It’s Time to Face the Music: ‘X Factor’ is Back!

It seems that not a week has passed this year in which there hasn’t been at least one story in the papers relating to The X Factor – whether they be true or fabricated.

Well, the wait is finally almost over as this Saturday, Gary, Louis and Nicole are back, and this year are bringing Sharon Osbourne and the ‘old skool’ auditions with them. That’s right: no audience, no big flashy arena stage – just the judges and the auditionees, within spitting distance of each other. And if this batch of hopefuls are anything like previous years’, there may be quite a bit of spitting. And water chucking. And bleep machines required.

GOING JUDGE MENTAL

A far cry from the days of New Faces and Op Knocks, nowadays people are less concerned withSharon Osbourne who is auditioning for that life-changing record deal, they’re more bothered about who the judges are,  what they’re wearing, and whether they’re bitching about each other. Well, I might not be able to help with the last two questions, but I can certainly write about the first.

Of course, the big news is that Sharon is back. I’m so pleased, and it seems that Sharon is too (although with someone who’s had so much plastic surgery, it is hard for one to tell) – apparently it only took a little of Simon’s wining and dining to get her back on board. Also, Gary Barlow has said that Sharon and Louis are already ‘ganging up on’ himself and Nicole, so that judge rivalry for which the X Factor is often best lovedNicole Scherzinger doesn’t seem to have disappeared. Even if it is just for one series (which she claims it is), it’ll be fantastic to have Sharon back, and if there’s a lot of more moments like this,  it should be a fun series!

The other female member of the panel is the ‘Schermazeballs’ Nicole Scherzinger, who is beginning her second year on the show. Perhaps it was because she only had competition from Louis, Gary and Tulisa, but she really shone last year, and my favourite part of each episode was not seeing whether James Arthur would crack a smile (he never did) or how many steps up the Dulux colour chart Christopher Maloney had taken his tan (I think he reached Bongo Jazz at one point), it was hearing Nicole’sLouis Walsh latest mad concoction of a phrase – from dubbing the openly gay Lucy Spraggan ‘spunky’ to telling the ‘Jahmazing’ Jahmene Douglas to ‘grow some balls’. These  Scherzisms became legendary, and we must have more in this series! I’m looking forward to seeing her again.

And finally there’s Gary and Louis: the two who are (allegedly) jumping ship at the end of this series. I suppose that’s been on the cards for some time for Louis, hasn’t it? Ever since Simon sacked him (but reinstated him a matter of weeks later) in 2007, the press have heralded a new series of the show with the story of Louis’s imminent departure. Well I guess this time they were right and, if the news is true, we shall have to savour thisGary Barlow last few months of Louis’s mispronunciations of contestants’ names and feeble arguing with his fellow judges. Bless him. Also, there have been reports that Gary is leaving (with X Factor host Dermot O’Leary recently suggesting so at the premier of One Direction: This Is Us), so fans of his may also have to make the most of him being on the panel.

In an unorthodox move, each of the judges’ allocated categories have been announced before the series has even begun airing. So (spoiler alert!): Louis is handling the boys (stop sniggering, please), Nicole has been given the girls, Gary has the groups (no pressure there, then) and Sharon is in charge of the Over 25s – something which she is reportedly furious about. Oh dear, Shazza.

XTRA HELPINGS

So, those are the judges – but what about the auditions? Well, after a few weeks of mobile and open auditions in front of the show’s producers, the judges auditions began on 4th June in Glasgow. As has been widely reported, before the contestants reach the arena stage (which has been in place for the past four years), they will have to impress Sharon, Nicole, Gary and Louis in the back-to-basics audition rooms, which were held, in addition to Glasgow, in Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and London. However, the arena stage has not been completely scrapped: auditions were held at  Wembley Arena for four days last month.

As well as the auditions stage being altered for this series, the way it’s being shown is also changing. The ‘audition rooms’ stage will be shown on a Saturday night and then on Sunday night we will see the successful auditionees from that stage perform again at Wembley. It is at this point that we will find out if they have progressed to Boot Camp. So, we now have double X Factor every weekend! Great news for fans of the show, devastating for those who were enjoying a bit of Tipping Point of a Sunday evening.

Of course, there’s a lot riding on this series: last year, every episode was down by an average of 1million viewers, in comparison to the 2011 run – hence the drastic changes to the format. Not that the show’s boss, Simon Cowell, needs any mare aggro – what with the pitter-patter of tiny feet soon to echo around his LA mansion – but it appears to be something of a ‘make or break’ time for The X Factor. This year marks the end of the show’s current contract with ITV, and there has been no confirmation of an eleventh series next year. Simon needs to hope that the changes he has made will be enough to assure ITV that there’s still mileage in the format, and it’s one which is worth investing in for the next few years. Of course, the fact that he’ll be advising the judges at Boot Camp and appearing as a judge via satellite link at the live shows may just help…

FLACKERS’S NEW MATE

And there’s a bit of change over on ITV2 as Olly Murs has quit The Xtra Factor to focus on his music career, so Caroline Flack (who began hosting the show with Olly in 2011) has been given comedian Matt Richardson (pictured) to present with. Seeing as his only notable TV appearances seem to be an episode of Sweat the Small Stuff and a spot on Big Brother’s Bit on the Side, it’s no surprise that I’m not entirely familiar with Matt’s work, but he has won many awards on the stand-up circuit, so I’m sure he’ll be great.

As always, Caroline and Matt will be going behind-the-scenes of X Factor, speaking to the judges and auditionees, as well as giving us some exclusive auditions and a fe w games and a bit of fun on the side – including a round of ‘Would You Rather’ with the panel.

 

So, there we have it: The X Factor 10 – will it be a few changes too far for the show, or will it prove to be a brand new beginning for the format, meaning it will run for a few years more, and Cowell won’t have to rely on the Mothercare vouchers from Cheryl Cole to get Little Simon a big, posh buggy? We’ll have to wait and see, but one thing’s for sure: with Sharon back, it’s going to be one hell of a series!

Image credits: Unless otherwise stated, all images thanks to Nicky Johnston, ©ITV

The X Factor Series 10 begins on Saturday 31st August at 8:00pm on ITV, with The Xtra Factor following immediately after at 9:20pm on ITV2

My reviews of The X Factor will be online after every Sunday episode

What do you think of the changes to The X Factor? Are you pleased about Sharon? Sad about Louis? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

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