If the X Factor production team read Sofabet, they must have had a good old chuckle last Thursday when we posted an article explaining how week 6 had convinced us they had finally made up their minds to get behind Craig Colton over Marcus Collins as the favoured Liverpudlian boy. As it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth.
We don’t know at what stage of the week it had been decided to shrink the biscuit boy’s hometown from Liverpool to Kirkby, give him the red and black treatment and style him (as commenter Nicky observed) as a junior Terry Scott, but it seems likely that by the time we posted that article Craig’s coffin was prepared and the hearse had been provisionally booked.
The lukewarm treatment of Amelia Lily on Saturday’s show hardly suggested that producers have long-term plans for her, so the fact that she was saved over Craig demonstrated the show must have felt a real imperative to get shot of him. It was a brutal and shocking comedown for a contestant who only the previous week had been talked up as a recording artist.
Today the Daily Star reported that Craig thought he was the “victim of a stitch-up”. Interestingly, he claims that it was only decided at the last moment that he was going to perform first (although we can’t help wondering if actually it was decided only to tell him at the last moment that he was performing first). So when was it decided to hob-nobble Craig, and why?
At the end of our article last Thursday, we noted: “We don’t know of any particular reason why he has drifted so much on Betfair in the last 48 hours (out from 5.0 to 7.6 at the time of writing). Perhaps there’s some kind of rumour we’re not aware of? Don’t forget Craig was reported last weekend as having packed his bags and quit, before Gary talked him out of it… it may be wise to tread carefully on any bets involving Craig until the reason becomes clear.” Here’s the story we referred to, from the Saturday of the week 6 show:
Liverpool lad Craig packed his bags and was poised to leave. He declared: “I can’t hack it anymore.” He said goodbye to all his housemates on Thursday but yesterday staff, led by mentor Gary Barlow, convinced the 23-year-old to stay. A source said: “Craig quit on Thursday. He said he was going home.
“He was really determined. He didn’t cry, he just wanted out. He didn’t want to be in the show any more. He was too drained and he was homesick.”
Of course, it’s never wise to take tabloid stories as gospel truth. But could producers conceivably have been sufficiently panicked over Craig’s mental state, and the thought of needing to bring yet another contestant back if he threatened to quit again, that they decided it was a chance they couldn’t risk taking?
Over at the excellent betsfactor.com, Richard runs with this theory: “The producers, in a first for 2011, dealt with the problem efficiently. Make sure he stays, keep him happy, when it’s died down get rid of him. Elephants don’t forget. The producers simply ran that weeks’ show as normal and then quietly and ruthlessly get rid of him.”
One possible piece of evidence in favour of this theory is Craig’s running order slot in week 6 – an unhelpful second. This, followed by opening the show in week 7, is the same softening jab followed by sucker punch routine that did for Johnny Robinson in weeks 4 and 5 – the 2-1 one-two. Amid the maelstrom of the returning contestants, producers might not have had much chance to change their plans for Craig’s treatment in week 6, but the running order is one thing we assume they could have tweaked.
Did we miss any other signs in week 6 that Craig might have been being softened up? His spot of second in the running order came after an equally unhelpful third in week 5 – but then, that was off the back of the pimp slot in week 4. And his VTs and comments were relentlessly positive in both weeks 5 and 6, so on the whole we don’t detect any earlier signs of disfavour.
If not this, then why else might producers have decided to ditch Craig? One theory we floated in our update post immediately after Saturday’s show is that he might have been collateral damage in the campaign to get Little Mix into the final. This would require us to believe that Little Mix aren’t doing so well in the votes, and Craig was the most vulnerable contestant for producers to pick off in the hopes of getting Little Mix to the final without the need for a singoff save.
Most importantly for the next three weeks, we also need to consider what the dunking of Craig suggests about producers’ intentions towards Marcus. Might we have misread the signs completely last week, and Marcus was actually intended to have been top boy from the start?
We think it’s unlikely. Indeed, in week 3, it looked very much like they might have been trying to get rid of Marcus when they sent him out as the only act in the Strictly overlap zone. With hindsight, we wonder if Marcus’s vote performance for week 2’s ‘Russian Roulette’ was so bad, producers thought they might have been able to get him bottom of the public vote.
Why might they have wanted to do so? If they expected Frankie Cocozza in the singoff again and wanted to save him, just about the only credible way to do so would have been through deadlock against another boy – it would have required only one other judge to save Frankie, and Gary could have deadlocked it “in the interests of fairness”.
As it happened, neither Frankie nor Marcus landed in the singoff, the latter after giving a determined rendition of ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’ which prompted Tulisa to express surprise at how good it was compared to rehearsals. But the fact that Marcus was the only act in the Strictly overlap zone – in a week when producers must have been concerned for both Frankie and Kitty, and when it would have been easy enough to put either of their ultimate week 3 or subsequent week 4 victims Sami Brookes or Sophie Habibis there instead – is hard to spin positively for how they viewed him at that stage.
We then had Craig’s pimp slot in week 4 with his Adele impression for ‘Set Fire to the Rain’, after a Liverpool-tastic VT and praised to the rafters by the judges. Marcus performed ‘Superstition’, its soul undercut by the inclusion of an INXS riff, with heavy make-up around the eyes – as faithful to the Halloween theme as he had been to the rock theme the week before.
Perhaps the week 3 performance had persuaded producers of ideas we floated about Marcus in our speculative 1-16 prediction piece – “they will be able to rely on him to put on an enjoyable show, week after week” – and our review of the unpleasant week 3 Bullygate show: “his sunny personality offers one way to drag the show out of the negativity in which they have mired it.” Certainly by week 5 the vibe about Marcus was a whole lot more positive.
Then, programme makers took the ability of Marcus to provide a traditional song-and-dance, Saturday-night variety show performance to its logical extreme, by having him cover Jackie Wilson’s 1957 hit ‘Reet Petite’ for the dancefloor fillers theme. He had a section of the show to himself, a huge production begun with a mock announcement in black-and-white and Gary’s proud pimping that it was the “performance of the series”.
It didn’t last long, though. Week 6 saw Marcus sent on in a dickie bow for ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ with a carbon copy performance of the week before that the judges could label ‘predictable’. This is what prompted us to advise any Sofabet readers who took our recommendation to back Marcus at 14/1 before the live shows that we thought it would be prudent to lay back their stake money.
Clearly we were premature to do so – Marcus was 4.2 on Betfair when we advised that, and he is now trading at 3.2. Still, it did look very much as though producers were trying to torpedo the Good Ship Marcus, so we can’t have too many regrets about investing in a seat on the liferaft.
Having decided to throw the Kirkby Kid under a bus, though, producers proceeded to give Marcus the works on Saturday. They tried to turn week 6’s ‘predictable’ into a positive by having Scouse Saint Rebecca Ferguson preach the gospel that remaining true to yourself was important – and Rebecca’s presence in Marcus’s VT was alone enough to suggest anointing him with her blessing.
But were producers intending to undermine Marcus at the same time as pimping him? Dug raises an interesting point:
I’m guessing that producers know his niche and that they are gunning for the older woman vote but seriously? It was less Bruno Mar(cu)s and more Reverend Marcus Sunshine, inspirational leader of an inflatable, pink church in the American Deep South. It had the feel-good factor but I felt it was alienating overall. As a Marcus backer, I am seriously doubtful after a performance that only served to solidify his destiny on stage in the West End. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t feel it reflected any producer love at all.
Although this week’s theme of Motown should play to Marcus’s strengths, we’re inclined to agree with EM, who says he is “in danger of looking less and less humble each week, something that doesn’t sit well with voters”, and annie, who reckons: “marcus will make it to the final to have a happy uncle gary, but i’m sure they’ll pull every trick in the book to make someone, anyone else win”.
Do you agree? What are your thoughts on when the decision was made to hob-nobble the biscuit boy, and what it all portends for Reverend Sunshine?