At Sofabet, we have oft explained the ways producers attempt to favour certain contestants over others. Interestingly, many of their traditional methods were deployed last Saturday, even though it was the judges rather than the viewers who cast the votes.
Amelia Lily, 2Shoes, James and Jonjo were all given varying degrees of poor song choices or arrangements, graveyard slots in the running order and lukewarm words from the judges. But they weren’t the only ones – of the surviving acts, one was given a noticeably unfavourable edit. So much so, that we feel compelled to try to itemise all the tiny ways in which this was done, just as we detailed 28 ways in which Wagner was done over in his Week 8 exit last year.
If the bongo-playing, middle-aged lothario was assassinated in his prime, Nu Vibe have very nearly been strangled at birth. Here are 12 examples of counter-productive coverage they received last weekend, especially in comparison to other acts in their category:
1. We have already discussed that cohesion within a group is vital for a band that wants to do well in X Factor. So if producers wanted Nu Vibe to do well, you would think they might have tried to avoid rumours hitting the tabloids in the middle of last week that members of the young boyband were arguing with each other.
2. Rather than glossing over these stories, Nu Vibe’s VT footage went out of its way to remind TV viewers of them, with references by the boys themselves and Tulisa. By way of contrast, rival boyband The Risk were portrayed bromancing each other with games of football, virtual and real.
3. In a highly unusual step, the boys were shown to be struggling during rehearsals. Negative VT showed a producer telling them after a soundcheck that, “vocals have got to get better”. This might well have been true, but could you imagine a similar moment in Frankie’s introduction?!
4. Tulisa told the boys in further damaging rehearsal coverage: “Come on guys you should know this…we shouldn’t have to be saying this now.” What did this imply? That they weren’t working hard enough, maybe. About The Risk, on the other hand, she went on to say later, “They have worked so hard.”
Or perhaps this comment implied they weren’t picking things up quickly. In direct contrast, Tulisa proudly told her girl band Rhythmix in their rehearsal footage, “You know this like the back of your hand.”
5. The song choice of Chris Brown’s ‘Beautiful People’ was just not suitable. As Matt commented, it was a much poorer choice of song than that given to The Risk because it was, “Basically a shouty dance track.”
6. There was a minimalist stage production. The boys had no backing dancers, in contrast to the other acts in their category.
7. The boys spread across the stage at the key change and performed separately at this crucial juncture.
8. The judges reinforced the concept that they are not united as a group. Most notably, Gary said it felt like they were “five solo artists instead of a band”.
9. Louis did the same thing more subtly by saying of the lead singer, “Ashford, you’re the main man”. In stark contrast, Gary said of rivals The Risk: “Now this is a band… I am so pleased it is not centred all around [lead singer] Charlie.”
10. Further judges’ comments for The Risk emphasised their alpha status over Nu Vibe. For example, Louis namechecked the former in the same breath as JLS and One Direction, the show’s most successful groups. Tulisa said of The Risk: “There is no cheese with you… you are all credible musicians… this is a credible boyband.” The implicit contrast with Nu Vibe seemed all too clear.
11. In the Sunday results show, the boys were one of the final two in their category awaiting their fate, reinforcing the impression that the decision on who to send home was between them and 2Shoes.
12. Before sending Nu Vibe through, Tulisa admitted, “I was a little disappointed in them.” She seemed embarrassed as she announced her decision, not being able to look at 2Shoes.
Of course, Nu Vibe could have lessened the impact of all this unfavourable treatment if they’d turned in a stellar vocal performance. Instead, as Dug commented, they were “about as harmonic as a cat going under a combine harvester”. And if the boys were already in producers’ bad books, Bradley Johnson will hardly have helped matters by mouthing “fuck” in shock at the camera as he consoled the distraught Essex duo on their elimination.
The big question is: What do we make of the fact that Nu Vibe received such a drubbing at the hands of programme makers, and yet were kept around to perform again in week 2? We suggest two possible explanations:
Explanation #1: Knock ’em down to build ’em up again
Conceivably we are being set up for an amazing turnaround. Tabloid stories after the weekend drove home Tulisa’s comments in the Sunday results show, that the boys were not very good in the first live show and have to work harder. We could conceivably see this week’s VT showing them doing just this, prior to a helpful late slot in the running order and a more suitable song choice. If they sing a Boyz II Men track this week, as has been rumoured, the judges’ script almost writes itself: “Tonight you went from boys to men.”
We can’t discount this possibility. After all, the editing of the bootcamp and judges’ houses episodes was so much more favourable to Nu Vibe than to The Risk, that the week 1 mauling was most unexpected. It’s much harder to conjure up a “journey” for manufactured bands than for pre-cooked bands or soloists, so perhaps the plan was to trash Nu Vibe when there was no possibility of them being eliminated, and thus set up a journey of redemption as they knuckle down and overcome their differences.
Explanation #2: They are lambs to the slaughter in week 2
The other explanation for the remarkable turnaround in producer favour in the week between judges’ houses being screened and the first live show is in many ways the simpler one: Perhaps, in the rehearsals leading up to the first live show, producers switched horses when it became clear that Nu Vibe weren’t working as a group and The Risk were.
If this is the case, we can expect Nu Vibe to be sent out in an unhelpfully early slot this weekend, while Strictly is still on the other side. We can expect another not-great song choice, and lukewarm comments from the judging panel – neither positive enough to inspire votes, nor negative enough to risk provoking sympathy (“better than last week, but I’m not sure you’ve done enough”).
If producers do attempt to deliver the final death blows to Nu Vibe this weekend, it will provide further grist to the theory that the show felt the need to get rid of 2Shoes last week because of Charley’s pregnancy. Otherwise, why would they not have simply completed the job on Nu Vibe in week 1 and kept the fun-loving Essex pair around?
How do you read the Nu Vibe situation? What do you expect for this weekend?