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The X Factor

The X Factor is, in fact, a satire of TV singing talent contests. The thing is it doesn't realise it.

Three judges tour the country in the hope of uncovering new talent. For series one these are record mogul Louis Walsh (manager of Westlife and Girls Aloud who won Popstars: The Rivals), the infamous Sharon Osbourne (of being Ozzy Osbourne's husband fame) and the even more infamous Simon Cowell, currently in court with Simon Fuller who claims that The X Factor isn't so much a rip-off of Pop Idol so much as being exactly the same as. Up to a point he's got a point, as you will doubtless see.

Whereas in Pop Idol the contestants are limited to being under 25 years old, The X Factor has three categories - the under 25s, the over 25s and groups.

The first stage of the show is the popular auditions process. We've seen this is all the other musical talent shows and it gets no less entertaining with each one. The judges tour around the country, people sing to them and the judges either say "you're through to the next round" or slag them off. At this stage, the judges are playing as a sort of team.

At the end of the audition process, the producers get together and decide which judge should mentor which category. Now the judges are against each other. For the next stage of the competition each judge runs a 'boot camp' where all the acts for their category that were let though are whittled down to just five. The chosen five go round the judge's house for final tests before each judge selects three acts to represent them in the live shows to come in the following weeks.

The live show works in the traditional singing talent contest way. Each judge introduces their act, the act sings, the other judges give their opinion, the act walks off. After all the acts have sung, the phone lines are thrown open to the public. Now for the major difference between Pop Idol and The X Factor: rather than have the least popular act thrown out, the least two popular acts have to sing again in a final showdown but this time the judges have the final say as to who stays and who goes. This was deliberately designed to give the judges more power.

The last one left in is the winner and will provide a massive ego boost to the judge they were representing.

The live shows are slick as you like with lots of large Xs all over the set. There's certainly no escaping what show this is! Rather than have all the singers do a song from a theme every week, they can sing whatever they like and can have as much outside help as they like in terms of instruments and backing vocals.

You see, everyone thinks this show is about talent spotting. They couldn't be more wrong. The real entertainment in this show comes from the judges bickering. Normally after an act Cowell will offer constructive criticism and then Sharon and Louis will tell them that actually it was really good. Walsh will utter "you don't know anything about talent!" to the multi-millionaire record mogul Simon Cowell after one of his acts gets slagged off. Sharon Osbourne will make her dog clap. It's all so terrifically panto and the audience will boo and cheer accordingly. Kate Thornton does a decent if unspectacular stint at holding everything together.

All this ego-bolstering rather overshadows the acts themselves which for most part are, you know, pleasant enough but nothing outstandingly special (although there is a novelty operatic boyband act). You will probably have forgotten about them in six months time. So what was the point of the show again?

But what's here is good fun Saturday evening entertainment, albeit possibly not for the reasons it was expecting.