‘Let It Shine’ debuts this Saturday evening, with the BBC bosses crossing everything they’ve finally found the answer to that gaping hole in the primetime schedule left by ‘Strictly’, and - whisper it - ‘The Voice’.
With the latter making its debut on ITV on the very same night, the BBC has pulled out the stops to ensure a success. How well has it worked?
In two words, very well. First impressions are that they’ve landed upon a choice batch of ingredients and format, to keep your passing viewer well satisfied. Namely...
This show will fly or fail on how much you personally think of Gary Barlow and, by first impressions, he seems to know exactly what he’s doing here. The opening number reminds us of just how much experience he has of putting on a show, and it’s his music that’ll be - from the opening number, to steering the musical that is on offer as the prize, to his position on the panel. The other judges may be popular and have plenty to say but, make no mistake, just like Simon Cowell on the other channel, it’s only one opinion that really matters.
Fellow Judges Amber Riley, Dannii Minogue and Martin Kemp
They might be paper tigers, but they bring a charm all of their own, particularly Amber Riley, currently wowing London audiences in ‘Dreamgirls’ on stage, and Martin Kemp, who can’t help smiling as he’s reminded of his own rise to fame. There’s something for most mainstream music fans in here…
Hosts Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc
The BBC have scored a winner in their choice of hosts. As host and the man holding the contestants by the hand, Graham Norton walks perfectly the tightrope between supporting them, realizing how important it all is, and having a good laugh at the whole thing. Meanwhile, Mel Giedroyc deploys all her Bake Off charm backstage, conspiring with contestants, putting herself down and flirting shamelessly with Martin Kemp. It’s all very good fun.
The Star Walk
In possibly the best part of the whole show, a potentially complex scoring system has been made wonderfully dramatic with the Star Walk. Each of the four judges can award up to 5 points each, and the contestant needs to score 15 in total to go through.
How do they find out? There is a Star Walk between the judges’ panel and the stage, with the stars lighting up in turn until, fingers crossed… the 15th star lights up. That’s the one the contestant is standing on. Cue much excitement, with Graham Norton egging everyone on gleefully.
For the lucky few with even more talent, the stars then carry on lighting up around the stage, even - in a few special cases - to the maximum of 20 stars. Perfection!
The Voices in the contest
As usual, there are some terrible examples of enthusiasm over ability. However, stand by for not one but two moments, just in the first show, that will have you on your feet and shouting for those gold stars to light up.
What’s on offer here? Mercifully, after the ill-judged ‘Voice’ contest produced no actual pop stars - unsurprisingly, since the BBC weren’t actually allowed to promote them, ‘Let It Shine’ winners are guaranteed an actual job, in Gary Barlow’s much-mooted musical, inspired by the story of Take That. How do you solve a problem like Saturday night television? Probably like this.
‘Let It Shine’ debuts on Saturday night at 7pm on BBC One.