independent

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The Voice v BGT: the opera or the circus?

WITH JIM HAYES

Published 27/03/2012|12:00

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The Voice judges: Jessie J, Danny O'donoghue of The Script, Will.i.am and Tom Jones.

Ionce knew a man who enjoyed reading the tabloid red-tops but didn't want anyone to know about his low brow tastes. So, on the train to work every morning, he would conceal his copy of The Sun in the centre pages of The Times.

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After Saturday night's battle of the TV talent shows I'll wager a lot of people are on the same track as the man on the train, concealing their love of Britain's Got Talent behind the more respectable veneer of The Voice.

The BBC have spent over £20 million on The Voice, the franchise started by Big Brother creators Endemol and already an established brand in many countries, including Ireland.

While we have Westlifer Kian Egan, Sharon Corr, Brian Kennedy and Bressie in the judges' chairs, the Beeb have splashed out on some bigger hitters: Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am, Jessie J, Tom Jones and our own Danny O'donoghue of The Script. (Or Danny O'dono-who? as some sectors of the British media have started to call him).

Irish viewers found the BBC'S version of The Voice familiar territory. The only real difference is that the contestants have access to a full backing band and their performances appear very well rehearsed and choreographed: a good thing in terms of quality, but not so good if you want the warts-andall approach of X Factor.

Most of the performers on the BBC'S launch night of The Voice would not be out of place in the semi finals of X Factor. They included a bow-tied pianist from Derry named Ben Kelly who looked and sounded the finished article, and super-talented 17year-old Jessica Hammond from Belfast who all four judges fought to have have on their team.

The Voice prides itself on being all about the voice, but that didn't stop the BBC resorting to the X Factor tactic of tugging at the heartstrings. So, we were told the story of Toni Warne (34) who lost all her hair (and her confidence) to alopecia, and Sean Conlon, formerly a member of boyband 5ive and now hoping to make a comeback as a solo singer. Warne made it through, Conlon didn't.

ITV and Simon Cowell's decision to schedule the first night of Britain's Got Talent for Saturday, in direct competition with The Voice, was no mere coincidence. If Cowell didn't spoil the BBC'S party, he certainly stole a large chunk of the limelight.

BGT is to The Voice what a performance at Wexford Opera Festival is to a night at Fossett's Circus. Among the first-night acts was a young man who could knock out a tune on his teeth, and a German whose unfeasibly large costume transformed into a huge set of golden wings as he sang. More incredibly, he made it through to the next round.

The judging panel provided almost as much entertainment as the contestants. Cowell was his usual blunt self and formed a curious bond with new judge David Walliams whose every word has a double meaning.

It was all we've come to expect from Britain's Got Talent: loud, crude, sometimes hilarious and unashamedly exploitative. There's no doubt that The Voice wins in terms of quality and talent, but for entertainment value, BGT gets my vote. Just don't tell anyone, OK?

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