Before last Saturday’s show, we observed that the decision to go for a double elimination had presumably been taken in some kind of crisis meeting to discuss how this season’s limp ratings might be boosted. We wondered if that crisis meeting might also have decided on changes in which acts are favoured – and Saturday’s show certainly proved to be a mid-lives mini reboot at least as far as the groups were concerned.
The appearance of Little Mix in the pimp slot indicated that they had usurped The Risk as programme-makers’ favoured group, although we’d be surprised if the show were anticipating their hatchet job on The Risk to have quite such a drastic effect. Props to the Sofabet commenters who warned us the switch of favour to Little Mix was coming, including tpfkar, Dug, Chatterbox, Pete D, Rob, fiveleaves and bunnyman. Perhaps nugget put it best: “If SYCO see a following building and think they can make this work then beleive me they will be quite willing to tear up old plans and rewrite the script.”
Happily, the rewritten script also seems to include more of a starring role for Marcus Collins. Our 14/1 pre-series tip is now a general 5/2 after being praised to the rafters for his enjoyable take on Reet Petite, a left-field but inspired song choice which brought back fond childhood memories for the Sofabet team (of the 1986 re-release, not the 1957 original).
But should long-time female lead Janet Devlin start to worry that her character arc is now in line for a premature and sticky end?
We think it’s too early to reach any firm conclusions. Let’s start with the pimping of Little Mix, which felt to us like what marketing people call a trial balloon. All we can confidently conclude from it is that their performance in week 4’s vote, after a competent ‘ET’ and inspired VT, was good enough to justify giving them a push and seeing if they could gain any traction.
Tulisa introduced them as “the girls’ favourite”, and “representing ladies across the nation”. We then had an introductory VT that felt curiously demeaning given that it came fully five weeks in – it was as if the show had been thinking of them up till now as a bit of disposable short-term fun, then belatedly realised that they might be relationship material so it would only be polite to learn their names and something about them.
Thus we were told that PERRIE is from SOUTH SHIELDS, LEIGH ANNE is from HIGH WYCOMBE, JADE is also from SOUTH SHIELDS (regional vote alert! Howay the lasses!), and JESY is from ROMFORD. Got that?
It now seems clear that we were wrong in last week’s article on Little Mix to speculate that the height of the show’s ambitions for them was to clear the bottom two for as long as possible. The VT and the pimp slot told us that producers thought it might be possible to get the girls far enough to set them up for a post-show career.
At least, we assume it did. The alternative way to read it is tpfkar’s observation that there was “something a bit desperate tonight, needing a second consecutive late slot, very helpful VT, Tulisa begging for votes, etc which makes me wonder if they are not doing as well as they seem”. Maybe so, but we reckon producers were simply throwing everything they could at Little Mix so they could get an idea of how much it might be possible to build their support from now on. If they were in serious danger this week, it would have been a risky choice also to trash The Risk.
We stand by our scepticism about whether Little Mix have it in them to produce the kind of game-changing magic moment that will surely be required for them to win this. We compared them to One Direction in this respect – and just as One Direction underwhelmed from the pimp slot in week 5 last year, Little Mix also failed to make the most of their opportunity. An eye on the Betfair win market told the story of their ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music’. As the running order unfolded and it became clear that Little Mix were in line to be pimped, they were backed in to as short as 7.4. By the time they’d finished singing, they were trading at around 13. This is not good.
Presumably, producers will look at this week’s vote and see whether it suggests traction or spinning wheels before deciding how much it’s worth pushing them in the coming weeks.
If the balance of power shifted starkly in the groups category, it is still a head-scratcher which of the boys producers are hoping to get into the final. While we were obviously delighted to see Marcus being brought to the boil at last, they seem to be keeping Craig on the back burner rather than sticking him in the deep freeze. As lolhart says, “Last night was a good opportunity for them to criticise him after an average performance, but they didn’t go there.”
When we tipped Marcus before the lives, at a time when Gary had three Liverpudlians in his category, we wrote that whoever was the last Scouse boy standing would inherit this powerful regional base going into the final. It remains the case, especially with tabloid stories that Marcus and Craig are best of friends laying the ground for the maximum possible transfer of support from whoever is first to fall.
Those of us who are on Marcus at double-figure odds are now in the happy position of being able to lay off our stake and wait to see how this pans out.
Even more of a head-scratcher is what’s going on with Janet Devlin. To describe her latest performance, we would need to ask Kelly what’s the antonym of “putting it down”. Keeping it up? Janet certainly kept up her recent run of disappointments, following her dull ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’ and tuneless ‘Every Breath You Take’ with a lyrics-forgetting moment during ‘I Want You Back’.
When her VT started with Gary again calling her predictable, it seemed predictable that she was going to come out and prove him wrong by smashing an uptempo song. Instead of which, it turned out that Janet was being set up for a fall. We had a VT focusing on her taking control of her choices for this week to show us who she really is – and then the judges telling us that it didn’t work. Ouch.
Is there a way back for Janet? She is seriously pushing her luck with this prolonged failure to justify the wave of hype on which she surfed into the live shows, and if she was from a region with a less cohesive identity than Ulster we reckon she’d have been in a singoff already. But we’re certainly not writing her off, for a couple of reasons.
As tpfkar has observed, it is likely that Little Mix are fishing for votes in the same pool as Janet, so it is quite possible that the decision to downplay Janet this week was part of the floating of the Little Mix trial balloon. If the vote suggests Little Mix aren’t going to fly, it will be easy enough to give Janet a suitable song, a pimp slot and the “this is why we fell in love with you at your audition” treatment.
We also have to ask: Who will producers want to win the show? Much as we have tipped and backed Marcus, we don’t reckon it’s him or Craig. If we were them, we’d ideally like Little Mix or Misha B as our winner, as they seem the acts for whom it would be easiest to carve out a post-show career niche. But if it’s not possible to push either of them over the line – and we suspect it might not be – then our next choice would be Janet.
Certainly Janet’s VT this week felt like a departure from the self-confidence storyline, showing her being “feisty”, as Kelly put it. Could it possibly be that Janet has been getting too big for her boots backstage and producers feel a need to cut her down to size? They will want a winner who is content to be moulded, after all.
In Misha’s case, we’d love to be proved wrong about the uphill struggle we think she faces to win, so we were pleased to see programme-makers continue in full sackcloth-and-ashes mode. They gave her the most sympathetic VT imaginable after the hideously misjudged week 3 bullying allegations led to her week 4 singoff appearance. And as Tim pointed out, her song choice of ‘Proud Mary’ was the one which saw 2009’s Rachel Adedeji (to whom we have compared Misha before) top the vote in the week of her sympathy bounce.
They also, as Curtis noticed, just happened to let slip that she is from Manchester. Ronnie summed it up: “they are really trying to rebuild Misha B. The Manchester mentions, the number of times Misha said “thank you” after the judges comments, the new softer styling, the positive VT of her being humbled by her family – a real attempt to make her more appealing to middle England.”
As with Little Mix, we wait with interest to see how far Misha B can get with the wind of producer favour behind her again.
A final note from a viewing rather than a punting perspective. Immediate consensus in the comments was that this was a “bad show” (Donald), an “appalling show” (nugget), and “awful, all of it!” (Rob). It has been speculated many times that Simon Cowell must have taken all the producer talent to the US with him and left the work experience trainees in charge of this year’s UK show, and again there seemed to be some bafflingly poor decisions made.
After the media blitz that accompanied Friday’s announcement of the double elimination – which was presumably aimed to entice lapsed viewers to give this series a second chance – wouldn’t you think they might have given such viewers an early positive reason to stay tuned? Instead of which they chose as the first two performances Johnny and Janet, both of whom were being set up to be knocked down for the dullness of their performances. And just in case any viewers had inadvertently enjoyed them, Gary “Borelow” Barlow was on hand to point out their mistake. IT’S TIME… TO FACE… NO FUN AT ALL!
As ever, your theories and impressions are warmly welcomed in the comments box below.