X Factor returns this weekend. You can expect our usual coverage of its machinations and manipulations here on Sofabet. We can’t wait to share our thoughts – and hear yours in our invaluable comments section.
It’s a crucial moment for the franchise: having suffered a decline in ratings over the last few years that has seen it fall behind Strictly Come Dancing, svengali Simon Cowell returns in a bid to boost the show’s flagging popularity.
What can we anticipate? Here are five points based on what we’ve heard so far.
Party like it’s 2010?
2010 was arguably X Factor’s most glorious year and a ratings high point. It was also the last time we had Simon Cowell and Cheryl on the judging panel. Now they’re back and Simon is extolling the virtues of the novelty act – 2010 witnessed two of the best in Katie Waissel and Wagner.
Simon would give his flat-top haircut to match that year’s success, and it would be no surprise to find some equivalent contestants. Chloe Jasmine already looks like being lined up as this year’s Katie Waissel, and we have an eight-piece boyband who will attempt to emulate the success of One Direction.
Simon and the Overs
I’m interested in the fact that Simon has given himself the traditionally weakest performing category. Cowell has never finished worse than third with his charges. Last time he mentored the Overs, in 2009, it contained Plan A Danyl Johnson, Olly Murs and Jamie Archer.
In his three-year hiatus doing the US show instead, Simon arguably mentored his first-choice category each time, winning twice. On this basis, Cowell and the Overs should not be the outsider of four in the winning mentor / category market at the pre-rehearsal stage (at a best price 7.0 with Stan James when this article was posted).
The impact of free voting
For the first time in the UK show, the population will be able to vote five times for free via the app. In theory, this may favour those acts supported by emotion-rich, cash-poor teens. But will it make an appreciable difference? Time will tell, but its availability in the US didn’t prevent MOR acts still winning out over those aimed squarely at the teen demographic.
The audition shows
Although this year’s show retains the closed-room audition / arena audition double whammy, according to TV previews, we are going to have a few weeks of the former followed by a few weeks of the latter, rather than last year’s Saturday / Sunday split.
This means no more immediate pay-off from contestants seen in the closed room on Saturday having their arena audition shown the next day. The front-loading of contenders in 2013’s opening weekend was as pronounced as ever, with Sam Bailey, Tamera Foster, Hannah Barrett and Luke Friend all featuring.
Front-loading in the earlier audition shows is a regular tactic, and I expect it to continue. But if those TV guides are right, we’ll have to wait beyond this weekend to see who gets that first arena audition show pimp slot that’s been granted to the likes of Tamera, Ella and Janet.
Early in the summer, there were rumours that one reject from each category at judges’ houses would end up in the lives with their own mentor. This would give us 16 instead of 12 acts in the live finals, with room for further twists such as double eliminations (as happened in 2010). Nothing more has been heard on this front though, and we may have to wait till early October to see if it comes to pass.
What do you think of these points and which of your own would you add? You can expect our review of the weekend’s audition programmes once the Sunday show is done. In the meantime, keep us updated with your thoughts below.