The past five years have seen a big change in Saturday night TV. In 2010, The X Factor was obliterating all competition and dominating the media coverage, whilst Strictly Come Dancing appeared to be limping along and struggling to attract the names it needed. In 2015, however, the two have swapped places, with The X Factor desperately clinging on to what viewers it has left, when Strictly gets higher ratings for just doing a show where the dancers are paired off. So what has gone wrong for the once mighty ITV show?

The main issue is that the magic spell that it cast was broke following the dual departure of Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole. Somehow, all the audience manipulation, clichés and scripted parts of the show looked exposed. New judges lacked the finesse of the veterans that covered such tricks up and as a result the emotional balance was all out of sorts. Gary Barlow may have had sincerity but he lacked charisma. Kelly Rowland wasn’t tough enough. Tulisa looked increasingly bored with the whole experience. By the time the dynamic duo had returned it was too late – the show had already lost its edge and sparkle. Anybody reading between the lines of the song choices, staging and judges’ comments to the acts could easily predict who was leaving that week.

The line-up of this year’s show has done little to improve things. Cheryl seems a bit feistier than last year and Simon some of his sharpness, but it still feels flat. I need to exonerate Nick Grimshaw here, who was reported by many of those who attended the auditions as humorous and charming, but seems to have been cruelly edited down by the producers. Meanwhile, professional irritant Rita Ora dominates screen time by being flirty, dim, ‘down-with-it’ and generally ridiculous. She makes Louis Walsh look intelligent and sincere.

The change of hosts haven’t helped either. Olly Murs is a delightful person – he is likeable, good-natured and is impossible to hate. But he is not a TV presenter. He is struggling holding himself together on pre-recorded material, which raises doubts about how he will handle live shows that can turn downright gladiatorial. Caroline Flack, meanwhile, wanders around like a spare part. She is the kind of person that when you are at a party, no matter what room you go into, she is there, trying to get everyone to do ‘raise the roof hands’. Why the show needs two hosts is beyond me, unless one is going to be locked in some unglamorous backstage area reading out viewers tweets and having monosyllabic conversations with acts as they leave the stage. If so, I may just sky+ the live shows and fast-forward these moments.

The X Factor could learn several lessons from Strictly – no judge changes in three years, a presenting change that was gradually phased in, an overall feeling of everyone having a lovely time etc. Sadly, it is probably too late. It feels as if Cowell has half his mind out of the door already. If the ratings are anything to go by, the rest of ITV could be leaving with it.

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