With all of the talent shows starting to take over network TV lately, it may not be any surprise why the talent pool was arguably lesser on “American Idol” this year. It’s possible that “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent” (plus other talent shows around cable) managed to fragment America’s true talent to a point where those contestants could finally find better options. At one time, “Idol” had some of the best singing unknowns in the business that’s now been altered to the domination of “The Voice.” Just about every person eliminated on “The Voice” this year had incredible voices compared to slightly mediocre ones for the knockoffs on “Idol.”
If we don’t already have too many singers in America, a new singing contest is about to start this summer on ABC called “Rising Star.” What makes it different from anything else is that they’ll have the public vote for the singing contestants live rather than waiting 24 hours to announce results. While this might remove some suspense in who’s going to be going home, it gives complete control to the audience watching at home in deciding who goes home and with quicker outcomes.
The show is also going to be eliminating judges completely, which ABC probably loves since they don’t have to pay millions for an A-list musician to sit and give overly simplistic critique every week. It’s a complete leap of faith in the audience being the only judges for the first time in TV talent show history. But should there be complete confidence in what the audience will do, or will there be phone hijack attempts to throw things in strange directions?
You also have the problem of getting time zones straight, which might have to enable online voting.
The Problem of Hijacking Votes
Remember back in the mid-2000s when we heard about people setting up speed dialer programs that allowed repeated voting on their phones for their favorite “Idol” contestants? While obviously illegal, it’s possible they may still be used in rabid fan circles. It could explain why some of the better singing candidates on “The Voice” didn’t make it through, even if we know losing is still ultimately winning thanks to the publicity. These speed-dialing programs might come back into full use, though, when live voting becomes a huge sensation in this country.
It’s then when we might start seeing contestants win from off in left field. In fact, there could even be groups that thwart the voting procedure by voting in the worst singers just to see the show corrupted. Then again, ABC may screen contestants first so it doesn’t become an audition process in allowing those who can barely screech out a song onto the stage.
No matter how you might feel about celebrity judges, there’s also a danger in having only the audience be the judge. While celebrity judges seem to give less insightful advice during the show, they clearly do much more behind the scenes to help nurture the contestants into true singing artists. “The Voice” has that investment, and so does “Idol.” It’s one reason why some singers who appear a little reluctant in the beginning suddenly turn into polished performers by the time the finale rolls around.
Does this mean “Rising Star” is going to let those singers fend for themselves under all the pressure? Perhaps putting singers under more pressure to find their own style and voice is what people want now to see more realism rather than industry coddling. It doesn’t necessarily help careers, though, for the future of a volatile business.
The Time Zone Issue
Because “Rising Star” comes from Israel, the live voting there hasn’t been a problem due to having only one time zone so the entire population can watch something collectively. Here in the states, there hasn’t been an announcement on how they’ll work out collective live voting for each time zone, unless they do different shows for each one. The answer to this is probably online voting, which can have its own problems in being hacked. It’s also problematic if different shows are done in each time zone and singers have to sing more than once.
It’s a gimmick with numerous potentials to backfire, even if it’s going to attract more attention than probably any other talent show on the air. Will the public become the true arbiter of talent, or will there need to be some interventions to bring some common sense into the proceedings? Even “Idol” had to create a “save” feature in order to rescue contestants who shouldn’t have been voted out.
Most of all, they’ll need to set up a strong sense of security if there’s any online voting, or hacking could end up creating a chaotic situation. While such a scenario would create crazy and memorable television, it could potentially turn the singing contestant into a fiasco rather than a serious search for original talent that we know is still out there.
The next best thing may be allowing tweets and texts on the air showing comments of what America thinks of contestants. It might be a better way than knowing what the real motivations are behind the shield of a phone line.