X Factor: How to get Wagner out

Another week, another Wagner survival, another predictable round of misunderstandings. A glance at the likes of votefortheworst.com reveals they are still under the deluded impression that they are annoying the show by voting for Wagner – whereas, as we have argued, the show is in fact playing these gullible “vote Wagner” campaigners like a cheap violin.

A glance at the odds, meanwhile, reveals Wagner has been backed into a top-priced 16/1 (as low as 9/1 in places) to win the whole show. As we argued last week, Wagner can’t win, so the bookies – like the producers – must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Having dealt with the “why” in those two previous posts, we thought we’d take a look today look at the “how”. That is, when the producers want Wagner off (maybe this week, maybe next), how might they go about it?

One thing they might do is start feeding stories to newspapers like this morning’s in the Daily Mail about how Wagner “is in the top half of the vote” every week. Is it true? We have no idea, although it’s not the story the source of the infamous Aiden Twitter vote leak has been telling on the Digital Spy forums. We’ll find out when the show releases the voting percentages after the final.

The more interesting question is: will it make some Wagner voters think “no need to multiple-vote for him this week, then, if so many others are doing it”? That may be a hidden purpose of the story – or it may simply be about ramping up hysteria to suck more people into watching this weekend’s show.

As for other ways they could get rid of Wagner, we can look at Jedward last year as a case study.

Most obviously, the running order is a powerful weapon in the show’s arsenal. Wagner has now been helped by appearing in the second half of the running order for every single one of the seven shows – as were Jedward for the first six shows of last year. In week seven last year, sending out Jedward in the first half signalled that the producers felt their time was up and they duly found themselves in trouble.

Then there are judges’ comments. In the week when Jedward were eliminated, here is what Simon Cowell said about them: “you have converted a lot of people. You’re like this relentless, unstoppable machine at the moment.”

This is classic Cowell reverse psychology: by calling them “unstoppable”, he planted the idea in their supporters’ minds that perhaps they didn’t need to vote so often this week. As a result, the bottom two beckoned.

We saw a similar example in last Saturday’s show with Cher. Simon commented that her fanbase might not have liked her performance of ‘Imagine’, and advised her to do something different next time. By doing so, he implicitly gave permission to her fanbase not to vote this week, and planted the thought that they could afford to do so because there would be a “next time”.

These comments don’t happen by accident, and there was another classic example when we got to Wagner: in the VTs before Wagner’s performance, Simon half-jokingly said it would be “the end of the world” if Wagner won, thereby deliberately stoking the “annoy Simon” vote. In the post-performance comments, Cheryl needlessly brought up some uncomplimentary quotes in the press, thus allowing Wagner to appear gentlemanly in rebutting them.

When the producers want rid of Wagner, you’ll see none of these red-rag-to-a-bull VTs or manufactured controversies. We are likely instead to get some tepid judges’ comments that carefully avoid firing up either the genuine or the perverse Wagner voters – something along the following lines, perhaps:

Dannii: “Wagner, nobody will ever call you the best singer in the show, but by your standards that vocal was okay, so well done”.

Cheryl: “You know what, Wagner, I know we’ve had our differences, but I’d just like to say that you’re having the time of your life up there, and you know what? Good luck to you.”

Simon: “Look, I’ve always said that this show is a democracy, and I trust the people. To be fair to you, Wagner, you do bring something to the show, with your energy and your willingness to have a go at these ridiculous routines that Louis gives you. It’s clear that a lot of people want you to be here next week, and ultimately this show is all about giving the voting public what they want.”

Louis: “Of course he’ll be here next week, Simon. People love him.”

There are other things they could do. They might give him one song, rather than a mashup – mashups are great for Wagner, as they were for Jedward, as they decrease the chance of boredom with his mediocre vocals. They could give him a more understated wardrobe and production, and linger on less-interesting camera angles, further allowing boredom to set in. It would be all about dampening the spirits of those inclined to vote for him.

But it would also make for a more boring show for the rest of us, and so these tactics are used only when they have to be – which in Wagner’s case they might not. With the show needing to shed four acts in the next two weeks if they’re to stick to the customary three-way final on December 11th, Wagner could easily drift to the bottom without any need for nudges from the powers that be.

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