When do the X Factor live shows start?

The real competition is just around the corner.

The X Factor has had a bit of a shake-up this year, leaving some viewers a bit confused as to when they can expect the live shows to begin.

When the contestants head into the live studio is the point at which we really see the competition pick up pace, as they vie to impress the audience enough to pick up support from the judges and votes from the public.

[Read more: All you need to know about Judges' Houses]

Read on to find out when we’ll get to see this year’s hopefuls show us what they can do with a live production.

When do the X Factor live shows begin?

The top wannabes still need to make it through the Judges’ Houses stage of the show, which runs over Saturday and Sunday October 21 and 22 before we find out who has made it to the live shows.

The live episodes will then begin from Saturday, October 28 and, as with all of the rounds so far, will continue to offer a weekend of double entertainment with a second show on the Sunday.

Why are there fewer live shows this year?

It’s all part of show boss Simon Cowell’s masterplan to win back the ratings from Strictly Come Dancing.

He reckons people get bored with endless live shows and public votes, preferring the drama of earlier rounds, so he’s slashed the number of live shows from 10 to just six this year.

[Read more: Cheryl returns to The X Factor]

Cowell explained: “The early and middle rounds rate well so the idea is to do more of the middle shows and less of the live shows. We’ll see if it works or not. I think there might be a middle ground.

“When you’ve done it for 14 years you can’t keep making the same show every year. I think you have to realise what the contestants are in it for, why do so many people enter?  I think if you just make the same show each year it becomes boring and predictable. So you try and make changes for the better, not everything works but some ideas we’ve got for the live shows are going to be good.”

Who will be mentoring each category?

We already know who each category has been assigned as a mentor, and there have been some unexpected matches this year.

Cowell has been given the groups, which he claims was his first choice – could the show’s winner be in that category?

Nicole Scherzinger has taken on the Overs this time, while Louis Walsh has been tasked with coaching the boys. Both judges have already made some controversial decisions by not putting through acts that the others had championed.

That leaves Sharon Osbourne with the girls, a category she’s already expressed some reservations about as she said she worried about upsetting younger contestants with her straight talking.

Are there any other changes to the format?

Many fans will be relieved to know that the juke box is no more. Its supposedly 'random' choices of theme week became more contrived each year, most noticeably with Fright Night week always managing to coincide with Halloween.

Cowell said: “All these crazy things we used to do with themes have gone, no more jukeboxes, none of that rubbish this year. The public are smart enough to know what’s real, that’s what we are focusing on this year.”

Viewers may have noticed a higher-than-average number of acts singing self-penned songs, something that will be encouraged in the live shows now that there are no more limiting themes.

[Read more: X Factor acts head to Judges' Houses]

And if you were wondering how the show would manage to eliminate the same number of contestants in fewer weeks, it seems double-eviction weekends will be the answer. Acts are expected to be voted out on both the Saturday and Sunday to keep the episodes a bit pacier.

Lastly, if you’ve been consulting your calendar, you’ll realise that the grand final will be at a different point. It usually airs the week before Christmas, but six live shows would put it on December 2nd and 3rd – unless Cowell has yet another format change up his sleeve…

The X Factor live shows will begin on Saturday, October 28th on ITV.

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