Three weeks ago the judges started name-checking their anticipated finalists. They were headed by Ella and Jahmene, followed by James. With two of them in last week’s bottom two and the show’s ‘little star’ eliminated, there’ll have been a re-think. Tonight we get our first set of clues about out what that has entailed.
Producers are probably hopeful that they can still get a consistently-pimped Jahmene and bouncing James into the final. But who do they want to join them: pantomime act Rylan; boyband Union J, tarnished by two singoff appearances; or Christopher Maloney, whom producers have done their best to set up as a divisive figure?
This has been the matter of some debate this week in the Sofabet comments and, indeed, amongst the Sofabet writing team. Working through the permutations is the best way of thinking about this week’s elimination market.
The argument against trying to get Union J in the final is that they are arguably the least interesting act left. Eurovicious put it well in his own state of the union address before last week’s show. He felt no emotional connection to the four-piece. The fact that they have been in the bottom two twice despite generally favourable treatment indicates he’s not the only one. The show will garner more column inches if either Chris or Rylan make the final instead.
But despite Union J’s singoff appearances, producers may feel they are the safest option to push to a final alongside James and Jahmene. They are more commercially viable than Chris or Rylan, and screaming teen fans are not only good for flogging records and merchandise, but also useful for providing atmosphere in a live arena event. Programme makers didn’t mind shoe-horning teen act Cher Lloyd into the 2010 final despite a couple of singoff saves. It’s really no skin off their nose.
Where do they go with Christopher Maloney, who as Richard Betsfactor memorably puts it (and check out Richard’s latest posts on Betsfactor.com this week if you’ve not done so already), is in producers’ eyes the monster they accidentally created and now have to slay? The corner they have (intentionally or not) backed themselves into is making him the Marmite act of the series. I think the negativity thrown his way will continue tonight. Against his will (and he’s handled it with aplomb), it’s become his role on the show.
In its way that’s useful for producers and there is a precedent. Being continually branded cheesy didn’t stop Same Difference getting to the final in 2007, though I’m reminded of Heisenberg’s analogy that we are talking about very different kinds of cheese here. Do they reconcile themselves to the same fate with Christopher, or do they just not want to go there? This was probably top of the agenda during this week’s re-think.
If they still feel like stopping him, producers may realise they went overboard last week with the laser-eyes, creepy-face backdrop. It would really be much more subtle and effective to hinder him with an unsuitable song choice. Although Abba and Motown are themes which should play to his strengths, there’s no reason why they couldn’t give him something unsuitable within this remit.
One reason why they might not go all out is that pantomime act Rylan has now got further than any of his predecessors before him. Producers weren’t anticipating him going this far, certainly not at the expense of Ella. Partly it happened because last week they allowed him an extensive post-performance interview that included VT footage leading up to his memorable exchange with Gary Barlow. Rylan’s own likeability, which has become increasingly apparent as the series has progressed, also played its part.
Still, it’s no surprise to see the Essex lad comfortably at the head of elimination markets at a best price of 5/4. After all, having your pantomime act get through to the semi-final is uncharted territory. However, there’s a sense that this year is no longer an ordinary year. Every act remaining is an acquired taste, including Jahmene and James.
I think it’s hard to call the finishing order in last week’s show, and there’s a possibility that there wasn’t much between many of the acts in the public vote. Low turnout up to this point has made things more far more volatile. As an example, I think Rylan’s witty jibe about Barlow’s weight propelled him out of the bottom two last week. Who’s to say how tonight will pan out? For these reasons, I don’t want to call anything right now.
What are your thoughts as the eighth live show approaches? Do keep the discussion going below.