Double elimination: a phrase that punters don’t want to hear the day before a live show. It throws previous “bottom two” markets into confusion. And if following the format established in previous series, it means that the next to go is based purely on the public vote, with no chance of being saved by the judges.
We at Sofabet have never quite understood why the show doesn’t handle a double-elimination as a triple sing-off. It would create more tension, make for better television, and allow producers more control over who leaves. It would mean they could save the bottom act in the public vote, if they wanted to.
It would even enable them to do so with a 2-1-1 majority verdict if the judges had a “vote to save” one act from the three, whereas they would usually need three judges to save a favoured act from being bottom in the public vote; we speculated earlier in the week about whether Gary, Kelly or Tulisa might conceivably prove to be a loose cannon in such a situation.
Still, producers haven’t shown a great deal of imagination this year, so we don’t see any particular reason to expect them to depart from the previous format – the bottom act goes, then the second- and third-bottom acts sing for survival. So what can we deduce from the announcement that two acts will be leaving?
Primarily, we can deduce that this is a short-term attempt to boost declining ratings for the Saturday programme. This is made clear by the fact that it was announced in plenty of time to be covered in the Saturday newspapers, and accompanied by a media blitz which saw Gary and all three boys sitting on the This Morning sofa.
On the bright side, it is at least a good thing that we found out a day in advance, rather than it being sprung on us by Dermot at the end of the Saturday show.
It does come at a cost for producers. Not only do they have to reconcile themselves to the possibility of losing someone they’d rather keep (as happened last year when Katie Waissel finished bottom of the vote in week 7), it also means we seem to be heading back to the days of a three-act final. We’re surprised as we thought last year’s four-act affair worked well for them, giving them an extra week to lay the foundations for Cher Lloyd’s continuing assault on the charts.
Anyway, of more pressing concern is what this means for punters. With a third of the nine acts facing the danger zone and not much to choose between many of them, the producers’ usual tricks of song choice, running order, judges’ comments and so on could be even more crucial – and revealing – than usual.
We must also consider that the decision to go for a double elimination was presumably made in some kind of crisis meeting to discuss how to breathe life into this series – it has been reported that Simon Cowell personally intervened – and who knows what else may have been decided there? Perhaps some previously favoured acts are to be thrown to the wolves.
If so, the most obvious candidate is Frankie Cocozza. At the time of writing, Bwin are the only bookie to have priced up the ‘to be eliminated’ market, and they put him as short as 3/10.
We certainly can’t recommend playing at long odds on given that Frankie has defied being favourite to go for two weeks running. Nonetheless, it is quite possible that even those short odds will look generous in retrospect come Downton Abbey time on Sunday. We would not be at all surprised to see the show cut him loose with a Wagner ‘Creep’ style treatment – after all, the weekly dose of Frankie-out-on-the-lash articles is starting to wear as thin as his voice. Producers may well have decided that he has served his purpose and it’s time to reassert a modicum of credibility for the show as a singing contest.
Also odds-on to go on Sunday is Kitty Brucknell. She’s had a bad week in the tabloids, first with a ruckus over the use of voice-changing technology during her performance last Saturday, then – rather more seriously – over allegations that she racially abused Derry from The Risk.
We can’t quite figure out what the show is playing at by allowing this he-said-she-said to play out in public. This is dangerous, Big Brother-esque territory with the potential to drag the X Factor brand even more deeply into the gutter than they managed with bullygate. We will watch with interest to see if the show choose to try to undo the damage in this weekend’s VTs, or ignore it altogether.
Kitty has always struck us as giving producers more options than Frankie, mainly because she can at least sing. But she’ll need plenty of help this weekend, coming down off a sympathy bounce (they usually tend to last only one week) and battling the damaging headlines. It’s hard to know how it will all work out for her.
Interestingly, Craig Colton is next in danger according to the Bwin market. This surprises us given his position as third favourite in the overall standings. Perhaps someone has been monitoring our comments section, in particular this enticing theory from boomboom on Craig being blessed with last week’s pimp slot:
the pimping of Craig is so strange that I wonder if it’s not part of a larger plan to ditch him this week… All signs suggest that he is struggling a little votes wise recently… [the pimping] would ensure he had enough votes to stay clear of B2, so that they could continue with plan A of removing Habibis [and] it makes their job of removing him this Saturday significantly easier.
We’d like to believe it, but we think that the most obvious explanation for last week’s pimping was the accurate one – most probably, and annoyingly for those of us who are on Marcus Collins, Craig is the boy that producers would most like to see in the final.
There is a chance that if Marcus beat Craig in last week’s vote despite the latter’s pimping, they may switch horses. But unless I see evidence in Saturday’s show to back this up, I will stick to the belief that the biscuit boy’s treatment last week suggests he would be saved if he did fall into a sing-off situation.
Marcus himself has had a couple of solid weeks from early draws, and The Sun’s YouGov poll from the week before last suggested he has a reasonable level of support. We would be disappointed to see him fall into the bottom three, but we have to consider it as a possibility if he is again shortchanged with an early slot in the running order.
Our article questioning the credentials of Little Mix to make the final, let alone win the competition, provoked plenty of disagreement in our comments section. In particular, fans of the girlnextdoorband may take solace in reading bunnyman’s comprehensive point-by-point rebuttal of the case we made.
We have yet to be persuaded that they have produced the kind of performance that would broaden their appeal significantly beyond teen girls with a self-image problem, as they will surely have to do if they are to progress to the business end of the competition. Still, they certainly come into this weekend with more momentum than ever before, and it will be fascinating to see how Saturday’s show treats them in relation to their rivals from within the same category, The Risk.
Week 5 has historically been a week when the pimp slot is allotted to a serious front-runner: Alexandra, Joe and One Direction used it as a springboard to the finals over the last three series. My theory that producers are still heavily invested in The Risk means I think they will receive this week’s last-to-sing boost. Right or wrong, we’ll know by 9.30 pm on Saturday.
Market leaders The Risk and Janet both need to up their game after failing to convince in week 3 and disappointing seriously in week 4. If The Risk are not in the pimp slot, I would expect Janet to be there instead (or failing that Kitty – the fact that both Janet and Kitty have already had the honour doesn’t mean it won’t happen again). It’s time for the programme to big up those acts it has previously suggested are its stars, which has been Janet more than anybody.
Misha B is clearly a star in terms of talent, but after last week’s shock drop into the bottom two, she is reliant on a sympathy bounce this week. The phenomenon has proved as durable this year as in previous ones, and I think it is more likely than not to keep Misha safe this week.
This leaves us with the entertaining Johnny Robinson. Following the unhelpful “Johnny Robinson quizzed over benefits scam” stories that appeared in the tabloids in the run-up to the week 4 show, Johnny’s treatment last week felt fondly valedictory. His VT showed that he had gained the popularity and approval of the British public, having managed to win over Gary Barlow the week before with his wonderful rendition of ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’.
The judges reinforced this by telling us that his rendition of ‘That Ole Devil Called Love’, from second in the running order, was the ballad (or “ballid” as Tulisa oddly insists on pronouncing it) he had always wanted to sing to showcase his voice. It all seemed like a clear attempt to suggest to Johnny’s fans that he has already achieved all he set out to do, and thus there is no need for them to support him further.
This strategy didn’t get Johnny into the bottom two last week, and probably wasn’t intended to – we expect that he went into the show from such a high after week 3 that the best producers could have hoped for was to quell the hype around Johnny’s chances in the competition. And it seems to have had the desired effect. Who is talking about Johnny now? He’s been anonymous in this week’s press.
This evident attempt to soften Johnny up leads us to suspect that he may be in line for a middling slot in the running order and middling words from the judges, and that this could just about see him drop into the bottom three, from where he looks unlikely to be saved against many of his rivals. We therefore think there may be a bit of value at 8-1 with bwin for Johnny to be one of the two eliminees this week.
If you buy the theory that the double elimination suggests Frankie’s time is up, you might also be interested in the same firm’s offer of 12-1 about Johnny and Frankie being this week’s two eliminees, a price also available at Paddy Power. This eventuality is only 6-1 with the other three firms to have priced up this market at the time of going to press (Boylesports, Ladbrokes and Hills).
Whatever you do, though, we would recommend keeping stakes small until the Saturday show tells us more about what’s going through producers’ minds at the moment. What are your theories on who will be in double trouble this weekend?