Months before ITV’s launch of the world renowned Rising Star, Channel 4 snuck in with The Singer Takes It All, an interactive talent show which might as well have been pitched as karaoke on a conveyor belt. Hosted by a cringe-worthy Alan Carr, the show juddered on for four episodes before the ratings crashed and the series was relegated to fifth line on the ‘entertainment’ section of 4oD.
On the face of it, the concept might have been intriguing; members of the public upload videos of themselves singing onto an app where others can vote for their favourites. Those with the most votes are then invited to perform live in front of a studio audience. While the singers are performing, viewers at home can use the app to vote whether they’re good (in which case they move forward into ‘the gold zone’) or bad (in which case they’re sucked back into ‘the flaps’ upstage). The winner is the contestant who stays in ‘the gold zone’ the longest.
However, in reality the talent was distinctly average, lacking professional curation; a bunch of amateur singers who cracked notes and squeaked through their songs having been whisked to the studio with a few short days notice. And as for the public, it turns out they’re even more brutal than Simon Cowell, taking great pleasure in ritually humiliating contestants by voting them down at every bum note and watching them desperately belt out the final few audible bars as they disappeared in smoke.
By the final episode, the show had descended into farce as the public got behind a bearded, if bubbly, middle-aged man who won an accumulated jackpot of £45 grand. I wouldn’t bother keeping an eye out for his number one.
Even Carr seemed an odd choice for host, a prancing comic with no musical knowledge, whose ‘awkwaaaard’ youth lingo was, quite frankly, channel-turning. Throughout the show he sat behind a ‘bar-esque’ spectator table, sipping champagne with a celebrity guest, only adding to this bizarre televised karaoke – the irony wasn’t lost on Paddy McGuinness.
But let’s take a step back, the poor chap had been given, presumably what Channel 4 thought would be, a smash-hit, the new big-budget, primetime, flagship entertainment show which would take the nation by storm with its fresh feel and cutting-edge interactivity. It was clear from the start that he was struggling with the burden of hosting ‘the neXt-Factor’, and his delivery pancaked.
Despite the glitzy set, the high profile celebrity guests and the new interactive format, Channel 4’s “ground breaking” gamble failed to deliver. Previous talent shows have relied on character journeys in which the audience can invest time and empathy, but I can’t name a single contestant from The Singer Takes It All.
This was an emotionless flop, raising the question, is interactive television the ‘black swan’ format the industry’s been waiting for?
ITV, your move.