So it’s come to that time of the year again. No not Christmas, it’s just past. Nor Easter, though it’s just around the corner. I’m talking about the time of year when everything is thrown on to television all at once. During the rest of the year everything is spread out reasonably evenly and every so often you’ll find yourself clashing on one or two shows here and there every so often. Then, as I’ve said, it seems like network executives try to load your nights with as much as they can. Tonight AMC brings back Mad Men. Next week, Game of Thrones returns to HBO. But it already started last night with the clash of Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice.
On one hand you have an established TV show that’s been around for years, led by a man who has become a media/entertainment mogul and on the other hand, a Dutch song competition that has become a success in its own right in America. On the face of it, they’re very different shows so the only real competition is where the shows overlap in their respective time slots. Britain’s Got Talent often showcases musical artists but, as we saw last night with the case of Jonathon Antoine and Charlotte Jaconelli, the styles can range from the poptastic to the classically sublime. The nu-age Pavarotti’s of the world wouldn’t get far in the likes of The Voice. Not because they aren’t talented but that sound is just unlikely to connect with a modern audience.
For all that they want to talk about being all about the voice, The Voice will always try to gauge the ability of the artist to connect with the current state of music based on the choice of song and the style of voice. For instance, Jessie J specifically mentioned that she could listen to former boyband singer, Sean Conlon, all day, but still didn’t pick him. The only excuse can be that while she felt she could listen to him, the general audience wouldn’t feel quite as comfortable. So without really seeing the singer, the judges are still making the same decision based on the same reasons as the judges from American Idol and The X Factor. The format has changed but the idea is exactly the same.
So I think Britain’s Got Talent still has the edge when you consider that they have a much larger pool of talent to choose from and a lot more variety. For every dog trainer there’s a travelling dance troupe firing young children across the stage and for every crazed musician playing an instrument with a strange body part you have an artist buttering toast in the image of The Queen. At its worst and at its best, Britain’s Got Talent is pure entertainment. It’s fun in the sense that you can watch it and laugh at the contestants and laugh with the judges. With The Voice it feels as though a lot of the humour comes from the conflict between the judges, and even at that at lot of the laughs seem to be coming from Will.I.Am. Such as his little story about Michael Jackson’s beat.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. It seems as the The Voice is taking talent competitions a lot more serious than the other competitions. The X Factor certainly enjoys the performance aspect of the competition and having a laugh at the expense of any artist whose hubris puts them on a pedestal before they even get on the stage. American Idol is more serious still but they’re still willing to show the contestants making fools of themselves. I think The Voice mostly avoids this by selecting the contestants before the audition. But again, that might come back to bite them on the ass. It might start to seem a bit elitist in a couple seasons time. I don’t think this is a criticism of the contest as a whole. In America, where the standard of musicians and singing is a lot higher, I don’t think this will appear as exclusive. But for Britain, I feel like there’s a larger divide in musical talent. The X Factor will appeal to the common denominator, seeming to give dreams to the poor underdog, whereas The Voice will appear to reward a higher standard of creativity. The real question is which will appeal to the general viewing public?
Well, the ratings are in, and during the slight sliver of cross over, a mere twenty minutes, The Voice won the war. The problem is however, in the day of modern technology, ratings aren’t as much of an indicator of what appeals to the viewing public as they use to be. With the creation of internet streaming and aps such as BBC Iplayer available on everything from tablets to game consoles there’s no reason that anyone who watched one show couldn’t catch the other within the next week. It’s also important to remember that this was the first time that The Voice ever aired on British TV so it’s difficult to gauge how much of the ratings are just out of curiosity and how many of the viewers actually actively chose The Voice over Britain’s Got Talent.
But as I’ve tried to point out in this post, I don’t think there really is much of a competition. There’s a sense that all of the shows have similar aspects but for the most part they’re using completely different tactics and targeting different audiences. It feels like the competition is more of a marketing and advertising strategy invented by the head honchos behind the BBC and UTV to draw viewers from the other network. But having watched both shows, one on television and one through internet streaming services, I can honestly say that it really doesn’t feel like The Voice is anything like Britain’s Got Talent or The X Factor and I don’t think that fact will hinder any of those shows. And it’s the perfect example of choosing to watch one show and still catching the other when I got the chance. So who won the clash? The only correct answer is really ‘what clash?’