The X Factor

Image:The X Factor logo.jpg



Kate Thornton (2004-6)

Dermot O'Leary (2007-)


Judges: Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh (all series), Sharon Osbourne (2004-7), Paula Abdul (guest, 2006), Brian Friedman (auditions, 2007), Dannii Minogue (2007-), Cheryl Cole (2008-)

ITV2 coverage (The Xtra Factor): Ben Shephard (2004-6), Fearne Cotton (2007), Holly Willoughby (2008-)

Announcer: Peter Dickson


Syco Productions and TalkbackThames for ITV1/2, 4 September 2004 to present


Phone-vote based talent show, very similar to Pop Idol, only without an upper age limit, and allowing bands and solo acts to audition.

In fact, the mechanics of the show are slightly more complicated. After the Hilarious Auditions shows, each of the judges is assigned one set of acts (16- to 24-year-olds, 25-and-overs, or groups) to mentor. They choose the acts which will progress to the studio-based elimination phase. Every week during this phase, each act sings a song, and the viewers vote for their favourite. But! The lowest-scorer isn't necessarily eliminated. The two worst achievers instead must sing again in the second show, and the judges decide who stays and who goes.

All these changes to the Pop Idol format have seemingly been made for the express purpose (aside from the unsuccessful attempt to avoid court cases - see below) to bring the judges into the spotlight as much as possible, essentially overshadowing the contestants themselves. This is evidenced by the fact that the first series' winner - Steve something - has apparently sunk without trace, whereas Cowell, Osbourne and Walsh live in solid gold houses and eat nothing but caviar and unicorn steaks.

Steve... something

This ramps up the tension, Sharon Osbourne cries a lot blah blah blah, BUT shock horror - the judges are biased (and we didn't get that one from The Sun). Because they obviously want to keep their own acts in, this frequently results in very bad decisions (poor performers such as the Conway Sisters and Chico stayed in for far too long).

The X Factor, then, is nothing much other than a butchered version of its predecessor: the host's not as good, the rules make little sense (especially near the end when they change them again, eliminating the judges' say and making the contestants just sing again in the second show), and with pointless pantomime between the judging panel getting in the way of any actual talent that the show might theoretically uncover.

Some changes were made for the 2007 series; a fourth judge was added, the lower age barrier came down to 14 years old, and the 14-25 category was split into male and female solo singers. This change coincided with judge Louis Walsh briefly leaving the format - he would be back half-way through the auditions, and some suggest this was just a stunt for the press. Presenter Kate Thornton also left the show after the 2006 series; her exit was more permanent.

A celebrity version - The X Factor: Battle of the Stars - aired in May and June 2006, as a Big Brother spoiler. Those taking part:

  • Solo performers: Lucy Benjamin, Gillian McKeith, Michelle Marsh, Chris Moyles, Nikki Sanderson, Matt Stevens


  • Series 1: Steve Brookstein, as mentored by Simon Cowell.
  • Series 2: Shayne Ward, as mentored by Louis Walsh.
  • Series 3: Leona Lewis, as mentored by Simon Cowell.
  • Series 4: Leon Jackson, as mentored by Dannii Minogue.
  • Battle of the Stars: Lucy Benjamin, as mentored by Louis Walsh

Key moments

In October 2007, Walsh let slip on Graham Norton's chat show that the houses that the contestants fly to before the studio knock-out stage do not in fact belong to the judges. A spokesman for the show claimed that viewers were not misled because at no point were the properties referred to as the judges' "homes". A spokesman called Pinocchio, presumably.


Technically Simon Cowell, but Simon Fuller of 19 Management took him to court over it for its similarities to Pop Idol. The case was settled out of court.


Series 1 winner Steve Brookstein was a finalist on The Big Big Talent Show.

Web links

Official site

Off the Telly Review

Bother's Bar review

X Factor fans site

See also

Weaver's Week review


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