Sometimes you need a break from even really great things, as anyone who’s got to the bottom of a Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food on a solo night in can testify. So when it was announced earlier this year that lovely dancing Dermot wasn’t coming back to X Factor, I couldn’t bemoan his loss. Like that ice-cream, it was time to put him away for a bit; bring him out when we would fully appreciate him again.
The problem though, was who would replace him, because X Factor is a very specific gig. It could have gone to Ant and Dec or Emma Willis but that felt like giving the lead role in the school play to the girl who’d done it for the last five: it would be good, but we already knew how it would look.
Instead, it was announced last night that Simon Cowell had gone for Olly Murs and Caroline Flack, who presented the X Factor’s spin-off show Xtra Factor together for two years from 2011. When they were presenting, this special thing happened which suddenly made ITV2 post-X Factor crucial viewing, rather than what you did on the nights it had all kicked off just to watch the judges mutter at each other on the phone-in.
It was inspired casting which meant a seasoned-pro presenter like Caroline and a singer with a lot of charisma but who no-one had ever seen present anything before became a TV partnership that made us grin at our TV, even on the nights we hadn’t had an excessive amount of Tesco Pinot Grigio. It was Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby with more flirting and tighter trousers, and it did exactly what Xtra Factor is meant to: it made you giggle.
Transferring Caroline and Olly to the main show was brave of Cowell because X Factor is a different TV beast – less giggling, more coaxing judges off the fence to make a decision and dealing with a sobbing teenager who just wants to try her Ella Henderson instead if they’d only give her ONE MORE CHANCE.
But it’s a smart move. They’re cheeky enough to give the necessary backchat to Simon and normal enough to give cuddles. They’re funny. They flirt a bit. They seem like your mates down the pub.
When two people have that magic and make an audience feel a tiny bit happier than they did before they watched, that’s a rarity and should be harnessed. As whoever looked across the youth club at Byker Grove about 20 years ago and went ‘Now those two are pretty funny together – record contract!
Didn’t we have that song about the rhumble?” already knows.
[Olly Murs says he won't present the X Factor without Caroline Flack]
[Dermot O'Leary AXED From X Factor]
[Simon Cowell Is The Only X Factor Judge Safe From Being Axed]