Today, the BBC announced a new gameshow. “TV presenter and comedian Paddy McGuinness will soon be taking the reins of the brand-new mystery music game show I Can See Your Voice … joining Paddy on the series’ celebrity panel will be the king of comedy Jimmy Carr, the inimitable Alison Hammond and national treasure Amanda Holden.”
So far, so nauseatingly predictable. But wait till you hear the hilarious premise! “I Can See Your Voice will see two players aiming to win a cash prize by guessing who can and can’t sing from a group of mystery singers standing before them. But there’s a catch… can they predict who has the voice of an angel or who will leave them covering their ears in horror all without ever hearing them sing a note? Alison, Amanda and Jimmy will be helping the players along the way and will be joined each week by a different pop star.”
We’re promised “a whole new take on the singing game show genre as well as lots of music, comedy and play-along fun for the whole family to enjoy”.
Boil all this old cobblers down to its constituent parts, and it’s basically another opportunity to hear people sing Flying Without Wings in a
hi-lariously horrendous fashion, with the added excitement of Amanda Holden’s nipple possibly popping out. It’s also, like The Masked Singer, a format bought in from Korea, which means that, unlike international smash Strictly Come Dancing, the beleaguered Beeb won’t own the rights and won’t be able to make a packet back from selling them worldwide. Is there nobody in development at the BBC who can come up with a good idea of their own? Maybe something rather fab like Joe Lycett’s The Time It Takes, which was funny, daft, charming and entertaining? Maybe there are too many Oxbridge types there who think they know what the plebs really want.
I Can See Your Voice also strikes me as a show which isn’t solely about television. It’s about providing the weekly guest “popstar” (how quaint that sounds!) and their record company with a TV opportunity to make money from their latest offering, and giving websites a hell of a lot of copy. Liveblogs, pieces entitled “YOU’LL NEVER BELIVE WHAT HAPPENED TO AMANDA’S DRESS”, featuring the words “leggy”, “showcased” and “flaunted”. Interviews in the dying celebrity magazines with the more attractive and talented singers. Probably a BBC Sounds podcast dissecting the week’s events. Oh, God.
The least important part of this show is, as ever, the actual music. In twenty years time, there won’t be any pop classics to murder on shows of this type, as there are so few music shows encouraging anything new to happen. Of course, ver kids are watching their music on YouTube, social media and Spotify, hence the Top of the Pops retread Sounds Like Friday Night being unloved and unwatched. It would be nice for those of us who still like watching music via the medium of television could have something to keep us happy, especially those of us who are still happy to pay for a TV licence to keep the BBC going — and to maybe keep a bit of the music industry alive in these days when Covid 19 is threatening its very existence.
There’s certainly an audience for the Friday night music documentaries and the TOTP reruns. Can we have some filmed gigs? A return of the fab Songwriters’ Circle? A grown-up music show with interviews and live music? Don’t talk to me about Later — I haven’t watched it for years as you know exactly what you’re going to get, because the team’s tastes ooze from its every pore. And don’t tell me to listen to 6Music, either, as I find it a tad smug; a know-it-all acquaintance going: “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of THEM!”, rather than an encouraging pal.
I want to see things new to me, as well as hear old musical friends on the telly, but all I get is caterwauling nitwits. The first gig I saw was Squeeze at the Regal in Hitchin in 1982, which was also filmed by the Beeb as an In Concert. Maybe that kind of thing is what made me like music in the first place — hooray for public service broadcasting. Doubt if anyone watching Maureen from Newport giving it large with an out-of-tune version of Simply the Best will feel that way.
We Can See Your Voice is expected next year on BBC One.