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Reality TV Blog

The Voice UK: How did it topple Simon Cowell and Britain's Got Talent?

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Britain's Got Talent beaten in the ratings. Simon Cowell offering congratulations. Twitter domination on Saturday nights. If you happen to be Danny Cohen, Sir Tom Jones or work in the BBC Entertainment department, we wouldn't be surprised if you've cracked open a sneaky bottle of champagne in the past week.

The Voice UK has launched with a bang, hitting overnight ratings of over 10 million and attracting the sort of media coverage usually reserved for Cowell's talent show empire. Those who wrote the show off as Fame Academy Mark 2 should be choking on humble pie right about now.

The Voice UK Episode 1 - Danny O'Donoghue, Will.i.am, Tom Jones, Jessie J performing together

© BBC / Wall To Wall



Of course, the war is not yet over. With Got Talent waving the white flag and shifting in the schedules next week, it will no longer be losing viewers to its BBC rival and it should reclaim its top spot in the Saturday night ratings next week. The Voice UK coaches and talent also have to prove themselves in the live shows - a totally different beast to the edited audition rounds.

But the fact that Simon Cowell and ITV showed their hand and moved BGT back half-an-hour, the fact sneering TV critics have begrudgingly started complimenting the Beeb and the fact that viewers are lapping up spinning chairs and will.i.am appears to suggest there's a shift in the Saturday night TV wars.

Reality Bites has examined The Voice UK's success story and found five simple reasons for its overwhelming success.

1. It listened to its head rather than its critics
TV critics are a funny old bunch and they aren't always right. If you'd only read the reviews of episode one of The Voice UK, you'd have considered it a dull, lifeless flop. Viewers clearly disagreed, coming back with increased numbers week after week.

Vince Kidd and Jessica Hammond

© BBC/Wall To Wall



After years of salivating at Cowell and co's snazzy production techniques and ITV's whizz-bang, in-your-face, PETER DICKSON SCREAMING approach to Saturday night telly, The Voice UK was written off as old-fashioned and stuffy.

"Nobody wants to see good singer after good singer," moaned the show's detractors. "Where's the ebb and flow?" "It's not fast enough." "It's all too nicey nice."

The Voice was derided in its build-up for being "too serious" and "lacking a sense of humour". But the producers didn't relent from their mission to create a talent show that took its acts and the art of music seriously.

TV viewing always moves in cycles (the great British sitcom dies and is reborn approximately once every six months) and after over a decade of Cowell's Saturday night fodder, fresh faces, a fresh approach and a change of pace has clearly appealed to viewers.

2. will.i.am ain't.half.bad
The casting of the coaches was always going to make or break The Voice UK's success. They could have had a whole heap of Susan Boyles lined up for the spinning chairs, but if the star talent had the charisma of a Lidl carrier bag (Carmen Electra?), we'd probably find ourselves watching repeats of Poirot on ITV3 on a Saturday rather than BBC One.

The Voice UK - The Judges - Will.i.am

© BBC / Wall To Wall



After the initial concern over the ditching of Will Young and the early befuddlement at the identity of Danny O'Donoghue, the Beeb's selection policy had paid big dividends. The big test will come in the live shows when tight editing won't be able to save ramblings or inane remarks. However, Jessie J's goggle-eyed, rubber-face charms, Sir Tom's whiskey-soaked anecdotes and Danny's childlike giddiness should hit the spot.

And the biggest surprise of all out of The Voice talent has been will.i.am. A man previously best known for an infatuation with punctuation, meddling in matters Cheryl Cole and releasing auto-tuned 'club bangers' - he's turned out to be a soft-spoken, witty, incredibly likable chap.

Whether dishing out bonkers one-liners ("I don't have tactics, I have tic-tacs, to keep me fresh - holler!", "three times dope") or doling out words of comfort ("I'm sure this isn't the last we've heard of you"), he does so with a smile and what appears to be genuine sincerity. Now if he can just stop his name turning into a link on Twitter, he'd almost be perfect.

Watch will.i.am and Jaz Ellington's 'moment' on The Voice UK:



3. It played Cowell at his own game
Whatever you think of Simon Cowell's talents as a TV show creator, music mogul and showbiz-news generator, one thing that can't be questioned is his ability to create blubbery TV moments for the masses.

While Cowell has attempted to take a step away from the sob stories and Snow Patrol-soundtracked sentimentality in recent years, The Voice UK has lapped up every opportunity to tug at our heartstrings. We're clearly a nation of suckers for a tearjerker.

It may have clutched at straws on occasion ('teenager likes singing all the time' = worst backstory ever), but when it pulled things together well - like it did with Daniel Walker and Jaz Ellington's final auditions on Saturday, you could hear a collective sob on Twitter. Obviously we didn't cry though. That was just something in our eye.

Watch Daniel Walker's emotional audition:



4. Spinning chairs
Come on, who hasn't sat at their desk at work, slapped their hand on the arm rest of their spinning chair and pretended they're Sir Tom Jones for a couple of minutes. Just us?

5. Talent
All of the above would be a waste of time if it wasn't for one small factor - talent. The Voice UK has been brimming with it. We'll admit there's a few duff picks and forgettable voices among the show's Top 40 acts heading into the battle rounds. But once the coaches have whittled them down to a final 20, they should have a lineup worthy of any TV talent show.

Viewers have complained for years that they don't want Jedwards and Wagners taking the spots of genuinely great singers on talent shows. It's always been suggested in the past that without the comic relief and light-hearted acts, the X Factor would be dull. It would be a pantomime without any laughs.

But if the Voice has proved anything it's that you don't need cheap laughs or stunt acts to lure in viewers.

Watch J Marie Cooper's barnstorming Voice UK audition:



The Voice UK Battle Rounds continue this weekend on Saturday and Sunday at 7pm on BBC One.

Have you enjoyed The Voice UK so far? Is it better than you expected? Share your verdict below!

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