X Factor 2015 Auditions Week 1: Another Hero, Another Mindless Crime

The much-hyped fresh-faced reboot of the X Factor introduced itself with a Wagner joke and a Mission Impossible skit, and scored worryingly low ratings. This series will self-destruct in 5, 4, 3…

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To be fair, the opening weekend received generally positive reviews among Sofabet commenters. There’s clearly a concerted attempt to lighten things up, and even a willingness to poke a bit of fun at themselves: Grimmy observed that one proposed song choice was “a bit X Factor audition”, while Simon prefaced Josh Daniel’s audition by putting on a Dermot voice and mocking the well-worn “our last act has been waiting in the wings all day” cliché. Where will it end? “You’ve performed first while Strictly’s still on the other side, and we all know what that means”.

The bottle may have looked new, but it was largely the same old wine. It’s worth remembering that the show traditionally likes to frontload the opening audition episodes with acts it intends to be a long-term part of the series: on the form of recent series, it’s quite likely that we’ve already seen five or six or the final twelve and maybe even three or four of the final six. With that in mind, here are our impressions from the weekend.
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X Factor 2015 Preview

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X Factor returns for its twelfth series this Saturday – you can expect the usual coverage here on Sofabet. Falling ratings over recent years have created a sense that this is a show in decline. What’s more, its current contract with broadcaster ITV is due to expire in 2016; and said broadcaster has created a scheduling headache this autumn with its rights to the Rugby World Cup.

The show’s response is an eyebrow-raising one – only seven live shows, rather than the usual ten; if we assume the usual three acts from each of four categories, this implies we can expect three double eliminations on the way to a three-act final. Boot camp, including the six-chair challenges, is strung out over five weekends. The rugby semi-finals, on October 24-25, lead into judges’ houses, which will this year be screened live; and the rugby final, on October 31, leads into the first live show.

Perhaps because of these unusual circumstances, the pre-rehearsal PR stories have been more numerous than ever. More than their fair share have featured Rita Ora, new to the judging panel this year after a stint on The Voice for the BBC. She’s been ubiquitous in recent months, appearing in the charts, other artists’ music videos, Samsung ads and the occasional American TV mini-series.

Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw is also new to the judging panel, replacing veteran Louis Walsh. This appears to confirm an attempt to appeal to a younger demographic. Various other tweaks have also been announced, among them that viewers get to decide which judge mentors each category. Here are our thoughts in advance of the new series. Continue reading X Factor 2015 Preview

BGT 2015 voting statistics post-mortem

It felt like a curious series of Britain’s Got Talent. In the first two semi-finals, producers seemed keen to dampen down discussion of the significance of the running order by putting the most-pimped acts in the early parts of the show – five of the six podium finishers were among the first five of nine acts to perform, most untypically for BGT. In the last three semis, normal service was resumed, as five of the six acts who performed either last or second last finished in the top three – and the final was, again, won from the pimp slot. But the Monday and Tuesday shows had minimised any traction the running order might gain as a talking point.

It’s interesting that producers evidently felt this was something they needed to be concerned about. People sometimes ask us whether we think the kind of analysis of shows that takes place among the Sofabet community meaningfully changes the environment in which the shows have to operate, and we’re usually inclined to believe that it remains a niche enough pursuit for producers not to have to worry much about. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the running order decisions on Monday and Tuesday indicated some sensitivity that the knowing cynicism characteristic of this parish might penetrate far enough into the mainstream audience to affect the franchise.

The reveal of the voting statistics added to the sense that this was an untypical year.

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BGT2015: Final preview

A few months ago, a story went out that one of the changes planned for this year’s Britian’s Got Talent was that the semi-final running orders would be randomly drawn. The previous year, a late slot and qualification to the final had become more closely correlated than ever. But the format change never came to pass.

However, producers did seem keen on mixing things up earlier in the week. The first semi-final saw outright favourites – Welsh choir Cor Glanaethwy – win from the fifth slot, though their main rivals appeared even earlier in the show. Whilst the second semi witnessed dog act Jules O’Dwyer & Matisse win it from #2, whilst another pimped choir, Revelation Avenue, found themselves only fourth in the running order.

Normal service resumed from Wednesday onwards, perhaps because Tuesday had not gone quite as expected. The next three heats all had winners that performed in one of the last two slots, finishing with highly-pimped second favourite in the outright, singer Calum Scott, taking Friday’s semi from #9. I expect running order to tell us plenty about producers’ intentions in tonight’s final.

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BGT2015: Semi-finals discussion thread

With perfect timing, Eurovision ends and the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent begin. Every day this coming working week, the varied acts will go before a public vote for a place in the final. It’s one of the most enjoyable and manipulative TV talent shows for the betting community. Having just returned from Vienna, I’m a little behind what’s going on. Our hardy band of regular commenters are no doubt on the ball, though – do keep the conversation going throughout the week.

Eurovision 2015: Sweden wins

Sweden’s Mans Zelmerlow was victorious in this year’s contest with ‘Heroes’. In another year’s validation of the betting market, the pre-show top five came to pass: Sweden, Russia, Italy, Belgium and Australia. Other top ten fancies Latvia, Estonia and Norway filled the next places, followed by Israel and Serbia. Austria and Germany were joint-last with nul points.

Predictably enough, Russia and Sweden won their respective semi-finals. In the first semi-final, Belgium and Estonia placed, Albania were tenth and Moldova 11th. In the second semi-final, Latvia and Israel placed, Azerbaijan were tenth and Malta 11th. Finland and Switzerland were last in their heats. Full results can be found on the official site.

Many thanks to all the Sofabet commenters for their kind words and friendly dialogue. It’s been a pleasure as always – I’m looking forward to Stockholm already.

Eurovision 2015: Grand final preview

The beauty of Eurovision is that no-one has all the answers. I analyse it to death, yet gut feeling is also part of the final call. That’s particularly the case this year, with five or so worthy contenders and a few dark horses. You’ll hear some differing opinions about who wins tonight. That’s because nobody is sure, and gut instinct is playing a part.

Analysis and gut instinct continues to make me think that Sweden is tonight’s likeliest winner. Let’s start with the analysis: a Melodifestivalen televote that topped Loreen’s; an utterly compelling visual and audio package, especially for the first-time viewer; the sense that this was the most obvious Europe-wide chart hit, confirmed by iTunes chart positions after the second semi-final; and now a voting order that whilst not definitive, is more encouraging for Sweden than for one of its biggest rivals (Russia).

My gut instinct also tells me I’d be more shocked to see Sweden score poorly in any country’s points total. I will more likely attribute it to a rogue jury-only score or indeed tactical jury voting – which happened on a small scale last year against some of the market leaders. I can’t say the same for any other contenders. I can envisage Russia, Belgium, Italy and Australia having their blips on the scoreboard. Put bluntly: if there’s a runaway winner, I’d be slightly surprised if it’s anyone but Sweden.

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Eurovision 2015: May 22 rehearsals

The first final dress rehearsal is always a little ragged. The second semi-final qualifiers are getting over a late night, and there are usually technical problems for the new running order.

We started off with Slovenia, which feels like a decent opener: a solid song that’s chilled but has a beat. There wasn’t any change in today’s performance. It’s followed by France, whose war anthem is in the death slot. It’s largely relying on jury support to help it on the scoreboard. Israel’s ‘Golden Boy’ feels like the real opener of the show, and I still think it’s getting a fair few televotes even from this early slot.

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