Now, don't get me wrong! When it's good, The X Factor is exceptional! With its delicious mix of bewilderingly clueless wannabes trilling for their lives, the judges' soul-destroying put downs and superbly edited constructed twists and turns, it's hard not to get swept up in it all.
But, as its eleventh series live finals get underway, critics have suggested that all is not well with ITV's golden child. Despite the much-lauded return of Lord Simon Cowell and Dame Cheryl Cole and the arrival of Leeds megagob Mel B, ratings have been decidedly lukewarm, while arch rival Strictly Come Dancing's figures soar ahead.
The news has hit ITV of course like a well-manicured hand across the face and even an perturbed Simon Cowell has been forced to concede that he is losing the ferocious ratings war!
So what's gone so wrong? Has the public grown tired of The X Factor? Why hasn't the dream panel managed to revive the shows fortunes? More importantly, can it be saved before it's too late?
1) THE WEARY FORMAT NEEDS A TWEAK
Eleven series in and the audition process has become so predictable it's practically become a drinking game: one shot for every time one of the judges tells a wannabe 'you're what this show is all about', two shots for the losers who desperately plead with the judges that 'music is my life' (it's not, people, pull yourselves together) and three shots every time a wannabe mucks up their first song only to 'smash' their second!
2) TOO MANY EPISODES
The show has become a victim of its own success and has become bloated! When once it was a delicious once-a-week 90 minute show, it's now two monotonous marathons to wade through. If the pace was sped up and we were offered even more auditionees it wouldn't be such a bad thing, but these days each audition seems overlong, with back stories so lengthy you start reaching for the remote control.
3) MIX UP THE AUDTION PROCESS
In the early days, contestants would strut their stuff in the judges' room, then move on to boot camp before being whittled down to the final 12 at judges homes. These days, auditionees sing for the panel in the judges' room, then do it all over again in the arena in front of an audience of 4000 and then, er, audition a third time at boot camp. It's like watching the SAME audition over and over again and on some occasions we even get their back story told AGAIN! Zzzzz.... Perhaps for the arena audition - two acts should be pitted against each other to get through to the chair stage. At least this way, it mixes up the audition process, creates more tension and drama.
4) BRING BACK OLD BOOT CAMP
While the chair stage of the competition is an ingenious and evil twist, full of drama and intrigue, it would be great to see the larger group of auditionees get whittled down to the final 24 as in previous years! This way we are ensured to meet more of the contestants along the way, as this series has felt that we have already been introduced to live show finalists in the first few weeks.
5) LEAVE STRUCTURED REALITY TO TOWIE
The structured reality back stage clips are particularly jarring. Firstly, it feels so staged and set up. The waiting contestants sound like they have been prodded into passing comments, which is pretty cringe. We don't care what these people have to say! We just want to hear them sing. Secondly, it eats up valuable audition time.
6) NOT ENOUGH VARIETY OF CONTESTANTS
The auditions this series have seemed rather drawn out which has resulted in the pace of the show starting to flag! In fact, some weeks, we get just one audition between advert breaks. In years gone by, the show bounced along like pesky pup, squeezing in loads of good, bad and ugly auditions. These days we have to endure torturous back stories, carefully edited auditions and by-numbers drama (for God's sake how many times can Simon raise his hand and tell a troubled wannabe that the song choice was awful and try a second one). The worst part for viewers, is that there's too much focus on a small number of the talented contestants which kind of gives the game away early on about who's going to get through the boot camp stages.
7) THE XTRA FACTOR IS A BETTER SHOW
It's never a good thing when the spin off is a lot more fun to watch than the main show! But The Xtra Factor has the lot - more auditions, more characters, more kook, more fun and not a sob story to sniff at! The main show has sadly become a characterless juggernaut, ticking boxes as it rumbles along but rarely tickling viewers' fancies. It needs a refresh, a rethink so that viewers get excited about it again! Perhaps mix the shows together. Let's have two main presenters on the ITV1 show (but not like they did so badly last year with Caroline Flack). Dermot can still host, but why not - like Strictly - have Sarah Jane Crawford chat to the contestants after the performance as they await the judges' views. Who knows? The show just needs a spring clean and to cut out the fat!
8) DITCH THE ARENA FINAL - BRING BACK THE CHRISTMAS TREE!
The past few years has seen The X Factor final take place in an arena over two nights. And it doesn't work. The fact the final is split over two days, means viewers' attention spans are compromised. Also the arena is just too big and the production too over blown and not particularly captivating on TV. The intimacy and charm of the older X Factor finals has been totally lost. It's time the show went back to basics. The best X Factor final will always be oh-so-emotional Alexandra Burke / JLS 2008 final. Not only did we have festive songs (awww), a proper A-lister like Beyonce singing with Alexandra (yay!), we also had that big gorgeous Christmas tree in the studio that warmed our hearts (yippee). The X Factor always made us feel like Christmas has arrived. But now that it ends two weeks before, that X Factor magic has gone.