THE X-Factor has become as much a part of the run up to Christmas as decorations appearing in shop windows in September and supermarkets selling mince pies in August which go off before December 25.
But this year, is it the X Factor (ITV 1, Saturday and Sunday 8pmish) that is going off?
Almost weekly, we see stories about Simon Cowell’s proudest invention slipping in the ratings against Strictly Come Dancing.
In previous years, it was easy to argue that people were just bored with the nastiness of X Factor compared to the relative light, calm and the pleasantness of Strictly.
In fact, when Strictly did try nasty – the tabloid stories, the picking on the dunce dancing celebrities and so on – the viewers disappeared, and those who remained kept voting the joke act on … and on … and on.
But it’s hard to find the nastiness in X Factor this year.
There is honesty, largely from Gary Barlow, and an OK crop of singers. But still the audience figures slip. Are we bored of X Factor? As a concept, probably not. But in its current guise, yes.
Watching the early rounds of X Factor is less a good night in, more an endurance test.
With shows stretching to over two hours in the early weeks, it feels more like a Sunday night at Yates’s Wine Lodge karaoke than it does watching the cream of unsigned talent doing their best to win a record deal.
As the acts fall away, the show gets shorter but the emphasis on the judges becomes greater - and to me, that’s why audiences are disappearing.
Who can take Louis Walsh seriously when he asks Christopher Maloney if this the right competition for him, given they want to find an international superstar.
This being the same Louis Walsh whose most recent musical success was Jedward, last seen losing in the Eurovision Song Content and advertising East Midland Trains.
The same Louis Walsh who insisted Dudley singer Wagner had a bright future. Wagner who? Exactly.
Gary Barlow comes across as grumpy, Pussycat doll Nicole as bonkers and Tulisa out of her depth.
Combined, they are more interested in settling scores against each other than actually putting on a good show.
Hence why Rylan, the Essex singer who doesn’t appear to be able to sing, dodges the bullet in the sing-off because Tulisa sends the vote to deadlock – ie a draw based on judges’ votes on who to send home – ostensibly because she looks forward to seeing Rylan each week.
Rubbish. And it’s this self-absorbed points scoring which is killing the X Factor.
Why watch a singing competition if it’s not just a singing competition? Why praise musicians like Lucy Spraggan for the way they write and perform their own songs and then demand they sing covers?
The problem for X Factor is that no-one is sure what it’s there to do – other than fill at least four hours of telly on ITV 1 and 2 each weekend and make ITV a mint in the process.
Only, without an audience that mint doesn’t look so minted anymore, does it?
Maybe it’s the X Factor that’s losing its X Factor.
What I’ll be watching next week: I stick by last week’s suggestion of The Hour (BBC 2, 9pm, November 14): Well worth checking out.