Has Simon Cowell’s X Factor lost its own X Factor?

Written by bethan_jones

X Factor burst onto our screens in 2004 becoming the next big talent show to follow on from Pop Idol and Popstars: The Rivals.

X Factor burst onto our screens in 2004 becoming the next big talent show to follow on from Pop Idol and Popstars: The Rivals. Produced as part of Simon Cowell’s money making machine, SYCOtv, the talent show grew in popularity to become one of the most talked about programmes on a yearly basis. Peaking in series 6 with 19.7 million viewers, the programme has found itself constantly under scrutiny and between August and December each year is rarely out of the news. However, the ever growing feeling that the programme has lost its ‘spark’ is emerging stronger and stronger; 2011 has not proved a very successful year for Simon Cowell’s baby, with constant criticism and scandal. This begs the question, has the X Factor lost its X Factor? 

X Factor was once considered one of the best shows on television, mixing the key ingredients for audience escapism on a Saturday night – entertainment, laughter, humiliation, tension and the ever present judge rivalry (particularly on what the female judges would be wearing). There was one stage when it was felt systematic that the winner of X Factor would gain the Christmas number one chart position. The original judging panel of Mr.Cowell himself, Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Dannii Minogue was successful in its day, predominantly for Sharon and Dannii’s obvious hatred of each other. 

The replacement of Sharon with the ‘nations sweetheart’ Cheryl Cole is most obviously the turning point in creating the X Factor into an incredibly successful show. The talent contest arguably became about much more than talent; not only were the female judges constantly scrutinized for their outfit choices, but the contestants themselves became minor celebrities before they had even got close to winning the £1 million pound record deal. The X Factor was considered a platform for talent, despite whether they won or not; most notably JLS, One Direction, Diana Vickers and Cher Lloyd have all had major success in the runner-up position. The X Factor was a fame machine.

However 2011 has not been the best year for X Factor. Our poor Cheryl was axed from the US and UK shows and the new judging panel seemed to hit it off: ‘Mr.Sensible’ Gary Barlow, Tulisa (whose surname is clearly too hard to pronounce they decided to drop it), Kelly ‘you put it down’ Rowland, and unfortunately once again, Louis Walsh. This series of X Factor so far has pretty much had it all; sex, booze, drugs, arguments, annoying acts, stupid outfits, bullying accusations and Louis bouncing up and down in his seat.

Frankie Cocozza has been the most documented contestant; starting the competition as a cheeky chappy, and being kicked off the programme as a drunken, drugged-up womanizer, Frankie represents the downfall of the show, as well as voicing the public’s opinion through his own rebellion. His lack of singing ability was rarely mentioned; he embodies the reality television personality that can sail through on behaviour over talent. This is annoying to watch, and emphasised when credible acts leave. Yet, his rebellious, don’t care, attitude towards the programme was also quite refreshing. He has proved that the singing isn’t the main appeal of the programme and basically ridiculed the concept of the contest, by not taking it seriously. 

As well as Frankie’s antics, the programme has had a dramatic drop in ratings, averaging 9.5 million, and a very argumentative judging panel. Clearly this is entertaining for us, yet the cracks are most definitely showing – there is not enough room for more than one diva. 

Despite X Factor being contracted till 2013, clearly the scandal of the past few months regarding the show has caused serious damage to the contests credibility. Simon Cowell will need to pull a few tricks out of his very square shaped hat to keep audience ratings up and most importantly not rely on the contests personal lives to draw viewers in.