The black hole of reality TV is destroying stars before they get a chance to shine
The X Factor returns tonight and, as ever, nobody is talking about the contestants. Rather, the chatter revolves around a double-helping of new judges - Rita Ora and the already annoying Nick Grimshaw replace Louis Walsh and Mel B - and whether arriving presenter Olly Murs will be as irritating on television as on stage (having witnessed his most recent arena show I doubt it possible).
Many believe that this is exactly as Simon Cowell, the franchise's brooding overlord, would wish. With the focus on the adjudicating panel few are contemplating the latest batch of rag-tag hopefuls or posing pointed questions as to the whereabouts of already half-forgotten 2014 champion Ben Haenow (missing in action since Christmas). As Cowell is surely aware, while ratings remain extraordinarily buoyant, X Factor's star-making power is lately greatly diminished. Setting aside the fluke five-headed juggernaut that is - or was - One Direction, it is, in fact, an eternity since the show last bequeathed upon us a pop icon worth cherishing.
Indeed, there's an argument that, 1D aside, the stand-out graduates from recent seasons of X Factor are prat-falling boy-trolls Jedward - world-class self-publicists for sure but unlikely to be mistaken for musicians with bright futures. Then Cowell didn't get where he is - atop a very considerable pile of cash - without knowing precisely what the public wants and is well aware X Factor and its ilk are no longer minting the stars of tomorrow. If anything, reality TV's morphed into a vehicle for handing a second chance to the stars of yesterday: fading luminaries such as Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and, to stretch the point, newbie Rita Ora.