An average of 6.24 million viewers. That’s how many were watching the new series of BBC 1’s The Voice UK on its first Saturday night back on our screens. And with its return, it looks like the battle against the mighty ITV is set to recommence. Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway averaged 6.7 million viewers, so for now it’s ITV: one, BBC: nil. This could get significantly worse with Britain’s Got Talent’s return on April 13th. Last year’s BGT final saw a peak of 13.8 million viewers watch Pudsey the dog win £500,000 and the opportunity to perform for the Queen. This glittering Goliath of entertainment is definitely not to be underestimated. So with The X Factor all but buried and the talent show format stamped on by variety-filled, family fun BGT, is it all over for The Voice before it has even begun?
After last Saturday night, it’s not looking good. The fantastic four (Sir Tom Jones, Jessie J, will.i.am and Danny O’Donoghue) opened the show with a group performance displaying rather varying vocal abilities including songs by Little Richard, Lulu and Chuck Berry. ‘A strange song choice; who were they targeting with that?’ I hear you cry! It seems the producers have switched tack somewhat, forgetting the younger audience in favour of piquing their parents’ interests – but how many people’s parents would know will.i.am if he walked past them in the street? How many parents know that Danny O’Donoghue is in a band called The Script? No wonder everyone got to the end of Saturday Night Takeaway before any suggestion of reaching for the remote.
Already The Voice is showing symptoms of the most common cause of expiry on any entertainment programme’s death certificate: predictability. It’s all so very predictable, first the sob stories (somehow every decent singer in the UK has one), then the really uncomfortable-looking red chairs and will.i.am speaking fluently using ridiculous noises. It’s semi-entertaining to begin with, but after a while you feel as though you’d give anything to see a man juggle with fire using his feet or a large woman get stuck in a hula hoop.
The problem is that there’s no chance of anything going wrong. It’s so cleanly executed, so controlled, that it feels more like a publicity broadcast for the four judges than a quest for mind-blowing talent. The hunt is supposed to be for ‘The Voice’ so why are we subjected to a judges’ performance, video clips of the judges every five minutes and rambling speeches about how successful they all are? Even poor Holly and Reggie are nowhere to be seen! Despite the title of the show, it seems the button-pushers are taking centre stage.
The most frustrating thing about The Voice is that the talent is good. The likes of Ash Morgan and Leanne Jarvis lead the way for a tough competition, the judges are experienced individuals, and there is potential to provide a fresh take on a format which is not only tired but exhausted. Executive producer Moira Ross left Strictly Come Dancing to become Head of Entertainment at The Voice’s production company Wall to Wall. If anyone knows how to make the sofa the Saturday night destination of choice it’s her, but so far she hasn’t quite managed it. Unfortunately for The Voice, the day of reckoning is coming and my bets are firmly placed on Simon Cowell.
Catch The Voice on BBC 1 Saturday 7pm.