Friday, August 1, 2014

Review of Channel 4 The Singer Takes It All

Alan Carr's new talent show was beset by technical problems, and exceptionally low rent – even for a Friday night on C4.

“The Singer Takes It All (Channel 4) is a new singing game show where YOU the audience have all the power!” shrieked the app I downloaded on my iPad ahead of the show’s debut. “There’s no panel of judges – you, and everyone else watching, decide the fate of each contestant in real time, using this app.” 
Alan Carr shrieked much the same as he bounded onscreen. He informed the wildly enthusiastic studio audience they were “a waste of space” as they had no voting power, although the sentiment could just as easily have applied to him. The contestants had been chosen via the app. All the important information was articulated by a giant pair of disembodied lips hovering above him. At least the audience was providing some atmosphere.

The question of whether TV needed yet another singing competition was irrelevant. This wasn’t The X Factor, Carr insisted. It wasn’t about making dreams come true. It was all about the viewer experience. What it would feel like to vote Hit or Miss from the comfort of our sofas and watch people survive or fail, instantly at the press of a button. OUR buttons.

Except of course it wasn’t really like that. As Carr introduced the first act, student Will Conner, strode out, warbled not very impressively for ninety seconds and, even though I hit my Miss button four times (the limit per performance) failed to disappear from the treadmill as promised.

‘Er, the app wasn’t working on that one’ squeaked Carr. The sense of let down was severe. As the second contestant, 18-year-old vocal student Sophie Watson Carr, belted out a rabble-rousing Son of a Preacher Man, the app seemed to have come onstream and I cast my votes as she moved inexorably forward to the “gold zone” and the possibility of winning.

"Uh, the app wasn’t working that time either,” croaked Carr, though not exactly mortified. “It’s live, what can you do?” 

Except, the app must have been working, because as it turned out, young Sophie emerged the winner at the end despite four other singers coming on and singing their (very varied) best – in two cases disappearing in puffs of smoke when their Miss rate hit critical. Or maybe it wasn’t and she just won anyway because it was live and she was lucky and there was no time to stop and debate the matter. Either way she deserved it

I’d lost faith in the voting process by then anyway. Not just because of the technical problems, but because the voting as a whole didn’t seem to reflect my own choices. I simply didn’t get the kick I was promised. But I’d lost faith in the show in a bigger sense too. Because while it was never intended to be slick, it was definitely a lot clunkier than it should have been. And while it never got to be as tawdry and gladiatorial as it might have been, it still felt exceptionally low rent – even for a Friday night on Channel 4. One thing’s for sure, I won’t be staying in for this one again.

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