I had hoped there would be some sense of clarity in the elimination market by week 4. Fat chance. The series is in chaos. You probably know by now that Kelly Rowland will not be appearing this week - having apparently caught a sore throat in LA, Rhythmix have become Little Mix, and The Risk have risked a change in personnel at this late stage.
A race to the bottom also continued at the micro level. After his storming performance last week, negative headlines discussed Johnny Robinson’s benefits claims, whilst further coverage was given to allegations that Misha B had ‘bullied’ rivals and Kitty Brucknell continued to provoke on a night out in Soho. Is there any contestant that hasn’t been dumped on in some way?
Kelly’s absence and The Risk’s rejig shouldn’t impact the elimination market this week, with producers bound to do all they can for the latter. However, I’m not so sure about the Rhythmix name change. Punters have very little idea of how so many things will pan out in tonight’s show – not to mention the overlap with Strictly on BBC1 that will disadvantage the first act significantly – that I can’t recommend any involvement beforehand. Nonetheless, here’s my appraisal.
Hot favourite to go is Frankie Cocozza at a shade of odds against. The first public vote put him in the bottom two, from which he managed to escape the following week despite the attempt to make him come across as objectionably as possible. The so-called ‘sympathy bounce’, however, most usually only lasts one week: of 26 first-time sympathy-bouncers throughout each series, 17 were in trouble again the following week. I’m not prepared to suggest that Frankie will more likely emulate the nine out of 26 to escape this fate, given his lack of talent or popularity.
A more pertinent set of questions may be: who would Frankie face if in the sing-off; and would producers want to see him saved against these potential rivals? Kitty Brucknell is due this week’s sympathy bounce after her sing-off survival last week, but my article yesterday pointed out that as a loose cannon, it cannot be taken for granted. Frankie and Kitty have consistently generated more headlines than anyone else. Nonetheless, Kitty offers programme makers far more options than Frankie, vocally and emotionally, and for this reason I think she would win such a duel.
I’m not so sure about the band formerly known as Rhythmix any more. The judges showered them with fine words for the first two live shows, but last week felt like an attempt to soften their appeal. They were drawn badly, and the panel spent more time discussing whether the mashup of Tik Tok and Push It was pushing it for rock week than on their performance – a classic diversionary tactic.
And then there’s the new band name. Firstly, it’s really not ideal to change your brand mid-competition, though I recognise that producers had little choice. Secondly, the new name Little Mix received a general thumbs down on forums, with some justification. As our commenter Euan put it, ‘If you have big plans for anything in a “contest” you don’t give it a name with LITTLE in it. Concious or not it’s not really a name to inspire confidence.’
What reason could there be for producers to cool their enthusiasm for Little Mix, if that is indeed what’s happening? After all, they are the only girlband left in the competition. If Little Mix are knocked out, it would also leave Tulisa with only one act standing for her supporters to coalesce behind: The Risk. And that may be the point. Quite how much the show is investing in the boyband has been amply demonstrated with yesterday’s outrageous personnel change (of which more next week).
One theory is that producers with access to the weekly phone polls may see the girlband barely escaping the dangerzone. As a result, why continue to flog a dead horse (or a ‘little’ one), when they can double down on their big hope in the groups category instead?
This is speculation, but the girlband’s supporters should be very concerned about their treatment over the last week, because it indicates they might not even be saved over Frankie Cocozza. Little Mix fans will be praying they are not sent out first, in the Strictly overlap zone, as this would seem to confirm they are being cast asunder (I can’t see anything but another late slot for The Risk with their new line-up).
But If I had to guess who we’ll see first, it’s Johnny Robinson. This is based on something our commenter, Curtis said after Johnny’s storming performance last Saturday: “It’ll be interesting to see their treatment of him in the coming weeks, as that will probably be based on how well he’s doing on the votes (good treatment if he’s not doing that great, bad treatment if he’s doing really well).” A couple of subsequent stories in The Sun, one pointing out that he got far in a previous TV singing contest, and more especially the questioning of his benefit payments, indicate the latter of the two scenarios.
This is reiterated by the suggestions that Johnny’s production this week would be “stripped back” and “minimalistic”. The damaging tabloid stories and low-key production are straight out of the Wagner assassination copybook - as is being given the death slot. All will be revealed tonight. The momentum that Johnny gained from last week’s performance may well see him safe for this week at least. However, if producers are truly panicked, song choice and other considerations may be highly unsuitable. Therefore, I wouldn’t rule elimination out, especially if producers decide they would rather not risk a sympathy bounce from sing-off survival, even if he’s pitted against Frankie Cocozza.
Janet, Misha and The Risk feel like the acts that programme makers are going all out to get into the final, even if recent events may not have shown them in the most flattering light. I can’t therefore see any of them being voted off the show, or indeed in the bottom two this week. Marcus also looks likely to be safe after his strong performance from last week’s death slot.
That leaves us with the most vulnerable contestants from the boys and girls categories: Craig and Sophie. Both have their supporters and critics, though a general consensus emerged that last week was a rather anonymous one for both of them. There is a sense that both need to start re-building a bit of momentum – the death slot for the Liverpudlian lad or the North London lass would be a worrying hindrance, and could put either in danger of falling into the bottom two. However, given my theory that Johnny will be sent on first, I don’t feel like taking the prices on offer on either outcome.
In conclusion, this précis could be described as suburban, there’s so much hedging going on. But that’s with good reason. We commented earlier in the week that the show had lost its ability to follow through positive narratives for its contestants, thus alienating viewers. Events over the last day or two have only reinforced this opinion. Everything feels up in the air. Partly for that reason, I won’t get involved in any elimination betting before Saturday’s show. Also, although I expect Frankie Cocozza in the bottom two come Sunday’s results show, his fate may be decided by who opposes him in the sing-off.