OK, so X Factor without Louis Walsh is a bit strange – at some point I’m expecting a Home Alone-style “LOUIS!” from Simon Cowell – but away from that, this year’s sparkly new series is definitely one to get excited about.
Simon Cowell seems to have undone yet another button on his shirt and simply said ‘Why not?’. New judges, new hosts, new formats – he’s willing to give it all a go.
No one’s reinventing the wheel here of course. At the end of it someone will cover a song that we’ll hear until our ears bleed as we fight over turkeys in Tesco. But there is, as Cowell himself put it, something different in the air.
The judges and hosts alike claim there’s a potential winner in every category, which admittedly is a little hard to imagine when the show opens with 60-year-old Susan slapping her backside yelling “Techno! Techno! Techno!” But the peaks and troughs of the sensational and the dire is part of X Factor’s charm. A Wagner for every One Direction.
Indeed, away from Techno Sue, the judges have high hopes for a young girl band they think will “blow up” in the industry. They’re already bickering over mentoring two of the female contestants who all but take the roof off of Wembley Arena. One lad gets huge praise for bringing his own army of backing dancers to wow in his first audition.
As is clearly the aim, there’s a young, vibrant feel to the show courtesy of new judges Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw. Cowell occasionally looks like the dad that’s volunteered at the school disco, standing on the sidelines as they dance around with returning fave Cheryl. But the show needs his authority, otherwise it does feel like things would wander into the chaotic realms of Flockstars and Gabby Logan would randomly wander on yelling ‘Release the sheep!’
There’s a lot more footage from behind-the-scenes. Grimmers miming to Girls Aloud’s Sound of the Underground is already one of my favourite things that’s ever happened on the show. It speaks to X Factor’s desire to offer more transparency, to shake off some of the cloak and dagger criticism, presumably even more important following the fallout from Britain’s Got Talent’s ‘dog-gate’. It’s why us viewers are getting to choose the judges’ categories, as well as being part of the reason Judges’ Houses is going to be broadcast live. We’re being drawn into the decisions from the off – no moaning when we don’t get the winner we want. This peek backstage is also clearly down to the fact that this year’s team – which includes a bumper presenting team – are actually just having a whole lot of fun together. Why waste it on the cutting room floor?
It remains to be seen how this year’s revamped series copes with changes ITV’s commitment to the Rugby World Cup has made to the schedule, the mammoth task that will be a multi-location live Judges’ Houses stage and fewer live studio shows. But I’m eager to embrace the madness.
It’s time… to face… the MUSIC!
The X Factor returns tonight at 8:00pm on ITV