FINAL – Collins’ Coffin and the Producers
To end up working as a senior producer on the X Factor you have to be a pretty smart and experienced person, it would be fair to say much of what they have done this year has been clever. They’ve made a lot of gaffes, but the star stuff was great. Wembley Arena was a stroke of genius – it worked very well indeed, gave the finals night a bit of extra sparkle, and crucially they threw money at it to make it look, on screen, fantastic. They also had very few sound problems (apart from the Leona song where people were yelling during her lovely ballad). It was a very difficult live show to pull off and they did it very well.
They have also managed to get a girlband from 90-1 to winning the show (my average price was 85-1, the site tipped at 75-1). And they’ve been superb at getting rid of the candidates they wanted, at pretty much the time they wanted. The way they nuked a contestant topping the polls for four weeks, but without it seeming too obvious, was a sight to behold.
It is also very important to note that ratings wise this hasn’t been a disaster for the show. The papers might be reporting a drop, but that’s a drop from an incredible series number last year. This has been one of the most watched years ever, and they must be especially thrilled with the auditions numbers, which traditionally are lower than the live shows. ITV will be delighted with the numbers it’s pulled in, but alarmed at the drop for the final. Had this year’s final been Little Mix, Misha B and any one from Craig, Janet or Frankie, they might have found a better number on Monday morning. Also, if the duets were more interesting, they might have done better as well. Instead we had Mr Average, a contestant who shouldn’t even be there and a reasonable girl group.
With that line up, it was so obvious that they were trying to help Little Mix win. You can read the review of Saturday’s show and the things they were doing against Marcus and pro Little Mix in the series of articles written starting here. Numbers 10,9,8 and 7.
I could repeat all the reasons I mentioned as we counted down 50 hours to the win, but I won’t. You can find them in the blog. The Eleven o’Clock questions are a good starting point.
It’s important to note I wasn’t 100% certain. Even on the night – I think the best thing to read now is my live blog. As I keep saying, if I was that certain I would have put a mortgage on it. However, given I could have hedged for 70% of my winnings, that should show you I was fairly sure! The blog shows the ebbs and flows – not everything that happened on Sunday night was completely perfect for Little Mix. Some stand out moments include the Red and Black horror, the amazing final performance from Marcus complete with tears, a red eyed Gary Barlow, the two cry VT’s Marcus got, the stuff about his mum, the judges using the word star far too much.
Let’s look at some of the more obvious Collins Coffin moments from Sunday:
SHOWMAN – Firstly they encouraged Marcus to whoop, “Come on now”, “Merry Christmas everybody” and so on. EVEN in the winners song he put a wooo in! If they wanted him to win, they would have clamped down on this like a ton of bricks. By starting the vote numbers VT with those whoops on Sunday night, it emphasised that he was just a little bit Butlins. Hey Ya’s staging was big and he had hundreds of dancers, but it was all a bit camp and all a bit cheesy.
MODERNITY – I always remember Louis cementing his position as a reality TV judge by making a massive gamble on the race to be Christmas Number one, during ‘Popstars the Rivals’.
Pete Waterman was churning out what he did in the 1980’s
He’s still stuck there even in 2010 – look at this for instance!. Louis took a gamble with a much sassier and less safe tune. And called it correctly. The producers gave Little Mix a fantastic version of You’ve Got the Love, they gave them Alicia Keys with a bit of beatboxing and Tulisa singing (also bit of a gamble). Both really cool songs and made them look contempoary. But when it mattered they wheeled out Silent Night and En Vogue, which were bigger with the more mature vote. I would guestimate we had about 60% of the votes in the Sunday final (maybe 30% before 10pm Sat, 10% during the day, 60% on Sunday night) There is a bit of fact that this is based on Amelia’s vote (26%) and her vote as a proportion of the final vote(9%). So the Sunday show mattered more.
LAST CHRISTMAS – “I gave you a song and the very next day you went away. This year, to save Barlow from tears I’ll give it to someone better.” As soon as I heard he was doing Last Christmas, I hammered another nail into the Collins Coffin. It was always going to be dire, and surprise surprise, he’s pretty much on his own on stage, a classic tactic when they want to get rid of someone. Sami for instance. If you’re just dancing around on your own, it suddenly looks very karaoke. To also encoruage him to shout “Happy Christmas everyone” like a kids TV presenter with a few more whooooooos for good measure was also deliberate and negative for him. Little Mix get Silent Night, a song I said was a massive gamble (I called it high risk / high reward) but luckily they did fine and sailed on. En Vogue also showed the Mixettes harmonies to the nation as well.
FLAMES – When, in my view, Marcus was being lined up to go in show two (something further highlighted to me when Louis revealed he expected Frankie to make the final), they used flames on stage (hell connotations again). Not as obvious this time, but when the set deisgner asked “shall we chuck a few flames on stage guys?” the answer will have been “Good idea….. Why not… won’t do any harm”.
NIGHT AND DAY. Read this.
I could also talk about the phone numbers, the very clever way they set up the Mixettes to go last on Sunday night, the switching of Little Mix in the semi final, the narrative, the Cowell endorsement, the cry VT’s etc etc. Throughout the series I wrote more and more reasons why they would win it – you can see them peppered throughout the blog.
The producers have actually done pretty well. They scored some superb numbers, and this is the first season without Simon Cowell remember! The show has survived without him. They’ve also managed to get a GROUP a *group* to win the show. Even more astonishingly A GIRL GROUP, which was essential for the long term credibility of the format. They’ve engineered some very clean, swift and decisive hits and also used all sorts of tactics to knock out popular contestants they didn’t like.
They made some terrible decisions as well, harming the long term brand. From constant group manufacturing, The Risk being a fantastic example, to playing the sort of cards they can only play once (and should never play at all if they can help it), like bringing back contestants and fiddling with the format. If you’re knocked out, don’t worry, we’ll bring you back as member of a new group, or just half way through the competition. And of course their grand finale, ruined yet again.
When “getting rid” of contestants, they’ve been clinical, cold, calculating and ruthless. With Marcus, they scored their final, clean hit. Whether you agree with the ethics, you have to agree, they’ve been precision shooters.