Sunday, 20 May 2012
According to a newspaper story, The Voice (that BBC One talent show where would-be singers are judged blind by Tom Jones and some other pop stars I know less about) will “undergo a huge overhaul for its next series following a ratings slump”.
Can I make a plea, to whoever’s doing this “huge overhaul” ? Can you take the results show OFF Sunday night? This isn’t just about The Voice, or even reality TV; bear with me…
And this isn’t a personal plea from a big reality TV fan - I used to be, mainly because of the betting potential, but I’ve rather gone off them now. That’s at least partly because of the Sunday night thing.
A singing contest series used to make for quite gripping nights of telly: a long episode of performances, a half-hour break, then a live results show. Splitting this over two nights (I think The X Factor did it first) killed it; there had been suspense and drama in that half hour wait, but who still cares 24 hours later? Watching both shows commits you to two nights’ viewing back-to-back, which is too much for that kind of pap. Besides, if you watch the whole Sunday results show, you mainly see clip-summaries of what you watched the night before anyway (and I’m not that much of a moron; I can remember), but if you tune in for the last ten minutes for results alone, there’s no build-up and it’s too easy to see what meaningless nonsense the “drama” is.
But if you only watch the Saturday show and don’t tune back for the results at all, then you’ve opted out of what the programme actually is; all you’ve watched is some amateur singing. You’d be better off putting on an old Frank Sinatra video. And if you only watch the Sunday show, you see no more than 40 seconds of each performance and you don’t care who wins.
The change to double-night broadcasting self-evidently made the whole thing worse: worse television, worse viewing experience, worse use of scheduling time. So why do it? Only out of greed, to leave the phone lines open longer and rake in more cash from viewers innocent enough to believe that it really matters if they vote. That makes sense for ITV, albeit in a cold and nasty way. But why on the BBC? They pre-record their results shows anyway; whether The Voice or Strictly, the phone lines are only ever open for a short burst on Saturday night. There’s no logic for putting out a pre-recorded results show 24 hours later if it isn’t even bringing them any money. So presumably they’re doing it only because ITV does it.
That’s the worst reason to do anything in any creative medium.
If the people responsible for the “huge overhaul” on The Voice want to do something good, and that will go down well with audiences, that will re-inject drama and suspense into their programme, they should put out a live results show half an hour after the main one’s finished. It’s the best change they can make.
I know it might seem a waste of time to write a blog about something so tiny as when a reality results show should be broadcast, especially since nobody involved in the programmes will ever see it or care, but it’s not really about that. It’s about the frustration of too much on TV being too derivative, too copycat, too nervous - and this is the most extreme example I can think of. It copies another channel’s scheduling plan with absolutely no logic other than copying. As they hatched this “new” project, nobody even ASKED THE QUESTION, “What would be better” ? They just asked “What do other people do?”
Translate that attitude into commissioning and planning for documentaries, news, arts, comedy, drama and… well, it’s just a bit bloody depressing.