I am a convert. For the second time on Saturday I watched the much-hyped ‘The Voice’: the new talent contest that attracted over 10 million viewers in its first showing. You can gauge its success and whether it’s going to be a hit by how defensive SyCo is getting (that’s Simon Cowell to you and me). If he’s dissing it, it’s only because he’s afraid of it…
The BBC have come up trumps. It’s not like watching paint dry, unlike its previous attempt a few years ago in the form of ‘The Fame Academy’. It doesn’t pull on the heart strings unlike the carefully orchestrated X Factor. Where it differs from its competition is that its contestants are actually really good; actresses, actors, singers, ex-boy band members, x-soul singers all compete to become ‘The Voice’. The judges are made up of Tom Jones, Jessie J, Will I Am and Danny who? (apparently – I am informed – he is from the script). The banter between them is fuelled by their desire to win but is also intelligent, witty and thoughtful. They spar off eachother ‘If you want longetivity pick me.’ Tom Jones sells himself and then he name drops and name drops. And then name drops some more until he realises he’s becoming a cliche of himself. ‘When I worked with Elvis years ago….’ Jessie J rolls her eyes to camera…Enough said.
It’s edgier than its talent show rivals in that it is fuelled less by sob story-anecdotes and is not judged totally on looks. Of course it will become that eventually but it is refreshing to see somebody get through on talent alone. It’s also fascinating to see the judges’ reactions when they are kicking themselves for not picking that pretty, blonde 17 year old with the sweet smile. Will I am at one point in the second episode looked positively raging.
The other way it stands out is that once the judges hit their light (to say that they like the voice they hear) their chair spins around and they see the contestant. The other judges then can either choose to do the same or can refuse to do so. The judges who have pressed their lights then get picked to be the competitor’s judge. So the chooser becomes the choosee. As Danny who? keeps informing us throughout the entirety of the second episode ‘Here’s the really beautiful part where the artist gets creative control and picks their judge’ in his dulcet Irish tones. ‘You get to pick.’ Yes, alright Danny – point made. It’s like being back at school and getting picked for the rounders team (or not) and we all know how that feels. The contestants then, seem more real and fallible than X factor where Cowell has also become a God-like, untouchable creature, sitting at the gates of reality TV heaven.
The journalist in this week’s Big Issue hated it and called it the BBC’s ‘moral attempt’ at clawing back the ratings from ITV. ‘Look at us while we’re so moral and yet we’re still flogging the reality tv model’ it said of the BBC. I suppose it is indulginf in what it’s half heartedly against in the first place. But it’s fresh and new. And call me naive but it just doesn’t seem so nasty as Syco’s product.
So Saturday night TV has finally got a bit of a makeover. It’s got less vicious, less image based and has got Mr Cowell in a bit of a spin. I wonder how long until we see the man himself in a new, spinning chair show where the judges are blindfolded… Now there’s an idea….