‘The X Factor’ bows out after 17 years: here’s what really killed the singing reality show
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  • Post published:31/07/2021
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‘The X Factor’ bows out after 17 years: here’s what really killed the singing reality show

Simon Cowell’s moneymaker gave us some good stuff – Harry Styles, anyone? – but came to feel like a relic from another time. And it’s no Masked Singer

By Alexandra Haddow

Credit: Getty

When I read that The X Factor is ending after 17 years on our screens, I was in shock. “The X Factor was still on?!” I thought. I will give any of you one million pounds if you can name any of the winners from the past five – nay, eight years. James Arthur is the last one I remember. Did he win it? I think he won it. So what’s made it finally go? And what will we do on Saturday nights now?

For a start, you can watch The Masked Singer instead. Honestly, it’s the definition of “so bad, it’s good” – but I can’t stress the “bad” part of that enough. I watched it with two friends last year to slag it off – a mystery singer in a ridiculous costume belting out a tune for celebs to try and guess who they are – and ended up crying with laughter at the absurdity of it all. I highly recommend watching best bits compilations on YouTube if you’re ever feeling a bit low. Truly inspiring.

A spokesperson for ITV confirmed this week that the Simon Cowell-owned production had no plans to return at this stage, with an “insider” apparently telling The Sun: “Clearly the last thing he wants is for X Factor to fizzle out with a whimper and become a bit of a joke – especially in contrast to the show in its pomp.” I think that particular train might have left the station a few years ago, pal.


In the current climate, The X Factor was beginning to perhaps seem a tad cruel in the earlier stages of the competition. I’m not part of the “you can never laugh at anyone” clan, but getting people on that huge stage when they’re clearly absolutely awful and having judges tell them that they’re rubbish isn’t really cool any more. It just seems unnecessarily nasty. Especially as you just know that in all the rounds up until then, the producers were licking their lips and telling them they’d be great for the live shows.

If you were thinking that perhaps this means a change in direction for ITV and the end of the High-Trousered Perma-Tanned Boot-Cut Cowell, though, think again. Just when you thought it was safe to turn on your TV set, he apparently has plans for a new show entitled Walk The Line, previously described in NME as a six-part “musical gameshow” that’s “set to premiere on ITV later in 2021”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two more terrifying words next to each other than “musical gameshow”. Why are they doing this to us? Let’s just look back fondly on the best moments of The X Factor and move on with our lives, finally put Louis Walsh out to pasture on a nice farm and start showing repeats of At Home With The Osbournes (the original and best reality show) on Saturday nights instead.

Of course, The X Factor has produced good things – it gave us Harry Styles, for God’s sake. Who else would I have to fantasise daily about going on road trips across America with if he didn’t exist? Perhaps the greatest gift of all, aside from him and his impeccable style, is Alexandra Burke, who was actually quite a decent singer (who can forget her duet with Beyoncé, when Alexandra pretty much wet herself on stage, as we all would?) but, more than that, also told daytime TV show Daybreak in 2012 that she brought the phrase “elephant in the room” over to the UK form the US. Thanks for the memories, Alex.

Then, of course, you have Matt Cardle, the actual winner over One Direction in 2010. His duet of ‘Unfaithful’ with Rihanna in the final was like watching a wee lad being hit on by one of his mum’s friends in a pub and finding he can absolutely nothing about it. Let’s also not forget that the ‘older’ category on the show was for people over 25. Are they trying to make us all have a breakdown? Luckily Steve Brookstein proved that us oldies can do it when he won the first series in 2004, aged 37, and was promptly never seen again.

Let’s chalk up the wins we did see – Little Mix, One Direction… erm, probably others – and move on. The bog-standard singing talent show format is done (I hope). Let’s move on with our lives and either watch something good, go and sees some live music, or sit at home and watch Joel Dommett reveal that Tree is Teddy Sheringham. Now that’s entertainment.

  • Related Topics
  • Harry Styles
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  • Simon Cowell

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