Although we all turn our noses up and pretend we’re ‘above it’, every student has a secret love affair with trashy reality TV shows to keep us amused on those dreary days in halls. We love ITV’s The X Factor and Paddy’s Take Me Out; we can’t resist a cheeky bit of Big Brother on 4OD; and what student’s life is complete without Jeremy Kyle and his aggressive chav bashing! It’s only natural, then, that the BBC’s answer to the X Factor, The Voice UK, has got us all excited.
So what is it? Well, from the hype on chat shows this week and Radio 1’s constant plugging, it’s a totally PC version of The X Factor with new judges and a couple of gimmicks. Forget about how fat and old you are or if you look like the latest crazy cat lady — don’t panic! In a blind date-style twist, the judges’ swivel chairs hide you away until your voice is heard and they choose to coach you.
The show has a star-studded set of judges, all fresh faces to the reality TV scene and from four different eras: Tom Jones sweeps off the dust of the 70s as the ‘elder’ of the panel, while Jessie J flys the flag of our current generation. Between these come the ever-egotistical will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas and chart topper Danny O’Donoghue of The Script, to form an unusually eclectic mix. With Reggie Yates presenting, I sat down ready to be wowed, if not by something new then at least by the unique setup and judges chosen for Pop Idol X Factor The Voice UK.
The show started pretty well with the introduction of the judges and the setting out of the show’s difference from anything ever before — a pair of bare cheeks to ITV. The ‘freshness’ of a competition not governed by looks quickly turned stale, and my heart sank (in irritation rather than pity) when we were faced with a whole show of sob stories and tearful VTs. Here we are again with the same old shit, if not worse, as the one too old for The X Factor came on, followed by the fat one, followed by the one with no hair, and finally the girlfriend and boyfriend duo who get split up in the auditions. Seriously, they may as well have named it Cowell’s Cast-Offs as they took the baton from the show in telling us how cruel The X Factor world has been to them and how little chance they normally get.
Having said that, the singing was a grade above that of The X Factor (as you’d expect, since talent scouts chose contestants, rather than people applying to audition). The idea that judges and contestants pick each other is also a nice step away from the puppet-master judge scenario of other shows, and towards an industry where winners can also be independent artists without the ‘well done’ sticker of the competition.
It’s definitely a series I’ll be watching. Diversity in the music industry is important — change, no matter how slight, should at least be encouraged before we all get bored to death by the same old Saturday night routine.