What gives a TV talent show the X factor? Ironically -- or not -- it's rarely the "talent". We tune in for the judges: to see them arguing, crying and superciliously deriding the efforts of the schmuck on stage as "the worst thing ever".
The latest Irish effort at talent shows began on Sunday at 6.30pm on RTÉ One. Hosted by Kathryn Thomas and Eoghan McDermott, The Voice of Ireland puts a new twist on the format: contestants are judged "blind" by Sharon Corr, Bressie, Kian Egan and Brian Kennedy.
Sounds interesting enough, although Lisa McInerney, columnist and deputy editor of pop-culture website culch.ie is not optimistic: "We don't take the format seriously and recruit appropriate judges. On The Voice, at least they're industry professionals, but based on the previous standard, I don't have high hopes."
Deanna O'Connor, the deputy editor of U magazine, is a mite more sanguine: "I am interested to see if it stacks up against the production values of UK shows. And the judging panel is strong; hopefully they'll gel well."
So what does our interest in judges mean for Strictly Come Dancing and Britain's Got Talent, two of the biggest hits in this genre, as judge Alesha Dixon moves from former to latter?
Lisa McInerney reckons it's a bad move for Alesha. The TV judge found fame with R'n'B group Mis-Teeq in the early noughties, but her star was on the wane before she won series 5 of Strictly in 2007.
"It's not that I don't think she'll be good," she says, "but there's a certain lack of respect from viewers for younger judges; they're seen as exchangeable eye-candy beside the stalwarts. At Strictly, Alesha had a place in the team. A former winner, she knew what contestants were going through.
"I think a lot of the audience will reject her as having a brass neck and giving the cold shoulder to the show that revived her career."
Deanna O'Connor takes the opposite tack: "It's a good move for Alesha -- word is her salary will triple. It will be easier for her: she didn't have the experience or technical knowledge about dance on Strictly. But Simon Cowell, her new boss, has no qualms about dumping people who aren't popular so she must bring her A-game."
As to what makes a good talent show judge, Lisa says: "Someone who knows about what they're judging. I don't see the point in having some pretty young thing there, weeping photogenically. All my favourite judges have successful careers in the discipline.
"My favourites by far were on MasterChef Australia: Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston. They're genuinely supportive and likeable, and prove you can be successful without being mean."
Deanna likes a "mix of judges on a panel -- you need an industry insider, and a sprinkling of beauty, compassion, wit and ruthlessness. It's about taking on a stereotype, such as when Gary Barlow tried to fill Cowell's Mr Nasty shoes on X Factor. Clearly Louis Walsh is the beauty!"
As for the worst? Deanna says, "She wasn't on the show long enough to judge, but poor Kelly Brook got dropped after a day on BGT."
Lisa adds, "Anyone on the Irish shows. God help us, we seem to go through RTÉ's little black book and just pick who's free. Dana and reality TV? In fairness! On the world stage, Simon Cowell may know TV but he knows nothing about music."