X Factor, ITV, review: Simon Cowell bans sob stories but Cheryl Cole can’t stop crying

The ITV juggernaut has come a way in the decade it’s been on air

The X Factor was back on Saturday night and auditions opened with a cast of characters you may find familiar.

Carol, 63, had forgotten her dentures, but remembered her Axel Rose wig, a lovelorn teenager serenaded Cheryl with Shayne Ward’s "That’s My Goal’"and a comedy foreigner mistakenly thought herself equal to a Mariah Carey octave.

“It was like you’d swallowed a load of people and they were all screaming at the same time” said Simon. He’s used that line before. 

The X Factor is nominally a talent show, but along with the good, there’s always been a generous helping of the bad and the ugly. You could condemn this as exploiting the vulnerable and mocking the mentally ill, or you could enjoy it as a good-natured celebration of British eccentricity featuring ordinary people who are in on the joke. I’m inching away from the former and towards the latter. That’s my journey and they love a journey on The X Factor.

 

It’s helps that this ITV juggernaut has also come a way in the decade it’s been on air. Previous series have sometimes been dull or mawkish, but the eleventh feels like a more evolved entertainment product, in which the "bad" and the "ugly" are no longer synonymous.

Take Italian guy Andrea, who presented new judge Mel B with a plastic figurine of herself, spoke of his love of pugs in a Borat accent (“Yeeeees, like pugs, definitely!”), then proceeded to stun with a soulful rendition of Motown classic "Who’s Loving You".

Better still was Londoner Shayden. Good-looking, fashionable and confidently presenting his own composition, the judges were wowed by Shayden before he’d sung a single note. Then he did sing and it was dreadful. Let that be a lesson to us all.

Angelina Robinson (in red) and her Mum prepare for their audition Angelina Robinson (in red) and her Mum prepare for their audition Forget all the wet singer-songwriters that The X Factor has previously feted in an attempt to be authentically "about the music". This show is best when it embraces pop in all its plastic-y perfection. So it’s good news that the teeny-bopper groups appear to be on form this year.

There was a so-irritating-it’s-intriguing sister act and a girl-group who boasted of rehearsing their harmonies in the chicken shop, but it was an energetic, mixed gender four-piece who impressed most. They also inspired Simon’s bitchiest bon mot of the evening: “I actually would like to find another Steps... but just with better people in it.”

It’s good to have SiCo back, isn’t it? His earlier edict that sob stories are “over” had also been observed, but in a way that still allowed fellow returnee Cheryl to do what she does best - prettily cried tears of well coiffed compassion. And after former contestant Amy sang her heart out, Cheryl wasn’t the only one sniffling.

New addition Mel B made for a hilariously plain-speaking foil to this, a sort of Bet Lynch to Cheryl’s Raquel Watts, and stalwart Louis brought along his sense of Puckish mischief. Whatever ‘it’ is, these four have got it. The "x factor", perhaps?

Read more: Tulisa returns as a guest judge, Louis Walsh confirms
Simon Cowell on Cheryl’s US X Factor sacking
Strictly Come Dancing launch date to clash with X Factor
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there