We’re only a week away from the X Factor, with the first audition show due to air next Saturday at 8pm. While Dug will be back in the interim with coverage of Monday’s Big Brother final, we thought we’d take this opportunity to check in on what’s been happening with ITV’s autumn behemoth over the summer.
Auditions and bootcamp have been filmed already. And the media machine has certainly been cranking up through the gears, with a drip-drip of tabloid fodder including the odd-sounding plan to get acts duetting with holograms of dead people (too late, alas, for Marcus Collins to grace a stage with Jackie Wilson).
The big leak so far has been the categories – reportedly Gary Barlow is lumbered with the overs, new girl Nicole Scherzinger gets the boys, Tulisa looks after the girls and Louis has the groups.
What do we make of the build-up so far? Here are five questions on which the Sofabet team cordially invite your opinions.
1. How much rainforest will be felled to print tedious stories about Nicole and Tulisa not getting on?
That the two female mentors have apparently been given the two strongest categories strongly suggests that behind-the-scenes tittle-tattle alleging a glamorous bitch-fight will be one of the major plotlines of the season.
Beautiful women not getting on – it’s a tabloid staple. It’s also a page ripped right from the Cheryl-Dannii playbook. In the world of X Factor, there is not much new under the sun.
2. What do producers have in mind with Gary and the overs?
Last time the alpha judge got the overs was the last time the overs were taken seriously. Cowell went into bat with Olly Murs, Danyl Johnson and, er, Jamie Afro. Compare and contrast last year’s lineup of Johnny Robinson, Kitty Brucknell and Sami Cruiseship.
Will Gary be similarly blessed? Not according to this story about the age limit being raised to 28 again, on the grounds that last year “Lots of girls and boys in their late twenties auditioned but there was no room for them because the Over-25s category had to have the quirky older ones in it to make it work.”
Which raises the possibility that producers are intending to exasperate Gary by saddling him with, say, a 74 year old sex kitten who has a crush on him. They’ll surely have to find at least one serious contender for him, though, won’t they?
Gary, incidentally, is following the same new-judge trajectory as Dannii – first the boys, then the overs. Recall that Dannii’s reward for masterminding the disastrous victory of Leon Jackson in her debut year was having to say nice things about Daniel Evans.
3. What treats await with Louis’s groups?
Louis and the groups! Last time that happened, we got Jedward. The time before, we got JLS.
Do producers have another treat in store? Or were they simply thinking that it would look silly to give Louis the overs for the third year in a row?
4. How will they handle the returning contestants?
It has been reported that several of last years’ judges’ houses rejects – Jade Richards, Melanie McCabe, Sian Philips, Joe Cox, Carolynne Poole – have auditioned again. What’s in store?
At least one of them must surely be being lined up for the John Wilding “agonising second rejection” treatment. Most agonising of all would be Jade. But would they dare?
With reports that groups have yet again been formed at bootcamp, might there be potential for someone to get the Liam Payne “agonising second rejection followed by shortcut to global domination” treatment?
It seems to us that this is slightly dangerous territory for the show. Letting one or two second-chancers through is fine, but this many re-auditionees from just one year ago risks looking like a tacit admission that (a) they put the wrong lot through in 2011 and/or (b) there’s no fresh talent out there. On the subject of which:
5. How much of a difference will it make that managers are allowed?
One of the changes for this year’s show is that acts with existing management are allowed to enter – or, perhaps, are spared the need to perform contortions to liberate themselves from their existing management.
This has filled some column inches already, with stories focusing on groups called From Above – managed by Beyonce’s dad – and Jukeboxx, managed by a former X Factor consultant who allegedly had some kind of role in the public appearance of that Tulisa sex tape.
Is this going to be a prominent plotline of the show? If Gary had got the groups, you could imagine him pulling off a “now now, Tulisa, I think we all know why you’re being unfairly harsh on these lads” – but surely not Louis. It may be that producers will prefer not to draw attention to the whole management thing – after all, to some extent they surely need to keep open the impression that X Factor is fundamentally about someone completely unknown turning up at an audition.
Before we close, a bit of housekeeping. As eurovicious noted, the comments have “gone all high tech” – you should now be able to log in to post comments using your Facebook or Twitter credentials, should you wish to do so. This happened after your techno-dunce Sofabet team finally got around to upgrading to the latest version of WordPress; we don’t think we’ve broken anything in the process, but if you spot any glitches, please let us know.
What are your thoughts on the above, and what other questions are you looking forward to seeing answered in this year’s show? As always, do let us know below.