Daniel put Sofabet’s trust in YouGov’s poll in his preview article, and it has correctly called Christopher Maloney as the third-placed act tonight. It’s an honourable third for Christopher and well beyond anything most of the Sofabet community had predicted for him before the lives. Having taken a lot of stick in the pantomime villain role this series, he can depart (probably back to Liverpool, Louis) with his head held high.
We’ll admit we were among those who had growing doubts, peaking around week 7 and 8, about whether producers were fully in control of the Maloney situation. But as we wrote when recapping Christopher’s journey, week 9 reassured us that they knew what they were doing, and you have to feel now that they probably got him exactly when they wanted him – not a week too soon, not a day too late.
Overall, tonight’s treatment of Chris was about what we’d expected, but less helpful for Jahmene. This indicated to us that producers were confident they could get Jahmene above Chris, and were primarily interested in keeping Jahmene below James.
Jahmene kicked off the show with staging that reminded us we were in Manchester through plonking Big Ben on the stage. Both vocally and visually, it all felt a bit of a mess.
As EM noted, “Chris’s homecoming couldn’t have looked any smaller if they’d filmed it using Lego.” Though we were spared the shots of a reported 30-strong crowd on the dockside to meet his ferry, we did get some lonely visuals of him on an empty platform, empty train and empty ferry, and some lingering shots of his nan’s only-half-packed street. The “Norris Green” caption was a nice nod to Craig Colton’s incredible shrinking hometown from last year. Most – though not all – of the voxpops were pensioners, and Chris performed against an 80s-tastic backdrop of cassette tape images. He made a better fist than we were expecting, though, of what had appeared on paper to be an unsuitable song.
James, in the pimp slot, got the most full-on pimping imaginable – waterworks in the VT, a rockstar walk-to-the-stage entrance, a slightly but not offputtingly edgy take on a well-known song, a standing ovation, and a call for “Britain” to be “proud”.
By the end of the first round, James was down to under 1.6 on Betfair, and it didn’t alter much in the second round.
Kicking off the duets, Jahmene and Nicole suffered an unfortunate technology malfunction, ironically just as Jahmene had to sing the lyric “can’t take away my dignity”. Nicole was clearly furious.
Christopher’s duet with Gary had been anticipated as a plus by many, but producers minimised the positive impact in some clever ways noted by Guildo Horn Forever in the comments:
Could some of the camera shots been from any further away. There was more coverage of the structure of the venue building than Chris!
Interesting production choice to have Gary on the piano.
a) Severely limits the number of camera shots with both Gary and Chris in shot together.
b) Highlights the mentor as the “real” instrument-playing musician – and thereby indirectly slights Chris’s non-playing.
c) Places a physical (and emotional and visual) barrier between Gary and Chris. Like a large set of crossed arms.
Again, James stole the round in our eyes with a highly effective and impactful version of ‘Make You Feel My Love’.
The story of the night can be summed up by tpfkar’s comment after round one: “Have to concede James has had a very good round one. Pimp slot in both semi and final. It does seem the producers are aiming at the 1-2-3 in the sofabet prediction, but I’m still not convinced they’ll get it.”
That is the question now. It seems clear they want James as their winner. Will they succeed? As ever, do let us know below.