After the first of the damp squib Sundays we’d worried about, we weren’t sorry to see the back of the flash vote. Producers have clearly decided that it subtracted more drama from Sunday than it added to Saturday.
As Chatterbox5200 noted in the comments, they also seemed to be prioritising ratings over nobblings by scheduling special guest Chic in the Strictly overlap. Viewers switching over from BBC1 were confronted with “dark horse” Luke in another helpful VT intended to portray him as likeable and determined to show his versatility.
This is surely one of those occasions when we can ignore staging that is sometimes a warning sign – red and black, and a mess of lighting (not inappropriately, given the song) – given that Luke got a three-judge standing ovation (the first of the series?). This was quite the pimping, and reinforced the impression that the show is throwing a hefty amount of weight behind Luke.
Sympathy bounces, more often than not, last only one week, which puts Kingsland Road in danger. In a page ripped half-heartedly from the Zayn Malik at bootcamp playbook, the VT focused on one member’s worries about dancing. At least we got to know him by name – Matt – but Kingsland Road are still not getting the coveted “introduce them all by name” VT.
The performance had Nicole calling on them to loosen up and Sharon saying they looked in fear of the bottom two, with Louis hoping they’ll be around for a few weeks and Gary pointing out that they put on a performance. This was neither an assassination nor a pimping, judges providing no great motivation to vote either out of enthusiasm or sympathy.
Up next, we saw Tamera responding to the Beyonce-a-like criticism by appearing to embark on a quest for an identity. One assumes we will see this pay off down the line as she discovers the identity producers have lined up for her; perhaps then judges will even learn how to pronounce her name.
‘Wishing on a Star’ provided plenty of opportunity for starry lighting, and the judges left us in no doubt that we were supposed to have been impressed – but we found the whole thing a bit dull, and audience reaction in the room sounded flat. We continue to get the impression that Tamera is proving a hard sell with the voting public.
Sam C’s VT started by pointing out how bad he was last week, and he got no help from the backing track this week. Coupled with WTF staging – including girls holding up red cards, after his footballing VT – it was all somewhat reminiscent of a Wagner or Rylan performance, prompting JScouser to wonder “Is Sam C this years Novelty Act?”
They could do with rustling one up from somewhere, as they’d reminded us with a Dermot interview with Souli Roots at the start of this segment of the show. And serious props to producers if it turns out that they’ve uncovered one under their noses in Sam C – not a possibility we’d considered when we lamented the lack of an entertainer in last week”s article. He does have some similarities with Rylan – the weakest vocalist in the competition, but personally likeable and an entertaining performer, all traits the judges pointed out last night.
Unfortunately he lacks Rylan’s easy charisma, but perhaps they’re exploring the possibility of morphing him into this kind of role. If so, it would be no surprise to see him “controversially” saved in a singoff or two. It will be interesting to see if the criticism was harsh enough to motivate his fans to save him from the danger zone this time around. (Interestingly, as happened with Abi last week, Sam got a backstage interview later with his parents defending him against criticism – although this will probably have been less motivating for Sam fans than it was for Abi, given how much less vulnerable Sam appears.)
In the comments to last week’s post, in response to a call for suggestions to perk this series up, Nissl suggested to “turn Rough Copy loose (with an admonishment not to flirt.) Their auditions absolutely made me smile. Of course, this is risking the middle Britain marketing plan.” The VT suggested this lesson had been taken to heart, and it was a more vibrant performance – sort of a dubstep breakdown – than we’d been used to after the sanitised ballads of the first three weeks.
Help from the backing track, pimping from the judges, and getting a section to themselves suggested they are still very much the alpha group.
“Abi Alton – I Will Surivive”, read the song list on Friday morning. Will you, now? That was the question that dominated debate in the Sofabet comments.
Abi’s VT showed her feeling sad as she watched – the many uses of a SAMSUNG tablet – the girl who auditioned and has since had her confidence shattered. She emphasised that the song choice and arrangement were entirely hers, and she had by far her best week yet. After last week, it was heartwarming to see her at the piano, having fun.
The question is, did this all have an “end of journey” vibe for Abi? Will voters who picked up the phones in sympathy last week be left thinking “ah, bless, she’s happy now”, and not pick up the phone this week?
Wee Nick’s dancing lessons evidently didn’t go well as he was fairly static during an underwhelming performance. Scotland will surely see their favourite son safely through towards the business end of the competition, but on this week’s evidence, producers appear to be hoping to pimp Luke into the alpha boy role. Then again, disco week was never likely to see Nick at his best.
The sympathy bounce coupled with a second-from-last slot in the running order should be more than enough to see Hannah safe. Producers couldn’t have done much more to help her back on track – shipping in James Arthur for the “winner who was in bottom two” vibe to rub off on her, great styling and great staging, with her name up in lights, and a backdrop of golden records. After last week’s hangdog look while receiving comments, it was good to see Hannah smiling again.
As predicted by Tim B, it was Sam Bailey’s turn in the pimp slot, and she’s now challenging Tamera for favouritism. If, as we suspect, Tamera hasn’t been polling all that well, was the message of tonight “well, our Plan A isn’t working out, let’s give everyone a chance”? It certainly made for what was, for us, the most enjoyable show of the season so far. (And for Nissl, whose take is always worth reading).
So where’s the elimination value? Our instant reaction to the show is that Kingsland Road look least likely to escape the bottom two – they are coming down from the sympathy bounce, and who is going to vote for them in week 4 who didn’t in week 2 (when they were bottom of the pack after singing second in the running order, as they did tonight)?
Sam C is odds-on favourite to be eliminated, but if there’s anything to the theory that he may be morphing into our novelty villain, there’s a case for wondering if he’d be saved over them. And the criticism he got was harsh enough to wonder if he’ll escape entirely.
Having been confident before the show that producers would grasp any chance to ditch Abi should she hit bottom two, we’re edging back towards the fence on that one after tonight’s performance. Tamera is as short as 9/2 to hit the singoff after her underwhelming performance, and Rough Copy 5/1.
Either of those would surely be saved over Kingsland Road, and there are question marks over what would happen should they hit the bottom with Abi or Sam C. While it would be no surprise to see either of those two ditched, all things considered, we reckon Kingsland Road at a general 3/1 to be eliminated is probably a bit bigger than they should be.
Your thoughts? As ever, do keep the debate going below.