Over the last three years, the clear pre-show favourite for first elimination has indeed departed: Bupsi, Blonde Electra and Lorna Simpson. Before that, Carolynne Poole was a big price to go first in 2012, but generally speaking, producers’ first target has been correctly identified by punters. I think it’s fair to say Carolynne Poole wasn’t a target at all.
Interestingly, all four of those acts had a second-half draw: 10/13, 11/16, 9/12 and 11/12. You have to go back to Nu Vibe in 2011 for a bottom-of-first-public-vote from the first half of the show (1/12). Though it’s worth bearing in mind that for the last two years, the other victims in a double-elimination first weekend (Alien Uncovered and Overload Generation) were both drawn at 3. This was also the spot at which both Miss Dynamix and Melanie Masson just avoided the singoff in 2013 and 2012, only to be eliminated after their next performance.
I’d say that context is more important than a knee-jerk reaction to the running order. For example, Bupsi was on relatively late – beyond the Strictly crossover – but was in the middle of a big-hitter sandwich (Louisa Johnson and Fourth Impact), given an obscure song, a damning VT which suggested she was a freeloader, unhelpful staging, and lukewarm comments. All classic X Factor tactics to dampen any appeal.
Tonight’s Strictly crossover period lasts a whopping 50 minutes – as always it will be interesting to see who gets the slot after BBC1 viewers switch over once the rival show has finished – which may be deemed advantageous by producers. But that means the first 4-5 acts will appear whilst some of the later audience are watching the other side. Obviously, not all of them will be in the bottom two.
Bookmakers have two clear favourites for elimination this week: at the time of writing Bratavio just shade Relley C at the top of the market. We’ve been told that Bratavio will be doing a Venagboys / Aqua mash-up. A medley of more than one song can be helpful for a novelty fun act, but if the staging mirrors Blonde Electra’s colour-vomit mess, it will indicate producers aren’t that interested in keeping them out of the bottom two this weekend.
Relley C’s lack of screentime during auditions reminds us of Lorna Simpson, and suggests that she is the most disposable of all the acts tonight. That’s why she was just preferred at the bottom of our 1-12 prediction list. Her inclusion in the live shows at the expense of far more obvious candidates in her category, really does indicate her role is “week 1 fodder”. But it’s worth remembering that producers can occasionally switch things up in the first live show. Luke Friend is one example of an assumed gamma in his category given a surprise push early on.
Next in the elimination market come Saara Aalto, Freddy Parker and Honey G. Saara’s fortunes feel like they are linked to Relley C’s in that they are both potential first targets among the Overs, traditionally the weakest category (a tradition that looks more likely than not to be upheld this year). Three of the last four first eliminees have come from the Overs. If Relley is treated helpfully, that wouldn’t be encouraging for Saara’s survival chances, and vice versa. She gets to sing ‘Let It Go’ to cement her “snow fairy” status, but again, how it’s staged and received will tell us more.
Freddy has been on the receiving end of a few articles which aren’t 100% positive this week – for example, suggesting he went on a bender after hearing he got through to the lives, which isn’t helpful when your drink-drive shame has recently been revealed. He’s currently looking like the gamma boy to get the Jack Walton / Jake Quickenden first week softening. Meanwhile, the X Factor press machine has been in overdrive for Honey G, and we expect the kitchen sink thrown at her tonight as producers hope she remains a talking point.
The first show is usually a chance to treat plenty of acts fairly to see how they float with the public. I expect that to happen with most of the other acts, which is why they are big prices to be eliminated this weekend. There’s still no news of a possible wildcard, or indeed a full list of song choices at the time of going to press (though we know that Freddy and Emily have made late changes). Stay tuned in the comments and/or follow us on Twitter. Finally, do give us your in-play thoughts below during an eagerly anticipated night on the Sofabet forum.
Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor