X Factor 2011: How far can Johnny Robinson go?

Let’s face it, Johnny Robinson was the star of last Saturday’s X Factor. In a show full of mediocrity and negativity, his performance of ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ was one of the few joyful moments. It rightly brought the house down. As a result, his odds to win the whole show dropped from rank outsider to 25-1.

When Andrew made the offhand remark in an article earlier this week that “his shelf life is limited”, it sparked a flurry of debate in our comments section as to whether this was really the case. Opinion ranged from potential winner through top 3 contender to definite non-finalist. Before we explain why we’re in the latter camp, let’s analyse the three reasons for taking Johnny seriously as a potential winner or finalist.

The first argument for Johnny going far, perhaps all the way, is the weakness of the opposition. As commenter Whyalwaysme argued, given the flaws of all the other contenders, underestimating Johnny Robinson is “extremely dangerous… In an unordinary series, why shouldn’t there be an unordinary winner?”

The second argument is that Johnny comes across extremely sympathetically. Following on from his week 2 VT which showed him being taught how to use a “blueberry” to tweet Kylie Minogue, week 3’s VT portrayed him gamely agreeing to take on a song he thought he couldn’t manage and endearingly confiding in Janet about his doubts and insecurities.

Just as Johnny’s week 3 performance stood out, so did the likeability of his VT in a week where producers seemed to go out of their way to negatively portray some of the leading contenders – Sophie, Janet and The Risk all suffered from damaging VTs. Then, in stark contrast to a solid performance from Misha being overshadowed by the accusations of bullying in the judges’ comments, Johnny’s comments once again set him up for another enjoyable one-liner at Gary’s expense.

It’s impossible to dislike Johnny: his gratitude for being in the position he’s in; the obvious fact that he’s just being himself; his positivity towards Gary in the face of the latter’s bemusement; and those delicious ‘Carry On’-style one-liners, notably week 2’s “rub my lamp”. Johnny is Charles Hawtrey brought to life on the X Factor stage, and firmly in the Larry Grayson tradition of camp that’s long been popular with a Saturday night audience.

As one of our long-standing commenters, Mark, put it in making the case for taking 4-1 about Johnny to be in the final 3, “the country loves an underdog and he has the 2 most important things you need 2 do well a half decent voice and the likeability factor.”

Which brings us to the third argument in Johnny’s favour – he does have an effective falsetto, and it worked to great effect last week with an extremely smart song choice.

Now for the “but”. It seems to me that these three arguments rest too much on the evidence of one week. In the first live show, Johnny had looked to me to be a potential early casualty when sent out early wearing sunglasses and failing to convince with his rendition of ‘Believe’. The second week was better, with a big production for ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ and another entertaining post-performance interview. But there was no real suggestion that he could get near the final.

Everything came right for Johnny this last week: a perfect song choice, great slot in the running order, and looking good in comparison to other acts who suffered through poor performances or coverage. He will need to produce a week 3 kind of showing week-in, week-out from now on, and I don’t think that’s realistic, for a couple of reasons.

One is that Johnny’s week 3 performance completed already the main narrative trajectory set out for him during the live shows: Gary’s acceptance. The Take That lead man admitted that he “loved” Johnny’s latest performance. Now that there is no longer a need to win over a sceptical Gary, it takes away an edge from Johnny’s journey.

Another is that programme-makers will surely recognise the need to rehabilitate at least some of the more conventional contenders. Therefore, Week 3 seems likely to be as good as it gets for Johnny relative to the rest of the field.

I now have no doubt that programme makers will want Johnny’s presence for a few more weeks at least, but at the same time, I don’t think they will want him in the final. That’s because, as Euan explained, “He has no recording artist potential.”

As a few of our commenters have pointed out, producers can do a lot to ensure that acts they don’t want in the final don’t get there, as they managed with Wagner and Mary Byrne last year. As Euan said: “As we saw with Wagner they have ways of making people they don’t want fall into the bottom two. Leaked stories to the press, songs that don’t suit, take away his dancers and choreography.”

Plenty will feel that Johnny is more likeable than Wagner, and for that reason the comparison doesn’t stand, but I’m afraid that the tactics will remain the same if need be.

Last year there was a clear desire to get the more marketable Cher and One Direction into the final alongside Rebecca and Matt. Whilst the talent at the top of the field looks weaker this year, there’s no reason to believe that programme makers won’t try to big up the merits of the more marketable acts once the business end of the competition comes around. In our view those are probably Janet, The Risk, Misha and Marcus.

Belief that Johnny can make the final is based too much on one unusually unbalanced and negative live show. Give it a couple of weeks, and you too may find yourself agreeing, as I do, with Henry: “It’s not that unordinary a series”.

31 comments to X Factor 2011: How far can Johnny Robinson go?

  • Simon "le chat"

    Really good article and yup, I agree with your conclusion. The producers will keep Johnnie ticking over for a couple of weeks and then manipulate him into the bottom 2.
    Aften a poor song choice and grim slot a siple comment from the judges from Mr Bennet of Pride and Prejudice will do the trick ie Johnnie, you have entertained us long enogh, let some of the other ladies perform ie you’ve been really great entertainment but this could be where it gets serious and you have to get off

    They have ways of putting dispnsable people in the bottom two, and I expect Johnnie to appear there at the beginning of next month, falling at the Canal turn second time around and leaving it for the principles to fight it out – There being JANET, RISK and MARCUS

  • Panos

    it’s amazing how one performance of a made-for-johnny song can make people forget of who can REALLY sing and who not.

  • Whyalwaysme

    Nice well balanced article. I can certainly see the view of the one overly beneficial week to Johnny. Interesting also what you say about the Larry Grayson style Saturday night entertainment aspect. I think however there is perhaps an underestimation of just how much the British Public can latch onto this character, and actually the extent to which he can become a star despite his limitations as a recording artist. I completely agree with the achievement in his journey of Gary’s acceptance, but do you not think that this character has the potential for an even greater journey? A journey that can be witnessed, adored and championed by a largely disillusioned British Public every Saturday night? Now that would be feel good tv. The crux of the matter really is whether Louis allows credibility, or exposes Johnny’s limitations in an unfavourable way. By they need to be careful, because if the public see him being treated badly or in a defamatory way deliberately, then talent will go out the window and he will win on sympathy alone.

    • Whyalwaysme

      I meant to comment on the relationship of these comments to his price. The upside at 25/1 in this situation has huge scope, and while I appreciate those who are willing to lay for the win or place, I can’t see anything but these prices being about right at the moment. And if the price is right then why make a transaction? I can’t see much upside whatsoever to laying Johnny for a place at 4/1, that kind of trade will come far more into fruition IF he does make the final 6. At which point the theories which you have outlined in the article will be more prevalent, and there will more than likely be a disparity between the probability of them happening and the prices offered.

  • Oscar Diggs

    I still think there is more in store from Johnny – I backed him for top 3 at 14/1 before the live shoes because I had learned of his background and ‘alter ego’.

    Nobody has mentioned that Johnny is a semi-pro drag act who performs under the name ‘Sara Lee’ and has featured on commercial cd’s. If the X Factor producers wanted to grab the headlines and generate a ratings boost – what better way to unveil our sympathetic, newbie tweeter ‘Larry Grayson’ mid-series in a shoulder length blonde wig and Celine Dion-esque sparkling evening gown. Imagine the headlines!

    Of course, I may be way off mark, but they all laughed at me when I spotted early signs of Mike Baldwin’s alzheimers in Corrie and I was proven right.

    Go Johnny, er, I mean Sara…

  • Curtis

    I think the producers will do all in their power to ensure that Johnny is not in the final. However, they’ll want him to stick around for a couple more weeks yet. It’ll be interesting to see their treatment of him in the coming weeks, as that will probably be based on how well he’s doing on the votes (good treatment if he’s not doing that great, bad treatment if he’s doing really well)

  • tpfkar

    Yet another great article, and surely a Wagner trajectory is assured. His ‘little guy lost’ act works far better than Janet’s even though we know from his youtube videos that he is anything but.

    In fact although he is one of the more genuine contestants, his image has been very catefully controlled, even down to what look like scripted banter with Gary in the live shows.

    Laying for the next couple of eliminations may be his value bet.

    • Nugget

      I would haave to agree with that, cannot see Johnny leaving for a few weeks yet.

      Why go to so much effort to present him as a slightly nervous, suprised quirky kinda guy and give him such good scripted responses if the plan is not to keep him in a few weeks.

      As a fairly established performer, he is clearly not quite as overwhealmed and suprised by it all he he makes out on air.

      In my view will likely go out just before the final, but like some say here, may even make the final.

      The public has been slightly slower to latch onto and attach itself to Johnny as Jedward/Wagner but it is clearly starting to happen.


  • Andrew

    Whyalwaysme – I think it should be easy enough to depress his vote without looking like they’re treating him badly, if they want to. For example, as Euan has said –

    – take away the fun costumes and send him out wearing something nondescript

    – take away the big performance, just Johnny and a microphone “to showcase your voice”

    – give him a tedious song that lingers in weaker parts of his vocal range

    – have Louis sound prematurely triumphalist (“Johnny, we’re going to the final!”)

    – have the other judges give muted praise (“I liked it, it was okay”), neither firing up support nor inspiring sympathy

    – plant the thought in his supporters’ minds that he doesn’t need to go further (“whatever happens from now on, Johnny, your future is assured”).

    All from the Wagner/Mary Byrne playbook, and should be sufficient to do for Johnny when the time comes without the voting public cottoning on that he’s being shafted and leaping to his defence.

    In terms of laying him at 4s/5s I’d be more concerned about the possibility that they might actually want him in the final than the possibility that he might get there if they don’t. I think it’s highly unlikely, but for reasons Oscar mentions it’s not as completely unimaginable as it was for Wagner. And this is a strange year.

    But as Dan says in the article, it’s surely not that strange a year. Highly likely he’ll have got the Mr Bennett treatment, as Simon puts it, by week 7/8 at the latest.

  • bob

    Oscar, do you know that Cornation Street isn’t real don’t you?

  • bob

    Probably more real than X factor!

  • Simon "le chat"

    As you know I am a big fan of MARCUS and I cannot make sense of why CRAIG is the bookies preferred Alphmale.
    I have watched the performances of all three of the boys several times over and MARCUS is head and shoulders above the other two. I take Whyalwaysme’s point on board about backing the best horse irrespective of the going, and it is clear to me that MARCUS is easily the best horse of the three. I am ruling FRANKIE out because he cannot sing, a point very well made in defferent degrees by the judges and the public, so we are looking at a two horse race. MARCUS has not only got the better voice but is the more versitile and likeable. CRAIg is no donkey but you are only as good as your last performance and “Jar of Hearts” already has dust on it. The only other thing CRAIG has is the support of Louis Walsh who reckons he could be “the one to watch”.

    There is an interesting thread on DIGITAL SPY about this which speaks for itself.


    The bookies though have CRAIG at 4/7 to be top boy and MARCUS at 7/4 – this in spite of CRAIG being the more fancied of the two to finish in the bottom 2.

    I think MARCUS at 7/4 to be top boy in virtually a two horse field must be bet of the series.
    Or am I missing something?

  • Roach

    Bet of the series? It was a good bet and one I took at 3/1. A little, but not too much juice left in 7/4 in my opinion.

  • Chatterbox5200

    If the latest post on Digital Spy is true, it seems as though Andrew/Euan’s thoughts about the depressing of Johnny’s votes, may already be starting.

    The is what the site said…Louis Walsh’s Overs act Johnny Robinson has also revealed details of his Halloween song, claiming that it would be his most “stripped-back” performance so far. “It will be just me and my voice,” he said.

    Robinson claimed that he loved the song and described the production as “minimalistic”.

    Source: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tv/s103/the-x-factor/news/a347831/x-factor-sophie-habibis-promises-spooky-freaky-performance.html

  • mark

    good article – entirely agree about the contestants with talent, Janet, The Risk, Misha and Marcus.the rest could be effectively written off in my opinion

    Marcus is still my selection, and I hope he doesnt get stitched up..only time will tell

    On a different topic – x factor special markets – just been looking at them

    Paddys have: Cowell to appear live yes 1/6 (was 1/3 yesterday) no 7/2 – that looks like a lock? Looking at the dates of the x factor USA surely he will appear on the UK show live at some point? Although I wouldn’t recommend taking 1/3..much less the 1/6

    Corals have some interesting markets too
    . Which judge will be the first to use the word (Sorry) – thats a toughie, someone will say it at some point even if not in reference to last weeks Bullying – i.e. sorry Frankie you just aren’t good enough!

    which judge will first use the word bully – surely one will mention this?

    Louis Walsh to..

    tell the public to “Pick up the phone and vote” Evens
    NOT tell the public to “Pick up the phone and vote” 8/11
    stand and stoke up the audience 2/1
    tell Kitty he was “right/glad to save her” last week 7/4
    NOT tell Kitty he was “right/glad to save her” last week 2/5
    tell any act, “You’re the one to beat” 4/1
    say “I’ll think you’ll be in the final/last 3”

    evens doesnt seem too bad for louis to tell the public to pickup the phone? he loves that line

    ‘Tulisa to give a public apology to Misha B on Saturday regarding the bully claim’ 6/4 @ Ladbrokes

    Simon to be a guest judge live this weekend 29-30/10/2011 3/1 Ladbrokes

    Most viewers:
    SCD 1/3
    X Factor 2/1 (Ladbrokes) pretty poor margins there

    X Factor weekly viewers to drop under 10million
    No 1/2 Yes 6/4 (Paddys)

    Nothing really stands out as being worth betting to me, but id be interested in others views 🙂

    • Nugget

      The new Markets on offer by Coral over who will/will not say/do something are most intresting 🙂

      Still ploughing through them looking for some value…

      Any opinions??

    • Andrew

      They are interesting. The one that immediately jumped out at me was 7/4 Louis saying he’s glad/right to have saved Kitty, but that’s based purely on a gut reaction – would be quite a task to sift through previous episodes to establish the form! 🙂

  • Jack

    Hi! It’s not related to this article but I’ve just been looking at the Digital Spy Forums and its interesting the vast support that Marcus has. Look at this thread:


    I know that its only one thread and the DS community does not represent the whole of the country, but this will please many punters on this website, I’m sure!

    • Andrew

      Certainly looks that way, Chatterbox – looks like it might be the Wagner treatment starting early. Implies he might have done well enough in the week 3 vote to spook them into withdrawing support.

      • tpfkar

        Never thought I’d see an article about Johnny Robinson and Iain Duncan Smith!

        I think Andrew’s got this exactly right – Wagner was only ever scraping through week by week but this suggests Johnny is doing much better, if they have to get this in early.

        Reminds me of Craig who stormed week 1 being dampened in week 2. With both acts, it does suggest producers are cautious about letting them build up any momentum.

    • EM

      When you walk into a petrol station at 8am and see the front page of the paper and think Sofabet you know you’re taking this too seriously!!!

  • Simon "le chat"

    That’s Johnnie nacked- why should he be claiming thick end of £100 a week for incapacity benefit when judged from his dancing/prancing around last week there isn’t much wrong with him.
    Certainly creates an uneasiness about him among the average middle class viewer on a Saturday night who works 9-5 and pays their taxes.
    Another act spiked under the waterline for a slow sinking methinks- an immensley damaging article for Johnnies credibility as a harmless Mr Mice Guy wo just needs some luck.

    You really have to go into these competitions with clean hands because you can be sure people will snipe and all skeletons under the stairs will come out.
    Ask Mr Lascell, perhaps the best male vocalist not jst of this series but them all who is no more because of a minor indiscretion in a previous life.

  • mark

    Just read in the paper (Daily Mail) that Johnny Robinson is also a benefit cheat

    he’s claiming incapacity benefit for a spinal problem , spondilitis, problem with the upper back..makes it impossible to work, so he recieves benefits

    but yet he’s ok to prance around stage?

    THIS HAS TO DAMAGE WHAT LITTLE CHANCE (IMO) he has of winning? although a large number of x factor viewers will be chavs and on benefits themselves, there will be a lot like myself who aren’t and would see this qs a sure fire reason not to support the guy!, no?

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