Grace Dent on Television... The X Factor, ITV 1

X Factor is the hinterland between watching pub karaoke and knitting beside a guillotine

As dark nights, dampness and broken-boiler season kicks in, so we turn, helplessly, to the pull of The X Factor.

The televisual hinterland between "watching pub karaoke" and "knitting beside a guillotine". We say we won't. We're bigger people. Approximately 16lb more rotund by next spring, when we leave our sofas again. In winter we live on a cold, drab island which goes dark at 4pm, which made Christmas and celebrating the little baby Jesus (with booze) a massive hit for a couple of centuries. But then we got sick of all that Jesus malarkey and got our winter bang, sparkle and pizzaz from slutty Hallowe'en costumes, the Boots "Here Come the Girls" Christmas advert, clothes shops being suddenly full of awful diamante office party shrugs, and ironically watching X Factor, then non-ironically watching X Factor.

I remember in September when I was very hard-line about how utterly bobbins X Factor was set to be this year. I would not be watching and instead would devote the time to my own sofa-bound Michael Winterbottom retrospective (no, not just 24 Hour Party People and A Cock and Bull Story, even 9 Songs).

I recall being quite het up about X Factor auditionee Rylan Clark in September. Not only had Rylan recently had a main role in Sky One's Signed by Katie Price, the man was a sheer unmitigated trumpet of an individual. A skinny, shrieking crying boy with dyed black hair, eyebrows, Zorro beard and Kenneth Williams-style "Ooh stop it, what am I like?" schtick, Rylan is Annie Lennox dragged up for "Who's That Girl?". Rylan's natural hair colour is ginger, meaning this effect looks as natural as a hapless under-eight styling him with Fuzzy Felt. Rylan is what he is, he is his own special creation.

My dislike for Rylan dissolved to be replaced by worry as he fell out of another showbiz party with Price, stopping to show the paparazzi matching duck pouts. Idly wondering about the mental hardiness of people you've no responsibility for, whom you've only ever really seen honking through a bewildering cover of "On A Night Like This", is all part of the X Factor process.

Presently X Factor is at that stage where the Saturday live show and spin-off shows, and Sunday results show go on for so long it can feel like another job. The Xtra Factor over on ITV2 is presented by Olly Murs, a previous contestant who is a bit like a Labrador puppy who wasn't good enough to do sight-dog training and so we ended up fostering him. Last year one of the X Factor prizes was to win some time in a VIP pool cabana in Vegas with Olly. Even the mere thought of this makes me near hysterical. Xtra Factor now has a Skype-style face to face questions from viewers at home. I wait with breathless excitement for a Going Live/Five Star "why are you all so crap?" moment.

Sunday's results show is essentially a product-placement slot for whoever is schlepping a new single or album around the music industry. Sometimes it's someone amazing, and sometimes, like last Sunday, it's that Emeli Sandé, the woman who moaned right through two Olympic ceremonies and sings songs like "Oh boo hoo me why have you left me/ It's such a perplexing mystery", and a nation heaves its bosom westwards and says, "I think it's 'cos you're a bit of a whinge, love".

Judges will often be asked to give their idea on who goes home. "I can't do this, I just can't. I can't give a name!" Tulisa Contostavlos will snivel. Judging X Factor is a very hard thing to do. Very hard. Like on a Comic Relief film when a doctor has two babies to save and only one malaria pill. It's hard like that.

At least Nicole Scherzinger just judges people, as she's paid to do. Pop-culture part-timers reading this may not be able to differentiate Nicole Scherzinger from Kim Kardashian, as they could share a waxwork and feasibly send said waxwork out on public appearances to smile and interact, in order not to leave their public feeling short-changed.

I'm enjoying Gary Barlow this season finally beginning to realise he can't come out of this show with serious "music production" credibility as the show relies on everyone watching someone very, very useless and pronouncing them "a future global recording star!". When Gary stormed off stage, God bless him, it was with all the conviction of a sulky child leaving home and making a big fuss of packing his jam sandwiches. Meanwhile Louis Walsh, who is always very much the spare wheel on the X Factor panel, but a man who knows precisely how to play the game so is always asked back, has taken to wearing a combo of polo neck and thick corduroy jacket. I can only imagine he's trying to sweat down to ride in next year's Grand National.

The quest for this year's Christmas No 1 continues.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices