Down to the X Factor nitty gritty

Undated ITV Handout Photo from X Factor 2014. Pictured: Cheryl and Mel B crying at Andrea Faustini performance. See PA Feature TV X Factor. Picture Credit should read: PA Photo/SYCO /THAMES TV/ITV. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TV X Factor. WARNING: This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk.
Undated ITV Handout Photo from X Factor 2014. Pictured: Cheryl and Mel B crying at Andrea Faustini performance. See PA Feature TV X Factor. Picture Credit should read: PA Photo/SYCO /THAMES TV/ITV. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TV X Factor. WARNING: This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk.

The stage has been set, the three finalists - Fleur East, Ben Haenow and Andrea Faustini - will be gargling their hot water and lemon, and Louis Walsh has no doubt been rehearsing his last “you remind me of a young...” of the series.

This year’s X Factor may have been thrashed by Strictly Come Dancing in the ratings stakes, but there has still been the occasional shock and surprise (Simon Cowell eating in a Harvester restaurant, for one).

So before the winner is crowned, and the power ballads, sob stories and judges’ squabbles are put to bed for another year, let’s run through this year’s highlights...

Cheryl and Simon’s return

A few years ago, it seemed as though Simon Cowell and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (then Cole) had drawn an un-erasable line under their professional friendship, after Cowell unceremoniously sacked the Girls Aloud star from the X Factor USA judging panel. So it was a delight for fans - and the media - to see the pair seated side by side on the UK show again this year.

There’s still the occasional tiff (Simon comparing Cheryl to Kermit the Frog in her green dress; Cheryl swapping seats after a spat with Simon over Jay James), but the pair seem to have patched things up for our viewing pleasure. And, no doubt, their hefty pay packets.

Comedy value

What 34-year-old call centre worker Stevi Ritchie lacked in vocal prowess, he made up for in likeability. Despite his woeful first audition (in which he struggled through Olly Murs’ Dance With Me Tonight, before partaking in some solo salsa dancing), he impressed Simon with his “kind eyes” and made it to the arena auditions. Once there, the dad-of-one got the crowd whooping and cheering along and eventually landed a wild card slot in the live shows, where he ramped up the novelty factor even more, with performances cheesier than a fondue in the Swiss Alps.

But he’ll always have the memories - in particular, his ‘bromance’ with Simon, and their trip to Stevi’s favourite Harvester restaurant.

The stage invader

When Stereo Kicks sang Michael Jackson’s You Are Not Alone in week five, they were right: an imposter had joined them on stage. Funny (or not so funny, depending on your sense of humour) man Lee Nelson, real name Simon Brodkin, appeared for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment before a crew member shoved him into the wings.

Opportunity knocks

Soon after heart-throb Jake Quickenden was voted off the show, he was jetting off to Australia to eventually come runner up in I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! (stretching the definition of ‘celebrity’ to its limits there, ITV...). Before you could say ‘kangaroo anus’, he was flirting up a storm with models Kendra Wilkinson and Nadia Forde, and urinating in the bushes around camp.

Famous fans

Who’d have thought Kate Moss was such a big X Factor fan? The supermodel took a break from pouting to appear on Channel 4’s Stand Up To Cancer Gogglebox special alongside Noel Gallagher and Naomi Campbell, bopping along to Lauren Platt and head-banging her way through Andrea Faustini’s Earth Song (“don’t talk to me about Andrea - I’m obsessed...”). Chart-topper Ed Sheeran is also a fan of Italian Andrea, revealing: “I texted Cowell about the Italian dude, because I think he is fantastic.”

Mel B

Before the cameras started rolling, this year’s X Factor looked set to be ‘The Simon and Cheryl Show’. So when Mel B was announced as the fourth judge, the reaction was as lukewarm as Louis greeting a non-Irish contestant.But with her no-nonsense approach, the Leeds-born Spice Girl has managed to inject some much-needed ‘zigaziga’ into the show. Particularly when, after a succession of hopefuls professed their love for Cheryl, straight-talking Mel asked: “What am I? Chopped liver?” Thanks for spicing things up, Mel.

lThe X Factor final airs on ITV on Saturday, December 13 and Sunday, December 14.