Usually, going into judges’ houses, a quick glance at Oddschecker is enough to tell you who’s on course for the lives: the others have drifted out to three-figure odds as bookies lengthen and lengthen and nobody wants to back. That’s the case this year with the likes of Jade Richards, Relley C, Giles Potter, Ryan Mathie, Xyra and Code 4.
Elsewhere, though, things are looking distinctly muddier than usual. Despite mounting evidence that Melanie McCabe is about to personify a new extreme in false hope, bookies have only just stuck their heads above the parapet enough to ease her out to double figures. Paul Akister and Joseph Whelan, both rumoured to miss out, are no higher than 14/1 and 16/1 respectively. Four groups trade at under 33/1.
Presumably, that means someone must still be backing them. And presumably this reflects at least some punters being unable entirely to believe, after the tinkering of the last three series, that we’re heading for a simple final 12 with no kind of returning-acts twist whatsoever. So if there is to be a twist, what might it be? Here are five scenarios.
1. The 2012 twist
Last year one of the rejects from each judges’ houses was put up for a public vote to be a 13th act, the momentum from his wildcard win propelling Christopher Maloney all the way to the final.
Producers must have learned the lesson that they could turn this trick to their advantage by engineering a wildcard win for an act towards whom they are better disposed than they were to Maloney. So the possibility of repeating of this trick was our first thought when Tim B alerted us to his information that Melanie misses out.
But by this time last year, the wildcard twist had been publicised. This year, so far, we’ve heard nothing.
2. The 2010 twist
This one they did keep quiet to the last moment, with news leaking out a day before the show that we would open with each of the judges knocking on the door of a rejected act’s home to offer them a lifeline. That twist reinstated Paije, Wagner, TreyC and Diva Fever. If they’re planning the same again, Nicole will presumably arrive at Melanie’s just as the bailiffs are repossessing the sofa.
However, the first live show lasts for just 2 hours and 15 minutes, whereas the 16-act opening show in 2010 ran to 15 minutes longer than that.
Added to that, there is the announcement of a flash vote at the end of the Saturday show. We’ve already expressed our doubts about whether this idea might make a damp squib of some Sunday shows; the additional chunk of time it will take up in the first live show presumably puts the kibosh on any hopes of squeezing in four extra acts.
3. A 2010 + 2011 twist combo
In 2011 they reversed the previous year’s twist, going unexpectedly from 16 to 12 rather than 12 to 16 as the first week’s show saw one of the four acts put through from judges’ houses eliminated by their mentor without facing a public vote. That twist did for James Michael, Jonjo Kerr, 2 Shoes (alas) and Amelia Lily (albeit only temporarily).
Try combining the 2010 and 2011 twists: bring back a reject from each category, then eliminate an act from each category before a public vote. That would dovetail with this year’s bootcamp twist of thinking you’ve got a seat before losing it to someone else.
The mention of the flash vote in the blurb for the first live show ostensibly puts the kibosh on this possibility, but televisual listings hardly constitute a binding contract.
4. A fifth judge
Here’s a twist they’ve not tried yet: get a fifth judge to mentor a wildcards category, choosing three or four acts from those rejected at judges’ houses. Cowell could do it via satellite.
Or: recall how, before the auditions, they teased a “fifth judge” this year and it turned out to be you the audience, via a “fifth judge” app? Could the app allow the audience to choose the rejects for a wildcards category, then “mentor” them by voting on their song choices? It would be a fun exercise in interactivity, though other acts might reasonably complain that those “mentored” by the public would have an unfair advantage in attracting votes.
5. No twist
Given the recent tinkering, this would be the most surprising twist of all. But there have been other back-to-basics elements to this year, notably the room auditions and Sharon Osborne, with which it would be in keeping to return to the pre-2009 formula of 12 acts and no mucking around. Perhaps they think that the “flash vote” is twist enough for this year’s lives.
This would surprise us, though, given how the last three years have demonstrated the benefits of having more than twelve acts. With ten weeks of live shows, if they want three in the final, they can’t afford to lose one accidentally Frankie Cocozza style, and they can’t afford to mix it up by throwing in a double elimination.
That seems like a waste of an opportunity, especially given the flash vote: it would add drama to have a week where we unexpectedly lose an act immediately on the Saturday night, then reopen the voting to detemine Sunday’s bottom two.
Do you believe they’re playing it straight with the final 12 this year, or is there something up their sleeve – and, if so, what? Do share your thoughts and theories below.