UK-based readers may be aware that the much-heralded The Voice starts on BBC1 on Saturday night. As this is the first series in the UK, we don’t really know what to expect in terms of how much interest there will be on Betfair.
There’s also no form guide for us to draw lessons from in analysing it, as there is with Eurovision and The X Factor – a challenge, but also a fascinating opportunity. We’ll be covering The Voice here on Sofabet, with a weekly review of each show to begin with. The greatest strength of Sofabet is our community of perceptive and insightful commenters – so, if you’re watching, please do get involved in the comments and help us to figure out together how to approach this show from a punting perspective.
To take the lead on covering The Voice for us, Daniel and I are delighted to welcome a new member to the Sofabet writing team – Dug Williams.
Those of you who frequented the comments section during last season’s X Factor will be familiar with Dug, who impressed us not only with his fine turn of phrase but with his instinct for what would fly with the voting public. Notably, Dug provided one of the series-defining comments on what is arguably the series-defining moment, Marcus’s week 7 performance of ‘Higher And Higher’ (remind yourself of that garish pink suit and closing crucifixion pose here), correctly intuiting that it would leave voters cold:
His VT, pimp slot and comments were enormously positive but the performance itself was baffling. I’m guessing that producers know his niche and that they are gunning for the older woman vote but seriously? It was less Bruno Mar(cu)s and more Reverend Marcus Sunshine, inspirational leader of an inflatable, pink church in the American Deep South. It had the feel-good factor but I felt it was alienating overall. As a Marcus backer, I am seriously doubtful after a performance that only served to solidify his destiny on stage in the West End. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t feel it reflected any producer love at all.
(For analysis of why we think voter reaction to this performance ultimately ended up sealing Little Mix’s win over Reverend Sunshine, see the first part of our X Factor 2011 review series).
How will The Voice compare to The X Factor? The title itself is clearly a dig at its rival format – whereas The X Factor implies “it’s not all about the voice, it’s about that indefinable extra something”, The Voice implies “no, it’s all about the voice”. The brainchild of John de Mol, of Endemol fame, The Voice enjoyed a successful debut in Holland in 2010 before becoming a surprise hit for NBC in the US in 2011.
We have watched some of the audition shows in the US, though there have been some differences between the US format and the Dutch one, so it’s difficult to predict exactly what the BBC version will have in store for us. The main gimmick of The Voice is that judges listen to auditions with their backs to the contestants, hence not being swayed by appearance (which will impress you to the extent that you believe the judges aren’t simply acting on messages from the production team).
The format also seems to give a greater role to the four judges (called “coaches”, not mentors, apparently), with their “team” each being gradually whittled down to one through “battle rounds” and live shows ahead of a four-way final.
The big question is: Will the BBC cock this up? They certainly have form in failing to make Saturday night talent formats fly, but it has been reported that BBC1 controller Danny Cohen’s personal credibility is staked on making this work, with a reported £15m investment in the format and the recruitment of judges (Tom Jones, will.i.am, Jessie J and Danny O’Donaghue) who won’t have come cheap (well, one of them might).
It’s hard to know what to expect. One of the glories of X Factor is that it revels in its own ridiculousness; will the BBC run with over-the-top Peter Dickson-style voiceovers and bonkers productions? Can they find a way to shoehorn in some of the Jedward and Wagner type characters that make X Factor such fun? Will the staples of our X Factor analysis – the running order and sympathy bounce, and the myriad ways in which producers try to nudge the vote – be useful?
We know from Masterchef (“cooking doesn’t get tougher than this!”) that the BBC is capable of embracing over-the-top silliness. And we know from The Apprentice that the BBC has editors who can hilariously skewer unfavoured contestants. Let’s hope they can succeed in avoiding the worst excesses of XF without it being deathly dull.
Dug will be here with a review of Saturday’s opening show. Please do get involved in the comments and let us know what you thought.
Also on Sofabet over the coming weeks, Daniel will continue with his previews of Eurovision contenders, and we may check in on Britain’s Got Talent, which is scheduled to clash with The Voice. However, as we have written before on BGT, the running order in the live shows is so important it limits the value of advance analysis. BGT punters should also be aware that contenders who are hyped in the tabloids do not necessarily make it to the screen – something which happened last year as the outright favourite in bookies’ lists going into the final audition show, Taylor Fowlis, simply never appeared.
What are you expecting from The Voice? Do let us know below.