When does it start?
This year’s X Factor series kicks off on Saturday 29th August at 8pm on ITV. Nor will fans have to wait long until the next instalment: there’ll be a second round of auditions on Sunday 30th August, also at 8pm.
Which series is this?
This is the 12th series of the show.
Who are the hosts?
Dermot O’Leary won’t be spinning his way into our X Factor Saturday nights any more. After eight years, he’s handed over the reins to Caroline Flack and Olly Murs. It’s the first time a duo has hosted the main show, although this pair boast plenty of experience having fronted Xtra Factor from 2011 to 2012. Olly of course was also a contestant –placing second in 2009 to Joe McElderry – and returned in 2013 as Gary Barlow’s guest at Judges’ Houses.
When I had a sneak peek of the auditions, they seemed to be having an awful lot of fun – and doing a lot of dancing. In fact, the pair are said to have a little routine for when the judges arrive, which means there’s hope the Dermot Dance will live on. Murs has also earned a new nickname: H₂Olly Murs after often being called on stage to supply contestants with water.
As for the Xtra Factor, it seems Sweat the Small Stuff is a great place to seek talent as Grimshaw’s co-hosts from the show Rochelle Humes and Melvin Odoom have been signed up. Both say the job is a “dream” gig for them.
Who are the judges?
For the first time ever, the panel is devoid of Mr Louis Walsh. Yes, after being with the show for eleven series, he’s moved on. It doesn’t look like he’s going far, though; he’s top choice to head up another Cowell show, Ireland’s Got Talent, when it launches next year.
Of the new faces on the panel, Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw and pop star Rita Ora join returning fave Cheryl Fernandez-Versini. Ora gave up her seat on The Voice, where she was a coach for one year, to make the move. While show insiders told me the BBC show were keen to keep her on, those guys at the X very much see it as Rita coming home, having hired her as a guest judge in 2012.
Grimshaw is the first DJ to take up residence on the panel. Amanda Holden is pretty sure she had something to do with him being hired, after Grimmers teamed up with Cowell to prank her earlier this year. Grimshaw’s appointment wasn’t met with universal approval, but from seeing him in action during the auditions, I can confirm he’s a natural: he oozes charisma and has the confidence of someone who’s been doing this from day dot. In fact, I’m reliably informed that he’s very much like David Walliams from the BGT panel, which is part of the reason Cowell is said to have hired him.
Cheryl’s return to the show seems very welcome and, from what she said during the auditions, it’s the groups we should keep an eye on – it seems they’ve really wowed the panel in the early rounds.
During the Bootcamp stages Cowell even had a little helper, in the form of his son Eric. While filming Eric made a couple of bids for the judges’ desk, but seemed for the most part quite happy to bop along to the music.
The in-room auditions are out once again as the judges have gone back to the arena for the first round. It means the wannabe pop stars face a roaring audience from the work go. Flack told us she felt it added “excitement” to the auditions.
There’s change at Bootcamp this year too with the show decamping to a country mansion for the second round of auditions. Unlike previews years, a dramatic cull of singers didn’t take place on arrival. Instead, some singers were told before arrival that they’d lost their place in the next round. For those that made it, they took to a stage in front of the judges to perform. Plus, for the first time, singers had to team up with singers from different categories to deliver a song together. Some were given a ticking off by the judges for partying too hard before their audition. For me, it felt like being thrust into a Glee audition with everyone struggling to get through a sentence without bursting into song.
Once Bootcamp is done and dusted, the action will move to the dreaded Six Chair Challenge. It’s an addition that seems to be sticking around. Singers perform for the judges, but it will be up to each category mentor to decide who’s worthy of a chair and thus a place at Judges’ Houses. But once in a chair, all is not safe: they can be booted off in favour of another.
Those that survive that will bag a trip to Judges’ Houses, which this year is getting a revamp, with the show going live. Yep, from four different locations the judges will decide live on air who they’re taking through to the live shows. The performances will also be live, which means there’s a lot riding on all the tech running smoothly. Show insiders say the odd live gaffe isn’t a concern though. “In a way, the main live shows are so well produced, people have forgotten they’re live,” an insider explained. “People will tune into live Judges’ Houses to see if it can be carried off.”
Who the guest judges are remains to be seen and indeed so do the locations. Brazil has been rumoured as has the return of Simon to US and Cheryl to France. Grimshaw in Ibiza seems like it could be a logical match up, but with a live broadcast, getting them as close together as possible may be the aim. As for those guests, I think we can expect Sinitta (and an awesome outfit). I’d personally like to see Louis Walsh make an appearance, so we at least get to hear one authentic ‘you’re going to be the next big pop star’ at least once this series.
Once that’s done and dusted it’s onto the live shows, which basically means it’s Christmas, right? The action will head back to Wembley Arena when we will finally get our chance to vote. I bargain we’ll see more shock double eliminations and – given the number of changes this year – I wouldn’t be surprised to see the addition of an extra cheeky format: perhaps the judges will be given the chance to ‘steal’ an act from another? Or Louis will appear with his own ‘wild card’ category. Frankly, nothing would surprise this year.
There’ll also be a change of announcer following the departure of Peter Dickson. It remains to be heard who will tell us that its Saturday, that it’s X Factor and that it’s time to face the music.
Until then, let the auditions commence…
For more on the X Factor head to www.radiotimes.com/xfactor