On Saturday, at 8pm, The X Factor returns to ITV. So, what can we expect from the most successful television talent contest in the world at it reaches its eleventh series? Using a sophisticated system of statistical analysis, numerology and psychic intuition, here are Inside TV's predictions for 2014.
1. No one will remember Cheryl's married name
Cheryl who? After a three-year absence, Cheryl Tweedy, sorry Cole, sorry Fernandez-Versini has confirmed (via the show’s beloved booming voice-over artist Peter Dickson) that she’ll be using her double-barrelled new name when she returns. Still, at least no one will have trouble remembering her first name, which is more than can be said for Australian one-hit-wonder Natalie Imbruglia. Her presence as a guest judge in 2010 was greeted with undisguised bafflement by auditionees, including one particularly aggressive double-act known as ‘Ablisa’. The line “Who are you, may I ask?” has gone down in X Factor history.
2. Simon Cowell will make children cry
In the early days some suspected SyCo’s brusque manner concealed the heart of a softie, but a decade on, the truth is out: He’s just a very mean man. Telling adults off for singing like “a zoo or something”, is one thing, but does he have the heart to say similar to a school-age minor? We’ll find out this year, when the minimum entry age is lowered from 16 to 14.
3. Louis will shamelessly proclaim the brilliance of a clearly rubbish act
Louis Walsh is a curious X Factor anomaly. In financial terms at least, he’s had great success managing acts like Boyzone and Westlife and having appeared on every series of the show, he’s the most experienced of the judges. And yet...and yet...he can’t resist throwing his weight behind some clearly dreadful acts, regardless of the misery it inflicts on the viewing public. If you’re wondering who to blame for Jedward (2009), Wagner (2010) and Shayne Ward (2005), there is only one man; incorrigible cheese-meister, Louis Walsh.
4. Mel B will win the battle of the dresses
At a press conference earlier this week, Cheryl Whassername testily declared, “It's not about what clothes I'm wearing,” which is a strange thing to say when it so obviously is about what clothes she’s wearing. Sexist or not, it has been the fate of all female X Factor judges to become embroiled in a bitterly fought, Grazia-adjudicated style battle. Therefore Cheryl’s words can only be interpreted as an early admission of defeat. She fears she’s got nothing to match the leopard print catsuits lurking at the back of Scary Spice’s closet. She fears correctly.
5. A star is born...
Leona Lewis (estimated personal fortune: £13m) came along in 2006, One Direction (estimated personal fortune: £14m each) arrived in 2010. This means the average wait between X Factor money-spinners is four years and since it's now 2014, St Tropez marina should already be making room for another of Cowell’s yachts.
A TFI revival? Evans helps us
This week's 'Monkey Tennis' Award for Terrible Programming Ideas goes to Channel 4. In a Radio 2 interview on Tuesday, Chris Evans revealed to fellow 90s survivor Zoe Ball that channel bosses have asked him for a 20th anniversary special of his hit show TFI Friday, which originally ran from 1996 to 2000, possibly followed by a full series. Aside from the fact that regular features like ‘Ugly Blokes’ and ‘Fat Lookalikes’ deserve to remain a relic of more mean-spirited times, they’ve got their dates wrong. Next year will mark only 19 years since the show’s first episode. Evans, at least, has done the maths: “I think they still want to go for it and just hope no one notices.”
Stammer School: Musharaf Finds His Voice, 4oD
Musharaf Asghar became the stand-out star of Educating Yorkshire last year when, with the help of English teacher Mr Burton, he overcame his severe stammer to give a reading in assembly. Unfortunately it will take more than a trick picked up from The King’s Speech to make a permanent difference to Mushy’s communication skills and, as we saw in this tear-jerker documentary, he’s got the determination to go all the way.
Hotel India, BBC iPlayer
India is home to some of the poorest people in the world, but at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai you’ll find only the very richest. “Sometimes I close my eyes and like to pretend that all of India is like this”, says one enchanted guest in this new documentary series.
Natural World: Attenborough’s Fabulous Frogs, BBC iPlayer
David Attenborough is too serious a conservationist to play favourites, but something tells me if he had to choose, frogs would be near the top of the list. This final installment of his Natural World series is all about the biology and behaviour of the world’s 5000 plus frog species, from their 360 degree eyesight, right down to their webbed feet.
50 Ways To Kill Your Mammy, SkyGo
This one goes out to all the grown men who think they’re too cool to spend quality time with their mammys. Irish presenter Baz Ashmawy is travelling the world, subjecting his 70-year-old mother to various extreme sports. Admittedly, Baz was probably motivated by the desire to further his TV career, but the result is a surprisingly tender take on the mother-son relationship.