What is it with Saturday night and singing contests? The latest offering is Altogether Now. (Which has nothing to do with the Farm song of the same name, but don’t worry, you can listen to that here). This is the BBC’s attempt to supersize the singing show format. Four judges? That’s so X Factor! Spinning chairs? That’s just a gimmick on The Voice. No the obviously logical solution is to go from four judges to one hundred judges. One hundred is always better than four isn’t it? Just imagine if instead of just four, John, Paul, George and Ringo had found another ninety six mates to join their band. They may have actually amounted to something!

So this is the deal in a nut shell: singers perform in front of a panel of one hundred judges who are stacked up on a set that make them look like a low rent version of “Who’s Who?” But where can you find one hundred judges worthy of deciding who should receive a fifty thousand pound prize? By trawling every working men’s club, cabaret bar and singing school in the UK, that’s how. We had singing teachers, drag acts, tribute acts, cabarets comperes and even a singing dentist. In fact most of the panel looked like they could actually be contestants and vice versa.  Saying that, hidden among them is a vocal coach from the Brits School and the next Craig Revel Hall in the form of a gentleman called Paulus both of who have star quality but in different ways.

The show is hosted by Rob Beckett who seems to have replaced Nick Knowles as the BBC’s weapon against ITV as this is the second new Saturday night show which he has hosted for them this year. Well I suppose he is less likely to burst out singing a country song which was always a risk with Knowles. He is not the most obvious choice, but he works really well talking to the panel as he is very good at talking to the general public (which 90% of this panel effectively are). Rob introduced us to the panel called “The One Hundred” and told us that the panel would be judged by the “The One Hundred and Geri”. The Geri in question is obviously Geri “not Halliwell anymore…but also not using her married name either as people won’t know who she is”. She has now joined the ranks of Madonna, Toyah, Cheryl and Sooty for being known by just one name. Now according to my rudimentary maths “The One Hundred and Geri” actually makes “The One Hundred and One” but let’s not worry about that as that’s the least of our worries. But back to the the contest.

So a contestant (who presumably just failed the audition for The One Hundred) is introduced to us via the usual back story VT, then the stand in front of the panel and introduce themselves. All of the One Hundred have microphones so we can hear the little chats they have as the contestants walk on stage which gives it that Gogglebox feel as the main comments seem to be “ooh, nice dress” or “what do you reckon she is going to sing?” This also leads to eavesdropping some bizarre conversations such as the person next to Geri asking whether she had had a Jaffa Cakes for her tea and also Geri impersonating Kermit and Miss Piggy. At one point Rob Beckett referred to it as trying to control “the most stressful hen party of all time” and that pretty much sums up the mood of the show. But back to the contest.

The contestant starts singing and then after a minute the One Hundred can join if they want to. However many of The One Hundred join in, that’s your score. The top scorer goes through to the final and then second and third have a sing off for a place in the final. As formats go, it make complete sense, but has one fundamental flaw.

More cynical people than I (yes there are some) refer to these talent shows as “glorified karaoke” which is a bit derogative to the person’s singing ability. But this show is more about song choices than singing ability. One young lady (who I think was called dimante or something) came on and sang an Ariana Grande song. I recognised the song from hearing it on the radio and she sang it very well, but no way could I join in and sing along (as it turned out ninety of The One Hundred felt exactly the same way). The only person to score a perfect one hundred was a busker from Hartlepool who sang Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” which has the added bonus that even we non singers can join with the rolling actions with our shoulders. In the sing off the act that won went though with “Shout”. I mean come one, that song is effectively in the DNA of every person in the country. I’m tone deaf but I reckon if I went on and sang YMCA I could get more people up than the obviously talented lady who’s only mistake was that she sang an Ariana Grande song that no one could sing along to.

So in the end “Proud Mary” and “Shout” went through…sorry I mean the Busker and the cabaret act. This may not be the best Saturday night talent show that’ll graced the airwaves, but it’s a fun way to kill and hour before Casualty comes on. There is one big question that I have though; why did no one sing “Altogether Now?” If they can sing it on the football terraces, they can can certainly all sing it on this show.

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