Our last post sparked a healthy debate in the comments about just how scripted the X Factor is. For the benefit of readers who are new to Sofabet this year, or who don’t read all the comments (which you really should), we thought it might be interesting to summarise and add some thoughts of our own.
Nugg, who has attended many live shows, starts us off on a sceptical note:
I do feel now that there is a bit of over analysis going on these days… there is no script for x factor and the judges have no talkback from the production teams and very limited direction from them. They may loosely plan what they will say in rehearsals but that is about it… Of course there is guidance and preparation by the judges for their comments but on nothing like the word by word basis some believe.
To clarify, we certainly don’t believe every single word of judges’ comments are scripted. Indeed, the whole point of our discussion about Cheryl’s comments to Stereo Kicks was to raise the possibility that maybe she chose her words clumsily and did damage she wasn’t supposed to. Obviously, that assumes that it wasn’t scripted word for word.
Luke counters the idea of there being no script at all:
Have you seen the show this week where Simon’s waving a full script or at least a full page of notes around, where Mel asks Louis “is it me now?” and Mel waves around the card that has Jake’s full intro text written on it? Just because a producer doesn’t run on stage or say a script word for word over an in-ear doesn’t mean they haven’t been briefed in regards to what to say, especially key phrases.
Thé Ferret adds:
Spot on Luke – I spotted Mel’s card with all her crib notes on (i.e. script) because she was waving it around. Each judge has one for each act – but they are expected not to make it apparent they are reading – so sometimes they can cock it up.
That’s our assumption, too – scope for cock-ups, because it’s not scripted word-for-word and this is live television. Louis calling Misha B a bully is one noteable example of where we assume cock-up, because we can’t think of a deliberate explanation that makes sense.
It’s worth adding at this point that we assume Dermot is a consummate professional, always fully on-message (and with an in-ear), and that when cockups happen he will give judges a chance to put it right – though the genie can’t always be put back in the bottle.
Ben Cook adds a sceptical voice:
I’ve always found it difficult to believe the judges’ comments are scripted. I’d lean towards them having meetings about who they want them to be positive or negative about. With song choices they are probably given a choice between two or three songs. The judges are probably given just enough autonomy that they delude themselves into thinking they are “mentoring”… Can you really believe Mel B would just say as she’s told?
Well, yes – that’s what she’s paid for. Our assumption here is what Luke says:
If they don’t want to say something, I’d fully expect that’s raised in their production meetings during the week and then the producers can work out, where possible, an amicable solution. But I also believe the judges are clear as to what they’re signing up for, i.e. they do not have creative control.
And on the wider point, it seems there’s not actually that much disagreement here. Even our sceptical commenters – Nugg and Ben – are willing to believe that whether what judges say will be positive or negative must be at least loosely discussed beforehand. So we can all agree that it’s not scripted word-for-word, and nor is it made up completely on the spur of the moment. It’s somewhere between those two extremes. The question is, where?
We agree with Jess that:
There are definitely themes, metaphors and key phrases which occur and are repeated by several judges and vt when they want to reinforce an opinion of a contestant to the audience. Lola being a “dark horse” is a clear example – vt, then Simon, then Louis all use that phrase on Saturday.
Or as Luke puts it:
It goes without saying that they don’t read word for word from a script during the judges comments but they are definitely told what the gist of their comments should be and given key phrases to use or points to focus on.
That’s what we assume, too. We assume that Louis will have had a crib sheet for Lola saying something like “call her a dark horse”, and Mel for Stereo Kicks saying something like “be positive, challenge them to do an a capella performance”.
Luke makes the absolutely key point:
Working out what is producer led and what is added by the judges around that is a big part of the skill in analyzing the show.
Exactly. The question that intrigued us about Cheryl’s “hysteria” comments to Stereo Kicks was whether the gist of her crib sheet will have been more like “compare them unfavourably to One Direction” or “imply that nobody gives a shit about them apart from their family and friends”.
I don’t think it is possible to over-analyse the show… from what I’ve seen and heard over the last few years, the whole manipulation is much more widespread than just the show. The use of other ITV shows to plant seeds and of course the leaks to the newspapers all add up to influence the public’s perception.
Luke’s point applies here, too – the key is to work out what is producer-led and what isn’t. We have no doubt that we are often guilty of disappearing down the rabbit hole, and seeing patterns where in fact there are none – but we suspect there are probably also many clues we don’t spot, that could be profitably capitalised on if we did.
On that note, do please use the thread below to keep the conversation going – including on the song choices, which should be appearing around Friday lunchtime if the last two weeks are anything to go by.