To have been a fly on the wall in the producers’ debrief this morning. It felt like a night of firsts. It’s the first time we can remember an act shortening in the win market after hitting the bottom two. And it’s the first time we can remember a pantomime villain act’s clearing of the bottom two engendering a sense of angst from the show which felt quite genuine, rather than – as was the case with the likes of Jedward and Wagner – cynically manufactured.
Sofabet commenters have been reacting overnight, and we want to pick up on some of the points made in the comments along with our own further reflections on what happened and where next.
R and annie wonder if this might not have been such an unwanted outcome – it generated talking points. But we agree with EM: “That’s got to be a bottom two the producers didn’t see coming and wouldn’t have wanted… There’s no way the Powers That Be would have wanted to make a choice between Ella and James at this stage.”
Boki suggests that Ella did better last week after Tulisa’s table-thumping and they got complacent with her. Whereas JScouser takes the opposite view: “The intentions this week I thought was to create a “shock” of Ella v Chris, with rylan as the backup for Chris, enough to give ella the momentum she needed to push her to the finals.”
After we’ve had the chance for some reflection, here’s what we reckon probably happened.
Let’s remember that the show had been name-checking three finalists: James, Jahmene and Ella. That left three disposable acts: Christopher, Union J and Rylan. All that producers really needed to happen was at least one of the disposable list should fall into the bottom two, preferably Christopher of course.
There were clues that producers felt Christopher was within range. It’s true that he got a demo-pleasing 80s number, but the demon eyes backdrop was so unsubtle, and reminiscent of the backdrop that finally did for Janet Devlin last year, that it it felt like an attempt at a kill. After all, where do you go from there?
What’s more, there were small but intriguing signs of the possible beginnings of a Jahmene deramp – the huge plinth, the criticism of his vocal affectations. We’ve wondered if the primary purpose of the high praise for Jahmene in recent weeks was because he appeals to a similar demographic to Chris – and if, consequently, we might start to see a dampening of Jahmene as soon as they felt they’d got Chris to a gettable position.
It transpired that Christopher’s support was resilient to such tactics, maybe even further encouraged by them. This was producers’ first mistake, as summed up by lolhart: “I think the comments about his production last night were another Wizard of Oz moment like the producer whispering to Louis during the first results show”.
According to our reading of Saturday’s show, the next backup in case they missed Chris was Union J. There was nothing of interest in their VT or production on Saturday. It was as dull as their grey outfits. But with a bounce and no more boyband rivalry, they were able to escape the singoff, too. That was producers’ second miscalculation.
Rylan was their other line of backup. We reckon they were ready to lose Rylan if they had to – i.e. versus Ella – but also would have quite liked to keep him if possible. A 3-1 verdict versus Chris would have been no problem, but versus Union J the boyband would have needed to be bottom to keep Rylan, as it would have to go to deadlock.
Hence the bit of help for Rylan, in the form of the entertaining banter with Gary. They probably calculated that they could afford to risk it. Their third mistake, as tpfkar explains: “they paid the price by not getting serious on Rylan or Chris this week a la Wagner. They let Chris sing an 80s song, and gave Rylan a big production with lots of Gary angst and good banter. If they really wanted them gone why did they let this happen?”
Then the big three. We reckon they will have thought Jahmene was safe anyway, and they might have been quite happy to see Ella fall into the bottom two – if she was struggling in the votes, that would have helped bounce her to the final. Tpfkar again makes this hypothesis: “Was the plan to allow Ella a bottom 2 as the best way to bounce her to the final? If Tulisa was in on this, it would explain why she lost it the way she did after Ella went out. If the plan was to save Ella against whoever, and Tulisa deliberately didn’t appeal for votes as a result, she’d have been mad when it was James who was stuck with her, and she was first judge out as a result. ”
All they had to do then was give James every assistance, and we guess they thought they’d done more than enough for James to make sure he’d be safe. Their fourth mistake!
In sum, then, there were not one, not two, not three, but four miscalculations – not doing enough to help James; doing too much to help Rylan; not doing enough to dampen Union J; and going too far in dampening Chris.
Producers aren’t daft. They will have known there was a chance of each of the treatment of each of these four acts going awry, especially in a series in which it’s become a running joke on Sofabet to refer to them as the incompetent assassins. But they may well have calculated that they could afford to get the treatment of two or even three of these acts wrong, and still end up with a bottom two that they didn’t mind – any two from four of Ella, Chris, Union J or Rylan would’ve been an acceptable result for producers. Unfortunately for them, they faced a perfect storm.
Why? We’re inclined to agree with Mick that “I think the voter turn out is so low that it is tight between all acts only takes a small swing to put the wrong act down there. Same in politics, low turnout = shock result.” In that respect, Ella Henderson can compare notes with John Prescott when she gets back home to Humberside.
Before leaving the analysis of last night, a couple of hat-tips. To our friend Richard, who posted on betsfactor.com that Rylan would be safe and Ella in serious trouble. And if you haven’t read eurovicious’s in-depth analysis of why X Factor producers have misjudged what their audience is looking for, check it out in full. If I had to highlight just one of the numerous fine points, it’s this on a performance by Ella that had Daniel telling me he’d self-harm if the beat didn’t kick in at some point:
Does the average ITV viewer think “I know what I want to hear on The X Factor this evening – that fun song from Grease, the one with what’s her face, three very nice fellas, Olivia Newton John, that’s it, but slowed down, drained of every last droplet of its joy and exuberance, and sung as a depressing, moribund, soul-exsanguinating ballad?” No, they bloomin’ well don’t.
So they’ve lost control. There are some assumptions we can make about why but they are just assumptions. Voting is low, the bland contestants they have this year just aren’t generating passion. People actually like Rylan and Christopher and want them to continue (either a talent/entertainment vote or an anti-X Factor one). My hunch is both are true to an extent.
X Factor is so crucial to ITV’s success you can bet the producers aren’t just going to cede control and roll with the voters which give us some pointers as to what happens next.
The ultimate aim has to be a final that people watch in massive numbers. They’ve probably even figured now that they aren’t going to shift much music product on the back on a bunch of singers people don’t feel passionate about. For that reason I can see an attempt to get one of the controversial contestants into that final. A groundswell of “we can’t let Rylan/Christopher” win opinion would drive those viewing figures. But you need two of Jahmene, James and Union J in there too to make it a story.
They will carry on the story that started last night of people aren’t voting enough, the Great British public will be guilt tripped into believing the fate of true talent lies in their hands.
One of the controversials will be thrown to the dogs. I know that appeared to be Christopher on Saturday but as he seems to be made of Teflon then it could be Rylan that finds himself on fire this weekend.
Don’t rule out a twist too: what better way to keep people talking and try to get that control back? Could be exit with no sing off to emphasise every vote counts, it could be a vote freeze, bottom two are announced and then voting for them starts afresh, it could be a bottom three sing off, it could be something I haven’t thought of.
With James due a bounce, Jahmene looking safe, and Union J due to come down off their bounce, the big questions this week surround Rylan and Christopher. Much will depend on the success of guilt-tripping the public. As Neeve points out, “Tulisa’s rant has got a very negative reaction on forums, twitter etc. Will this encourage people to do the opposite?”
Judging by the fact that he seemed resigned to leave this week and was blubbing on Xtra Factor that he should have gone instead of Ella, Rylan won’t be making too many appeals for votes this week. But could we be getting into a situation where the more Rylan agrees that he shouldn’t be there any more, the more voters like him for his honesty and self-awareness, and the more votes he gets?
We can be confident that Christopher, by contrast, won’t be VTing about how he thinks he should have gone instead of Ella. But will the obviousness of the campaign to get rid of him motivate still more protest and sympathy votes?
What is your view of our theory on the weekend’s events? And, moving forward, what scenarios are you seeing for the next two weeks? Do please keep the tremendous discussion going below.