After a hectic 48 hours in the X Factor which has seen Frankie Cocozza sent packing and the public ridiculously invited to reinstate one of the four acts rejected in the first week’s big twist, the four judges faced a press conference today like embattled government ministers or Premiership managers.
The press conference confirmed that phone lines for Amelia Lily, Jonjo Kerr, 2 Shoes and James Michael will open at 4pm Thursday and close during the Saturday show. At the time of writing, only 2 Shoes had not yet taken to Twitter to start begging for votes, Amelia Lily looking the most pathetically desperate.
It’s time to take stock. Who do producers want back? Who will they get? What are the returning act’s prospects? What was that Frankie Cocozza stuff all about? And how annoyed should punters be? Let’s take these questions in turn.
1. Who do producers want back?
This is the first ever public vote in X Factor which has not been immediately preceded by performances, so we have no possibility to dissect the usual tactics of running order, song choice, VTs, judges’ comments etc. We are deep into the realms of guessland.
Noisy wonders: “Maybe the producers have given up on Janet as plan A for being too controlling (and surprisingly poor!) and are trying to switch to Amelia.” It’s certainly a possibility. However, Amelia also seems the act most likely to take votes away from Little Mix, who have seemed in the last two weeks to be the act the show is keenest to push. Or maybe Little Mix were Plan B, they are not flying, and so Amelia is now Plan C?
James Michael? They literally had little time for him during the audition shows. 2 Shoes? The widely-assumed reason for their departure instead of the soon-to-be-nobbled Nu Vibe, as depicted by Fix Factor Comics, is now five weeks further advanced. Jonjo Kerr? Not unless they have completely taken leave of their senses.
Given their lack of ability to use the usual tactics, how much can producers influence the vote anyway? We are guessing they probably have some capacity to give some acts more help than others to get media coverage and make best use of social media. Or maybe they simply want Amelia Lily and are as confident as the betting suggests that this will happen.
2. Who will they get?
Amelia Lily is a red hot favourite at 1/4 with James Michael at 7/1, then 2 Shoes 20/1 and Jonjo Kerr a 33/1 shot. How do we approach this market? With no public performance preceding the vote, essentially what’s happened here is that we’ve stripped out one of the factors we normally have to consider after a Saturday show and we’re left with the question of an act’s base – the ones who we assume are so invested in an act, they will vote for them regardless.
As Jack says, Amelia Lily “had masses of support prior to her unlucky elimination. In most polls I saw, she was equaling or beating Janet”. She is also ahead on Twitter followers by some margin. But is it possible some of her erstwhile fans might have cooled their interest in the meantime, especially given the heavy pimping of Little Mix? Might there be a risk of complacency if her fans assume she’s home and hosed?
Boys also usually get more votes than girls, and James Michael has the advantage that he would become the only straight (as far as we know) male in the competition. We would usually say that his regional base of Liverpool would likely trump that of Amelia’s Middlesbrough. However, as Tim asks, with Scousers already having Craig and Marcus to get behind, might that make them less motivated to pick up the phones and get James back in?
Having tipped 2 Shoes each-way before the week 1 twist did for them, we are obviously hoping that they are the beneficiaries of the week 6 twist. It doesn’t seem impossible – we detect plenty of goodwill towards them, and Essex is a regional base currently catered for only by Little Mix’s Jesy, who is from Romford. But perhaps our capacity for objective judgement is clouded by the sudden hope that our bets at fancy prices might unexpectedly return from the dead.
As for Jonjo, he was so unutterably appalling in his one appearance on the X Factor stage that we can’t imagine there will be enough masochists out there who want to hear him again. Although the fact that vote proceeds are going to Help For Heroes shouldn’t harm Jonjo, the formerly much speculated about “soldier vote” would have to be powerful indeed to propel him back into the frame.
In short, while it certainly seems that Amelia is the most likely returnee, we aren’t tempted by her current odds.
3. What are the returning act’s prospects?
Ronnie asks a good question: “if the public have to vote a contestant back in on Thursday or Friday, will they really pick up the phone to vote for them again on Saturday or Sunday?” For this week, a lot probably depends on running order. It makes obvious dramatic and financial sense to put the returning act on last.
That way, Dermot can invite votes for the four while the other six acts are performing, with cuts to shots of the four acts waiting nervously backstage – it would maximise phone vote revenue, and keep people tuned in till the end of the show to find out who gets to perform. Today’s press conference said the votes would close within the first hour of Saturday’s show, so we are assuming a pimp slot for the returning act is indeed likely.
It’s a moot question how well producers will want the returning act to do. If we were them, we wouldn’t want the returning act to be eliminated this weekend, as the whole exercise would then look even more pointless than it now does. We would also rather not have to save the returning act from the bottom two this weekend – as Rob says this might “compound the negativity” of the returning act being seen not to deserve to be there. This all points to the pimp slot, too.
But then, if we were producers we also wouldn’t want the returning act to win the show. It’s one thing to grab some mid-series headlines through a cheap stunt, but we’d be looking to try to salvage some credibility by the time of the final. Our best guess, then, is that the returning act may be given enough help to get through this week, then dragged back to earth with a view to losing them in week 7 or 8.
4. What was that Frankie Cocozza stuff all about?
There were so many interesting thoughts raised in the comments section to our “Frankie Cocozza: What’s Going On?” article, it seems a shame not to revisit them.
One theory we can surely discount is that raised by Simon le chat, that Frankie was ditched as he was “beginning to attract a swell of “anti-Syco” votes that threatened to sink the show”. We saw last year with Wagner’s assassination that the show has means of getting rid of its protest vote acts – means which it conspicuously failed to deploy against Frankie last Saturday night.
It remains hard to make much sense of the explanation that Frankie’s exit on Tuesday was simply because he broke one of the X Factor’s “golden rules”. Producers seemed perfectly comfortable with continuing to showcase Frankie’s antics right up to the Sunday show, even having Dermot ask him several times in a matey, nudge-nudge way about how little sleep he’d had the previous night. Take a look at that list of 10 “golden rules”, then re-watch Frankie’s week 3 VT and week 4 VT and add up the number of those rules programme-makers were all too happy to depict him apparently flouting.
Why the change of heart? As tpfkar says, “It doesn’t make any sense to spend 2 months (over!) building Frankie up as a rock bad boy, just to kick him out when he crosses the line. And what line? He was featured partying and drinking, as much against the rules as what he’s alleged to have done… Hard to escape the conclusion that the show could have kept him if they wanted. But until today it really did look like they wanted him to stay. So why the about turn when it causes so many problems with the show format?”
Dug speculates with his usual fine turn of phrase that “any 18-year-old, no matter how cocky, could fold under the pressure of public hatred and constant booing. I reckon he asked to leave and the producers decided to make a story out of it… If you were an X-factor producer, which headline would you prefer? EXPLOITED TEEN BUCKLES UNDER PRESSURE or MAN-SLAG FRANKIE’S DRUG-FUELLED SEX-BINGE?”
Rob reckons “there was probably a crisis meeting and it was decided that FC was actually damaging ratings rather than helping them. imo there is ‘good’ controversy e.g. wagner and ‘bad’ controversy where programmes fall into disrepute. i think xfactor crossed the line this time and are desperately trying to row backwards before they go over the waterfall.”
Again, though, given Frankie’s portrayal up till now, why did the crisis apparently hit only after the Sunday night show? There is a deliciously speculative theory that it may have something to do with M&S executives getting into work on Monday and re-watching their glossy Christmas ad, with its powdery white effect as Frankie sings. As lolhart says, “The X-Factor’s main concern will always be that lucrative advertising revenue.” Could it be that this wasn’t just a mess, this was an M&S mess?
Or do we run with perhaps the simplest explanation of all, suggested by Mark Lawson’s article in The Guardian, noting that “the consequence of Cowell Inc’s fit of showbiz morality was to put The X Factor back on the front page of the Sun and other tabloids, a position it once claimed by right but which so far has been more elusive during this current dull run”.
Amelia Lily started being backed on Betfair several days before Frankie’s departure, which suggests this twist might have been in the offing. Given which, did the show simply decide that firing Frankie would be a headline-grabbing way to tee it up?
5. How annoyed should punters be?
Sofabet commenters are united in their disdain for what programme-makers have done to this year’s show – it’s “a shambles” (Euan), “so wrong” (annie), “a joke” (Donald), a “debacle” (Jack), “a mess” (Dan), a “total farce” (Nicky), “ludicrous” (fiveleaves). We couldn’t agree more.
However, we can’t agree with Mark the bookie basher that punters should feel “cheated”. Nicky is right to say that this is like “allowing a new horse to join the Grand National on the second circuit” – but then, why is it so inconceivable that this should happen? Because the managers of Aintree racecourse know that their business model depends on betting. The X Factor’s doesn’t. If they want to screw with their product, that’s their prerogative. However annoying, it’s a risk punters have to take.
So we do think punters have a right to be annoyed, but only because we enjoy betting on the show and the way it’s going there isn’t going to be a show to bet on for many more years.
We can only echo the words of Euan: “there is a way out, my fees are fairly reasonable.” Sofabet commenters regularly come up with winning ideas: we loved the way Shoulders suggested for getting out of the Frankie fix (have the next two weeks votes count to the next elimination, and donate all this week’s vote revenue to the poppy appeal), and Dug has some wise thoughts on how to minimise the fallout from this latest decision. We reckon a 2012 X Factor produced by Sofabet commenters would get the franchise back on the rails. How about it, Simon?
As always, please share your thoughts and theories below.