What Sharon, Louis and Nicole’s return tells us about X Factor 2016

This series is in experienced hands - but that doesn't mean it'll be boring, says Emma Daly

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Sharon Osbourne, Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger’s return to X Factor is a clear sign that show bosses want this year’s series in experienced hands. That’s not to say boring – heaven knows Mrs O is a live wire when in front of a camera – but safe.

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They did the hip, fresh-faced revamp last year and it didn’t work. It was hard to pluck a positive story out of the ratings and there was a general sense that they couldn’t do right for doing wrong. This year, with eyes firmly on those pesky overnights, Simon Cowell et al evidently want people on the show who know what they’re doing. Know when to row, know when to cry, know when to tell someone they’re going to be the next big popstar. The return of Mr Saturday Night himself – host Dermot O’Leary – also ticks this box.

As for being an uninspiring move – it’s still not quite the unexpected we’re always told to expect – Britain’s Got Talent proves change isn’t always good: the judging panel is barely discussed as winning ratings pour in. Let’s face it, X Factor is like that already circled takeaway menu – we always think about change, but really we’re happy with the same.

The familiarity among the judges will also, invariably, lead to bickering. And a bit of public embarrassment. And probably some water throwing. Simon, Louis and Sharon – who launched the show together in 2004 – have known each other long enough to have some dirt on each other. They’ll know which buttons to push and when. Louis will, for example, harp on about being the saviour of the show, insisting that poor little Simon Cowell couldn’t cope without him last year. Meanwhile, Cowell will pull strings to make sure Mr Walsh gets lumped with the joke category ensuring he gets nowhere near that winning title. Bringing Louis back is one thing, letting him win? Yikes.

Cowell will fit better on the panel, too. There were times last year when Rita, Cheryl and Grimmers were dancing around and ‘mashing it up’ and the boss of the panel came across like a dad supervising the school disco. This is square peg, square hole: both Cowell and Mrs O make no bones about telling the truth (which we need when absolutely everyone thinks they’re the next Mariah/Ed Sheeran/ One Direction), we could write Louis Walsh’s script for him and Nicole Scherzinger will introduce us to a whole new batch of words that’ll probably* (*definitely) include the word ‘balls’. It’s a reaction to recent series that, on paper at least, makes sense. 

The added bonus of the Osbourne/Walsh double act is that they’ll be even more determined to lead the charge: they’ll want to get in trouble for laughing fits, they’ll want to make Cowell huff and puff, they’ll want to say the outrageous things that make the crowd go ‘oooo’. It’s pantomime – and Cowell will be hoping it’s rubbish ratings that are behind him. 

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The X Factor returns to ITV later this year