Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Honking Box Preview: Don't Stop Believing - The Final

There’s a delightfully hedonistic convergence of reality shows around this time of year. As previously covered in The Honking Box, we’re currently in the middle of a two-week period which sees the end of Big Brother, the return of The X Factor, and the launch of Must Be The Music, with Strictly Come Dancing just around the corner. However, one show has fallen by the wayside a tad.

Yes, spare a thought for Don’t Stop Believing, an equal-parts shrewd and shameless attempt by Channel Five (for it has a ‘Channel’ once more) to cash in on the instantaneous and all-consuming success of Glee. The format’s pretty simple: show-choirs compete live on stage for an unspecified prize, presumably something resembling ‘glory’ as nothing else has been talked up. And when we say “show choirs”, we mean one of two things: conventional choirs who’ve clumsily taken on choreography in order to participate, and conventional pop groups who’ve tried to hammer out some choral arrangements in order to participate.

As the final looms, we’re left with six groups. Truth be told, we’d been planning to provide some sort of rundown profiling each of them in our own lazily sardonic way, but the fact is, they all just sort of merge into one. Save for quirky kiddie choir Singer Station and brassy W.I. types Dale Diva, it’s near impossible to tell one act from another. It’s just one big heaving mass of jazz hands.

The judges, at least, are a mixed bag – Anastacia is hugely likeable, even if her attempts to make “I cared for it” an identifiable catchphrase are entirely futile, while Chucky Klapow, whose name always looks as though it should be written in upper-case Comic Sans MS, clearly knows his stuff. And Tamsin Outhwaite, while pleasant enough, can often be found sporting an expression that implies her agent is about to take a knee to the groin. However, Duncan James’ apparent belief that he’s some sort of performing arts deity – delivered with all the charisma of a wicker placemat – quickly underlined him as the dead wood on the panel.

Host Emma Bunton, bless her, resembles a lost lamb waiting for Bo Peep to despatch a rescue helicopter to hoist her to safety. She’s great on camera, sure, but her helpless attempts to coax an answer out of the judges – which are generally met with complete disregard – make her every inch the supply teacher in a Peckham comprehensive. However, the greatest Bunto moment of the series was her puzzlement at a tie between two acts, which saw ten seconds of dead air while she visibly took direction from her earpiece. Whenever Dermot O’Leary utters the word ‘deadlock’, you can believe he involuntarily lets out a gleeful squirt of jism. Poor ol’ Emma Bunton in the same situation has ten years knocked off her life.

Meanwhile, there’s the Don’t Stop Believing supergroup, an in-house show choir compiled from everyman soloists and erstwhile talent show competitors, with approximately three dozen new members added each week. One ‘notable’ member is professional quitter Nicola Ward, who walked out on Popstars: The Rivals, vile ITV1 dating fiasco Take Me Out, and Eurovision: Your Country Needs You to name but a few, but here she is, giving it another shot. They say God loves a trier, but even the Good Lord must be sick of the sight of this one.

It’s no major surprise that the format’s already been sold to broadcasters around the world, with its high production values and slick visuals, but with abysmal ratings and no discernible goal for either the winning choir or the supergroup to work towards, UK viewers haven’t quite mustered the interest. Channel Five had a great opportunity with this, and in fairness, they were right to be quick off the mark in order to ride the Glee wave, but it seems all that rushing has resulted in a rather clumsy affair. But hey, at least they can save face to an extent, given precisely no-one will remember Don't Stop Believing. Even on Monday.

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