Now that’s magic! BGT producers left punters bamboozled and confounded after Richard Jones won from trap two in the running order, like a rabbit being unexpectedly pulled from a hat. How did they do it? Was it even part of the trick? Were they expecting to pull out a bunch of flowers instead?
The fun started around 5pm when the running order must have leaked, as Richard started to drift – from around even-money during the day, he was as big as 20/1 after his performance – and Wayne Woodward, who would perform in the pimp slot, was backed in from around 16/1 to short-priced favourite. Congratulations to commenters Stoney and Joe, who read the runes correctly during the show, posting that they thought Richard would still pull off a win despite the early slot.
In a close result, Richard won with 16.7% of the vote, ahead of Wayne on 13.8% and Boogie Storm, who performed second-from-last, on 12.8%. That’s the lowest percentage a winner has scored on BGT, by some distance, although the free app voting will be having the effect of spreading around the votes more than in pre-2015 contests.
Sofabet commenters floated three main theories to make sense of a confusing evening:
1. Producers expected Richard to win from anywhere, so decided to mix it up a bit
Tim B: “My strong belief is that they were just trying to make the final more exciting and unpredictable by putting him on second.” Jess: “I don’t think they could have put him last. It would have been obvious that he was the winner.” Martin: “at times it felt like they’d read the comments here and done the exact opposite of what we all expected”.
Entertaining as it would be to imagine BGT producers cackling evilly as they imagine the effect of the running order on the Sofabet comments section, we – alas – probably aren’t so important in their lives. But it’s certainly reasonable to assume that they may see some value in putting a lid on conversations about how you need to get a late slot to win the show. If nothing else, it helps them manage any possible unhappiness in future years from acts who are told they’re performing early in the final: “Of course we’re not screwing you over, look at Richard Jones, he won from second”.
That said, as Boki commented, “When they asked the judges who will win, David didn’t have Richard in the top3 – sounds strange for someone tptb would like to win”. Alan added: “to suggest that they knew richard would win from an early slot doesnt seem right to me… If they thought he would win and were happy with that putting him second seems like a very strange choice.”
2. Producers were trying to get Richard beaten
HenryVIII, before the show, pointed out that The Sun were running with stories about Richard copying tricks from other magicians, and wondering if this might prompt a rethink: “It wasn’t just the trick Richard copied it was the whole presentation. This is considered very bad form… The point is Cowell as he is now getting flack for it.”
Sagand posted: “I wonder if they got cold feet on him after the trick stealing scandal blew up. Cowell comments were distancing calling the performance “appropriate” twice, none of the judges called for votes, called him a winner or mentioned the royal variety.” Dazzle: “They tried to get Wayne top of Richard but couldn’t”.
However, this explanation doesn’t feel quite right, either. If they wanted to get Richard beaten, they would surely have gone all out pimping another act to get them in front of him. As Tim B said, “If they had wanted Wayne to win, they would have praised him to the skies, but they didn’t.” Cowell’s comments to Wayne – “performance of your lifetime… I’m so glad you made it to the final… I have no idea what’s going to happen tonight” were a long way short of what you might expect from a full-on pimp slot pimping.
Pre-show second-favourite Beau, meanwhile, also got less-than-great treatment – as Coben said, “What on earth was going on with Beau? Horrendous arrangement of the song (her audition was leagues better) and an argument between the judges”.
Perhaps we’re forced, then, to conclude that…
3. They just didn’t care that much who won
Alan: “I think yet again this year shows that TPTB are much more relaxed about who wins than we give credit for. Plan A is making a good show with a cross section of acts. Getting a specific act to come first doesn’t really seem to be on their agenda at all.”
Or maybe we can add a fourth possibility, mixing in elements of all three of the above:
4. Last-minute chaos in the production team
Martin makes an excellent point: “The thing I don’t understand is that Richard’s act was the most pimp-slot worthy performance of the whole night.” Indeed: the whole show would have made much more sense if Richard’s patriotic, union flag-wrapped introduction of a 97-year-old war hero was the culmination of the evening’s events. It felt very odd as one of the hors d’oeuvres.
Presumably, the involvement of Fergus meant this routine must have been planned well in advance – as might other choices, such as Beau’s song arrangement. Is it possible that the original plan was to have Richard in the pimp slot, but at the last minute controversy gave them cold feet and caused them to shunt him up to an early slot – but then they simply didn’t have time to get their ducks in a row to settle on an alternative winner, so they just let the cards fall as they may?
This might help make sense of the odd feeling that, although Wayne was in the pimp slot, they couldn’t quite seem to bring themselves to go full-throated in support of having an okay version of ‘Feeling Good’, which has been done to death on these shows, as their tenth anniversary winner.
In truth, though, none of these explanations feels entirely satisfactory. Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below.