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The BBC Has Found Its Voice - But It Needs to Be Louder

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Strictly Come Dancing: the reliable, adored staple of BBC One entertainment.

Right? Of course. Having just seen out its ninth series (to ITV1-battering viewing figures, no less), it's easy to forget its origins, and just what a colossal risk it was. Ballroom dancing? In prime-time? A celebrity elimination format? Like what the other channels do? On BBC One?! Whoever commissioned Strictly Come Dancing had some serious cojones, but it paid off.

However, the BBC has yet to match the success of Strictly with any other entertainment show. In fairness, it hasn't really tried. The boldness of that original concept hasn't been applied to anything else, and with reason. But with the British version of Dutch format The Voice on the horizon, the BBC has a rare opportunity to make a serious impact.

A wee masterclass: The Voice kicks off with live studio auditions from pre-selected hopefuls (pre-selected in this instance means actual contenders, not an X Factor - style invitation to laugh at the mentally ill). They're trying to impress four coaches (NOT judges, they're keen to stress), who listen to the auditions with their backs to the stage - the focus is entirely on the vocals. Coaches choose to mentor contestants, performing with them each week and guiding them through battle rounds, until The Voice of Great Britain is found. Gimmicky on paper, perhaps, but it's done wonders across the globe.

Unfortunately, the last time BBC One acquired a format based on its US success, it fell flat on its face. The American incarnation of So You Think You Can Dance was loud and explosive and attention-commanding; the UK version, in contrast, was housed in a studio on a par with the CBBC Broom Cupboard; had a bored, uninspiring judging panel that resembled a dawdling queue at Caffe Nero; and contestants it was hard to engage with, and thus, care about.

Every aspect of it felt small, almost apologetic, as though the BBC weren't allowing themselves to do 'big' amidst whispers of cuts. Unsurprisingly, the show hasn't been recommissioned for a third series.

The short-lived DanceX, meanwhile, was tied up by in-house regulations, so strict that the winning group weren't even allowed to perform their single. That, coupled with the fact they didn't even have a name, saw their track limp into the charts at 91.

In an increasing world of complaints culture - particularly where broadcasting is involved - it's understandable that producers have to tread very carefully indeed. Put so much as a toe wrong and some disgruntled Middle Englander will be diving horns-first into a strongly-worded letter. And should the Daily Mail pick up on it and dress it up as one of their overblown moral panics, the complaints will increase at a rate quicker than regular earth maths can allow for.

But there's a great deal to be said for standing your ground. The Voice is an entertainment show, and thus, it needs to be entertaining. And for every sniffy, ill-informed viewer who thinks prime-time Saturday night is the key slot for Andrew Marr's History of Spoons, there's a thousand normal viewers waiting for a show to make some noise.

And The Voice is just that - or at least, has the potential to be, not just based on the format's worldwide success, but on the promise of the UK version. The last-minute replacement of Will Young in favour of The Script's Danny O'Donoghue has had Twitter up in arms, but overall, it's actually an impressive line-up of coaches: Jessie J may sound like Alesha Dixon with hiccups, but her success is impossible to contest, plus her extensive songwriting credentials make her a relevant choice and an exciting prospect. Will.I.Am, meanwhile, may have been responsible for The Time (Dirty Bit) and thus ought to be sent to the Tower, but is the evil genius behind arguably the biggest pop group this century. And in Sir Tom Jones, they've bagged an actual, bona fide legend. Kudos to the celebrity booker.

A line-up like that, and a concept such as The Voice, would be wasted on a modest, polite, quarter-arsed adaptation. It needs to stand tall, show off and do exactly what Strictly did back in 2004. It needs to engage and surprise and enthrall, and if it finds a genuine star at the end of the process, then that's a bonus. If nothing else, it'll put music performance back on prime-time BBC One, something the Corporation has seemingly been terrified of since Top of the Pops bowed out.

With The X Factor now a laughable parody of itself, it's a brave move of the BBC to reinvigorate the genre. And sure, there'll still be viewers questioning the presence of a talent show on BBC One, but consider this: a chunk of the licence fee is earmarked for entertainment regardless, so it might as well be done properly. And that's just as much a plea to the BBC as it is a polite middle finger to the naysayers.

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