We get plenty wrong here at Sofabet, so forgive us a chuckle at having come so close to scripting Simon Cowell’s response to Jonathan and Charlotte’s semi-final audition. Here’s what we imagined Simon saying in our article last week: “Jonathan, at your audition, I wondered if Charlotte might hold you back, and you insisted on sticking with her. Let me tell you something. You were right.”
Here’s what Simon actually said: “Like I said during the first audition, Charlotte, I believed that you were holding him back. You made the decision to stay together, Jonathan. And I have to tell you, that was the best decision you ever made.”
Jonathan and Charlotte gave as good a semi-final performance, and received as much pimping, as their backers could have hoped for. After being 7/2 going into semi-finals week, they are now odds-on favourites. So is Saturday night’s show going to be a procession?
There are, as ever, two questions to answer here. First: what do producers want? Second: will the public play ball?
The consensus among Sofabet commenters has been that producers have no reason to look beyond Jonathan and Charlotte for the victory. As commenter D summed it up before the semis, they are “clearly by far the most talented of the bunch, humble, marketable”. Their semi-final pimping prompted PG to ask rhetorically, “is there any doubt what plan A is now?”
Their narrative so far certainly reeks of careful planning, right down to the subliminal effects of the name of the act. As Tim B points out, in the audition – when the dramatic tension initially revolved around whether Jonathan would prove himself worthy of gracing the same stage as his more physically attractive companion – they were introduced as “Charlotte and Jonathan”; in the semi, when the dramatic tension was all about whether Charlotte could justify her place alongside Jonathan’s vocal prowess – they were presented as “Jonathan and Charlotte”.
(Which, incidentally, casts an amusing new light on the opening to Ashleigh and Pudsey’s audition, in which Ant and Dec joke about whether it’s “Ashleigh and Pudsey” or “Pudsey and Ashleigh” because “once it’s there, it’s there forever”).
So let’s assume that producers will not be angling to get Jonathan and Charlotte beaten on Saturday night. There is then, however, the question of what PG calls the “Jai McDowell fiasco”. Sofabet commenters last year were in little doubt that the Scot was not supposed to have beaten Ronan Parke, and that producers dropped a clod in allowing Jai to perform as late as 8th in the running order after putting Ronan in the surprisingly early slot of 6th.
To be fair, it must be tough being a BGT producer deciding on the Saturday final line-up. You presumably don’t want the last act on to win it every single year, or people beyond this little corner of the internet might start to remark on it.
But then, if you don’t put your favoured act in the last couple of slots, you have to put someone else there. And you don’t want to cram all of your weakest acts into the second half of the show along with your preferred winner, because you also want to put on an entertaining show for the viewing public.
Moreover, in making this decision, you have only one round of voting – the semi-finals – to go on. It’s not like deciding you can safely risk putting Little Mix on first in week 8 of the X Factor. And on top of that, you have to make these decisions the morning after putting on your fifth live show in five evenings, which is presumably a tiring endeavour.
At least this year the revised schedule, with the semis having started on Sunday and finished on Thursday, gives producers an extra 24 hours to reflect on which acts they can safely allow to perform late and which they need to bury early. But if there is to be an unexpected winner, who might it be?
Ashleigh and Pudsey got a big production on Sunday night and plenty of love from Simon “I’ve had a lot of dogs in my life” Cowell. Sofabet commenter eurovicious warns that “A guy with a dancing dog won the 3rd German series of Talent in 2009 in a surprise victory, beating the two acts the show was very obviously trying to steer towards the top two places… Never underestimate the “aww” factor”.
(And for Cowellesque aficionados of the genre, here’s the act in question, Supertalenthund PrimaDonna. It’s hard to disagree with eurovicious’s verdict that this act is “much better” – can Pudsey do the shoe-walking thing Supertalenthund PrimaDonna does at 2:11 in the linked video? On the other hand, Pudsey is immeasurably cuter, and there’s that lovely video of an eleven-year-old Ashleigh opening a box with him in it as a puppy, and he can walk as upright as any of the pigs in Animal Farm.)
It’s also hard to disagree with eurovicious when he reckons that Tuesday night’s winner, three-piece Essex boyband the Loveable Rogues, don’t have the “standout universal appeal” of Jonathan and Charlotte. Cowell certainly pimped them furiously, saying “I know exactly who you should be working with on your first album”, which should give us pause for thought.
But it’s worth thinking back to last year, when Cowell also furiously pimped boyband New Bounce, calling them “the ones to beat” and the only act that could work in the “real world” (have you seen much of New Bounce in the real world these last twelve months?). This propelled them towards the head of the market and had us scratching our heads here at Sofabet. With hindsight, after they only just scraped into third from the pimp slot in the final, it looked like a classic decoy – talking up an act that were never going to be a real danger, to create the impression of a closer race. Could this be what’s happening here?
On paper, as a cute young lad with a pleasant voice Sam Kelly, winner of Wednesday’s semi, ought to be a danger. However, there is no sense that the show is seriously attempting to push him. There’s not much to speak of in the way of backstory, and the pimping was decidedly muted in comparison to the Loveable Rogues. The most we got was that he “sounds like a recording artist” (as do lots of people who don’t ever necessarily become recording artists).
One also has to ask what he beat. As R put it after Wednesday’s show, “The acts were so poor tonight that Ant had to beg the viewers to vote.”
There’s another problem for Sam in the shape of Thursday’s semi final winner Ryan O’Shaugnessy, another boy-with-guitar. Ryan has more than one backstory of his own: his reinstatement in the competition having been in the Irish version of The Voice and contracted to Universal; and his failure to win the heart of the girl he sung about in his first audition. He also sings his own material.
O’Shaugnessy is The Voice and The Writer, and Cowell probably wouldn’t mind a bit of oneupmanship in this regard. Could this be behind Cowell’s pimping of O’Shaugnessy’s chances in the final?
Henry VIII draws this conclusion from a final that is more packed with singers than ever before, which eurovicious also noted. We’ve ended up with at least six in total – it will be interesting to see where they are allotted in the final running order.
What of the acts who finished second in their heats? It’s worth remembering that only two acts in BGT history have placed in the final having not won their heat. One was Diversity, who finished second to SuBo in their semi from the opening slot and beat her when given the second-to-last spot in the final. The other was Twist & Pulse, who performed fourth in their heat.
Those acts have two things in common – both street dance acts, and both qualifiers from an early slot in their heat, indicating an appeal strong enough to survive a disadvantaged place in the running order.
Given that Only Boys Aloud got the pimp slot in Sunday night’s semi and still finished behind Ashleigh and Pudsey, it’s hard to see how they’ll be able to mount a threat on Saturday.
Kai and Natalia, qualifiers behind Jonathan and Charlotte on Monday, performed seventh of nine and the fact that they went through on a 3:1 decision implies they may have finished behind Paige Turley in the public vote. They don’t look strong enough.
Molly Rainford qualified from fourth in her heat on Tuesday, but a child singer has yet to win this and they couldn’t have tried much harder with Ronan Parke last year. She seems unlikely to get the help he did, or to prosper without it.
Wednesday’s other qualifier was Nu Sxool. They almost tick our two boxes, being a dance troupe (though it’s a push to call them street, given the school uniform schtick) and having qualified from outside the last three at least (though not very early – they went 6th out of 9).
As Boki writes in the comments, “based on BGT history it seems that a good dance act with a good draw has more chance to win than a singer”. However, Nu Sxool don’t appear to be in the same league as previous dance winners of this show, and will also be splitting the Welsh regional vote with Only Boys Aloud.
Also qualifying on Thursday was Aquabatique. The synchronised swimmers are incredibly athletic, but we have already suggested that logistically, they would not be the most practical of winners. Their underwater antics also create a certain distance from the audience, both physically and in other senses.
Then there’s the wildcard act. The judges are making their decision tonight (Thursday). It seems likely to be between The Mend and T&P Dance Company. The former would split the boyband vote with Loveable Rogues, the latter would split the dance vote with Nu Sxool. Keep an eye out for our comments section for reaction once this decision has been made.
All in all, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that semi-final week has changed little. The question is still “can anyone beat Jonathan and Charlotte”, and it still looks likely that (a) they will be wanted as the winners and (b) the public will oblige. The market looks to have got it about right.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record about the running order, if you missed our semi-final preview article do check out the graph of running order and results in the final. The bottom line: only one act (Twist and Pulse) has placed in the final from the first half of the show, and no act performing last in the final has yet been outside the top three. Many of the singing acts present will be thrown under the bus come Saturday night.
Are you seeing any angles in the available odds before the all-important running order is known? Please use the thread below to share your thoughts, news and theories in the build-up to the big event.