If the first week in January was a dramafest, then last weekend was a shiny floor extravaganza. Three new light entertainment programs began on BBC One and ITV. BBC One’s latest talent show offering is Let It Shine. You may remember a few weeks ago we talked about vehicles for presenters, in particular Graham Norton? (If you don’t remember it or didn’t see it click here.) We mentioned the Josephs, Marias and Nancys; well now Graham is king of the Garys, Robbies, Marks, Jasons and Howards. The premise behind Let It Shine is that they are looking for five young men to appear in a West End musical about a boy band. The opening was adamant that this is not a Take That tribute act but they will be singing Take That songs (kerching for Mr Barlow).
Graham was accompanied by Mel Giedroyc, who presumably needs to work after not going to Channel 4 with the Bake Off. The judging panel on Let It Shine consisted of Mercedes from Glee, Gary Barlow’s Newzoids puppet, Danni Minogue and that Steve bloke off EastEnders (no idea why he was there). For some reason the Gary puppet (I assume it was a puppet as I never saw any expression in the eyes and the right eyebrow was decidedly Roger Mooreish for the entire show) was the only one who had a mug. Whether this was just prop so that we thought “that must be the real Gary Barlow, why would a puppet have a drink?”, I really don’t know.
As well as banter with the contestants before and after their performances there was backstage banter with Mel, plus Mark and Howard from Take That. Both had hats firmly fixed to their heads for the duration which in a middle-aged man can only mean one thing. A receding hairline. Although Howard’s also had a capital H on it, so I assume this was to remind him who we was. But I’m guessing now that Jason Orange has left he must realise that he’s too tall to be Mark, too animated to be Gary, and the fact that he is on a talent show, not a sell-out arena tour means that he’s not Robbie. Either that or like Rimmer in Red Dwarf he is a hologram. Backstage had all the facilities and awkwardness of a Methodist youth club. I was sure that at any point there could have been a table tennis competition going on (which at times may have been more interesting than the singing competition).
As for the singing itself, what was quite refreshing about it was that occasionally even the good singers sang flat. That may sound a bit odd; but whereas on X Factor the singers, especially the girls, just seem to wail and warble and call it R&B; with this being a stage show, musical the depth and range is greater, so there is nowhere to hide. Saying that, as with all the best talent shows there were some absolute stinkers; but they glossed over them. Like the Josephs and then Marias it could be interesting to see whether we get another Connie Fisher or Lee Meads out of it.
Meanwhile on ITV, they launched the new series of The Voice UK. Last year we reviewed a first episode of the last BBC series (in case you missed this you can read it here). The judging line-up then was Will.i.am, Boy George, Paloma Faith, and Ricky Wilson. The only judge to have made the switch (or “do a Hollywood” as it’s known) is Will.i.am. However Tom Jones has reappeared after having left a couple of series ago, slagging the series off, apologising and now making a return. He’s the Robbie Williams of The Voice UK. They were joined by Jennifer Hudson, herself a product of a TV talent show, appearing in American Idol in 2004 and going on to win Grammys and Academy Awards for her subsequent work. The final coach who replaced cheeky chappy Ricky was not such a cheeky chappy Gavin somebody. I have no idea who he is. I’ve Googled him I’m still none the wiser, so let’s just call him Spinney McSpin Face.
The show started with the usual ensemble singing. This week it was Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure. For this number Will.i.am had changed from his Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit of last season to donning a cape and hat which made him look like something from Blackadder. There are a couple of differences now that it has moved to ITV: the first being the two big fingers flicking the V’s and holding a microphone are now neon; and if none of the judges choose a contestant they don’t spin around to give them feedback. The first time it happened it was all a bit awkward for the contestant who naturally got very upset but as the show progressed the audience soon realised that they could have great fun with this. From there on in, if none of the judges span around the audience gave the singer a rapturous applause or even a standing ovation. Cut to judges faces looking bemused, concerned and slightly embarrassed thinking “have we just missed out on a fantastic star?”. If a tone-deaf monkey came on stage and sang and the judges didn’t spin their chairs , the audience would have given a standing ovation.
The faces of the judges when you’re listening to the singers is one of the highlights of the show. Will.i.am and Jennifer Hudson are the most expressionate; Spinney McSpin Face had the look of someone trying to remember if they had left the gas on; while Sir Tom Jones seemed to be looking around to see when the nurse was coming back with his medication. He still did his trademark leave it until the last second before spinning around, but I’m not sure if that’s tactical or if he just keeps forgetting to hit the button in time.
If having one talent show on ITV at the weekend was enough they also treated us to Dance, Dance, Dance which is, you may be surprised to know, a dance program. But this is no Strictly. Yes there are couples but unlike Strictly where there is a celeb and a professional dancer, on Dance, Dance, Dance there is a celebrity and their partner/spouse/friend/stranger. So, for example, there was someone from EastEnders with his very smiley girlfriend; there was JB Gill from JLS with his wife; and someone from Emmerdale with an old bloke she appeared in the West End with in the 90s. (You would have thought that would have given them an advantage…but oh no, not in this case.)
The judges on the show are Ashley Banjo from Diversity, an American female choreographer (but not Paula Abdul) and an American male choreographer, neither of whom I knew or had heard of. The staging of the show is quite elaborate. The judges seem to sit low down in the pit at the front of the stage, presumably so they can see the feet of the dancers better or because someone got centimetres and inches confused when they were building the desk. Whatever the reason it looks like they are in the cockpit of a boat.
There is also a lot of CGI. The premise of the show is that they are recreating famous dance routines from films and music videos. So for Michael and Janet Jackson’s screen they CGI’d a spaceship like in the video, and for Jai Ho they recreated an Indian train station.
There was some amazing dancing but that was mainly from the backing dancers. I felt a bit sorry for them as they were obviously talented performers just waiting for their big break. Meanwhile they were supporting some ropey dancing front of stage by helping with a Dirty Dancing lift. But some of the other celeb partnerships were really good dancers. Well I mean, if you had two left feet you wouldn’t go on a dance show would you? That would be like going on the X Factor and only being able to sing one song. Oh, sorry, I’ve just had a Honey G Flashback then. Nurse, leave Sir Tom alone, I need some medication.
Next week we get healthy…well we watch a load of programmes about dieting anyway!