The nation needed a new singing show on a Saturday night as much as it needed another general election, but alas we got one. Pitch Battle is the latest incarnation of the talent show; but this time for choirs. The concept is based largely (by that I mean completely) on the film Pitch Perfect. The Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson film is one of my favourite films of acca-all time (watch the film, you’ll get the gag); but I always doubted whether things like that really happened. It’s a bit like when you see those “frat parties” in movies where they all drink out of red plastic cups. Is that really a thing? Do Americans always have huge bowls of potato salads at BBQ’s? Do choirs really duel? Well, it would appear the answer is “yes, they do”. Well they do when they are prompted to do so by Saturday night TV that is.
The programme is presented by the pun laden Mel Giedroyc, fresh from her success on Let it Shine. The first person we were introduced to wasn’t one of the judges, but the series Musial Director, Brains from Thunderbirds. Presumably for security reasons he was going under the name of Deke Sharon and he was the man behind the film Pitch Perfect (I told you it was more than a passing coincidence.) Throughout the show, he and Mel were on the side of the contestants, unlike the judges. Of course, with this being a choir show then geek-chic man-boy Gareth Malone was on the panel; then, of course, Kelis. (Nope I have no idea why either. Apparently she sang in a Pentecostal choir in her youth; was available; and presumably not too expensive. Oh and she might bring some milkshakes with her.) The third judge was….well, there wasn’t really one. Once you have Gareth Malone, you pretty much have the entire roster of talent who can judge choirs, so for this show they had a guest third judge who this week was Will Young. We haven’t seen much of Will since he left Strictly, but it would appear that in that time he has been honing his fashion sense. Not sure if he is planning on going into pantomime but he seems to have adopted a “Widow Twankie’s Son” look. He probably couldn’t go down the pub in it, but it kind of worked in this environment.
So finally, we met the choirs. The first one was Liverpool LMA who came from Liverpool Media Academy (which by my reckoning means that their full name is Liverpool Liverpool Media Academy). They came on dressed all in white and one or two of them kept their dressing gowns on as well. They were up against an all-female acappella group from the University of Birmingham, The Uptone Girls, who came on looking like an explosion in Top Shop. Both started with the Showstopper. Now at this point you could almost see Mel get confused. After years of the Showstopper being the last round on Bake Off, here it is the first round. Both choirs came on, sang, and were judged. No spinny chairs, no golden buzzers, just comments. Round 2 was then the Riff Off.
If you have ever seen the film Pitch Perfect (if you haven’t, what’s your acca-excuse? Sorry I can’t help myself now) then you will know that one of the big set pieces is the Riff Off where two teams choirs are given a theme and then they spontaneously start singing songs on that theme whilst strutting and taunting their opponents as if they were in an LA gang. I suppose this follows the long tradition of gangs in musical theatre, which first started in West Side Story. I remember one night I was out when a gang of musical theatre students cornered me and began singing a medley from Les Miserables at me and I was terrified. I gave them my wallet, my watch, a couple of notes on their harmonies and then ran for my life.
So on Shut Up Pitch…sorry, Pitch Battle, they do the same. (As I say…borrowing heavily from the film.) The thing is the film is fiction and you just go with it. But here I found myself thinking “this is all too well rehearsed and choreographed to be spontaneous…and the band must be mind readers to know what they are going to sing next”. But if you suspend your disbelief it’s all a bit of good singing/fighting/gurning fun. Then one choir is voted off and the other goes through to the next round. They then repeat this round another two times. Yep, we had six of them to tolerate.
Round two (with just three teams in it now) is the same as the first, but they have to choose one singer to sing a bit louder than the others (I think the musical term is “a solo”) before the rest of the choir join in (I think the musical term is “backing”) until they all stop singing (I think the musical term is “mercy”). This eliminates another choir, which just leaves two. By the way, we are now at the 75 minute point of this programme and fatigue is setting in.
For the final round, the two choirs have to alternate singing a song made by famous by the guest judge. The winner is chosen by the judge (in this week’s case Aladdin) invading the stage and singing with the choir for all of ten seconds. Then it’s all over. We finally have a winner. Well it’s all over until next week at least. We have another five weeks to go until we find our winner. As I say, a bit like the General Election. And look how that turned out.