Normally I try to avoid repeating a blog within 12 months, purely to prevent boredom for both myself and you, the reader. However I am making an exception this week as I return to The X Factor. Previously I had discussed at the audition stage, where judges, acts and presenters were all trying to find their feet. Now we are into the meat of the programme, the live shows, so it is ripe for a return view.

To be honest the live shows have been a frustrating experience, as all the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s format have burst through for us all to see. Problems that have been germinating since August have hampered the progress the show has made, leaving the viewer restless.

Let’s start with what has worked. Firstly, I think on a talent level, the show has never been stronger. All of the finalists either had distinctive performance styles or amazing voices, and some had both. Louisa Johnson and Lauren Murray any other year would have wrapped up this competition long ago, but not only must they face each other, they must also defeat the challenges of Che Chesterman and 4th Impact. It has been a ferocious line-up from the start and is only getting tougher.

The judges also seem to have settled well. Even Rita Ora, who irritated me beyond compare during the auditions, have proven themselves to be likeable and solid mentors. Cheryl, having taken a bit of a backseat last year, has blossomed and is now back to full strength. You really believe that she is enjoying working with acts again and is having the time of her life.

Now to the problems. The first is the lack of live shows, which has increased the double eliminations and has led to many acts going before their time. Alien Uncovered deserved at least another couple of weeks to bed in. Sean Miley Moore’s exit was a travesty. Both of these acts had great visual appeal and were a bit different, which under now normal circumstances would shine through. The rapid culling of acts has led to some odd decisions by the public. Reggie ‘n’ Bollie, the closest thing to a novelty act this year, have survived because they haven’t become irritating yet, which makes them worrying contenders for the final. The whole thing feels a bit rushed.

However, the biggest issue is, as I predicted, the presenters. Olly Murs and Caroline Flack just cannot hold a live show together. They talk other each other, look uncomfortable next to each other and seem to have little clue as to what is going on. And that is before we even discuss Murs’s disaster last week, announcing which act was leaving too early. The show just doesn’t work with two presents. I find watching then talk to the acts backstage excruciating. Asking the how they feel just before they go on stage is the most redundant question in the world – of course the answer is going to be they are nervous! In fact, their whole interaction with the acts is awkward. It is very tiresome and I don’t they will return next year, unless one or both of them have some dirt on Cowell.

These complications are a real frustration, especially as the show still has the capability to be so good. Time is running out though, and the feeling is that even with the obvious problems fixed, the show will still remain on life support. Maybe we have all just moved on, and perhaps Simon Cowell should to.

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