BGT 2012: Can anyone beat Charlotte and Jonathan?

With just the one audition weekend remaining, it’s starting to look like Britain’s Got Talent hit us with their best shot in week one. Charlotte and Jonathan remain out in front at the head of the market at a top price of 7/2, with their closest challengers available at almost three times those odds.

It makes sense. This series of BGT surely has to be viewed in the light of competition with The Voice. ITV brought the show forward by several weeks from its customary position in the year so that it could open on the same night as the BBC’s putative new answer to the X Factor. It seems fair to assume that The Voice must have been on producers’ minds as they made other decisions, too.

Put yourself in their shoes. What better way to take on The Voice than implicitly rendering it conceptually redundant by showing you can do the same thing just as well? The big gimmick of The Voice, with its blind auditions, was supposed to be focusing on “the voice” – implicitly opposed, we assume, to other characteristics such as looks and charisma. To put it more bluntly, one might say they were offering hope to an ugly, shy person with a terrific voice. Someone like, ooh, Paul Potts or Susan Boyle? BGT producers must have been tempted to sock it to The Voice by unearthing another unlikely-looking vocal powerhouse.

Step forward Jonathan Antoine.

If you haven’t seen Jonathan and Charlotte’s audition – even if you’ve never watched BGT, and have no intention of getting into it – it’s well worth checking out because it is an absolute masterclass in the dark arts of emotional manipulation in reality shows. It’s a near-perfect example, a salutary reminder of the genius of which Simon Cowell and his crew are capable when on top form.

We start with Cowell stage-whispering “just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse” (helpfully subtitled, to make sure we got it) as the elephantine teen shambles on stage, smiling gamely, accompanied by a beautiful young girl. We get cutaway shots to audience members sitting forward with the kind of looks of relish that must have flashed across Colosseum spectators’ faces as a particularly juicy-looking Christian was dragged towards the lions. Charlotte handles Cowell’s weary-sounding questions, as Jonathan looks awkward and confesses to being shy.

Then the mood music changes, as we cut to Jonathan VTing backstage about how he was bullied at school and every unkind comment about his appearance “took a little piece out of me”. Charlotte lays a consoling hand on his shoulder and says nice things about him; Jonathan VTs that Charlotte gives him confidence and he wouldn’t be going on stage without her by his side. Aah, bless. Instantly we are rooting for them.

Back to stage, and Cowell issues a dismissive “good luck” as audience cutaways show bored and repulsed looking girls. Jonathan at first appears to miss his cue and is then, of course, fabulous. Cowell puts on his best surprise-and-delight face. The audience rise. Ant or Dec voices what we are feeling, with a “go on, son”.

So far, so Paul Potts or Susan Boyle. That’s not nothing, but it’s what follows that really reminds us how brilliant Cowell and his people are at this stuff. Calling Charlotte “good” and Jonathan “unbelievable”, he concludes with: “I worry, Charlotte, whether you’re going to hold him back”. There is an agonising pause as the implication of this statement sinks in. Charlotte gulps bravely. Jonathan responds with “we’ve come on here as a duo, and we’re going to stay as a duo”. The audience erupt again and we cut to a shot of a spectator blubbing.

As Sofabet commenter eurovicious rightly says, “Without Charlotte, Jonathan’s just another example of the oh-so-reliable “awkward fat man sings Nessun Dorma” trope.” Charlotte creates what R calls “the classic “beauty & the beast” storyline”. It’s Cowell’s perfectly-judged and edited contributions, though – first setting up Charlotte to show kindness, then Jonathan to show loyalty – that elevate an impressive vocal duet into a heartwarming parable about friendship. Even I felt a lump forming in my throat, and such is my cynicism about these shows it wouldn’t entirely surprise me to learn that the two had been introduced by BGT producers.

So, were this pair intended merely to steal The Voice’s thunder on its opening night, or are they also being lined up as our winners? One reason to suspect the latter is that it’s so easy to imagine the twosome having a shelf life after the show, at least for long enough to flog an album. The “we’re just good friends” profiles in OK! magazine, and “Jonathan’s heartbreak” headlines in the Sun above a paparazzi pic of Charlotte holding hands with a better-looking boy, practically write themselves.

If not Charlotte and Jonathan, then who might be Plan A? Let’s run down the other acts towards the head of bookies’ lists.

Nervous nine-year-old Malaki Paul was the headline act last weekend, and another textbook study in making viewers well up. But will producers really want to place all their chips on a tearful preteen, bearing in mind what happened with Hollie Steel in the 2009 live shows?

In Ashley and Pudsey, we have this year’s obligatory dancing dog act. Despite Cowell’s well-publicised love for the genre, it seems likely that this is the kind of act producers will want providing variety in the final but not representing the brand as a winner.

Twist and Pulse Dance Company, set up by the series 4 runners-up, also seem like finalists not winners. Having them in the final says “look, our alumni have set up a successful dance company”. Having them win says “we’ve run out of ideas”.

It has been reported that Cowell intends to send this year’s BGT winners into space with Virgin Galactic. Presumably tickets don’t come cheap, which could be another reason to think producers won’t be too keen on a winning act featuring as large a number of people as the Twist and Pulse Dance Company. (Similarly, it would be a shame for Pudsey to have to travel in a crate in the cargo hold).

A similar thought applies to Cascade, a stunt group who would also seem unlikely to be pushed for the win given that they’re French; hip-hop troupe United We Stand, perhaps too similar to recent winners Diversity and Spelbound; and – especially – Welsh choir Only Boys Aloud.

One assumes the space prize might just slip by the wayside if a mischievous voting public propels the 200-strong choir to the win. Less facetiously, as we try to second-guess producers’ intentions, it does seem logical that they might want to extend the ratings battle with The Voice into a record-selling battle with the rival show’s winner.

If they want a singer as a winner, producers have given themselves plenty of choice in the young girl bracket: the top dozen or so in the market includes 11-year-old Molly Rainford, 12-year-old Lauren Thalia, 14-year-old Paige Turley, 16-year-old Hope Murphy and 18-year-old Chelsea Redfern.

There are a couple of options if they want a boy-with-guitar – Sam Kelly (assuming he recovers from a rib injury) and Ryan O’Shaughnessy (if he can get out of a contractual wrangle with Universal).

And there are a couple of boyband options, too – The Loveable Rogues and The Mend.

It seems to me that any of these musical acts could be propelled towards the stratosphere (perhaps literally) with a pimp slot, or grounded with an early slot – and we’ll revisit the key question of the running order in the next post ahead of the live shows (which, incidentally, start on Sunday this time around – a day earlier than usual). But I don’t at this stage see especially compelling evidence of producer favour for one over the others.

Indeed, I’m finding it hard to see why producers would want to look beyond Charlotte and Jonathan. A touching backstory, an audition that’s been viewed 12 million times on YouTube, something a bit different from previous winners, post-show commercial potential – what more can they ask for? And if producers do indeed set out to whip up public support for the likeable and talented teenage friends, it seems likely they will be pushing at an open door.

So should we be taking the 7/2? There’s a case for it. It’s easy enough to imagine this Saturday’s auditions show – like the last five – failing to throw up a comparable showstopper; Charlotte and Jonathan getting a semi-final pimp slot; and Cowell saying something like “Jonathan, at your audition, I wondered if Charlotte might hold you back, and you insisted on sticking with her. Let me tell you something. You were right. That was sen-sational“. And before you know it, they’re 6/4.

On the other hand, there are still more auditions to come, and in BGT producer favour – or lack of it – counts for so much (but perhaps not everything). Are you taking a chance on the favourites, seeing some value in any of the longer-priced acts, or leaving well alone for now? As ever, do let us know below.

20 comments to BGT 2012: Can anyone beat Charlotte and Jonathan?

  • Tim B

    Hi Andrew, many thanks for the BGT analysis at this stage – it is greatly appreciated. I completely agree with your assessment that Charlotte and Jonathan are the most likely winners, so I just placed a win bet on them with Sportingbet at 4.75. They seem a much more worthy favourite than Ronan Parke was last year, although perhaps the competition is a little stronger this year. However C&J are simply out of this world talent-wise, and I can see producers doing everything they can to get them over the finish line – they won’t wanting to be making the same mistake as last year by not allowing them to sing last in the final.

    In terms of competition, Malaki Paul is very sweet but I found him a little weak vocally. I also think there is a sizeable backlash against the show allowing these child contestants on – there are always debates in the media on this topic for example. The longer priced act that looks tempting is Ashley and Pudsey at 17.00 – but only as an EW bet if you can find one. I’m not taking this myself though as I’m also spreading my funds across The Voice UK and Eurovision at the moment.

    • Andrew

      Cheers Tim. Agree about Malaki Paul’s vocals. And I also persuaded myself into a small wager on C&J at current odds. It will be very interesting to see how much of a chance they take with them in the final running order (assuming of course that they are Plan A, as they would be if we were in charge). Eurovicious has cautionary words below about the danger of dancing dogs…

  • steve

    Hi Dan good article which I agree with. However there arent any more audition shows, this Saturday shows them selecting the 45 semi finalists and the 1st semi final takes place on Sunday. So Im fairly certain weeve seen everything. A couple of other things to consider are the tour they obviously dont want to be taking a 200 strong male voice choir on tour so Only Boys Aloud are up against it. Also there will be logistical problems taking under 16s so in general these get culled at the semi stage.
    Finally BGT is a variety show so a lot of the song and sdance act will be culled at the semi stage to make sure Ashley and Pudsey et al make the final. Remember Jean Steven and Paul all made last years final despite being unfancied in their semis.

    • Andrew

      Good point about the tour Steve. Where did you get the info about the Saturday show? On the ITV website it says “Ant and Dec present the last of the auditions” – would be handy if we had indeed seen everybody already, though.

      • steve

        Hi Andrew. Just checked the tv listings and Tellymix, it looks as if Saturdays 90 mins show will be a catch up on auditions where others will be added, and the selection of the semi finalists. From memory this took place over Sat and Sun last year, but this year its the 1st semi final on Sunday. Looks like an attempt to upstage the Voice. Apols for my misinterpretation of events.

        • Andrew

          Hey Steve, no worries, I couldn’t quite figure it out after checking several listings sites which all said different things. And good point about wanting to upstage The Voice on Sunday, I had been wondering why they’d brought the semi forward. I suppose also it can’t hurt logistically to have 48 hours to plot the final after the last semi, they must all be pretty exhausted by then after staging five live shows in a row – maybe helps explain last year’s apparent miscalculation?

  • Boki

    Indeed, many thanks Andrew especially since this is my 1st BGT. I still have to catch up with all the contestants and I had some questions about running order but found already many answers in the articles from previous year, great job. Btw, are there BF qualification markets for the semis or only the winner market?
    One thing from the past still bothers me, is there a theory why SuBo didn’t win? Was she the producers choice or not?

    • eurovicious

      Where are you from, Boki?

      • Boki

        Holland but I originate from ex-yu (you too if I’m correct?).

        • eurovicious

          Cool 🙂 no, Anglo-Irish living in Germany, but as a true europhile I enjoy dabbling in various European cultures en kan ook n beetje nederlands i malo srpski… it’s all about the turbofolk and the levensliederen ;). These days I pretty much listen exclusively to Serbian and ex-Yu music, I find former Yugoslavia has a tremendously rich musical culture…

          • Boki

            Hahaha tebra jonguh, I’m amazed, you fooled me with your Balkan music knowledge 🙂 Serbian music scene is really big (comparing to the country size) but mainstream folk/pop/dance and older ‘ex-yu rock’ stuff doesn’t work for me much since I grew up on Iron Maiden and Metallica. So outside my ‘esc hobby’ I rather enjoy harder/instrumental/alternative music but that scene is suffering a lot (Block Out is a last living example of a great band from Serbia if you ask me).These days I pretty much listen exclusively to the new Mars Volta album 😉

            Anyway, to come back to the main topic, based on BGT history it seems that a good dance act with a good draw has more chance to win than a singer – I have just realized that.

    • eurovicious

      I think Susan definitely was the show’s preferred choice, but the public surprises… a lot of families and kids watch BGT and Susan just wasn’t contemporary enough for younger voters (presumably also the reason why France didn’t win ESC last year despite bizarrely being the longstanding favourite…)

      • Boki

        That would mean they repeat the same mistake of not putting the preferred one to the pimp slot like last year. Or they just don’t really care and even like those ‘shock results’.

    • Andrew

      Hey Boki, we’ll post an updated running order article before the live shows but I won’t be giving much away if I say last year continued the pattern!

      It’s a good question about SuBo. I would tend to agree with eurovicious that they probably put her 8th instead of 10th as they want to avoid the last act on winning every year, and they thought she could do it from 8th. I did have a slight doubt at the time about whether they might have been happy to get her beaten given there was some press speculation about the effect of the pressure of the show on her mental wellbeing.

      If they liked last year’s shock result, Cowell did a good job of hiding it 😉

  • eurovicious

    A guy with a dancing dog won the 3rd German series of Talent in 2009 in a surprise victory, beating the two acts the show was very obviously trying to steer towards the top two places (an opera singer, Vanessa Calcagno, and a pan-pipes player, Petruta Küpper). Vanessa and Petruta got massive pimping throughout (and, of course, immediately released tie-in albums not long after the final) but the public wanted the cute dancing dog and its cute dancing owner. Moral of the story: Never underestimate the “aww” factor…

    What Steve said is also correct, if there’s an excess of singers and dance troupes (as there invariably is), a lot will be culled to retain variety in the semifinal and final stage.

  • R

    I have to admit I can’t see any way past Jonathan+Charlotte winning this without the use of extensive deramping. The 12m+ hits is just on the BGT video with lots of repostings having 1m+ hits.

    None of the kids, boy bands or female singers seemed anywhere near good enough & were heavily edited to make them look a lot better than they were.
    The only act I actually liked were Ashley & Pudsey. Mainly because I don’t like dog acts and they took me by surprise.
    Hopefully Pudsey will turn to Simon & say “Get your paws off me you god damn dirty ape”

    None of the dance acts were even close to Diversity so will likely fall by the wayside, with Twist & Pulse being in the final.

    The only slight doubt I have with Jonathon+1 is that singers often get trumped by dancers on BGT. A very slight doubt.
    Jonathon will win, even though it annoys me that he looked a lot smarter & more confident in his videos prior to BGT & he dumped Stephanie(rumour)for the “I’ll stand by Charlotte” storyline.

    • Andrew

      Hi R, interesting that during the audition when Cowell asks if he is shy, Jonathan’s reply is not “yes” but “sometimes”. A carefully-chosen word? 😉

  • Donald

    Remember when the dancer won and Syco had No.1 with the track he danced to following week?
    Who knows but a play at 7/2 is potential value as you say Daniel, (Starts the book anyway!)

  • D

    Have £835 on J+C at average odds of 4.91, have spent about £220 covering myself on other acts to break even should J+C not win.

    They’re clearly by far the most talented of the bunch, humble, marketable. I’m praying they get a pimp slot in one of the later semis.

    • Andrew

      Good luck, D! Fully agree with your reasoning. It would be a shock to see them get anything other than full-on pimping in the semis, wouldn’t it?

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