Sofabet commenter Chatterbox5200 emails to make a fascinating point about the way this year’s live shows are shaping up. They’re looking surprisingly English.
Of the 24 acts we saw put through to judges’ houses on Sunday’s show, there’s only one – Jade Collins, from Belfast – who was born and is still living outside of England. Judging by her lack of screentime during the bootcamp episodes and the strength of the other five girls, it would be a major surprise if she made it to the lives.
There is also a Scottish connection with Melanie Masson. As Chatterbox writes:
The producers promoted Melanie Masson as being from Scotland. Although she was born in Glasgow and is married to Scottish Actor Forbes Masson (Rodney Morris in EastEnders), she lives in London, which is where she runs the weekly Fairy Flutterby’s Little Rock-a-Byes music session that was so heavily promoted. Reports have stated that she was asked to audition in Scotland.
As Daniel wrote in our review of Melanie’s audition show, she comes across as a North London yummy mummy. It seems unlikely that she will stir the Braveheart vote.
This is very much not typical of the show. Chatterbox continues:
Looking back at the first 8 series of X Factor, the acts that have got to the Live Shows (9 in Series 1, 12 in series 2-6 and 16 in series 8 and 9) have generally included a minimum of 2 acts that are not from England. This allowed for a regional base to be established and gave Louis the chance to say “I want the whole of Scotland/Ireland/Wales to pick up the phone and vote for you”.
Chatterbox helpfully sends a list of all live show contestants’ regional backgrounds from series 1 through 8. In season 1, we had Roberta Howett and Tabby Callaghan from Ireland. In season 2, two from Ireland (Philip Magee and The Conway Sisters) and one from Wales (Chico Slimani). In 3, we had three Scottish acts (Kerry Grainger, Nikitta Angus and The MacDonald Brothers).
Season 4 brought us the only non-English winner so far, Scotland’s Leon Jackson, as well as the Welsh brace of second placed Rhydian Roberts (you may recall the Scotland vs Wales vs England framing of the final, with Same Difference representing the latter) and Andy Williams.
Season 5’s Eoghan Quigg rode the Ulster vote to third place. Season 6’s crop included Ireland’s Jedward, Scotland’s Rikki Loney, and Lloyd Daniels and Lucie Jones from Wales. In season 7, Storm Lee flew back across the Atlantic to lay claim to his Scottish roots and Mary Byrne represented the Emerald Isle. And last year, we had Janet Devlin of Ulster and Sami Brookes, whose artistic home may be plying the international waters but who hails from Wales.
This year? Not so much. It’s not like there was a massive pool of non-English talent introduced this year but ignored for judges’ houses. Chatterbox sends a similarly thorough profile of the regional backgrounds of featured acts this year, and there were only really two high-profile non-English contenders who were looked over – poor old Melanie McCabe and Jade [agonising pause] Richards.
Of course, these two were unearthed in 2011’s show, or even earlier in Mel’s case. So it seems that the trawl through the British Isles’ talent pool in 2012 turned up next to no non-Englanders producers deemed worthy of inviting us to emotionally invest in.
Statistically speaking, this seems more than odd. The population of England is about 53 million, and the population of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland totals about 16 million. If you chose them at random, you’d expect one in every four or five acts to be from outside England.
What could be the explanation? On the face of it, this makes no sense. Viewing figures are plummeting. Why not make sure that viewers from all corners of the country have as many reasons as possible to tune in?
The only vaguely plausible-seeming idea we can come up with is that if viewing figures are declining, phone voting figures might be too, which could increase the relative power of a loyal regional vote and hence the risk of landing the show with an unwanted winner. We might term this the Jai McDowell Problem.
But would this really be reason enough to neglect the chance to drum up interest and hence viewers and hence advertising revenue in Scotland, Wales and Ireland? It seems unlikely.
In his email, Chatterbox makes a further observation:
I have also noticed, with regard to regionality, that the apparent favoured acts this year – or those that seem to have been pimped and given the most screen time to date – seem to be from the North of England: Ella (Lincolnshire), Lucy (Sheffield), James Arthur (Middlesbrough), Christopher Maloney (Liverpool), etc. Could this possibly have anything to do with the location of the final being moved from London this year?
They might well think it’d be nice to have a northern winner of a northern final. But if they’d thought about it at all, why not give as many locales as possible somebody to root for? Did producers just not notice how English the show was this year?
Thanks again to Chatterbox. Your thoughts and theories are, as ever, warmly invited in the comments below.