I’ve already counselled caution in the early elimination markets, and it’s especially the case this week. That’s because producers have two powerful weapons in their armoury.
First, the 15-minute Strictly overlap zone allows them to put the first act performing at a great disadvantage relative to all the others (the second act may also be marginally affected). Second, last week’s phone vote figures should help them to strategise about which acts might survive the graveyard shift, and which are vulnerable.
In the circumstances, I am holding off from getting involved in this week’s elimination market until the show itself, and I recommend you do the same. Nonetheless, this is how I read the situation beforehand.
Let’s start with Sami, because she’s favourite to be eliminated, and justifiably so. She’s the one act of the 11 that we at Sofabet feel fairly confident, based on her treatment so far, that producers have little interest in keeping around in the competition.
This reflects the fact that she was rejected at judges’ houses before Goldie’s withdrawal, and given the worst position last week bar Nu Vibe (2nd, in the Strictly overlap zone). Nor will she have endeared herself any more to programme makers with her words of praise for cruise ship singers like Jayne McDonald in her post-performance interview with Dermot.
How well Sami performed from her poor slot last week could well determine how producers approach this week. If she was only just clear of the danger zone, I don’t think producers will have any qualms about sending her out in the death slot. (Those who think Sami should be due a better slot in the interests of “fairness” should bear in mind that in 2010 Paije Richardson sang first in Week 3 having performed third in Week 2; meanwhile John Adeleye’s first three draws read 3-6-2, against Katie Waissel’s 10-11-12 and Wagner’s 14-10-11.)
Sami being announced as the first to sing will suggest to me that producers think she is weak enough to fall into the bottom two. (There is no cast-iron guarantee of them being right, however – Paije survived). And if that happens, I don’t expect her to be saved.
If we don’t hear Sami’s name being called first, however, that will suggest to me that she was safely clear of the bottom two last week and producers think she is too strong to be attacked with all guns this week and will need some more softening up. This wouldn’t be surprising – I observed last week that the no-longer-so-young trooper can do surprisingly well in the early weeks of the competition, as Mary Byrne and Daniel Evans indicate. Sami also has a regional base.
If they don’t think the death slot would kill off Sami, it would make sense to put her on a bit later (just a litte bit later, between a couple of strong acts) and bestow the graveyard shift on another act they consider vulnerable and expendable in an attempt to keep their favoured acts safe. The question is, who?
This is where it gets complicated, as the next four in the next elimination betting are all acts who producers have shown interest in keeping around in the competition.
Take Johnny Robinson, next likely to be eliminated according to bookmakers’ lists. Last week, he was given a big production and fed further opportunities to produce campy one-liners. With Kitty becoming more credible, he has become the show’s pantomime dame, an entertaining role that suggests programme makers would like to see him around for another week or two.
Kitty herself is one of the few talking points of this series so far, and her pimp slot last week told us all we need to know about how much producers want her for the long haul.
The same goes for Frankie Cocozza, who I expect to see in this week’s pimp slot or as near as, following his surprise inclusion in the bottom two last week. His ability to enjoy a sympathy bounce this week continues to divide our commenters following our dissection of this issue yesterday, but I’m with Euan in believing that, “If this was a soap opera they’d be keeping him going as long as they can… and it is.”
Rhythmix are the other act at a single-figure price to go home this week, but judges’ praise for the girlband’s likeability following their performance of ‘I’m Like A Bird’ was laughably insistent last week. It would be a quick and surprising U-turn for programme makers to decide they weren’t going to fly.
Who may producers test in the death slot instead in an attempt to keep these acts safe? The top three in the outright market – The Risk, Janet and Misha B – look both secure and favoured by programme makers. By process of elimination, so to speak, this leaves us with Craig, Marcus and Sophie as potential victims if programme-makers consider Sami too strong and aren’t ready to give up on any of Johnny, Kitty, Frankie or Rhythmix.
You can get reasonable odds on each of these three being this week’s eliminee, though punters are going in blind. Unlike producers, we can’t say with any certainty how well each did in the first phone vote, and that may well decide who gets cast asunder tonight.
There is an argument that none of Sophie, Craig or Marcus will be suited by this week’s rock theme, unlike Frankie. However, just as a poor draw the previous week is no indicator of how the acts will be treated this time around, so the weekly theme and song choice can be something of a red herring for punters trying to make their minds up before the show. The looseness of the themes, and the ways that songs are re-arranged to suit (or not), means assumptions can be completely overturned during the programme.
Neither Craig nor Marcus covered themselves in glory last week. In their favour, Frankie’s poor showing suggests that one of them may have to be called into service to keep self-appointed head judge Gary Barlow with an act in the final stages of the competition. But which one? Of the two, Marcus has so far been more favoured in terms of overall screentime, and Craig was sent on in the Strictly overlap zone last week. However, if Marcus still performed worse in the public poll, it pains us to say that he could be cut loose this evening.
Sophie also finds herself at the crossroads of producer favour. We have hypothesised that if Janet’s public vote last week indicates she’s not the potential winner that programme makers hope, Sophie may well become the back-up plan. If on the other hand, Janet is polling strongly, and Sophie’s showing from the penultimate slot was weak, she could be the one with tonight’s graveyard shift.
You see why I’m eager for the revelation of this evening’s first to perform. Last week’s sing-off showed that there’s money to be made when producers’ intentions can be read. Quite what they have in mind tonight is very much open to question, and for that reason, I’m going to wait and see and hope that it becomes clear during the show itself.
What’s your strategy for tonight? Let us know who you think will be in the graveyard shift and whether you think they’ll be in the bottom two as a result.