Every TV show that stays on the air for more than, oh, about four series tends to undergo at least a few changes to its format.
In the world of sitcoms, for instance, programme-makers often try to keep things fresh by introducing new characters, crowbarring in more catchphrases or producing any number of unwise special episodes set in Spain.
And so it is with this year’s X Factor, which boasts some of the most significant modifications made to the show’s format in the whole of its nine-year history. From the arrival of a new judge to the programme's relocated Live Final, The X Factor is making like an amoeba in 2012 and evolving fast.
So, before Louis and the gang usher in another autumn of tears, scandal and vocal gymnastics, get yourself bang up to date with our guide to what the ITV talent show’s doing differently this time around…
2012 marked the first year in which contestants could audition for the show via Facebook, a development which would, if nothing else, make it easier for producers to dig up material for those familiar X Factor sob-story video packages from the profiles of the hopeful.
Thanks to the London 2012 Olympics booking out nigh-on every performance space in the capital over the summer, The X Factor bootcamp took place outside London for the first time ever this past July, at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
Thanks to last year’s yoof-skewed contest, The X Factor’s bosses have re-jigged their age categories this time around to ensure that even decrepit dinosaurs in their late 20s stand a chance of being noticed. Accordingly, the upper age limit for the Boys and Girls groups has gone up from 25 to 28, and the oldsters categories will now be Over 28s instead of 25s.
Traditionally a singing contest for amateurs, The X Factor’s throwing its doors open to managed professionals as well this year, though the show’s executive producer Richard Holloway insists that the pros won’t have an advantage over their hobbyist competitors. “It’s just broadening the net and opening it up so that everybody gets an opportunity,” he said. “Every single person, whether they have got any form of management or not will go through the same process.”
In what is either a laudable bid for credibility or a cunning ruse to cut down on the amount of royalty payments the show has to dish out, this year’s contenders will be allowed to sing their own original material for the judges instead of having to perform covers, which should make interesting viewing to say the least…
Out with the old and in with the new, or, in this case, out with Kelly Rowland and in with Nicole Scherzinger, who takes the former Destiny’s Child singer’s place alongside Gary, Louis and Tulisa on the panel this year. After leaving the US X Factor at the beginning of 2012, the former Pussycat Doll’s landed on her feet with a brand new job in Britain. At the time of her appointment, Nicole said: “I can’t wait to see what talent the UK has to offer and to help inspire and bring out the best in these artists.”
One change that won’t have much bearing on the show until the year’s end will be the location of the live final, which has been moved up north along with the bootcamp and is set to take place in Manchester this year for the first time ever, at the Manchester Central Convention Complex.
Phew! With all those changes, it’s a good thing they’ve kept the logo and Louis Walsh or else we might all be in danger of mistaking the show for something entirely different. But now you’re primed on what to expect from this year’s contest, get the family gathered around and put the pizza man on speed-dial: The X Factor’s back. Enjoy!