The X Factor: The winner is... the viewing public

‘The X Factor’ is back. A smitten Gillian Orr explains why, when it comes to Simon Cowell and co, resistance is futile
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The Independent Culture

Four weeks into television's biggest show, The X Factor, and we've already had the first major controversy: apparently some of the contestants' auditions were auto-tuned to improve the quality. But I ask this, who really cares? What a magnificent, engrossing programme it is! The back-stories, the tears, the bitching – and that's just the judges.

Now before we get into why this show rules, let's get the hating out of the way. The X Factor can inspire a fiery snobbery in people: "Oh no, I don't watch it – I like proper music, and I'd prefer not to line the pockets of some guy with unfeasibly flat hair in a low-cut tee." But you are missing out, my worthy friends.

So far some real performing gems have been discovered. There's Mary Byrne (50 years old, works in Tesco) who has a knockout voice. She's been working on the same till for 12 years, all the while hiding some incredible lungs. Give the lady a stage!

Everyone's favourite so far, though, is 16-year-old Cher Lloyd from Worcestershire. With scary eyebrows and some horrendous shredded jeans, she meekly trotted onstage before belting out Soulja Boy's "Turn My Swag On" with all the attitude and confidence of a young Lil' Kim. In a competition where "You Raise Me Up" features all too prominently, it was a bold and brilliant move.

The absence of the most boring judge, Dannii Minogue, who is away on maternity leave, has allowed a succession of guest judges to take her place each week.

There was a shameless appearance by Geri Halliwell, in which she endlessly spoke about her own career (just let us forget it, Geri). Even Katy Perry, an artist for whom I usually set aside adjectives ranging from "irritating" to "unbearable", proved to be good fun.

Also, the rubbish people are better this year. Not that their singing has improved, just that they're more entertaining. Usually I don't enjoy the token terrible people (Oh look, they can't sing and they're overweight – hilarious.) But this year they've unearthed some television gold. A special mention must go to Abby and Lisa, two walking, talking embodiments of Vicky Pollard. Yes, their singing was predictably appalling, but it was their banter with the judges that has made them stars. The highlight came when Lisa turned to guest judge Natalie Imbruglia and disparagingly fired off, "Excuse me, but who are you?" after the "Torn" singer deigned to criticise their voices. Then came the now-infamous smacking incident which saw Abby hit her former BFF in the face as she walked off stage. Now, I don't condone violence, but it was great TV.

The main thing to remember is that enjoying The X Factor doesn't mean you can't like "real" music too. No one is forcing you to actually purchase the music by an X Factor winner, which will inevitably be asinine tripe. Just enjoy the spectacle. The song "The Climb" which was released by last year's winner, Joe McElderry, was a cover of a Hannah Montana song and bad enough the first time round, thank you Simon.

Ah yes, Simon. The man in charge, the king of the court. Despite his penchant for the odd Miley Cyrus tune, he'll always have a special place in my heart. In fact, I don't know a single woman he doesn't reduce to a giggling schoolgirl. How we long to be on the receiving end of one of his slightly creepy signature winks, or to be the recipient of a mildly patronising "sweetheart".

It was John Buchan who declared that "The true definition of a snob is one who craves for what separates men rather than for what unites them." So stop protesting and join in the fun. And best of all, The X Factor means you have an excuse not to go out on Saturday nights any more, thereby eschewing the dark abyss of boring dinner parties, dirty pubs and bad dates. An appealing prospect, indeed.

'The X Factor' is on ITV1 on Saturday night