Britain’s Got Talent 2013 reaches the live semi-final stage on Monday, and week 1’s shadow dancers Attraction are at the front of bookies’ lists at prices in the region of 2/1. There’s been a healthy debate in the Sofabet comments about whether or not that’s too short.
Stoney opined soon after their audition that “if Attraction were British they would absolutely walk this competition”, but worried that “the voting public… don’t take to foreigners”. Guildo Horn Forever counters: “you (the viewer) are watching shadow theatre, you’re watching bodies; you’re not hearing accents, you’re not registering facial characteristics. If it wasn’t for the brief bow out front at the end of the performance (by which time the spellbound viewer has a lump in their throat) the performers would be totally anonymous.”
That’s true – although, to play devil’s advocate, you could argue that the facelessness of the performance limits the viewer’s ability to connect with them and to want to invest in their success by picking up the phone. It could thus be a first-time wonder kind of act.
There is also the question: do we really believe Simon Cowell will be sanguine about the idea of a Hungarian winner?
Tim B thinks so: “I can impart some information I gathered from attending some of this year’s auditions in London. At the session I attended, the first act on was also from Hungary. They were an extremely solid, 3D in the dark dance troupe. Anyway, during the comments Simon said he was pleased that acts were coming from across the continent as it meant the British acts had to up their game, and it would lead to a stronger competition overall. He was filmed saying this maybe four or five times during the session, as there were acts from different parts of Europe, like The Netherlands, performing. This struck me as a little odd. Why was he being filmed saying this again and again? At the time I concluded that TPTB were intending to push a European act for the final or possibly the win”.
Maybe. Or was he merely trying to justify to the audience why Dutch and Hungarian acts were auditioning in the first place? It feels odd enough to have acts who aren’t from Britain even auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent. To have one win the show would be on a whole other level.
You can see the mocking newspaper articles now: the pool of British talent has run dry, Cowell’s tired show has run its course, time to retire the format. The view from the Sofabet sofa is that we just can’t imagine Cowell wanting this kind of publicity.
Which isn’t to say that Attraction won’t sail through their semi. They’re a marquee act, and we assume producers will want them in the final to give viewers an additional reason for tuning in. Marquee status may even get them a late slot in the final – such an eventuality needn’t necessarily indicate producer favour, it might simply indicate an anaemic vote in the semi. But if producers don’t want an Attraction win, it should be child’s play to stop them – an early slot, lukewarm comments, perhaps a murky tabloid allegation that one of them once claimed UK benefits.
If we’re right to suspect that Attraction isn’t the act producers will want to see win, then who is? Chasing the shadow dancers in the betting are a glut of singers, and it feels like chasing shadows trying to choose among them.
At the polar opposite end of the patrioticness spectrum lie 5/1 second-favourites Band of Voices, who sang ‘God Save The Queen’ in their audition. Natasha noted “Simon’s comments regarding the Queen and it’s what makes us proud to be British etc.” Will we see this repeated in the final, combined with a few judicious reminders that Attraction have come all the way from Hungary?
Representing the popera genre which has done so well on this show are singing Welsh sandwich-makers Richard and Adam, of whom Andy says “It sent shivers down my spine listening to them sing The Impossible Dream. Both seem genuine… The winner of BGT has to be special, I feel this could be the act to take on Attraction.”
Tim B, making Richard and Adam his standout each-way bet at around 14/1, concurs: “The fact that they are brothers gives them the aww factor, necessary to succeed in the substantial mum and nan voting demographic… Only Boys Aloud may have benefitted from a hefty Welsh vote last year and R&A should benefit from this too.”
Tish makes the case for the Luminites at a similar price: “They have the rawness in them like James Arthur.” Guildo adds: “They look a nice, clean-cut, genuinely close-knit group of fresh-faced friendly, humble talented people.” Tim B: “I reckon SYCO are already preparing contracts for them to be signed. The band have already established a significant following on social media and we’ve not even reached the semi finals yet.”
Might BGT be tempted to rub the BBC’s nose in their ratings travails by pushing an act who was rejected by The Voice? JScouser reckons this gives 20/1 shot Alice Fredenham an “underdog” story, and Tish notes that after her audition “Simon says ‘this is what I have been waiting for’, this is almost exactly the same thing Simon said to Ashleigh last year after her audition with Pudsey”.
Stoney and Tim B point out that it could look bad for BGT to be won by an act considered not good enough for their rival show, though of course it’s equally easy for BGT to spin the line that The Voice were incompetent to have missed her.
The problem with all of these singers is that there are so many of them – you can also choose from the likes of Aliki Chrysochou (generally 10/1), Jordan O’Keefe (14/1), Alex Kierl (14/1), and Robbie Kennedy (20/1), and that’s without even looking beyond the top ten in bookies’ lists. They can’t all make the final, and those that do can’t all be given help in the final. At this pre-semi stage, you’re largely betting on which one the show will throw its weight behind.
Then there are the various other acts needed to live up to the definition of variety. The top-ranked non-singing, non-Hungarian act in the betting, at around 20/1, is the teen comedian introduced in the first audition show, Jack Carroll. He’d be a feelgood winner, but has he used up his best material already?
Comedians don’t have a great record on this show, impressionist Paul Burling’s fifth place being the best finish so far, a trend which JScouser ascribes to the fact that “3 minutes is not enough time to put forward your comedy act and style”. The fact that we have a couple of other comedians – Francine Lewis and Philip Green – in the mix (both around 40/1) suggests we’ll have at least one in the final.
Other non-singing acts at less than three-figure prices are dancing duo Martin and Marielle (at around 28/1), ventriloquist Steve Hewlett (33/1), bodypopper Poppin Ron (50/1), dancer Joseph Hall and illusionist Stephen Pink (both around 80/1).
Producers will want to put on a varied show for the final – they can’t just have Attraction, one or two comedians and eight or nine singers. So it seems likely that at least one of these acts, or alternatively ones at three-figure prices or still to be introduced in Sunday’s final audition show, will be given every assistance to get into the final.
The question is whether you want to take your chance at juicier prices now, or wait for the semis which should tell us much more about which act is likely to have the fair wind of producer favour in their sails come the final. We’re doing the latter.
So what should we be looking out for in the semi-finals? Stoney points out that “they usually front load the best acts at the start”. Indeed they do. Acts that are shown on the first semi-final have ended up occupying as many podium places in the final as acts shown in all of the other semis put together. Here’s a graph showing the extent of the front-loading:
(In case the graph isn’t clear: three winners of the first semi have won the final, and three have finished second; of the other acts to qualify from the first semi, one has won the final, one has finished second and one third. And so on. NB: there were only three semis in 2007).
We’d be failing in our duty if we didn’t remind readers before semi week how much of an advantage it is to go late in the show. Up to the final semi in 2011, each semi had eight acts. Here are the positions in the running order that the winners and placed acts came from:
The last semi of 2011 and all five semis in 2012 had nine acts. Here are the running order positions the 1-2-3 of those six nine-runner heats came from:
Add together the advantage of going on the first semi and the advantage of going last, and logically you get the most favoured slot of all as being last on the first semi. In the first five series, the acts performing last in the first semi went on to win the final three times (Paul Potts, Signature, Spelbound) and finish second – as beaten favourites – twice (Susan Boyle, Ronan Parke).
Perhaps worried about becoming too predictable, last year the show mixed it up very slightly – eventual winners Ashleigh and Pudsey were on second-from-last in the first semi and eventual third Only Boys Aloud closed that show. (As Andy points out, with nine acts in last year’s semis, an alternative reading is that last year continued the trend of 8th in the first semi being the best position).
Do you agree with us that producers won’t be hungry for a winner from Hungary? Who do you fancy each-way, or are you waiting to see who’s in Monday’s semi line-up? Do keep the conversation going below.