This year’s X Factor, if you remember, kicked off with ‘Techno Sue’ slapping her arse, which well and truly set the tone for the twelfth series: expect the unexpected.
The unexpected for viewers came in various format tweaks and changes. Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw joined as judges, Olly Murs and Caroline Flack took over hosting duties, there was a partly live (partly shambolic) Judges’ Houses, a shorter run of live shows thanks to ITV’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup and an entire series without Louis Walsh. It’s been X Factor but not quite as we know (or indeed love) it.
For show bosses, the unexpected has come in a wave of poor ratings. Overnight figures have trailed behind those of BBC shiny floor rival Strictly Come Dancing, with peak ratings differing by as much as 3 million (11.4 versus 7.4) on some nights. The show even struggled when going head-to-head with unexpected rival Countryfile (who knew?) during Sunday night results shows.
Consolidated figures have painted a healthier picture, of course. Audiences generally increased by two million as viewers decided when and where they wanted to see people face the music. This has given the show some victories over its rivals, but the headlines continue to scream that all’s dark and dismal in terms of The X Factor’s viewer haul.
However, ratings and changes aside, it’s been a difficult series for anyone to whole-heartedly criticise because the talent is undeniable. Seann Miley Moore, Ché Chesterman, Louisa Johnson, 4th Impact… the list goes on. And that really is the whole point, right? Yet top talent hasn’t equaled top ratings.
It’s not all about the numbers, of course. Some of the best shows on TV (cough, How To Get Away With Murder) don’t boast the highest ratings. But it’s not something that can easily be brushed under the carpet either.
My personal feeling is that boss Simon Cowell has listened just a little too much. He’s well known for taking on viewer feedback and this year sent several tweets asking fans for ideas for themes and the like. In a way it makes sense: give the people what they want and all that. But when do we ever know what we really want?
I genuinely don’t think we’ve had enough of the sob stories (stay with me…). Profiles featuring details of the acts’ back stories have proved a big draw on our website each week, showing there is still an appetite for that stuff. After all, if we don’t know the singers, what’s going to get us picking up the phone to keep them in?
Early on in the series I think there was too much focus on some of the bigger personalities, a number of whom didn’t go on to make this year’s live shows. Finalists Reggie N Bollie weren’t even included in Boot Camp coverage, meaning we didn’t really hit the ground running with them come the live shows.
Simon Cowell too has stopped surprising us with his cutting critique. Usually I wait with bated breath to hear his final conclusion. But aside from a glimpse of it last week when he shocked everyone by writing off Ché’s cover of Amy Winehouse as “karaoke” (everyone else seemed to be crying with the emotion), he’s not been quite so straight-talking. In fact, he’s all but let the audience finish his sentences for him with his “I didn’t like it… I loved it” catchphrase.
Forget Bupsi ‘getting nasty’ I think the real Mr Nasty needs to stand up and do what he ruddy well wants.
The X Factor will return in 2016 on ITV