Louis Walsh is back. Obviously. As are Gary and Tulisa. But with Dannii Minogue refusing to seal a deal with Simon Cowell *insert your own gag here* there is still no fourth judge on the panel.
A series of stand-ins are reportedly being lined up for the audition rounds, but a full-time panellist will be needed come Judges' Houses time at the end of the summer.
ITV and X Factor sources have hinted heavily that they'll want a like-for-like replacement for Kelly on the panel. That means they want a heavyweight, elder statesman-like female, to balance out the more edgy, youthful Tulisa. i.e. Get someone who has heard of Aretha Frankin's 'Think'.
A return for Sharon Osbourne would appear to be the most obvious pick - she knows the drill, Louis would love it and she makes great headlines - but her gig on America's Got Talent and recent comments about Simon Cowell's, ahem, manhood, probably rule her out.
Elsewhere, the various Spice Girls continue to swirl around the show eagerly hoping for a bite of Simon Cowell's money-making pie. Emma's probably ruled out for the fact that she's a reality TV disaster (see Dancing on Ice and Don't Stop Believing.) Posh couldn't possibly leave LA to spend four months at Fountain Studios. Mel B is a possible, but combining her with Louis on live TV sounds like sheer madness.
Geri has been there and done it with Popstars: The Rivals and a guest gig on X Factor. She's never impressed particularly as a TV personality on either occasion, but she's definitely free and up for it. Two factors that are not to be quibbled with.
Mel C would be a popular pick - she's confident, vocally talented and a little less loopy than some of her former bandmates - but she may lack the glam factor that ITV and Cowell like in their female stars.
Meanwhile, Katy Perry, Nicole Scherzinger, Adele and Lily Allen can all probably be ruled out on the grounds that they are either far too busy or wouldn't touch it with a bargepole.
Frankie Sandford was linked to the job last year, but like the rest of the Saturdays, may not have the crossover appeal to demand a judge spot in 2012. Likewise, Natalie Imbruglia still feels like a weak contender when it comes to credentials. She may have (allegedly) "done a Minogue" with Cowell, but her not-particularly-extensive music back catalogue doesn't hold up fantastically well.
However, Tulisa, Dannii Minogue and even Cheryl Cole and Amanda Holden were hardly screaming out to be TV judges when Simon Cowell picked them for his various shows, so TV experience and age isn't necessarily a key factor.
When Dannii Minogue was plucked out of relative dance chart obscurity to take part in the reality show, nobody could genuinely hold their hand up and say that they saw it coming. Ditto Tulisa. So don't be surprised if there's another leftfield selection for series nine.
Maybe one of All Saints could give it a whirl. Shaznay or either of the Appletons would be great in our opinion. Louise Redknapp was a bore on So You Think You Can Dance, but we'd be willing to forgive her that if a spot on X Factor reignited her solo pop career.
A Sugababe (version 1.0 obviously) would add some bolshy class. Or how about reuniting Gary Barlow with his old mate Carol Decker?
Cyndi Lauper, Cher (yes, we know we're getting into dreamland now) or Shania Twain would be good veteran US picks if Cowell is willing to pay out the big bucks and fork out for the air fares. But after the misfire with Kelly, we suspect ITV will be searching closer to home.
And of course, if all else fails, if everything goes wrong, if nobody picks up the phone, there is always Sinitta.
Who do you want to see as the fourth judge on X Factor? Let us know below!