For the past two days I have travelled to Wembley Arena more in hope than expectation to talk X Factor.
The acts and contestants have been talking up the final, no change there, but this year it feels like fewer people are listening.
Outside of their home towns, viewers have invested less in the acts: Sam Bailey, Nicholas McDonald and Luke Friend.
The four judges are all at pains to state how friendly they are, and perhaps that is also part of the problem as we all love a cat fight or a row on the programme.
Thankfully Louis Walsh said to me “I think Simon Cowell will be back next year,” and then gave a knowing wink on Thursday.
To put it bluntly, the show needs Cowell in 2014 and its success and survival probably depends on it.
This year hasn’t been helped by a runaway favourite in Sam, and no judge fights or arguments.
Throw in a lack of novelty acts like Rylan, Wagner or even the Chris Maloney saga from last year and it has all felt a bit flat.
Perhaps record bosses feel the same as the duets this year are not on a par with previous years.
Who could forget Alexandra Burke with Beyonce, even little Leon Jackson got to sing with Kylie Minogue in a catsuit and Matt Cardle flirted when he performed with Rihanna.
This year poor Nicholas is singing Flying Without Wings with Shane Filan. To put it in context it was a hit for Westlife in 1999 and the band disbanded in June 2012.
Luke Friend has Ellie Goulding and Sam Bailey has Nicole Scherzinger which is better, but they do not excite me in the way previous duets have.
Over on BBC1 Strictly Come Dancing is getting several million more in the ratings and could even beat it on Saturday night, despite only being at the semi final stage.
Cowell simply wouldn’t have allowed this to happen.
Perhaps rightly he has stayed away this year, knowing this series will not produce a global star.
He has his own problems – in America the US show is dying – but all will be forgiven in the UK and he can return to cheers and expectation.
If he can throw in Cheryl Cole and could persuade Robbie Williams and Rita Ora to get involved judging as well the show would feel fresh and we might be in business next year.
Gary Barlow and Sharon Osbourne have confirmed they are leaving so an Xtra big makeover is guaranteed, and after 10 years, the show needs it.
Mark Jefferies is Showbiz Editor at The Daily Mirror