X Factor 2013: Why the new format works

A mix of old and new makes this feel like the X Factor of X Factors, and I’m already hooked, says Emma Daly

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Starting on another X Factor series is a bit like chucking your social life on the fire, with the sound of Simon Cowell counting his money the only thing keeping you company.

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Although it’s on twice over the weekend, it’s now only an hour for each show (at least until we get to the live rounds). Frankly, I spend more time in the sauna each week, pretending I’ve been hard at it in the gym.

The room auditions have returned, giving judges Gary Barlow, Nicole Scherzinger, Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh ample time to chat to the acts (mock them, throw things and laugh amongst themselves…). It means we get to know a bit more about each act before they are thrown to the lions (aka four thousand people at Wembley) and lets the judges show off a bit more.

It’s certainly much funnier watching Sharon squirm up close and personal after assuming a contestant is pregnant.

Indeed, Sharon Osbourne has returned with her usual sense of frivolity. The queen of rock isn’t averse to sending bizarre acts through apparently just because they have brightened her day. Andrew singing about messing his pants has Mrs O’s sense of humour to thank for that ‘yes’. This is the woman who backed Chico in 2005, after all.

But you can’t get comfy with Sharon, who just as quickly snaps into serious manager mode, cutting the average acts off from the start.

Even Nicole challenged Mrs O’s dismissal of wannabe rocker Fil Henley, asking, “What would you have him do Sharon?” prompting the X Factor panel to change their mind and give Fil and his clean shirts a chance.

Nicole is of course sitting pretty on last year’s victory and with the girls category waiting for her, the former Pussycat Doll could make it two wins out of two after power singers Hannah Barrett and Tamera Foster showed off their skills.

Not that Nicole needs to win to be popular – her Scherzisms should be the new word-of-the-day toilet paper. From “You know how I love balls” to her now iconic “Schermazeballs”, Nicole has brightened up the panel with more than her sassy nail polish. Her singing, yelling and “Damn, I’m like what”s translate just as well in the room auditions as they do in the arena.

Louis Walsh and his raspberry blazer kept somewhat of a low profile for the opening of his tenth (and what will be his last) series. But it’s Louis’ few and far between outbursts that make him such an X Factor success. From telling a crying Hannah Barrett she had “such a sad face” to letting Tamera Foster know she had more potential than Alexandra Burke and Leona Lewis even after she needed Dermot O’Leary to remind her of the words to her song, Louis is as ill-timed as ever. 

Then there’s Gary and his eyebrows. The withering look he can give when adopting his I’m-just-like-Simon-Cowell mood pulls the show back from the brink just before it gets too chaotic. And this certainly works better in a room where he’s not got four thousand people booing over his negative comments just because they can.

What’s also great about this new series is that we’re not just running full steam ahead to weeks of live shows, catapulting us into our onesies and Christmas jumpers while we watch yet another Abba week. There’s the new and improved Bootcamp to give the middle of the series a boost, with acts put through, pulled out, swapped in, swapped out – all just to get to Judges’ Houses.

Yes, 2013 looks like being The X Factor with the X factor. 


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