Has The X Factor lost its sparkle?

Simon Cowell Is Simon Cowell's flight to the US harming the show's fortunes over here?

With Strictly Come Dancing beating The X Factor in the ratings on Saturday, we look at why the musical talent programme may be losing viewers, and why the celebrity ballroom show is creeping ahead.

Simon Cowell's absence

The music mogul created the show, and as its head judge has been the biggest personality on the programme since it began in 2004. Audiences loved to hate him and could not help tuning in to hear his brutally honest critiques of contestants. This is the first year Cowell has not been on the UK panel, a move that the Daily Mail said was like "Christmas without Santa Claus".

The plain-speaking pundit is now working on the US version of The X Factor. Take That's Gary Barlow has taken over the helm and appears to have upped the mean factor since he joined the panel. But there can only be one Simon Cowell.

Judging panel changes

Nation's sweetheart Cheryl Cole left The X Factor in the UK to become a judge on the US version, but was dropped shortly after she began filming. Dannii Minogue also left the UK show. The pair were replaced by Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland and Tulisa Contostavlos of N-Dubz. But with Louis Walsh as the only original judge, perhaps it was too radical a change for viewers.

Before the series began, Rowland and Contostavlos were arguably less well-known to some sections of the viewing public.

But when the panel first appeared on TV, The Sun said: "Panic over, folks. It's had more changes than Anne Hathaway at the Oscars, but the new panel is a hit."

Lack of novelty acts

Although Johnny Robinson has been somewhat moulded into a novelty act with his outrageous outfits and high-pitched vocals, there is no obvious joke performer with little or no singing talent on the current series - think Wagner from last year and Jedward in 2009. Eccentric hopeful Goldie pulled out before this year's live shows began. But with the judges concentrating on more serious acts, has it lost the fun factor?

Tired formula?

Are the public growing tired of the show's format after eight years with the seemingly contrived arguments between judges, turbo-charged production values, dramatic voice-overs and tear-jerking stories from hopefuls?

And some recent winners have not fared so well in the pop charts, while fans have complained about the calibre of this year's line-up. Maybe the show needs another Leona Lewis to attract more viewers.

Strictly line-up

Many fans and critics say this year's ballroom line-up is the best yet. The BBC has chosen more celebrities of a certain age than previously - Edwina Currie, Rory Bremner, Russell Grant, Nancy Dell'Olio, Lulu and Anita Dobson - which appeals to an older demographic.

Dell'Olio's hapless attempts to master routines and Grant's larger-than-life personality have proved an attractive draw.

But the line-up also includes the likes of Harry Judd, Holly Valance and Chelsee Healey, who provide the eye candy and are proving adept dancers. The Telegraph pointed to the appeal of Jason Donovan's talented footwork.

Strictly, with its family atmosphere and less intense competitiveness, arguably appeals to a wider proportion of the population.

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