X Factor drops plan for Judges’ Houses live global broadcasts

Show bosses cite technical and logistical concerns as reason for axing the ambitious plan

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Plans to broadcast Judges’ Houses live for this year’s X Factor have been cancelled for logistical and technical reasons. 

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As usual, the four judges and their categories were going to decamp to four different locations around the globe, but in a new twist the footage would air in real time rather than be a pre-record. This was set to include both the contestants’ Judges’ Houses audition and the moment they found out whether they’d made it through to this year’s live shows. Yes, the bit with all of the crying.  

It seemed a dramatic shift: an idea one might think up while sitting in a meeting room called the ‘blue sky room’. But while insiders told me show bosses weren’t concerned about the odd live gaffe – “viewers will tune in to see if we can pull it off” – it seems an entire show where sound could cut out, footage could be lost or singers couldn’t be heard was deemed not worth taking the risk for.

“We are going to pre-record the contestants performing on location, as logistically and technically this will give us the best show for viewers,” a spokesperson for X Factor told RadioTimes.com. 

“There would be too many factors outside of their control,” a source close to the show added. “They don’t want to produce something that doesn’t look great.”

After all, a simultaneous broadcast from four locations would be a pretty hefty job for the production team. Four teams would be needed all at once – plus a team back in London where co-hosts Olly Murs and Caroline Flack would anchor the show – which would not only be an expensive undertaking, but a difficult one. One cable out of place and the whole thing could go wrong. Although they could have had a fabulous holding shot of Sinitta in that leaf bikini for if everything went down. 

Judges’ Houses is often filmed outside, too. Why be in Bermuda, Barbados, Las Vegas and the like if you’re tucked up in a hotel suite? That brings with it its own problems. Filming in Antigua for Nicole Scherzinger’s 2013 Judges’ Houses was interrupted if a bartender put a blender on, Louis Walsh had to ditch plans to film on the beach in Bermuda when the heavens opened, Gary Barlow’s New York edition was halted because of noisy traffic. They need to be able to do re-takes. 

Plus, let’s face it, Judges’ Houses already works. It’s far and away my favourite part of the show. The dramatic scenery shots, the moment the guest judge arrives (Tulisa has given Sinitta a run for her bikini after her Bond-style entrance during last year’s show), the music obviously – but enjoyably – leading you through the various emotions of the show. I don’t want to be watching Cowell do his ‘you are not, not going through, so I can’t… let you go home, you’re in my top three!’ bit and have to pause while a plane flies overhead. It is a well-oiled machine that doesn’t need to be tampered with. 

Of course, given this year of change, show bosses aren’t completely ditching the idea. So the moment the singers find out whether they’re through will now take place back in Wembley Arena during a live edition of the show. It saves all the crying on the flight back, eh? And, for the contestants, insiders suggest it goes some way to making the contest fairer: contestants have more time to rehearse for the live shows and those having been on a long-haul flight don’t suffer the added hurdle of being jet-lagged, which I bargain means Nick Grimshaw won’t be hosting his in Oldham…

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As it stands, Judges’ Houses will still run across the weekend of October 24th and 25th before the first official live studio show on October 31st.