The eventual defeat of The Voice by the Cowell war machine- compounded by that too perfect final story about the crew watching BGT in the gallery- has far more to do with the BBC’s mentality than it does with the show. Once again, the beeb has shown itself to be something of a shrinking violet, and it won’t be able to enter the hardball arena of true showmanship until it learns to man up.
The initial success of The Voice was driven by the freshness of the concept- both in its actual content and in the fact that it was outside of Cowell’s influence. There was everything to play for, and the BBC had a golden opportunity to strike a blow for originality just within its grasp. Arguably, audiences were tired of Cowell’s monopoly- when they weren’t busy sniggering at him in the wake of the Tom Bower revelations.
Yet, as TS Eliot once wrote, ‘between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow’. Or, as they say in the less Oxbridge-educated echelons of TV land, ‘eat shit or get out of the kitchen’. The BBC dithered, and refused to commit to all-out war. Yet all-out war was brought to it, and by the time Cowell got into his stride, there wasn’t a single entity involved with The Voice, from eerie hip-hop aristocrat Will.i.am to the back-room concept makers in the boardroom, who got away without a savaging. Never underestimate the ruthless commitment to publicity that Simon Cowell both expects and delivers.
The BBC and other broadcasters are increasingly getting the content, but we’ve yet to find a channel with the stomach for publicity and showmanship that ITV have developed over the past decade. If it goes on at this rate, we’ll have Amanda Holden’s face plastered over every flat surface in the land. For ever and ever. If there was ever an argument for healthy competition, I think that’s it.