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.

Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Latest stories from i100
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.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed