The Voice on Sofabet

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,, 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.

21 comments to The Voice on Sofabet

  • Tim B

    I’m going to be watching The Voice with great interest, but having not seen the American version I’m not really sure what to expect! Completely agree with the point about the Britain’s Got Talent running order – it really is everything in that show. I’m still going to watch it though, in case I fancy a few bets at semi final time.

    • Andrew

      Hi Tim, I’ll be watching with great interest as well! I think even if you’ve seen some of the US version you can’t be sure what the BBC will do with it – The Apprentice for example feels completely different on the BBC than the US version even though the format’s basically the same. Presumably a lot is going to depend on how well they’ve cast the judges.

      I’m hoping it succeeds and also nudges the XF in interesting new directions, and away from the Big Brotherisation route.

  • Allan

    Looking forward to it folks, sure to be some value around early on in a new format, just spotting it might be the tricky part!

  • CS

    Can’t wait to read your analysis (and everyone’s comments) on both The Voice and BGT. Sofabet added so much to my viewing pleasure of X Factor, shining a whole new light on the show, that I’m looking forward to more of the same with these two.

  • Boki

    Nice !
    I’m very curious since it’s a new beginning, hopefully I will find time for all events. Congrats to Dug for joining the Sofa team !

  • Pauline

    Oh dear Andrew, so far,to me, The Voice is incredibly boring. Boring and fake. I thought sob stories didn’t come in to it. Same old. same old. Jury still out.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed The Voice. It was funny and heart warming without the angst and bitchiness of the X-Factor and BGT. XF & BGT have become more focused the brand and the judges than the success of the contestants.
    What was particularly refreshing about The Voice were the successful contestants walking away with a word of encouragement and a smile on their face, whereas Cowell’s shows feel the need to publicly humiliate and belittle contestants.
    It’s different, but I like it.

  • Pauline

    You did ask for opinions. BGT also boring and same old, same old. I guess I must be jaded 🙁

  • Tim B

    Hate is a strong word, but I really really really didn’t like it. It was heavily marketed on the basis that it was “all about the voice” and there’d be “no sob stories”, but it was clear that some people got through on their looks. There were also sob stories in abundance. And the squabbling between the judges got old really fast. In short, this far we’ve seen it all before.

    Britain’s Got Talent on the other hand I absolutely loved! They naturally pulled out all the best auditionees for the highly competitive first episode, going up against The Voice in the ratings. David Walliams is great on the panel too, but then I’ve always been a fan of his. The two singers at the end provided a real ‘Susan Boyle’ moment and look a hot favourite to win. I much prefer the format and the whole thing seemed more established and professional than The Voice. I will probably watch them both every week but I hope The Voice improves on what we have seen so far.

  • PG

    BGT, different year same formula. First episode get the strongest act guaranteed to generate the most headlines alla Susan Boyle on ( even recycle the looks a mess “surely can’t sing routine ) and hey presto the headlines and hype surrounding the show go into overdrive and Mr Cowell is smiling again. So Charlotte & Jonathon are the new Susan Boyle but is there a diversity in the field?

  • Andrew

    Evening all, must admit I also was underwhelmed by The Voice. First impression was that it didn’t feel anywhere near as fresh and different as I think it needed to. Well, early days – let’s hope it can find its feet.

    Have only caught Charlotte and Jonathan of BGT so far, but it just shows how much better Cowell’s people do this stuff when they’re on form. The way they set it up, with Charlotte being Jonathan’s protector in the pre-performance interview then Cowell telling him to dump her so he could chivalrously reciprocate her protectiveness, was sheer genius. Of course it’s hugely formulaic but it’s just so slickly done, and reminds us just how skilled Cowell is at cynical emotional manipulation.

  • Boki

    The unbearable suspense of the red button – will they press it or not – next episode JJ will probably use her butt. Didn’t like Voice at all and switched to BGT to find it amusing (it’s my 1st season so don’t have ‘same old stuff’ problem). But if I’m honest I would never watch these shows without punting interest so curious to see the live shows…

  • Edie

    Well damn the BBC only has the performances on youtube. So this international can’t judge.

    But I do LOVE the US version, mostly because the judges make it. The producers who put that team together are geniuses. IMO. (And I only like one of the judges music. LOL)

    I don’t believe it is as different as it is hyped to be, (still talking US) but it is fun, and once you get passed the blind auditions, there is one major difference. The coaches putting the work in with the contestants and battling alongside. There is still producer manipulation et al… but in some ways is less obvious.
    The judges on the other shows are I think what peeves me off the most, whereas seeing them so involved on the Voice is I think a large part of what draws me.

    And there is my odd ramble.

  • mapps

    Just started watching..watchong blind auditions 4 atm..will have to watch the other 3 on iplayer soon!!

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