the choice of judges for this show was questionable as the dynamics on the panel revealed some concerning patterns. 

Instead of just joining the furor and giving the show a lashing, I decided to have a chat with the producer of the show to find out what went wrong. 

I sat down with the executive producer, Kee-Leen Irvine in her office in Randburg, Johannesburg.


I began by asking her the criteria for choosing the judges was. She explained that the production company put forward the names of individuals in the music industry that they think would be suitable for judging the show. 

She further explained that the decision on the final choices for the judges eventually had to be agreed upon between the production company and the channel. 

Fully understanding that she was not going to say anything negative about any of the judges, I probed her about the fact that Oskido, as accomplished and talented as he is, seems very out of his depth on the show. 

I pointed out to her that Oskido struggles to articulate his point coherently. I asked if there was any specification for the judges to speak English, I asked because I feel that perhaps the language may be what hinders him. 


Kee-Leen told me that, judges are encouraged to speak in any language they choose, however, they still have to use English so that everyone can understand what is being said. 

On the issue of talent, Kee-Leen told me that she has seen the comments on social media about the level of talent on the show and acknowledges the viewers' concerns but emphasized that the premise of the show is for the judges to spot a potential star and polish them for the live shows where the viewers will get to vote for their favourite contestant.

Some viewers had also complained about the sound quality on the show. On this, she explained that shooting the show in Durban presented some unique problems for the production and its budget. One of which was the issue of equipment. 

Unbeknownst to us as viewers, the production had to transport some of the equipment from Johannesburg to Durban for the show. Other logistics concerning personnel and experience have played a role on the production, she explained  

After spending the time with Kee-Leen and getting to understand why the production company that has produced shows like, Strictly Come Dancing SA and SA's Got Talent,  could be caught up in web of mediocrity, I was sympathetic to the channel that the show faces moving forward. 

However, what the production company has to go through to produce a good quality show is none of the viewers' problem. Viewers want to see a good quality show. It is up to the production company and the channel to ensure that before they put a show on air, all logistical issue that may affect the show negatively, are ironed out. 


While I understand that shooting the show in Durban will inevitably mean the show will be at a slight disadvantage, I also fall on the viewers' side here and say; NOT OUR PROBLEM. 


We should hold our TV productions to a certain standard. If we fall into a habit of excusing sub-par deliverance with logistical issues the production companies may face, then we risk cultivating a culture ... maybe I should actually say further PERPETUATE, of applauding mediocrity. 


Kee-Leen did promise that viewers will see a significant change in the show during the live episodes. She assured me that they are aware of the viewers' complaints and have been holding meetings and communicating with the judges about issues that have been raised.      

I ended my conversation with Kee-Leen with a renewed excitement about the potential of the show. My view on this, being privy to the dealings and hurdles within the industry, is that X-Factor South Africa's being pitted against Idols was always going to be an unfair duel. 

One main factor in that David and Goliath match is that, while Idols South Africa may not enjoy the numbers that X-Factor pulls on SABC, the reality is that MNet has more money to put behind their productions than the SABC would. Idols is indeed a bigger production in terms of resources and brand value in Mzansi. 

HOPEFULLY... moving forward, the live shows will be more spectacular, Oskido will speak more vernacular and the contestants will wow the viewers.  

Catch The X Factor South Africa every Saturday at 18h00 on SABC1. 


SIDE NOTE: After spending the last 5 years of my 9 year career as a blogger and entertainment commentator, reviewing shows and offering an insight to viewers into the industry, I have come to a realization that it is my responsibility, as someone who has access, to give you the viewer a balanced perspective on the shows you watch. 

It is imperative that I do not just point out the flaws and not give you an informed glimpse of the mechanisms that make our South African entertainment industry function. Highlighting the issues and challenges that stakeholders have to deal with is by no means an attempt to excuse mediocrity, but I hope it would be a tool with which we can judge our industry more fairly and hopeful force "the suits" to give the productions the working tools they need to produce world class productions. 

Reviewing shows without acknowledging the hurdles our local production companies have to deal with is unfair. We have talented creative people in this business but often the politics and the lack of proper support hinder them from executing their vision to the best of their ability. 

This fact has to be highlighted so that the viewers can know and start making demands on the channels to improve. Production companies answer to the channel, the channel is accountable to YOU the viewers. YOU hold the power to effect change. 

With that in mind, this will be a stance that I take in reviewing show, moving forward — point out the flaws and then get the full story.  







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