Fixing the X-Factor

Following this weekend’s sing off between arguably the two best singers in the contest, it’s fair to say that most people now think that X-Factor has become a bit of a farce. Especially when you consider that Rylan is still there – A man who in proving he could stand on the stage and sing for Gary Barlow, proved he was just as tone deaf as we all thought.

So what’s gone wrong with the show this year? I think that’s obvious – it’s been abandoned by it’s guiding light, one Simon Cowell. X-Factor was his baby and he has always been the driving forcing behind it. And while he’s been busy state-side with the US version of the show, the original has suffered, becoming almost a parody of itself.

So, how to put it right? Well, what follows are my humble suggestions. None of them will actually happen, but if the producers are reading (which they won’t be ) – give these points some thought.

The Judges

Like it or not, the judges are the stars of the show, not the constants. And right now, the judging line-up is flawed. Two years ago, what I would consider to the be strongest judging panel in the 9 years of the show was broken up and aside from one, the replacements haven’t been up to scratch. Simon and Cheryl Cole left for the US version (although Cheryl was then dumped because no Americans could understand a word she said) while Danni Minogue was unceremoniously jettisoned.

Last year saw the addition of Gary Barlow, Tulisa Contostavlos, and Kelly Rowland. And this year, Kelly has been replaced by another American – and a reject from the failed first US series – Nicole Scherzinger, which along with loveable Louis Walsh, gives us the current line-up.

  • Gary Barlow – I think Gary has been a success as a the ‘replacement’ for Simon Cowell. Like Cowell, he talks a lot of sense and appears to want the genuinely talented contestants to do well over the comedy acts. His views, of all the judges,the ones that are closest to my own. So I’d keep Gary – although I wouldn’t be surprised if he walked away after the train wreck that has been this year’s series.
  • Louis Walsh – Once he was loveable, now he’s just annoying. His comments are the same every week, and haven’t really changed from nine years ago. Much like the series itself, he’s become a running joke. It’s time he left. But they tried to get rid of him once before, remember? It seems he’s like a bad penny.
  •  Tulisa – Just get rid. Now. The woman brought in to replace Cheryl as the nation’s sweetheart is about as far from that as it’s possible to be. A gobby Chav with a sex-tape. She has nothing useful to say, hates anything that she doesn’t see as “urban” and thinks more of herself than anyone else thinks of her. Get rid. Now.
  • Nicole – She’s been a breath of fresh air and great fun. But she’s also responsible for inflicting Rylan Clark on us and for that reason alone she needs the sack.

Which leaves me with one judge. So who to replace the deadwood with? The most obvious choice is to bring back Cheryl, pronto. Some say she wouldn’t come back, but I disagree. X-Factor made her. It turned her from a member of Girls Aloud to the first genuine ‘Nation’s Sweetheart’ that we’ve seen in a long time and a solo star in her own right. Her empathic sway with the contestants, coupled with just the right amount of support, praise and constructive critiques makes her the ideal judge.

I’d have Danni back too, but I can’t see that happening with the way she was treated. So instead, I’d give Mel B a chance. She was the best of the guest judges at auditions this year, and I think she’d be great as a full time judge.

Finally, since the chances of Simon coming back are less than none, ITV need to find a ‘new’ Simon Cowell. What do I mean by that? Well, remember the first series of Pop Idol? Pete Waterman was supposed to be the star judge. No one knew who Simon Cowell was other than some shadowy record exec. And that’s what ITV need now. An ‘unknown’ (to the public at least) record exec who knows his stuff and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Is there one out there? There has to be, surely?

Back to Basics

Part of X-Factor’s problem is that it’s gotten “too big”. It’s too full of it’s own self-importance. The contestants are stars as soon as they make the live shows – before even.   Every stage, from the auditorium audition (nicked from Britian’s Got Talent) to boot-camp, to judges houses to the live shows and even the results show – it’s all too big, too staged, too… too much.

It’s needs to be stripped back to what the show is at its heart – a singing contest to find a recording artist. Forget the over top production of the performances at live shows (Rylan again!) the best performances this year have been when a constant just stands there and sings (or plays an instrument and sings). So let the constants stand there and sing. Let them showcase their voice and their talent.

What I’d do is go back to the original auditions. Have the contestants in a small room, singing a cappella (or with a guitar/piano) to the four judges. That’s it. Same goes for boot camp – make both stages feel like proper AUDITIONS – not part of the damn show.

I think the Judges Houses section is fine, so leave it as it is. But it’s the live shows that need a big make over. First, get rid of that massive stage set and have something a lot smaller. In fact, get rid of the studio based set completely. What I would do, is take the show “on the road”. Each week, broadcast the show from live venues from around the country. Start with small venues, then build up to larger and larger ones until the final is somewhere of significance, like Wembley or the O2.

I also think this will help with the crowds at live shows – which have become as over the top as the rest of the show. They need to find a way to stop the pantomime booing that accompanies even the slightest negative comment as well.

The Talent

This one is obvious, but they need to stop putting through the comedy acts to live shows. They’ve always been there – Jedward, Wagner and this year’s token circus freak in Rylan Clark – but they need to stop putting them through. They are making a mockery of the whole thing.

Voting

This needs an overhaul too. Ten years ago, phone/text voting was the cutting edge. Not any more it’s not. X-factor needs to embrace the new methods of communication that are the norm, ie Facebook & Twitter. A Facebook poll would be easy to set up – it’s done all the time, and I’m pretty sure that some bright spark could use a hashtag (like #xfactorvote) to count up the twitter vote too.

Sure, Syco might not make as much money with this type of vote – but it would make the vote relevant again, and honestly, I’ll bet the voting numbers this year are way down judging by the reaction on twitter every week to the results of the vote.

So, would all that work? Would it make X-factor a better show? I don’t know, but from the way things are right now, it sure as hell couldn’t make it any worse.

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