Strictly speaking, who's got the X Factor?

The two big Saturday TV hits hold their finals tonight. Oliver Duff wonders who will win: BBC or ITV?


X Factor, ITV1, 6.40

A TV talent show featuring the music mogul Simon Cowell? Hmm, that sounds familiar.

Basically it's Cowell's first show, Pop Idol, with categories for groups and - gasp - singers over 25 thrown in. Almost 75,000 people rocked up to audition for this, the second series, with the winner decided today. Running for a mammoth 19 weeks, much of the show's initial appeal relies on tone-deaf show-offs making fools of themselves while the judges pull faces.

What's in it for the contestants?

A £1m recording contract, the patronage of one of three pop "svengalis" (Cowell, Louis Walsh or Sharon Osbourne) and maximum exposure in the tabloids.

Any X-rated behaviour?

Rumours of off-screen romps can't get past the libel lawyers, but are fuelled by the voracious self-publicity act that is Chico Slimani, an ex-stripper who got to the final five and who may yet top the charts with "It's Chico Time". The mother of the favourite, 21-year-old Shayne Ward, was arrested on suspicion of assault in Manchester on Wednesday evening.

What draws the 10.5 million viewers to this festival of crassness every week?

Once the cringeworthy auditions were out of the way, the main drama had to be injected by producers in the form of "feuding" judges. Sharon threw water over Louis, Simon threw lame barbs at Louis, and Louis threw his toys out of the pram and walked from the show. He came back next weekend, though.

And the main man is ...?

Cowell, he of the stinging one-liners and high-waisted trousers. Sharon Osbourne gamely makes a grab for attention too, displaying toecurling lust for her favourite, Shayne Ward.

Who will win?

Clever money is on ex-shoe shop assistant Shayne Ward to scoop the pop booty, although the truly awful plumber-electrician duo Journey South are racing up on the outside. The bookies have "not seen a peanut" on former Enfield bin man Andy Abraham, who beat the odds to get this far.

Highlight

You're spoilt for choice, thanks to the early auditions. Robert King's screaming delivery of Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" will be replayed in Cowell's nightmares for years yet.

Strictly Come Dancing, BBC1, 6.30

Dust off those sequins and slap on the fake tan. What's this all about?

A bevy of newsreaders, former athletes and snooker players are put through their paces by professional dancers, as four judges criticise their performances. Now in its third series, this is wholesome family entertainment - think grandad thrown under the studio lights and asked to dance the funky chicken. The armchair audience have the final say on which couple to boot off each week, often choosing , inexplicably to save the worst dancers (ie the underdog).

What's in it for the "celebs"?

The exhilaration of being paid to tango while grabbing primetime exposure for flagging careers. And love, sweet love, of course.

Blimey! So it really does take two to ...

Yup. Newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky and Kiwi dancer Brendan Cole "stepped out" during the first series, which they won. Cole dumped his fiancée, fellow dancer Camilla Dallerup - but she got her own back in this third series by romancing Ready Steady Cook chef James Martin. "You can't beat the feeling of two bodies moving as one," she said. Phew.

Apart from the steamy studio sessions, what makes more than nine million Britons reach for the remote?

The pleasure of Strictly relies heavily on the charm of seeing the celebrities transformed into unlikely twinkle-toes. Think of chunky England fast bowler Darren Gough waltzing like a dream, or hurdler Colin Jackson's fancy footwork in the foxtrot. Veteran Bruce Forsyth, clearly revelling in his television "comeback", is a huge draw, too.

And the main man is...

Judge Craig Revel Horwood, the tap-dancing man's Simon Cowell. The Australian choreographer sports a pin-striped jacket and flared collar rather than spray-on jeans and an enormous chest beard, but his pained expressions and knifing comments could burst foot blisters at a half-dozen paces.

Who will win the, erm, trophy?

The bookies have got Colin Jackson at 4/6, with Darren Gough at 9/4 and Zoe Ball at 4/1.

Highlight

"It was Godzilla and the praying mantis": judge Bruno Tonioli's verdict on BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull's rumba.

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