As the nights draw in and the leaves turn, being indoors becomes more appealing. In TV land, this means wheeling out your biggest hits, snaring your captive audience and, in the case of the commercial channels, boosting revenues through adverts that remind us that Christmas is coming ever closer. You want to see Broadchurch and it’s like the rest of the year? Well, shows like that get made because ITV have charged John Lewis and Argos millions of pounds to flash their wares for 30 seconds over the ‘ber’ months.

Leading ITV’s charge is, of course, The X Factor. But there have been mutterings in corridors – the show isn’t what it was, the Cowell-shaped gap is impossible to fill, Strictly Come Dancing’s more wholesome nature is winning over viewers jaded with watching the unstable being mocked. For now though it is back, with one last roll of the dice before ITV offer a ‘Cowell-or-nothing’ ultimatum.

In a bid to keep its place in the schedules, there have been changes. Tulisa, who last year sulked her way through 6 months worth of filming, has been booted off, with Sharon Osborne taking her place. Also, the audition process has been made double arduous, singing first to the judges and then to an audience in an arena. There are other rumours too – new complicated voting rules, deadlock being removed, Simon Cowell making random appearances.

Will these changes save the show? Well, of the two seen so far, maybe. Sharon is certainly in high spirits, and has lifted the other judges with her. Even Gary Barlow is smiling this year, even if his critiques still sound scripted. Also, the doubled up auditions probably match the real nature of the industry more effectively. True performers work well in intimate surroundings, but can also carry massive audiences with them as well.

Some things haven’t changed. The delusional and bizarre still turn up. Weak acts still get to survive on the grounds of entertainment and personality. Unexpectedly brilliant singers emerge. As ever, it appears it is the Overs category that displays all of these. Fil Henley, a rocker who seemed unable to rock, was allowed to go to the arenas on the condition he became more wild. After knocking over a few chairs and having some transfers stuck on his arm, he was still sent home. No doubt the judges feared a new Christopher Maloney in the making.

On the flip side there was Sam Bailey. Her story ticked all the boxes – frumpy mum and prison officer, surprisingly nervous considering the grimness of her job and having successfully raised children. She had gutsy pub singer written all over her. But there was more to her than that. She gave the show the closest moment it has had to a Susan Boyle moment since Mary Byrne way back in 2010. It is a cliché that people on these shows ‘sing for their life’, but Sam really was. She probably won’t win – she will struggle with anything contemporary and perhaps even up tempo, but she has given the show it’s heart back. And perhaps also, a lifeline.

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