X Factor 2012: Audition shows preview

The audition shows are upon us! This is where characters are established, journeys foreshadowed, and narrative arcs set in motion – and we get our first clues about what producers may be hoping for this series. The first female soloist winner since Alexandra Burke, perhaps, as Dan surmises in the comments to our rumours round-up post? And if so, a Cher/Misha B urban type or, as Tim B reckons more plausible, an Adele/Leona power belter?

By this stage of proceedings, with bootcamp already filmed, producers must already have a pretty good idea of who they expect to become the leading players in the dramatis personae of this series. However, with judges’ houses not yet filmed, much can still change. It pays to tread carefully.

So, what should punters be looking out for as they watch the audition shows? Here are some thoughts based on the lessons of the last couple of years.

1. The first audition show is one to watch closely

It makes sense for producers to introduce some water-cooler acts in the first audition show – they’ll want to make a splash in the tabloids to make sure everyone’s aware that the show is back. Last year, for instance, the two stars of the first audition show were Frankie Cocozza and Janet Devlin, who it seems fair to assume were viewed at that stage as likely to be the leading man and leading woman of the series.

Their example shows, however, how much can change after the screening of this first show. Evidently, producers had not counted on Frankie being so unpopular or Janet so independent-minded. The example of 2010 is even more stark. Then, the two headline-grabbers from the first audition show were Gamu Nhengu and Shirleena Johnson, neither of whom even made it to the live shows amid media revelations about their issues with visas and mental health respectively. We can never know for sure, but it would be surprising if producers hadn’t edited this first show in the expectation of Gamu and Shirleena sticking around for the long haul.

If these examples suggest that not enough homework had been done by the time the first show aired in 2011 and 2010, no such problems afflicted the 2009 series, when the first audition show introduced no fewer than four of the eventual top six – Joe McElderry, Stacey Solomon, Danyl Johnson and Jedward.

We can reasonably expect Saturday’s first audition show to feature one or two acts whom producers are currently execting to progress into the latter reaches of the live shows – but it would be foolish to bet the house on this coming to pass.

2. The eventual contenders tend to get plenty of screentime

Some auditions are over in less than a minute – often as part of a montage – with just a voiceover introduction from Dermot, a line or two of singing, a word or two from one of the judges and a shot of the delighted act skipping off stage to the sound of cheers. Others are altogether more drawn-out affairs, with VTs, questions from the judges, a full performance and comments from all the panel. As you’d expect, the acts who make it through to the business end of the live shows tend to have had the latter treatment in their auditions.

How much of a handicap is it to have had a short audition segment? Last year, with rumours that James Michael and Melanie McCabe had made the lives despite the brevity of their audition screentime, we debated if an act could really succeed without having been helped off the starting blocks with a lengthy introduction to the viewing public. When the rumour about Melanie proved wide of the mark, and James was given his ticket to ride in the opening live show cull, the mystery seemed solved – you really did need to have had a long audition slot to be in with a chance.

Then, however, Little Mix went and upended this neat pattern by winning the show despite having barely featured in the auditions. Here’s a list of how much screentime the eventual top four enjoyed during the audition shows for the last few years (a general tendency to screentime inflation can be seen, especially since Joe McElderry’s year when the auditions started being filmed in front of a live audience – this tended to make the segments longer, as crowd reaction shots were included).

Little Mix (5) 0.28*
Marcus Collins (5) 5:43
Amelia Lily (5) 6:44
Misha Bryan (2) 8:00

Matt Cardle (2) 4:03
Rebecca Ferguson (5) 7:25
One Direction (3/6) 10.22**
Cher Lloyd (3) 5:55

Joe McElderry (1) 5:51
Olly Murs (4) 6:28
Stacey Solomon (1) 4:27
Danyl Jonhson (1) 6:30

Alexandra Burke (2) 4:48
JLS (1) 3:13
Eoghan Quigg (2) 4:18
Diana Vickers (2) 3:49

Leon Jackson (3) 2:48
Rhydian Roberts (6) 3:07
Same Difference (1) 3:03
Nikki Evans (1) 3:42

Leona Lewis (1) 1:02
Ray Quinn (2) 2:51
Ben Mills (4) 2:44
McDonald Bros (5) 1:14

* Perrie Edwards appears to be the only one (we stand to be corrected) whose audition was shown, briefly, on the main programme.
** The combined total of Liam Payne’s (show 3, 6.11) and Harry Styles’s (show 6, 4.11) auditions.

Does the success of Little Mix suggest that this year producers might fly their favourites under the radar? We suspect it’s more likely that Little Mix’s lack of audition screentime can be seen as evidence that producers didn’t see them as serious contenders while the audition shows were being aired, and that we can expect once again this year the finalists to come from acts on whom audition screentime is lavished.

Of course, getting lots of screentime in auditions is no guarantee of further progress – plenty of acts are heavily featured in lengthy audition segments only to disappear without trace at bootcamp (see John Adams, Lascel Woods) or be agonisingly dismissed at judges’ houses (see Jade Richards, John Wilding).

In parentheses in the above list, by the way, is the audition show in which each act featured. The fifth show was the lucky one to be on last year, but that seems like a fluke. Generally the above list seems slightly tilted towards the earlier shows, but also with plenty of examples of acts doing well having been introduced later in proceedings (there are six or seven audition shows in all).

3. Some juicy odds can be had, but keep stakes small

Betting in the win market during the audition shows is generally a bookies’ benefit. There are so many acts, most of whom will be culled before the live shows. Many of them, indeed, will have been culled – at bootcamp or judges’ houses – even before their audition is shown. There’s a decent chance you’ll be betting on someone who, unbeknownst to either you or the bookie, is already a non-runner. This isn’t a time to be betting big.

Having said that, there are sometimes some attractive bets to be snaffled if you move quickly. While some bookies price up the acts introduced in each audition show only after the show, a few of them offer prices during the show, after each act gets their ticket to bootcamp. And sometimes they get it wrong.

Last year, for example, Sofabet commenter Mike Quigley managed to get on Janet Devlin at 16/1 just after her audition had been shown, working on the very reasonable rationale that producers might not have bothered to film her at home in Northern Ireland unless they had big things in mind for her. In the second audition show, commenter Allan spotted Craig Colton available briefly at 80/1 and managed to get on at 40/1.

Of course, these prices tend not to last long – it will only take one or two bets to alert a bookie to the possibility that they’re out of line. If you want to try to get on before this happens, you’ll need to have accounts already opened with multiple bookies and to sit refreshing oddschecker during transmission.

4. In Judge we trust. But where is Judge?

It’s trivially easy for any random troublemaker to create an account at Digital Spy and post a “spoiler” in the forums, claiming to know if such-and-such an act has progressed to the live shows. While some will be genuine, take these with a bucketful of salt unless they come from a source who has build up a credible track record by being right in the past.

The best track record belongs to Sofabet commenter Judge, whose website xfactor-updates.com has provided punters with invaluable spoilers for the last few years. Judge was mortified last year when he ran with incorrect information about Melanie McCabe having made the live shows, but he needn’t have been – he was right with everything else, and anyone reading his site would have saved their money on acts such as Jade Richards, who was being offered at single-figure prices by bookies even as Judge assured us she hadn’t made the cut at judges’ houses.

So we are a little concerned that Judge appears to have disappeared. The last few times we’ve clicked his site recently, we’ve got a “403 forbidden” error message. An email to him has, so far, not received a response. Does anyone know where Judge is, and if he’ll be back this year? We hope he isn’t manacled in a dungeon underneath the headquarters of Talkback Thames.

A quick note on what you can expect from Sofabet this year. One of Daniel, Dug and myself will be reviewing each audition show as soon afterwards as we can manage – we will usually aim to get review posts up the day after. As always, we look forward to you sharing your impressions and theories in the comments – let’s hope that, between us, we can figure out what producers are up to this time around.

24 comments to X Factor 2012: Audition shows preview

  • Tim B

    One small additional point, perhaps obvious but still worth making is that all finalists who make it through to the live shows are always shown auditioning on the main X Factor show, rather than The Xtra Factor.

  • Shoulders

    Very much looking forward to this years show, the Sofabet site makes it so much more enjoyable, had a great time last year reading the comments and posting my own, even if practically all of mine were completely the opposite to what eventually happened!!! Still I finished the series with a healthy profit thanks to an early each way bet on Marcus and will be looking to do the same this year again, hopefully I’m on a role with successful betting in this years early CBB and BB, keep up all the good work guys, looking forward to the next few months!!!

  • R

    I have to admit this is the first time I’ve actually looked forward to the XF from the start of a series, only because I will enjoy picking it apart and hopefully making a nice profit thanks to this site & it’s commentators.

    It will be interesting to see who gets the big finale tonight and how much time they are given, a real possibility for the live shows.
    As always, it’s important to be cautious at this early stage. While the show does have firm favourites it wants to push to the fore, my impression is that the main reason a favourite may suddenly fall is due to their unwillingness to play the game.
    Janet was a favourite until she said she wouldn’t be someone she wasn’t just to win votes.
    Matt Cardle has said he got through because be was willing to wear yellow trousers, sing Katy Perry songs, and not make a fuss.
    And of course Kitty was chosen as the crazy act for the finals as she was willing to do anything for a slice of fame. Was the same thought of Goldie before she bailed?
    Maybe this can help explain how someone given decent audition airtime may suddenly fall by the wayside.

    I will find the judges interesting to watch after their eventful activities over the last few months. Barlow seems to have cemented his place as head judge once more. Not even tax dodging can knock him off his stride.
    I’m not sure how the housewife vote will view Tulisa this time around although the young female voters seem to be more than willing to overlook her indiscretions.

    Nicole comes across as more sincere than Kelly managed and can fake cry on cue much more convincingly.

    Good luck to everyone and I hope we all have a profitable series.

  • Boki

    Last year, if I remember correctly, lot of names were on the bookies outright list even before audition shows started (with some names never ever appeared on tv later). This year there is no outright market yet, it seems they want to evaluate the participants just as we do and then offer some odds.

  • Thanks for this very sage pre-show analytical piece Andrew. You have natural talent, I believe in you, and I think you can go ALL THE WAY.

    Those statistics are great – I think Little Mix are an acceptable exception to the rule because, as you say, they were clearly never Plan A.


    • Andrew

      Cheers, euro. It means so much to get such great feedback, especially as I was inspired to write this article by thinking about my deceased grandparents 😉

      Apropos your comment on which below, it’s hard to know, isn’t it, whether the flogging of dead relatives is getting more egregious or we’re getting more jaded. I suppose the only thing we can say with confidence is that as soon as it no longer seems to move the phone vote, they’ll stop doing it.

  • Underwhelmed. Can see the show going through the motions. Too much farting about and rubbish joke acts, not enough talent: none of tonight’s lot seem like contenders. The fact some bookies are offering 5/1 on Jahmene is just ridiculous. Is the show going for the Adelealike vote with Ella? I can’t see her surviving the lives.

  • Curtis

    Tonight’s show was rubbish, and not exactly good for the health of the X Factor. We certainly did not see the winner tonight,

  • Dr Rich

    Have to agree with eurovicious, they seem to be pulling out all the stops to draw in the casual viewer. 70% of what we seen tonight should have been reserved for the xtra factor. Going to be a very long road till we get down to the main action.

  • Boki

    Agree, they must have read Andrew’s article and decided to do a last minute switch of the original 1st audition show to this mediocre one 🙂 No leading role for me tonight. Btw the odds on Jahmene were pushed by punters, he started much higher than this but some people have fast fingers (it remains to be seen if they were right).

  • Dr Rich

    I feel there has been an over reaction to the Ella audition. When an artist sings one of their own songs which is full of emotion it becomes easy for people to be drawn into the emotion whilst slightly ignoring the vocal performance. I wouldn’t fault the vocal performance, however i feel if she had done a popular well known song there wouldn’t have been such a reaction from the judges. Furthermore she would have been a double figure price.

    • Boki

      They keep pushing her on xtra, probably the overreaction is based on her total praise, given time etc. and not on actual performance.

    • Agree on all counts. Perhaps I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I didn’t particularly connect with her or the song, even though I’m usually a sop for that sort of thing (when done well). Moreover, I could see the show very transparently jumping through its own hoops and trying to manipulate me. Ella’s VT, audition, and the judges’ and audience’s reaction seemed to proceed by the letter to an overused script; the whole thing came over like a transparent attempt to manufacture a Susan Boyle moment from an audition that was good but not great, and definitely not standout. The fact that her audition (in my opinion) didn’t justify the lionised treatment it received led to a marked dissonance between what we heard and saw on stage and the reaction/editing it received, making the uplifting editing and scoring seem very conspicuous and pretty much “baring the mechanism”. Also, they rolled out the dead grandparent chestnut AGAIN which is starting to rub me up the wrong way. Everyone has dead fucking grandparents, it’s actually offensive that the show continually tries to capitalise on that. And Peter Kay lampooned it years ago with “R Wayne” and “R Gran”.

      Also not impressed at how the Pinkalike was (likely) set up as fodder but that’s not really relevant to the discussion here. So yeah, a pretty effing terrible first episode in my book.

  • RebSmit

    I found the whole Pink issue incredibly painful given that she had, most likely, been told to sing a Pink song by producers.

    • Andrew

      I found it fascinating that they included the “you told me” line in the edit. I mean, what are viewers supposed to think? There are only two obvious explanations – (a) she meant “you” as in “the show” or (b) she fantasised the whole thing. As (b) will presumably strike most viewers as somewhat unlikely, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that they think viewers find meltdowns no less entertaining if they’re provoked.

      Either that, or they think viewers will believe that even if someone backstage advised her to do Pink, they’d have had no idea what the judges reaction might be…?

      • I think they included it because they assume most people will think b), and I think most people in fact will. I doubt the majority of viewers will think anything as analytical as “oh, she must have been told that behind the scenes”, they’ll just assume she’s some nutter. Ultimately I think the showmakers probably just don’t care what people think and included that bit because her accusation (“you told me to”) and Tulisa’s reaction (“no we didn’t”) made what they consider “good” TV (which I don’t).

      • Zoe Alexander: ““When the judges rejected me I realised I had been manipulated by the X Factor for the previous six weeks. They lured me in, coaxed me and even chose my song all with the intention of setting me up for a fall. I am really shocked at the lengths they will go to to set people up for humiliation. They knew I had a bit of attitude on stage – which is nothing like I am in real life. When Gary Barlow told me I was just a Pink tribute act I was stunned – that’s exactly what the producers asked me to be. They mocked me and made fun out of what I do for a living.” (Source: Daily Mirror)



  • Nugg

    Last nights show was the usual engineered pantomime of what the producers “beleive” will make a great hour of tv.

    Obsessed fan with cheeky charm does OK ( I wonder how much Nandos paid for all the plugs??)
    Geek with no girlfriend suprises with half decent voice
    Confident girl brought down a peg or two and flys into rage of abuse (after no doubt singing a Pink song, just like the producers told her too)
    cute old person gives everyone a laugh
    likeable normal girl gives a decent emotional perfomance about dead relative
    new bad guy guest judge for added pantomime effect

    Its all overly cliched crap isn’t it, everyone knows the pre perfomance build up clips are filmed AFTER the audition don’t they ??

    Will be trying to attend a few of the live shows as usual, but it looks from the opening show to me as though this years series is going to be more controlled, engineered and manipulative than ever before.

    Oh and for what its worth, I dont think we have seen the winner yet 🙂


  • The re-appearance of xfactor totally passed my by this year. I’ll have to break out some new code and get the twitter tracking on again. Seems like I’ve got a few weeks to get it tweaked and running before anything significant happens!

    • Andrew

      Looking forward to it, Toby! XF started suggesting hashtags during the first audition show – dunno if they’ll continue this during the lives, and if so how significant (or possible to track) it will be.

  • Andy C

    After the first show the only things that stopped with me are:
    A) Average tribute act throws a strop (probably the most enjoyable part of the show)
    B) Boy with annoying mannerisms over-sings a classic.
    C) Nondescript girl sings nondescript song which was completely forgettable

    Under-whelmed sortta sums it up.

  • Tim B

    omg Toby that was so helpful last year. If you did the same again this year it would be greatly appreciated!

  • Just been checking the DS spoilers thread to see who called the final 12 correctly and when – turns out it was this person connected to Judge on 21 Sep: http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showpost.php?p=61239160&postcount=2209

    • Andrew

      Good sleuthing, Euro, worth remembering for next year – but even then this guy was wrong to add that “there is no other contestants due on the show as 4th picks or wildcards”.

      All in all, I think they did a pretty good job this year of keeping us in suspense.

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