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Has The Voice UK lived up to its massive hype?
The Voice UK's Holly Willoughby and Sophie Griffin
When The Voice UK made its long-awaited debut, the BBC couldn't have imagined that, by episode three, it would emerge as the most watched show on Saturday night.
According to overnight ratings, the corporation's £22 million singing series narrowly beat ITV1's Britain's Got Talent. But that it beat such a proven audience favourite so soon into its run was, and remains, astounding.
Boasting will.i.am, Jessie J, Sir Tom Jones and Danny O'Donoghue as coaches, alongside Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates as presenters, The Voice UK's dominance was so emphatic, it won the head-to-head clash every week in which the two talent shows overlapped.
In those halcyon days, momentum appeared to be with the BBC show; Simon Cowell even acknowledged the huge hit it had become. On social networking site Twitter, he tweeted this message to Danny Cohen, Controller of BBC1: "A slightly irritated congrats to Danny and the BBC. But you didn't have a dancing dog!"
However, the conclusion of the blind auditions and the move to the live shows has also coincided with a fall in ratings (last Sunday's results show averaged 6.6m viewers, according to overnight ratings, down from a high of nearly 11m); The Voice has lost its, er, voice.
Considering its status as a new show, it's still doing very well. Danny Cohen told The Telegraph: "I genuinely couldn't be happier."
However, behind the scenes, there must be concern at the way The Voice UK has seemingly lost its mojo. Has the show simply failed to live up to all its hype? You be the judge. Or rather, the coach.
The Voice UK's Reggie Yates and Holly Willoughby. Image. BBC
"They'll [contestants] be getting constructive criticism, not catchphrases," said Reggie Yates before the show aired.
In an effort to be positive, more often than not, the coaches have either resorted to platitudes ("I'm so proud... You really made me proud") or catchphrases ("You really sung that in your own way"). If a report in The Sun is to be believed, The Voice UK coaches have been told to be more honest with contestants if a performance isn't up to scratch.
"This show is so unique and it is a fresh idea," said Sir Tom Jones during pre-publicity.
The blind auditions' combination of spinning chairs and back-to-act coaches is the genuine unique selling point. Little wonder more and more viewers tuned in during the early stages, sending The Voice UK's ratings into the stratosphere as a direct result.
The live shows were always going to struggle in the face of the pulling power of the blind auditions. In truth, they are in the vein of every other singing contest that's been on TV; someone sings, collects critiques, and then the public votes. Move along - nothing new to see here.
The Voice UK coaches Jessie J, Danny O'Donoghue, will.i.am, Tom Jones. BBC.
"Wait until you see these [live] shows. We're stepping up another notch," said Danny O'Donogue just before the next stage of the series.
Talent competitions should absolutely step up a gear once they go live. Over on ITV1, Britain's Got Talent's live semi-finals have been an impressive visual spectacle despite the extremely variable quality of some of the acts on stage.
Conversely, that sense of occasion has been missing from The Voice UK's live performance shows. Underlined perhaps when Fame Academy - a much-derided BBC talent show - trended on social networking site Twitter during one broadcast.
For many fans, it's a shame the Sunday results editions are pre-recorded. As the BBC acknowledge, it's a standard practice as it ensures the best use of licence fee money.
However, in a poll conducted by MSN, a whopping 79% of the 5,600 votes cast were in favour of live transmissions for the results instalments. Live transmissions heighten the drama (X Factor's Louis Walsh mistakenly believing Motown boss Berry Gordy was dead. Or Kitty Brucknell's cringe-inducing refrain of Lady Gaga's Born This Way).
Are you enjoying The Voice UK's live shows?
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- Yes - they're entertaining
- No - they're disappointing
In addition, live airings preserve the identity of booted-out contestants; forums and social networking sites boasted the names of last week's unlucky losers before the results show even aired.
"On another show, where someone's father has nearly died and they've held the note, they're good to go. But that's not what The Voice is about," Reggie Yates told Attitude magazine before The Voice UK's debut.
How do you draw the line between a contestant's personal narrative and a 'sob story'? The answer is with great difficulty. If The Voice UK wanted to be a series that left so-called sob stories behind, it hasn't quite achieved this. Maybe we all have to accept that it comes with the talent show territory...
It's been a tough couple of weeks, but a much-needed boost has arrived in the form of Kylie Minogue and Cheryl Cole; both ladies are among the stars lined up for guest appearances.
What's more, in the likes of Jaz Ellington and bookies' favourite Ruth Brown, The Voice UK has found a couple of stand out talents. It hit all the right notes when it first arrived on our screens; let's hope it will do so again. Soon.
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