Simon Cowell might have just saved The X Factor

The X Factor: Celebrity promised to be the saving grace of a tired format. And with the new iteration of the brand, Simon Cowell delivers on that promise, saving the once-beloved show from certain doom.

I can’t remember when I stopped watching The X Factor, but it was somewhere between when Rita Ora left the judging panel and Matt Terry released an Ed Sheeran-penned Christmas song as his winner’s single. The show used to be staple viewing, but it lost its grip on the power to engineer genuine stars. Former winners Rak-Su and Louisa Johnson have yet to release their debut albums and were both dropped by their labels.

I tuned in to the first episode of The X Factor: Celebrity out of curiosity more than anything else. What would soft reboot do for the format of a show that hinges on finding the titular star quality of normal, everyday people? Surely this set-up – the antithesis of what The X Factor used to be all about – would be the final nail in the coffin for this once-great TV show? Turns out, like Frankenstein himself, Simon Cowell has brought his creation back to life.

Sure, some things you took with a pinch of salt. Like Dermot O’Leary telling us that none of the contestants had done anything like this before, handily forgetting that Samira Mighty is musical theatre trained, Eyal Booker used to be in a pop band and Kevin McHale quite literally sang for a living on Glee.

Taking the single-room audition and bootcamp stages out also managed to trim some necessary fat and making the contestants audition in a room full of music industry heavyweights added a necessary element of risk into proceedings.

As for the auditions themselves? They were an actual, genuine pleasure to watch. From the necessary surprises (The Vixen from the Chase going down an octave!) to the middling (Max and Harvey, everyone who wasn’t Samira in the Love Island group) to the horrendous (Cole and Edwards should be receiving a cease and desist letter from Kylie Minogue any day now) and whatever the hell Martin Bashir was doing.

It was joyous, entertaining reality TV at its very best. And, really, that’s what The X Factor did best all along – entertain people.

You screamed when Alexandra Burke welcomed Beyonce on stage and had the necessary breakdown. You gasped in surprise at Cher Lloyd’s cover of Stay by Shakespeare’s Sister. You tried to hide your second-hand embarrassment whenever Wagner appeared on stage.

But no matter who you were watching with, or where you were, you were thoroughly entertained.

I don’t know if The X Factor: Celebrity can maintain the momentum that its built up over the coming weeks. There are good signs though; some people will be leaving next week, after the second round of contestants perform which mean that the Live Shows should be quick and snappy, with the number of finalists in the single digits.

The X Factor has always struggled, especially in the last few years, with getting to the point. This time around, it looks like there’s no messing around.

As for the success these hopefuls wish to find after the show is over, I can’t see any of them necessarily having what it takes to be a genuine pop star (apart from Samira – she should ditch the rest of the Islanders and release a cover of Normani’s Motivation immediately) but that’s really the point of the show, isn’t it? It’s all about the work you put in after it.

 

From Bleeding Love to Bad Boys, to Ghost, The X Factor has given us some landmark moments for British pop and if they find the right act with the right amount of potential, the skies the limit. That’s the way it’s always been, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a regular person or a celebrity for it to work.

All in all, The X Factor: Celebrity turned out to be must-watch television and the best installment of the programme in years.

I’ll definitely be tuning in next week…will you?

The X Factor: Celebrity returns this Saturday at 8.35pm on ITV.

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