I was reading an article about The Voice yesterday and its ratings decline since the audition stages, and there was something very telling in it – it said that the ratings decline after auditions IN EVERY COUNTRY. Given that in the Cowell stable of talent shows, ratings increase during the live shows, that suggests to me that the format is broken rather than any specific failure on the behalf of the BBC version. Indeed, it’s only half a format at the moment because we have the auditions stage, but then it becomes pretty much like every other talent show.
The other problem seems to be one of timing. It doesn’t outstay its welcome like The X Factor, but the live shows are hampered by too many contestants and also too many eliminations so that the audience never really get used to contestants (/voices).
So I’ve been thinking, and, leaving aside specific criticisms of individual judges etc, these are my ways of improving the show (Disclaimer: I can’t say I’ve been bothered enough about it to actually research what happens in other countries. They may tinker with the format somewhat already):
It’s all about the chairs
This is really important. And the problem is that the chairs disappear after the auditions.
Also: it’s not about the back story/sob story/how much of a bitch someone is – lose all of that X-Factor nonsense.
The other two things I heard people say a lot in those early weeks were: a) It was ‘nice’ – and they liked that. The lack of comedy auditions and pointless bickering was a hit. b) Will.i.am was a pleasant surpise and everyone loves him.
Auditions therefore, should stay pretty much as they were, albeit with more duos. Not because I think they’ll ever be wonderful, but Mooleen and the Indie Pixies (names c/o Monkseal) were a million times more entertaining than any one of Team Danny’s WGWGs (White Guy With Guitar – c/o Vote For the Worst) and we all know the joy of boy/girl duos from The X Factor (Sing em a song Della!). Also, my favourite group ever are a duo.
The middling stages
They had some great celebrity ‘helpers’ in the form of Cerys Matthews, Ana Matronic and Palmoa Faith. And some bloke Will knows turned up as well. However, they were utterly wasted. Better would be for the mentor to send all ten of their candidates to do a blind audition before the special guest helper, who would be able to turn around for six of them. As in auditions, if all six got picked before the guest turned, tough. Part of the challenge for the mentor would be getting the order right…
Once each team has six candidates (one week of the whittling down process), then the battle rounds (another week) could whittle down six to three per team. But because it’s ALL ABOUT THE VOICE, the judges have to be blindfolded when they hear the battles. Then we’ve got three contestants from each category as we enter…
Less sub-Friedman staging. A little bit of graphics/lighting or the odd backing singer/musician is sufficient.
Each week there should be a special guest judge (preferably in a sparkly gold chair to set them apart) who sits with their back to the contestants and turns if and when they want to. If they turn, an act gets 5 points. If they don’t turn, an act gets 0 points. These are then added to the public vote a la Strictly.
These special guest judges could be pop stars, record industry people, or even could operate on a sliding scale of success (week one: a rejected Voice auditionee, week two: a Matt Cardle type, semi-final: a Beyonce type etc).
Eliminations could happen one of several ways, depending on if each judge has to have someone in each round or not:
If judges need to have one act left each
A battle round as sing-off from the two lowest scoring acts from each team (because there isn’t time to do eight songs in the results show). The other three judges vote for the acts they want to send home/save.
The lowest scoring acts from each judge just go home
If it doesn’t matter how many acts each judge has
The two (or three if one judge – no names (Tom) – has two acts in the bottom two) ‘safe’ judges plus the guest judge have to spin round during each performer’s song and the one who gets the most turns wins. In the case of a tie, the mentor gets casting vote.
The lowest-scoring acts just go home
The public vote carries all the weight for this week only. But, because the chairs and the voice are all important, it can’t just be an X-Factor fest. Therefore, each act (four if each judge has one – three or four if not) gets to perform two songs – the first is done as a blind performance for a judging panel made up of guest performers whom the acts will later duet with.
As with the blind auditions, the guest stars have to turn if they want that contestant, and if more than one of them turns, the finalist gets to choose who they sing with. This has the hilarity of a) mutual humiliation/rejection (=TV gold) and b) no rehearsals (=TV car crash but give them an easy enough song that they’ve learned their ‘part’ of and it’ll be OK) – or the duets could happen on the Sunday show, which would actually have to happen on a Sunday.
There you are – different to The X Factor, and, more importantly, ALL ABOUT THE CHAIRS.
Also, because any old excuse for Roxette, here’s the best song called ‘The Voice’ ever.