Being a betting blog, we’re interested in what’s been filmed but not yet aired, so we start this week with our usual warning: if you wish to avoid spoilers, do not read on.
It will not have escaped the attention of readers who have been following spoilers that the montage shown at the close of Saturday’s final audition show – which looked back on the talent unearthed during the previous seven episodes – consisted almost entirely of acts who are rumoured to make judges’ houses. This is a clever subliminal aimed at the majority of viewers who are not aware of the spoilers: the purpose is to plant the thought that these are the best acts we’ve seen, so that when they are the ones who end up making it through the six-chair challenges over the next few weeks, viewers will have more a sense that the judges’ decisions were right.
The question then becomes: what might this montage suggest about which of the final 24 are producers currently anticipating will make the final 12, and be given a push when they get there?
In the girls category, Louisa Johnson opened the montage and got more screentime than any of the other girls. That reinforces the impression initially created when Louisa was chosen to close the opening audition show, that producers are still currently seeing her as their alpha girl, and quite likely overall Plan A.
In the groups category, 4th Power got plenty more screentime than any of the others.
In the overs, Jennifer Phillips, Anton Stephans and Bupsi all got decent screentime, none of the others did – which mirrors their treatment in the auditions themselves.
In the boys, Seann Miley Moore’s position in the montage pimp slot reinforces the sense that he is being thought of as our alpha boy at this stage, while Simon Lynch and Josh Daniel got more screentime than the others.
We suspect this brief montage at the end of Saturday’s show provided a more significant insight into producers’ current thinking than Sunday’s first bootcamp episode, which seemed to have been conceived primarily as a way to fill another two hours of airtime in a schedule that has needed to be adapted to fit around the Rugby World Cup. Before we come to that boot camp episode, though, let’s deal briefly with the two remaining acts introduced in the final audition show.
Kerrie-Anne Phillips received very little screentime, clearly dividing the overs category into two groups of three: Kerrie-Anne, Max Stone and Ebru Gursoy, who have been short-changed in the audition screentime department; and Jennifer Phillips, Anton Stephans and Bupsi, who all had much longer segments. We didn’t find out much more about Kerrie-Anne than that she’s given up a job in Dubai to audition. Kerrie-Anne, Max and Ebru each now need a gamechanging edit in next week’s bootcamp episode and/or the six-chair challenge to alter the impression that they have, at best, an outside chance of making it to the lives as the category gamma.
You couldn’t help but smile along with cheerful Ghanaian duo Menn On Point. Cowell summed it up, as he so often does, expressing doubts about the vocals but saying they bring “sunshine”, they’re “completely nuts” and “I love it”. They would certainly brighten up the live shows as a fun act intended to be jettisoned before the business end. With 4th Power looking nailed on for one of the group slots, whether producers decide to run with Menn on Point in the interests of light entertainment presumably depends on whether they consider two or only one of the other groups (Alien, The First Kings, Bekln, Silver Tone) to have sufficient commercial potential to be worth putting through.
Sunday’s first bootcamp episode provided relatively little grist for the analytical mill, with no extended VTs or audience reaction shots and minimal judge feedback. Overall, advancing the narrative of the favoured acts in this episode seemed to take something of a backseat to creating conditions which were likely to foment some entertaining bust-ups. There were, however, still some indications of favour, notably sotto voce comments among the judging panel.
It will presumably have been no coincidence that both Louisa Johnson and 4th Power found themselves closing the episode, in a feelgood segment which saw all the acts progress to the next stage, reinforcing the sense of them as the alphas in their respective categories. “I love Louisa Johnson”, said Grimmy helpfully as she came on stage. Both acts sounded good, although it should be said that much of what we heard on Sunday likely involved some post-production as many vocals sounded too good to have been recorded straight from a windy stage.
Kiera Weathers, who looks like Louisa’s main rival for alpha girl status, also got sotto voce judge approval, being called “adorable” and “classy” as she walked on stage. Sofabet commenters debated whether being shown bickering with her fellow group auditionees was a negative for Kiera, or a positive given that she was shown as the one banging heads together; our view is that the edit was clearly trying to help. We remain fascinated to see whether producers will continue their apparent preference for Louisa over Kiera.
Of the other girls, Monica Michael was also portrayed as being the reasonable party in a bicker, and her sympathetic reaction to the elimination of her nemesis Princess added to the sense of her being someone viewers will root for. Chloe Paige’s group was shown only briefly, but Simon made a point of calling her “amazing”. Lauren Murray was criticised for not demanding a bigger part. Havva Rebka wasn’t sighted.
By contrast with Lauren, Simon had just praised Alien for “making it all about you”, because “honestly that’s how you succeed in the music business”. Whether this frank advice will endear them to viewers is another matter; they still come across as Pineapple Dance Studios wannabes. Of the other groups, Bekln were fine but somewhat overshadowed by Bupsi; Silver Tone were bit-part players in the ritual humiliation of Ryan Ruckledge; and neither The First Kings nor Menn On Point featured.
Of the overs, both Jennifer Phillips and Bupsi acquitted themselves well enough in Bekln’s group, while Anton Stephans made an awkward joke comparing Simon to God before struggling with an unfamiliar song. Simon affectionately called Anton a “diva”, also however observing that he was “bad compared to his first audition”.
Ben Clark, who got least screentime of the six boys during the audition stages, had an “I love his voice” from Rita; she also name-checked Josh Daniel, who got to be shown calling his mum. Grimmy was heard saying “not that exciting” about somebody after Simon Lynch and Tom Bleasby had performed in the same group. Seann Miley Moore’s group was shown more briefly, but Simon made sure to communicate “I love him”. Che Chesterman wasn’t seen.
Next weekend’s second bootcamp episode, with individual performances, should tell us more.
Two closing observations. After admiring Wagner’s jacket in last year’s grand final, we were pleased to see confirmation in Sunday’s bootcamp show that Sofabet is exerting a subliminal influence on the X Factor’s stylists (hat-tip Tim B).
And in case you missed last week’s news, producers have dropped plans announced at the start of the series to hold judges’ houses live. Instead, the performances will be recorded, and only the news of who makes it through will be given out live, on the Sunday show.
The advance filming of judges’ houses performances raises the question of how far in advance of being publicly communicated the decisions on who makes the lives will have been privately made. Betfair punters may be asking themselves nervously whether any market move might reflect a leak of inside information; usually, Betfair opens its market only when the final 12 are confirmed.
Still, presumably producers will be planning to go through the usual studio and makeover preparations with all 24 acts in the run-up to that Sunday judges’ houses show, so perhaps they’ll see how that goes and leave it late to make the final call.
Explaining the change of heart on live judges’ houses performances to the Mirror, a “source” cited logistical concerns which you would think should have been obvious when they considered the idea in the first place. We can’t help but wonder if there’s been some change in thinking that it would help us to deduce, but our suspicion is it’ll likely be more cock-up than conspiracy: perhaps one of the higher-ups insisted on announcing it before the subordinates had had time to figure out whether it could work. If you have any theories on this, do share them in the comments below, as well as any thoughts about the weekend’s shows and how this series is evolving overall.
X Factor images ©SYCO/THAMES TV/PA