James Arthur wins X-Factor but only Cowell can save the show
Viewing figures are down and the knives are out for the TV talent quest
JAMES ARTHUR was crowned X-Factor winner on Sunday night, beating off the challenge of bookies' favourite Jahmene Douglas. But despite all the traditional hoop-la and the winner's annual assault on the Christmas number one slot, there is an unmistakable feeling that the show has lost its edge and is in crisis.
The climax of this year's talent search pulled in an average of 11.1 million viewers, 2 million down on last year's figure, and Saturday's semi-final had an average audience of 9.5 million, the lowest since 2005. Over on the BBC Strictly Come Dancing attracted 1.3 million more viewers.
According to the Daily Mail this year's figures have been "disastrous". "ITV bosses are set to hold emergency talks with Simon Cowell in anticipation of a complete overhaul of the show's format and judging panel," says the paper. "Despite putting more money into the show's budget, ratings have halved in two years, and now show chiefs are said to be planning a 'back to basics' approach." That could mean that Cowell will return to the show.
By picking Arthur as the winner the viewers at least gave The X-Factor "a stay of execution" according to Andrew Billen in The Times. "Arthur is by no means an incredible talent, but he is a credible one," he explained. But he added that the most telling moment came earlier in the evening.
"Dermot O’Leary, the chirpy presenter, announced shortly before the telephone lines closed that some 3 million votes had been cast so far. In series five 8 million voted, in series six, 10 million. The X Factor may not be dead but either the end is nigh, or Cowell’s return is."
The knives were out even before the final.
"A series of lacklustre winners in previous years, along with the departure of Cowell from the judging panel, has led to a long-term decline in the once unstoppable programme's fortunes," noted The Independent.
Last week The Guardian declared: "There comes a time when every television programme has to face the music... with people asking for the first time whether the format is reaching the beginning of the end."
So what does the future hold for Arthur? It's hard to know says Radio Times. "James could be about to embark on anything ranging from bona fide international superstardom to a life spent touring seaside towns in pantomime", but it also notes that the least successful winners have tended to be male solo artists.
There have already been unflattering comparisons with Matt Cardle, who beat One Direction in the 2010 final, before disappearing from view. Katy Brent of the Mirror is not impressed by either of them because they “just totally lack what I would class as the X Factor. Yes, they can sing but that's not the X Factor is it? The X Factor is that extra special something that makes them stand out from the crowd. Little Mix have it in droves. James and Matt just don't."