IT'S not just me who thought the new season of X Factor started with more of a whimper than a roar on Saturday -- viewing figures can back it up.
Apparently numbers were at an all-time low for the start of series 9 and I don't think anyone's surprised.
That's because in the decade that these reality-type talent shows have been around (longer, if you count shows like Popstars, Popstars: The Rivals and Pop Idol), the formula has become so predictable that there is little left that can be done to keep us on the edge of our seats.
We've had enough of contestants' sob stories, they no longer pull at our heart strings. Actually, they now irritate us. Neither are we entertained by the novelty auditions -- the granny who warbles through some wartime anthem, the ugly geeks who misguidedly attempt Christina Aguillera's "I'm am beautiful, no matter what you say". Amusing the first four times perhaps, not any more.
As for the judges, well, what's really left for them to say? There are only so many words in the English language, and over the years the X Factor panel have carved them up and shared them out between them.
In Simon Cowell's absence last year, Gary Barlow took on the role of 'tough nut', one he's now seemingly given up on. And the position of 'fourth judge' confusingly switches from Nicole Scherzinger (the permanent one), to a guesting Scary Spice, who tries to play the nasty card.
Unfortunately, Mel B is now so past her time, no one really cares what she has to say.
Sadly, the only judging excitement we can actually expect in upcoming weeks now, is the swapping between a blonde and brunette Tulisa. Oh, how it will give the show's continuity people nightmares.
It's all got so predictable now, that even formerly headline grabbing stuff has become humdrum. Like, when on Saturday, some trashy young one done up to look like the singer Pink, threw a temper tantrum when she didn't make the grade. Meh. Whatever.
To be honest, I didn't bother tuning in to X Factor on Saturday night, I was more absorbed with the Puissance show jumping, televised from The Horse Show, but I caught one of the various re-runs yesterday.
It strikes me that the X Factor has gone from being one of those shows you stop everything for, to something you multi-task through, a bit like the Hollyoaks omnibus or re-runs of Come Dine With Me. In my case, I read the Sunday papers, scanned Twitter and Facebook and downloaded a few new Apps for my iPad, while the show unrolled in the background.
Maybe it'll get better, but I don't know what the X Factor team will have to do to make it so.
The fact that none of the winners in recent years have actually gone anywhere with their careers also takes from the allure of the show. I can't even remember who won last year.
Let's hope there are a few curveballs ahead, although I don't really know what's left to do.
We now know too much about the audition process, about Bootcamp and judges' houses. It's all become a bit Big Brother, with talk of booze and party nights being laid on for contestants to encourage storylines -- perhaps a bit of inter-contestant romance, inappropriate nudity or some headline-grabbing bad behaviour.
I'm not ruling X Factor out yet, there's certainly the chance that, come the time of live shows, when nights are cold and dark and there's a lot less to entice us out on a Saturday night, Simon Cowell's monster will suddenly start to engage.
Maybe there will be talent, and some fresh ways to present it. I just don't want to be fed a load of processed TV and left to feel lethargic and self-loathing afterwards.