Your Saturday nights start right here! The X Factor's back with new changes, new - but somewhat familiar - judges and the return of the host with the most, Dermot O'Leary. Now, let's bring on the talent...
It's all change – again – as The X Factor returns for its 13th series on Saturday night. Returning host Dermot O'Leary teases what's in store…
What's it like being back on The X Factor after a year away? Did Simon Cowell have to grovel to get you to return? "I was a bit emotional on my first day back because it felt like going home. Simon and I had as close a heart-to-heart as two middle-aged men are ever going to have. We met one afternoon in America; we drank tea and talked about what we both loved about the show. It was a lot less painful and stressful than I think either of us thought it would be."
Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Nicole Scherzinger are all back alongside Simon on the judging panel. What’s the dynamic been like between them? "All these judges have done it before, so no one’s having to prove themselves. Sharon's terrific; she says things you really can’t say on TV, but gets away with it because she's Sharon and she's adored. Sharon empowers Louis, and it helps when he has a sidekick. Nicole oozes grace, glamour and intelligence, but isn’t afraid to send herself up. Simon's having fun with this lot!"
If you were a contestant on the show, who would you choose as your mentor: Simon, Sharon, Louis or Nicole? "I think probably Nicole because, as we’ve seen when she was last on the show, she absolutely chucks her heart and soul into it. When she had the boys’ category in 2012 – Jahmene, James and Rylan – she was all over them from start to finish. She even went on the check-out at ASDA with Jahmene.
"She's the judge who gives everything, so I would probably say her. God, Simon will be really annoyed by that!"
Another change this year is that the large arenas have been ditched in favour of the small room auditions. Do you think this adds to the pressure for the hopefuls? "I told Simon I wanted us to go back to the room auditions because the singers need to show progress and I think the room gives you that. It's a real test of character. Then there's bootcamp and then they get to the big arena for the Six Chair Challenge, which went well this year. It didn't feel cruel at all."
What’s the talent been like this year? "There's an incredible new generation of talent coming through that never ceases to surprise me – the ones who want to be the next Kim Kardashian get found out pretty quickly. I want to get to the live shows with eight great singers and three or four great 'characters'. You always want those people who are going to be acquired tastes – and we've got the cream of the crop!"
A lot of people said last year's X Factor wasn't the same without you. What do you think you bring to the show? "It was nice to be missed and it's nice to be back but, the most important thing for me, is that I want to do a good job because this is my profession. I'm a live TV presenter – that's what I do. I just want to host a good show at the weekend."
Last year’s hosts Olly Murs and Caroline Flack took a lot of stick for making mistakes – particularly in the week that Olly revealed contestant Monica Michael was going home before the public vote was announced. Did you think the criticism was unfair? "I didn't watch too much of last year's show, mainly because I was away filming in South Africa, but yes is the answer. When you're anchoring a two-and-a-half-hour live show, things will always happen, but there was far too much made of that incident, a regrettable mistake that was rectified straight away."
Did you give Olly and Caroline any encouragement? "When you make a mistake on live television, it can be quite a lonely place to be sometimes and you just want the world to swallow you up. I've been there, so I texted Olly pretty much immediately and said: 'Hang in there buddy, it's all right, it'll all be forgotten about tomorrow.'"
The Xtra Factor on ITV2 has a new live format, and a new presenting duo in the shape of Matt Edmondson and former X Factor favourite, Rylan Clark-Neal. Could you have predicted Rylan's success since appearing on The X Factor in 2012? "Yes, I predicted it - not that he'd be hosting The Xtra Factor, but I knew he'd do well. With Rylan, you could just tell – he hasn't got a bad voice but singing wasn't really his bag yet he's got the smarts for live telly. It's nice to have someone who's been on the show and who knows what it's like, but doesn't take it too seriously. It's an entertainment show at the end of the day."
As we've said, The X Factor has had some negative press in recent years. Why do you think it's still successful? "This show still gets good ratings and people are still talking about it. I think people like the 'everyman' feel to it – the fact that people like Sam Bailey can audition and go on to do well. It's not a complicated show, it's a singing contest – and I think it still has the ability to capture the public's hearts."
The X Factor returns on Saturday August 27 at 8pm on ITV. Here's a teaser to whet your appetite...
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