This weekend, the 14th series of The X Factor kicks off on ITV – and you would think that after all these years, Simon Cowell would finally have found the perfect formula to make this series a memorable one. Let's hope that it is, but here's what we'd like to see happen.
A love story
X Factor generally doesn’t churn out as many couples as your average reality show, since the contestants do actually have to work quite hard to stay in the competition, rather than lounging around in swimwear while stroking each other’s toned arms. But over the years a few have emerged – last year, we had Emily Middlemas and Ryan Lawrie, who seemed very sweet, although it was a bit awkward that Emily was pretty good and Ryan... wasn’t. But our favourite X Factor couple has to be love’s young dream from way back in 2008 – Eoghan Quigg and Diana Vickers. Their relationship was a bit of a secret, until Eoghan ran over to Diana and weeped his little heart while they shared a passionate embrace when she was voted off. Actual genuine, non-scripted emotion on X Factor? A rare sight. And we demand more.
If a Snow Patrol ballad kicks in during a pre-audition VT, you know a sob story is looming. In the absence of genuine tragedy, the existence of a grandparent who is quite old will do. It’s deeply manipulative to the point of making a mockery of the whole show, but X Factor wouldn’t be the same without them.
An underdog who got lost on the way to The Voice
What does “the x factor” mean? Well, generally it means people who can sing reasonably well, but are fanciable too. So when a contestant does well who isn’t “conventionally attractive” – 2012’s winner James Arthur is a good example, even though he basically looks like everybody’s boyfriend – the audience loves rooting for them. Louis Walsh loathes them, though, because he can’t tell them they “look like a popstar and sound like a popstar”.
Nothing throws a spanner in the works like an act who isn’t allowed to go to Judges’ Houses due to mysterious “visa issues”. Even if all they did was nick a ketchup sachet from the chippie when they were 10, the drama and mystery brings extra excitement.
Whether it’s rumoured tension between members of the panel or actual conveniently timed drama going on in their personal lives, a bit of judge shenanigans makes us watch, even when the singing talent is lacking. If all else fails, some entirely fabricated pregnancy rumours will do the job – something we’re pretty sure the stylists enjoy perpetuating when they’re bored. “Let’s shove Glamorous Female Judge of Childbearing Age in a drapey empire line gown this week, shall we? Maybe one with storks embroidered on it to really get people talking?”.
A “they woz robbed!” outrage
The most memorable of these was back in 2010 when Cheryl Cole put insufferable Katie Waissel through to the live shows instead of sweet, talented Gamu. Of course, nobody gave a stuff about it within a couple of weeks, but at the time millions of viewers enjoyed swearing at the TV.
A crossover novelty act with villainous undertones
Jedward. Wagner. Honey G. Three of the most memorable examples of acts everyone loved to hate and/or hated to love. It all starts with a terrible first audition that Louis Walsh pretends to enjoy to wind up Simon Cowell. Then there will be a furore about said no-hopers getting through at the expense of talented acts (see Gamu-gate above). Then the mood will turn, just like Simon planned all along. Soon there will be catchphrases, merchandise and totally OTT performances featuring pyrotechnics, distracting musical mash-ups and perhaps an ice dancer or seven. For three seconds they will be favourite to win (but never actually do. Because this is a SERIOUS SINGING COMPETITION, people).
Groups with terrible names
Two Shoes. Addictiv Ladies. Kingsland Road. Overload Generation. ONE DIRECTION. We live for this stuff.
“Guys, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news... You won’t be seeing your families for a while because you’re through to Judges’ Houses!”. And so it goes. The cruelty of the Six Chair Challenge, the predictable perfection of Dermot O’Leary’s drawn-out results announcements, the very existence of deadlock… all twists and turns that are designed to make the acts feel as terrible as possible but fill viewers with glee, because we’re dead inside after 14 years of this treatment. Guys, guys, its not good news… it’s great news! X Factor is back this Saturday at 8pm!