BGT 2016: Final Preview

It usually feels harder to guess pre-show who producers will want to win a BGT final than an X Factor final. One reason for that is simply that BGT is so much shorter: just one audition and one live show before the final. On the X Factor, if producers are going to give up on an initially favoured act or promote one in whom they’d previously shown little interest, that normally happens by around week 2 or 3. With BGT, it has to happen between the semi and final: being pimped in the former is no guarantee you won’t be under a bus in the latter.

Another reason is that commercial prospects are (a) harder to figure out, because you’re comparing different kinds of act, and (b) seemingly less important. Sure, XF also has to embrace a feelgood winner at times when the commercial act fails to fire, and mix up the winning categories a bit. But while XF tends to feel more driven by “who’ll make us most money?”, with BGT there’s more of a sense of “how about the dog?”

So, as with the semis, it’s hard to be too confident of what producers are intending until we see the running order and treatment of the acts. Even then, there’s room for doubt – an act can be given a late slot and kind treatment not because producers want them to win but because they know know they’re no threat, something which becomes clear to punters only when the semi voting percentages are released after the final.

With all that said, what should we make of this week’s semi-finals?

Sunday brought us a win from the pimp slot for 100 Voices of Gospel. It may be worth remembering that last year’s X Factor auditions featured a gospel singer – Jennifer Phillips – who looked set for a good run in the competition before being surprisingly cut after disappointing at judges’ houses (as well as a gospel group, Silver Tone, although they never looked likely to go far). Perhaps it’s a market Cowell has been looking to get into, one way or another?

In nine years of BGT, the winner of the first semi has never yet missed the top three in the final, winning four of them. That’s unlikely to be a coincidence, given that featuring in the first audition show is also traditionally a sign of favour in BGT and XF – presumably there’s some benefit from lodging yourself in viewers’ minds at an early stage. Still, records are there to be broken.

Monday’s semi was surprisingly won by Wayne Woodward – surprising given that he was second in the running order with ‘That’s Life’, a song choice that is notoriously the kiss of death on XF. Wayne was treated kindly enough in judges’ comments, without any sense that producers were keen to big him up or expecting him to do especially well.

Sofabet commenters have debated whether Wayne’s show of voting strength from a weak position might persuade producers now to run with him. However, Coben made the point that Tuesday’s show featured David namechecking 100 Voices of Gospel as by far the best act from the first two days, which presumably wouldn’t have happened if Wayne had been promoted in their plans. Unless there’s been a rethink since, Wayne may find it’s a case of “That’s life (That’s life), that’s what all the people say / Riding high on Monday, shot down on Saturday”.

Tuesday’s winner was the favourite for the overall win, magician Richard Jones – flagged in the comments section by Sagand on April 16, even before his audition screened. In the comments this week, Guildo made the case that producers might see a soldier as an appropriately feelgood winner for the franchise on its tenth anniversary, reminding us that the XF also seemed keen to mark its tenth anniversary in feelgood fashion via Sam Bailey.

Also in Richard’s favour is that we haven’t had a magician winner before, and that’s another variety box producers might like to tick – Jamie Raven came within a couple of percentage points last year, so they’ll know what’s required. As Sagand also pointed out in this week’s comments, it’s noticeable that all four of the week’s other semi winners were singing acts, of some description or other, which may help Richard to stand out in the final.

Wednesday’s semi was won from the pimp slot by Richard’s closest rival in the market, Beau Dermott. We haven’t had a child singer win yet, so she’s another who offers box-ticking options.

History tells us that singers from BGT can have respectable careers without winning – not only SuBo, but the likes of Richard and Adam (third in 2013, who recently released their fourth album with Sony) and Jonathan and Charlotte, (second in 2012, who released two albums with Sony then both got solo deals). So victory may not be deemed essential to realising Beau’s record-flogging potential. But producers will have the benefit of seeing Beau’s and Richard’s respective margins of semi victory when deciding who to push.

Thursday’s semi winner was singing impressionist Craig Ball, who divided opinion in the comments – and punters made him the longest price of the week’s semi winners, reflecting the sense that he wouldn’t be the most obvious choice for producers to want to push to the win, while nor does he seem likely to have built up unstoppable momentum with the voting public.

Indeed, he’s even longer than the act who went through in second, Jasmine Elcock, a rival for Beau in the child singer category. Jasmine didn’t get as much producer love as Beau, and it will be interesting to see how producers play them: if they’re going for a Beau win, the obvious tactic would be to bury Jasmine early and praise Beau late; if they’re wanting to help the magician win, it might make sense to put them closer together in the hope of splitting their vote.

In the nine previous series of BGT, we’ve had 25 acts finishing first through third (only the winner, Paul Potts, was revealed in the six-act final of series one). Of those 25 podium finishers, 22 won their semi-finals, so the second-place finishers (joining Jasmine are Mel & Jamie, Alex Magala, Boogie Storm and Balance Unity) face an uphill struggle. Only Diversity, who turned the tables on SuBo with a better running order position in the final than semi, have won after falling short in their heat.

We’ll also have two wildcards in the final, one chosen by the public from the five acts who made top three in their semi but didn’t make it through the judges’ vote, and one chosen by the judges, from any of the acts. We’ve had judges’ wildcards for the last four years: they’ve finished, respectively, 12th, 7th, 4th and 7th. Last year was the first time the public have voted on a wildcard, and their choice finished 8th. All the wildcards so far have been given early slots in the running order. So, again, precedent is against a wildcard making too much of a splash.

The running order, as ever, will be all-important. For reference, here’s where the first, second, third have come from in the nine finals:

2015: 12/12, 10/12, 8/12
2014: 10/11, 11/11, 5/11
2013: 11/11, 9/11, 8/11
2012: 10/11, 11/11, 9/11
2011: 8/10, 6/10, 10/10
2010: 10/10, 1/10, 7/10
2009: 9/10, 8/10, 10/10
2008: 7/10, 10/10, 6/10
2007: 6/6 (places not revealed)

Seven of the nine winners performed either last or second last. And only two of 25 podium finishers performed in the first half of the show.

So, as with the semis, it takes some bravery to get involved before seeing who’s performing where. As the market suggests, Richard seems to make most sense from a franchise perspective, but it’s hard to be confident and he’s now very short – meanwhile, does the historical record of the first semi winner make 100 Voices of Gospel worth an each-way look at double-figure odds?

As ever, do keep the conversation going below.

56 comments to BGT 2016: Final Preview

  • Martin

    Fascinating seeing these statistics, food for thought where 1000 Voices are concerned. I hadn’t considered them as serious contenders going into the final.

    The public and judges wildcards have been revealed as Lucy and Trip Hazard and Peter and Shannon respectively. Personally, I’m amazed Jack Higgins didn’t get through, but neither present too much of a threat in my opinion.

    Ashleigh and Pudsey and George Sampson are confirmed as performing at the final, which could be dangerous for Trip Hazard and Balance, but neither of them are serious contenders.

    Interestingly, there was also a bit of controversy in The Sun regarding Richard Jones. A previous contestant on America’s Got Talent has accused him of stealing his trick, and this was addressed on Lorraine this morning, where Richard gave a pretty flimsy response, without denying it.

  • jay_t

    Regarding magic tricks, there is no intellectual copyright preventing them from being used, re-used, and outright stolen. Magicians have been stealing other magicians tricks for centuries, and the only case (I know of, at least) of one ever going legal is when Teller from Penn & Teller sued someone for stealing everything about one of his solo illusions (including the props, his mannerisms, etc). I don’t think such a claim would do Richard Jones any harm. Besides, there is no real ‘new’ magic tricks, just the same principles applied differently.

  • It wasn’t just the trick Richard copied it was the whole presentation. This is considered very bad form. The Magic Circle won’t take any action, in fact they will want him to win to promote magicians and get them all a bit more work.

    The point is Cowell as he is now getting flack for it. The Sun has a new article today with allegations from the robbed magician and his father:

  • Sagand

    Massive swings in the odds, Beau now favourite, I guess she’s on last. Wayne in a lot too must be near the end and Richard out so near the middle somewhere.

  • Donald

    Great piece Daniel, staggering how manipulated a week long TV presentation can be. Waiting for running order, tempted to have an early ew on Craig but going to be wait for running order. Good luck to all.

  • Jessica Hamby

    We got a mention of dogs, a countdown and a mention of their names. Colour me suspicious but I’m going to keep alert for mentions and pictures of dogs. Subliminals have power.

    Lots of Union Jacks and patriotism. You could mistake it for a UKIP rally.

  • Sagand

    Richard making the odd decision not to do magic during his magic act.

    • Jessica Hamby

      Agreed. Packed an emotional punch but not a winning act in my eyes along with second in the running order.

      Great comments for the choir tinged with”done enough”. Another place for the first semi-final winner?

    • jay_t

      His tore and restore on the card started off decent, but the ditch (when he reached into his shirt and pulled out the lighter) was done terribly. That was the most difficult part of the trick and it’s something many amateur magicians can do. He’s done a tore and restore on every trick so far and this was by far the sloppiest. Very disappointed personally.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Blimey. There’s a man with no gag reflex.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Some of the comments are priceless.

    Amanda on Alex Chainsaw: It was horrible.

    Simon on Shannon & Peter: When YOU DON’T GET THE PUBLIC VOTE…….. (his emphasis was that trasparent)

  • Jessica Hamby

    Thank you for being a friend in the VT. Superhero dog catching criminal followed by Lotto ad showing female cop catching crook and saying Guess you’re all done now. Four judge standing ovation. Mention of Simon’s dogs and invitation to his house. Great comments from judges and support from Ant & Dec.

    Right now the queen is praying it won’t be another damn dog.

  • Fudd

    Distractions aplenty from the panel after Beau’s performance – Simon doing something to Amanda when she stood, David saying it was Amanda’s last series and the subsequent water chuck to that comment. Will people remember Defying Gravity after the panels antics???

  • Jessica Hamby


    Plus they messed with the background and they way they displayed the faces.

    I’d be very surprised if Craig did it again. Almost sneaked in some sympathy votes there though. “No you didn’t” shout Ant & Dec.

  • Fudd

    Craig the impressionist entering panic mode when he forgot the order of the voices was funny… but I’m evil that way. I’m be amazed if he makes the top three unless he gets a sympathy vote.

  • Alan

    And they made her sing the song she did in the audition. The only thing missing was someone throwing eggs at Cowell.

  • stoney

    Richard to pull off the impossible and win from number 2 in the running order

  • Dazzle

    Wayne is this years winner

  • Sagand

    It’s like they couldn’t decide which act they wanted to win so gave them all negative treatment.

  • Joe

    Had big concerns over the magician winning after seeing him 2nd in the running order. Trick was disappointing but sentiment will have packed an emotional punch. They pulled out all the stops with veteran on stage plus Richad performing in full uniform. Surprised he didn’t get a late slot but after seeing how they sabotaged a few other big hitters I’m with stoney, Richard to be crowned winner.

  • Fudd

    I can’t see passed Wayne winning really but there have been a few shock results to date so…

  • Jessica Hamby

    Well done to those who called / backed Richard.

    Boogie Storm coming third shows the power of a late slot. They nobbled Beau so hard Jasmine came ahead of her. Even Craig came ahead of her. The gospel choir crashed and burned too.

  • stoney

    Backed Richard pre show for poor price but got some much more juicy prices on him throughout tonight 🙂

  • George

    What an interesting set of results. Twice the act performing second came out on top. Wayne seemed extremely strong from his semi result but couldn’t win from the pimp slot.

    I saw Richard as far out as 20/1 after his performance before he crashed back in again after they screwed over Beau.

  • Sagand

    That was the strangest final ever. The guy who didn’t do anything performing second won. It’s totally unbelievable.

  • stoney

    I think we’ll find he absolutely smashed his semi final to pieces and carried the support over to the final. I bet a lot of people switched runners tonight when they saw the running order

  • Jessica Hamby

    I smell another BGT cheat scandal n the wind.

    • jay_t

      The effect of producing an image from the bottom of the deck is a trick known as a ‘brain scan’ pioneered by the guy in that video, and his method is available for anyone to buy from him. The initial part of the act was slightly different, but using the cards to tell a story is nothing new, and is too broad to be considered copying.

      Regardless, RJ’s performance was barely average.

  • mb79493

    Richard got the biggest percentage, I guess they just went with it. Surprised Wayne didn’t do as well as many thought.

    Edit: ninja’d

  • stoney

    Closest final ever?
    He was never gonna run away with it from basically opening the show though.
    The other contestants literally missed a trick. Lol

  • Jessica Hamby

    I wonder if there was a significant army vote. With only 2.5m votes cast and each app voter getting 5 votes, a 5k or 10k block giving all their votes to one person could make a significant difference.

  • Sagand

    It has to be pointed out 100 Voices didn’t finish top 3 so the first semi stat is gone but in previous years the first semi has always been on the Monday and Wayne did finish top 3 (and seemed to be plan A) so maybe next year we need to watch the Monday semi for who’ll be pimped.

  • Tim B

    I would disagree with anyone who thought that Wayne was Plan A. The producers had all the raw vote totals, which are way more significant than the percentages. They knew that Richard was highly likely to win from anywhere in the running order. My strong belief is that they were just trying to make the final more exciting and unpredictable by putting him on second. Perhaps they were inspired by the Eurovision final results from last week? If they had wanted Wayne to win, they would have praised him to the skies, but they didn’t.

    • Sagand

      Well being Plan A doesn’t mean that much in BGT where I don’t think they care too much who wins. But I don’t think when most of the vote is coming from the free app it’ll vary much from semi to semi certainly not enough to be certain you can put your favoured act on second with an underwhelming performance and still win.

      • Jessica Hamby

        The whole show was a kind of patriotism pimping which played into Richard’s strength The tricks were unimpressive and the execution was fumbled, it was all about the sentiment. I don’t think they could have put him last. It would have been obvious that he was the winner (and in rehearsal he probably performed the magic better and the whole thing had more ooomph).

    • Boki

      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

    A lot of the vote must be the same people each night so there must be a huge overlap between the people who voted for all of the semi-final winners. If someone voted for Wayne,100
    Voices and the magician on their respective nights raw vote data doesnt tell the producers who that person prefers and will vote for in the final. So to suggest that they knew richard would win from an early slot doesnt seem right to me. I watched 2 hours of the final but didn’t see the winner and a lot of people must be in the same boat. If they thought he would win and were happy with that putting him second seems like a very strange choice.

    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.

  • Martin

    I was so confident about Richard winning before I knew he was on second and Wayne was up last. The thing I don’t understand is that Richard’s act was the most pimp-slot worthy performance of the whole night – it pressed all the vote motivating buttons. I was only half watching so I missed a lot of the comments, but all of it looked obscenely positive – why waste that on the second performance?! Obviously it didn’t matter in the end, but at times it felt like they’d read the comments here and done the exact opposite of what we all expected.

    • Sagand

      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 (the best he got was David calling him “one to watch”) I’m reminded also at the start of the show Cowell said “people think they know who the favourites are but I think there’ll be a surprise” that could of been classic build up or revealing the intentions.

      Or alternatively maybe Richard had to be on early as Fergus had somewhere else to be.

  • Coben

    What on earth was going on with Beau? Horrendous arrangement of the song (her audition was leagues better) and an argument between the judges centered around the one who gave her the golden buzzer. Was the argument genuine/they simply don’t care as much as with XF?

    By the way, I’m sure many of you are aware of this already but something to note – Wayne’s YouTube view counts have been comparatively low across the entire series yet he came second. Even with the app, I don’t think the voting audience watch videos of their favorites too much.

  • stoney

    Also notice how Richard announced he was basically doing a routine he had copied. Wonder if he was forced to say that after the scandal from the prevous performance. I have to say all signs last night pointed to them not being too happy with him winning. But it was the perfect performance needed to unite people to get behind him. If he had the pimp slot he would have got twice as many votes

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