If the market is right, tonight the seventh series of Britain’s Got Talent will be won by an act that’s not from Britain. A suspicion that producers might prefer not to sail into these uncharted waters, allied to Simon Cowell’s general willingness to wrap himself in the flag, is partly what initially made us Attraction sceptics.
However, their treatment in the semi-finals – pimp slot, four-judge standing ovation, and gushing praise – has convinced us we were wrong about that. If producers weren’t entirely sanguine about the prospect of an Attraction win, there’s no way they would have risked allowing them to build up such a head of steam.
If they win, it’ll be fascinating to see if this poses any existential crisis for the franchise in the longer term: “Britain’s Got Talent” is an odd name for a variety show featuring worldwide acts, as, interestingly, The Sun have pointed out in their editorial this morning. (After some heated debate in the Sofabet comments, we should perhaps point out that on a purely personal note we’d be delighted for Attraction if they win – they’re hugely talented and we’re more Diogenes than Nigel Farage.)
Producers should, in theory, be able to engineer the result they want tonight. Unlike in previous years, when the final followed straight after the semi-finals and exhausted decision-makers may arguably have made *cough*Jai McDowell*cough* one or two slight miscalculations, this time they’ll have had a week to pore over the voting figures from the semis in order to decide on the running order and their strategy for tonight. What should we be looking out for?
To start with, it’s worth reminding ourselves of just how significant the running order has been in predicting the podium finishers in BGT finals (last year’s had 11 acts not 10, but as the top three were the last three, we’ve pretended those 9-10-11 were 8-9-10 to make the graphing easier):
Only one act in BGT history has ever made the podium from the first half of a ten- or eleven-act final – Twist and Pulse in 2010, and even then with barely a third of the votes of the winners, Spelbound. Of course, cause and effect are all muddled up here, as it makes sense for ratings reasons to leave the most-anticipated acts till late.
We’d love to be able to run a randomised controlled trial to tease out cause from effect. The closest we can come is perhaps to compare SuBo’s and Diversity’s semi and final results: in the semi, with Diversity on first and SuBo last, SuBo got 144% of Diversity’s vote; in the final, SuBo went 8th and Diversity 9th, and SuBo got 81% of Diversity’s vote.
After their semi-final treatment, we’re certainly not expecting Attraction to be lobbed on in the first half of the show. If they were, that would obviously be a red flag to punters – as would any noticeable cooling of praise from the judges, repeated uses of the words “I know you’re not from Britain but”, or references to their previous failure to win Hungary’s Got Talent. (Guildo Horn Forever, in the comments, makes the excellent point that several of the usual ways producers can dampen an act are off limits because Attraction “own the foreground, background, lighting, music, props – the lot”).
Would, conversely, a late slot for Attraction indicate they’re home and hosed? Commenter Danny reminds us that “we know they won their semi, but we don’t know the margin”, while AlisonR points out that their semi got the lowest viewing figures of the week.
Those holding bets on acts other than Attraction have to pin their hopes on the Great British public deciding, in Stoney‘s words, that they “when push comes to shove DO NOT want a foreign winner how ever good they are”. Against that, is a perceptive comment by Lozzzeeeee, who notes that “Their audition piece felt very ‘British’ to me, British imagery, fighting a war in a desert, highly relevant to our current society. The audition story touched every patriotic bone in my body”.
It’s been reported that tonight Attraction will present a new routine, explicitly referencing patriotic British symbols such as Churchill, The Queen and the London Olympics. Is that an indication that producers are trying to sweeten the pill of an inevitable victory by making their winning performance feel more British, or is there a risk it could come off as condescending?
Only producers know how many votes the five semi-final winners pulled in. If it’s tighter at the top than we imagine, then our suspicion is that Jack Carroll would be the feelgood winner producers would most like to engineer. The franchise has already notched up singers, dancers and a dog as winners – if we were them, we’d love to tick the comedian box.
However, we’re wary about getting stuck into Jack at odds-on in the “winner without Attraction” market, because if those figures are telling producers that Attraction are uncatchable and it’s only the minor placings up for grabs, we can imagine that producers might not care too much about whether Jack is second, third or fourth. They might, then, be more interested in getting the musical acts whose records they hope to flog as high up the leaderboard as possible.
Which brings us to the next two in the betting, Richard and Adam and The Luminites. In our book the former are a better fit for the BGT viewership – middle-of-the-road popera acts have a much better record than musical acts oriented more at the youth demographic. While The Luminites are outscoring the Welsh sandwich-makers on the Digital Spy poll (which has Attraction way out in front), Tim B notes that this might underestimate the “nan and mum” demographic.
As Dizzy notes, Richard and Adam also have in their favour that they were heavily pimped in, and duly won, the first semi-final – this is historically significant as the first semi-final’s winner has never finished out of the top two in the final, presumably because they get first dibs at lodging themselves in people’s minds. There is, though, the unknown factor of a week-long gap between the semis and final this time around – perhaps that will lessen the effect.
The other semi winner, Francine Lewis, emerged from what looked like the weakest of all the heats, and this time she has Jack competing with her to score the most laughs.
Is there any value lurking further down the lists? Runners-up in the first semi have podiumed three times out of six, but Arisxandra was shouty and has Asanda splitting the child singer vote. Boki suggests Gabz Gardiner, and her second-semi pimping does suggest that Syco have things in mind for her, but we’re not sold on her Middle England appeal. It’s conceivable that, if Attraction run away with it and leave the others fighting over scraps, a loyal regional vote could boost Jordan O’Keefe.
In sum, we’re neither backing nor opposing Attraction at current odds. If you’ve yet to have an interest, our pick at the prices would be a couple of options flagged up earlier in the week by Stoney and Guildo Horn Forever – Richard and Adam to finish in the top three at evens with BetVictor, or Richard and Adam in the “without Attraction” market at 9/2 each-way with Ladbrokes. They’re likeable and talented, have a regional vote, represent a genre with a fine record in the show, and the fact that they were chosen by producers to close the historically-favoured first show is a strong suggestion that they should also be treated favourably tonight.
For more on BGT, do check out Sofabet commenter Tim B on the William Hill podcast. What’s your thinking for tonight? As always, do let us know below.