Report Card: Did ‘The X Factor’ UK improve in series 12 with Rita Ora, Olly Murs on board?

There is no show on arguably any form of television than the British version of “The X Factor.” The press corps surrounding the program is notoriously harsh, and have a tendency to mock it, its ratings, or the performance of its judges / host at almost any turn.

Now that we’ve said all of that, let’s take a step back: Was it really that bad? In parts yes; the show did make some marked improvements in some areas over a weaker season 11, but at the same time also took some steps back from where it was beforehand.

What worked -Bringing in Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw as judges was, for the most part, a very good decision and an upgrade over Mel B and Louis Walsh. It’s hilarious how we’ve heard so many proclaiming that they miss Louis, when we were all complaining about him and his critiques that were always either about the contestant’s age, how they would get a record deal, or how they were “ready-made pop stars.” Rita and Nick were fun, energetic, and super-current. It gave us a different side.

Meanwhile, we do think that the contestant pool was a marked improvement given that both Louisa Johnson and Reggie ‘n Bollie were worthy, entertaining finalists. Louisa is the show’s strongest winner since Little Mix, and could go on to have a big career in pop music. Meanwhile, the two guys gave some of our favorite performances in terms of pure fun in ages. These were supplemented by some much-needed creativity in terms of song choices.

What didn’t – Here’s where things get hairy. First and foremost, Simon Cowell made a mistake in letting Dermot O’Leary go as presenter. He was stellar, professional, and new when to be funny. He understood his role. Olly Murs and Caroline Flack were great on “The Xtra Factor” years ago; they tanked on the main series. We feel like the reason why is that they’re almost better as sketch hosts, where you give them more time to improv versus having them read off of a teleprompter. Their chemistry was lost in this format, as was their sense of fun.

The next issue may be much more controversial: Simon has to go. He’s no longer interesting television, and his role as one of the main bosses on the show complicates things since everyone knows that he is effectively in charge. Most of his comments border on hyperbole, and dare we saw we much preferred Gary Barlow for the often-harsh feedback. Let Simon be a mentor behind-the-scenes, where he can actually help people with their careers versus a judge on the screen.

We could rattle off a few other things that irk us about the show, whether it be the Six-Chair Challenge being a Roman coliseum, the over-done song choices (“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “I Have Nothing,” “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” “When a Man Loves a Woman”), the show refusing to acknowledge the pre-show fame of many contestants, or the frequent double-eliminations. We’d rather start the live rounds with fewer contestants than have to focus on so many different people.

Overall – This season was not abysmal; we may even look back at it fondly when you look down the road and Louisa is a big star. We just think that there are so many little things that need to change and be updated that there are reasons so many viewers are bailing. It’s an old dinosaur that keeps trying to come back to life. Grade: C+.

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