As an American expat living in London, one aspect from home I didn’t mind leaving behind was American Idol. Sorry, just not a fan. But don’t worry, I got my payback for being such a twit about it—silly me wasn’t considering the fact that the US’s beloved talent show for singers was not the first of its kind, deriving, in fact, from none other than the UK. In these parts, we now know it as:

“X” is for X FACTOR!

I bet you thought the letter “X” would stump me for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, huh… Yeah, well, so did I! I was admittedly close to breaking the rules and trying to pass off “X-ecution” or “X-calibur” and spiraling off on a medieval England tangent. But no, today is all about the very now “X factor,” that “je ne sais quoi,” that little something that’s tough to put a finger on but easy enough to find when putting a finger on the remote control.

I’ve written before about all the UK television shows that have inspired US ones (see “Moving to London: What’s on Your London Apartment Telly is not so Foreign“), including The Office, Top Gear, Dancing with the Stars (called Strictly Come Dancing in England), etc. X Factor itself replaced the original Pop Idol show, which had first aired in 2001. Emerging in 2004, X Factor is produced by Simon Cowell, who judges alongside Cheryl Cole, Dannii Minogue, and Louis Walsh. The format of the series is essentially the same as American Idol, including audience interaction in casting votes, but a significant deviation is the fact that contestants need not only be soloists. Singing groups can enter, which helped launch the career of boy-band JLS, for instance (among the soloists, Leona Lewis is a notable X Factor winner). Another way in which X Factor markedly differs is where age eligibility is concerned. As with Idol, the age ranges allowed have fluctuated over the seasons, but as of now, I believe American Idol allows for ages 15-28 and X Factor is 16-28 as well as “Over 28s.” So an old codger like me in my 30s could go for it. 😉

And, hey, X Factor is coming to the US in its American incarnation this September!! Auditions began last month, and Cheryl Cole is slated to judge that one as well. The show will air on the FOX network in the US.

X Factor airs on ITV here in the UK. I’m not certain when its 8th season (or “series,” as they call it in England) starts, but their final auditions were earlier this month. Also as of this April, the series 7 finalists have concluded their Live UK tour. So if you’re moving to London from the US before X Factor USA comes out and likewise need your Idol fix, just sit tight and hopefully X Factor UK will be back on the air before long!