The end is almost here…

After countless weeks, an avalanche of hype and the biggest promo campaign in recent memory, The X Factor will finally unveil its $5 million winner next week. But will it be Melanie, Josh or Chris?

While far from the smash hit Fox expected, The X Factor has been a solid Fall performer for the network and has given us some great drama along the way. Remember Astro’s bottom 2 brat attack? Simon flipping out at Paula and Nicole after Drew was sent packing? And most famously, Rachel Crow’s elimination breakdown which had many of us questioning if the X Factor age limit was too low.

But while The X Factor has done plenty right this season it’s also made some crucial missteps. So now Simon Cowell, Fox Exec Mike Darnell and the rest of the team have 9 months to right the ship ahead of Season 2.

Here’s a few ideas to get them started.

FIRE STEVE JONES: I mean seriously, have you ever seen a more wooden TV host? Brit import Jones has the model good looks but falls short in every other department – like personality, warmth, comical ad-libs and charm.

From his frozen audition hugs to his stiff live show intros, Jones has become an inadvertent punch line across the web. And to think they passed over superior Brit host Dermot O’Leary for this guy? It just goes to show how good the much-maligned Ryan Seacrest is. He makes hosting Idol seem effortless.

CHOOSE A KOOK: Let’s be honest, The X Factor hasn’t exactly helped Nicole’ Scherzinger’s public image has it (though it has undoubtedly raised her profile). The former Pussycat Doll has come across as a painfully weak mentor who gushes nonsensical praise most of the time (although to be fair Nicole has had the odd moment of clarity) and can’t make a tie-breaker decision to save her life.

On the flipside Nicole’s constant war with Simon has been great TV, since he does seem genuinely angry at her at times. She’s certainly not been boring. But unfortunately we’re so used to seeing Simon rowing with Paula, that Nicole has kind of stolen her act a little. Not helping Abdul is the fact that all three of her acts disappeared quickly, making her totally redundant in the competition.

So when The X Factor returns next Fall I think it’s Simon’s turn to make a tie-breaker decision – which kook is he going to let go? And let’s be honest – one has to leave. Ditch either Nicole or Paula and let’s add another female to the panel who’s actually feisty and coherent and can hold her own (Pink would be perfect – though she’d never do it!)

Oh and by the way – let’s not even think about bringing Cheryl Cole back – as a Brit let me assure you, she’s really not that great!

SORT OUT THE SCHEDULING: One thing The X Factor did right were the swift and dramatic live auditions that were over after just 2 weeks – no American Idol style dragged out auditions here. But am I the only one who thought Boot Camp Week wasn’t as dramatic as Idol’s similarly themed Hollywood Week. And those Judges’ Houses rounds were glacially paced – and really killed The X Factor’s momentum.

Not helping matters was Fox’s insistence on airing baseball in October – a silly decision that cost the show a good million viewers (and hurt the promising New Girl ratings even more).

Then there was the boneheaded decision to hold TWO double eliminations in a row – reducing the pack from 9-5 in just two weeks! Either start the second X Factor season a week earlier or put the double eliminations earlier in the competition. Reducing the pack so harshly at such a key stage was pure insanity and made the show feel rushed – and a little desperate.

PICK NEW THEMES: As regular Remote Patrolled readers know I’ve long rallied against American Idol’s geriatric themes like Fleetwood Mac Week, Beatles Week and that old standby, Songs From The Year You Were Born.

Unfortunately The X Factor has kind of fallen into the same trap, dragging out old chestnuts like Michael Jackson Week (complete with cringe inducing Jackson family interviews), Rock Week and Songs From The Movies.

To be fair, the Simon Cowell series has given us many songs that HAVEN’T been karaoke-ed to death – like Skyscraper, Just A Dream and Rhythm Nation. But we’ve also had to endure the millionth take on Hero, Hallelujah and Piece of My Heart. Can we institute a banned song list perhaps?

Fresher themes would also definitely help The X Factor, ideas I’ve suggested before like contestant picking songs for each other, guys singing songs written for girls (and vice versa) and Lucky Dips whereby contestant are randomly assigned songs, would all freshen up the show format.

GET BETTER GROUPS: Let’s be honest this year there were only two decent categories on The X Factor – The Boys and The Girls.

The Over 30’s were a motely crew – with one potential star (Josh), a past her prime diva (Stacey) and a granddad so dull you could literally see the camera crew drifting off mid-performance (Leroy). But it didn’t really matter as all three were mis-mentored by Nicole, who clearly had NO idea what she was doing in terms of song choice and staging. You could literally see the Over 30 contestants mouth ‘oh shit’ upon the realization that they’d been saddled with Nicole as their mentor.

But it was the Groups who were the undeniable weak link in The X Factor this season – a real shame as the bands themselves were one of the elements that separated The X Factor from other competition reality shows.

Personally I thought Paula did a decent job with what she had to work with – though I also agree with Simon that she made a crucial mistake sending home InTENsity so early, while letting the tuneless Stereo Hogzz sail through. But let’s be honest, none of this years groups were potential winners – or even likely Top 5 finishers.

I have a feeling The X Factor will follow the pattern of the UK show, where the Groups also took a while to warm up. In fact, the recently concluded 8th season of the show was the first time a group has won the British X Factor (although finalists JLS and One Direction have fared very well following their respective seasons). One things for clear –fixing the Groups category has to be a major priority for future seasons. After all, eventually Simon himself is going to set saddled with the category himself!

So there you have it – five ways to improve The X Factor next time around. But what do you think? What would YOU do to make the show better? Comment away…