As the night’s draw in, we the viewers seek comfort and familiarity. Out goes couscous and pesto, in comes stews and roast dinners. TV is no different – sporting events return to their natural home of specialist channels bar the odd weeknight football match and the big boys of the entertainment world return. Strictly. Downton. And for me, the most important: The X Factor.

I am an unashamed fan of the show. It manages to be both bizarre yet strangely reassuring at the same time. It is also the master of taking its audience through a ‘journey’ – acts develop, early favourites fall, surprise outsiders win us over. True, in recent years it has lost its way.  Under Gary Barlow’s captaincy it seemed to be unsure of what beast it was: discoverer of genuine talent or simple entertainment show? Should we be focusing on technical abilities or on personality? Viewers left in their millions.

But now it feels right again. Cheryl and Simon are back, two people who are work so well together that even partnerships like Ant and Dec look chemistry-less in comparison. Plus there is Mel B added in to the mix, another reality judge professional who has the right balance of sharp tongue and warm heart, or at least the appearance of one, meaning that she slips in perfectly. Oh, and there’s Louis Walsh, but frankly with the other three sitting with him his contributions seem more negligible than ever.

There are other reasons to rejoice – the contestants have upped their game as well as the judges. The good are spectacular. The potential novelty acts are beautifully divisive. The talented but possibly also quite evil to the point of borderline psychopath have returned (looking at you, Raign). If all goes to plan we should have a joyfully eclectic final 12, from screaming pseudo-American girl bands right through to earnest young men (and women) with guitars. It is as if Cowell has let rip an alarm that only the talented and deluded can hear.

Of course there is a long way to go – three whole months in fact – but I am confident that things are looking up again for this aging giant of the reality world. The X Factor has finally regained the attitude that made it worthy of such a name to begin with.

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