Talk about putting your career back ten years. This is what Holly Willougbhy did when she announced Andrea Begley as the winner of The Voice 2003. To be fair to Holly, she was probably still in deep shock that Andrea won the show in the first place, as kooky Scot Leah McFall had been the odds-on favourite to win The Voice UK for several weeks. It comes to something when even the winner’s mother thought their daughter shouldn’t have won the show, but the look on Andrea’s mum’s face told the whole story. But let’s backtrack to the start of the show and the car-crash that is the coaches’ performance. Though these performances were initially used to show that all of the coaches have talent, the songs chosen haven suited none of their voices with the possible exception of Jessie J. Their final song together was Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, the highlight of which was probably Will.i.am messing about on a keytar. I felt that I’d never see Tom Jones sing a Daft Punk song, but after hearing it there was probably a reason for that. Talking of Jones, his country boy Mike Ward played safe with ‘Suspicious Minds’ and a duet with his mentor on ‘The Green Green Grass of Home’. I found Mike to be amiable enough but he had zero personality. I personally thought that Jessie J’s Matt Henry was the act of the night and I loved his version of David Gray’s ‘Babylon’. But poor old Matt was voted off first, which probably means he’ll have the most success out of any of the final four. I feel though it’s easy to see where it all went wrong for Leah, who became an instant sensation when she entered the itunes chart. Firstly she chose to sing karaoke classic ‘I Will Always Love You’, a song that didn’t suit her quirky sensibilities. Then she had to do her best with Will’s new version of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang, Bang’, from ‘The Great Gatsby’, which isn’t the greatest song to sing to showcase vocal prowess. Though she reminded us why we loved her so much to begin with, by singing ‘Loving You’, I felt it was too little too late.
This brings us to Andrea, a girl who a lot of people have seen as the token sob-story candidate. I’ve never really had a problem with Andrea and have seen her as a lovely girl with a pleasant voice. But at the same time I can’t see her as a chart-topping megastar who is on the same level as today’s biggest superstars. In fact, even the studio audience weren’t that into her performance and I’m convinced I saw someone asleep during her rendition of ‘In the Arms of the Angels.’ I feel to an extent that Andrea has been thrown under the bus as it seems the winner of The Voice UK won’t go on to have lasting success. In fact Tom Jones, who mentored last year’s ‘winner’ Leanne, said he could’ve done more with her if she hadn’t won. Because of this I feel that Leah and maybe Mike will go on to have more success than Andrea. So does this mean The Voice has failed? I personally don’t think so. If the show has exposed some new artists into the public consciousness then I feel it’s done its job. I’m somebody who’ll stand up for The Voice UK to an extent and I feel that it has the most talented acts of any talent show around. The Battle Rounds were a particular highlight of mine and, on a whole, the songs chosen were a cut above those you normally hear on The X-Factor. At the same time I feel the show’s format has confused some people while the coaches’ personalities feel stale. As we know there’s a third series of The Voice UK, and I feel that a refresh of both the panel and the hosting line-up is needed. If this is done then next year’s show should hopefully feel like we’re watching it in 2014 and not 2004.
Despite some feeling BBC3′s output contains nothing but lewd sitcoms and endless repeats of Snog, Marry, Avoid, it does produce some of the best documentaries on British television. Take for example their new three-part series Don’t Call Me Crazy, centring on the McGuinness Mental Health Unit in Manchester. The unit specialises in dealing with young people who suffer from mental illness and attempts to help them deal with their disorders so that they can manage their lives when they’re back home. This first episode followed three girls who were at all different stages of the spectrum. We met OCD sufferer Emma, who had been at the unit for a couple of weeks and was incredibly nervy and withdrawn. The audience were able to witness her disorder first hand when, following a room search, she was paranoid that the mess in her room would cause something to happen to her parents. But gradually Emma got better and was eventually able to leave the unit behind. Unfortunately, this isn’t always so easy and we saw this through the case of Beth who was suffering from an eating disorder. Initially I saw Beth as rather a cheery sort who, like Emma, would be released from the unit after a few weeks. But instead the documentary watched her decline as she refused to eat voluntarily and had to force herself to even have one sip of a calorie-filled shake. The end of the first episode saw Beth sectioned after the unit’s medical staff felt that she could no longer make decisions for herself. Finally there was Gill, a girl who had made several attempts on her life and was definitely the most extreme case shown in episode one. Gill, who spends a lot of time away from the other girls, escaped the unit completely at one point and seemed to be incredibly unstable. What I liked about the documentary was the way it balanced the gravity of the girls’ situation against the humour employed by some of the staff members. I felt the staff members deserved particular praise for dealing with their charges in a responsible and kind-hearted manner. Don’t Call me Crazy never patronised and was a brilliant example of the kind of programming that should be shown to youngsters to explain mental illness to them. Though there were some shocking scenes I felt that they were never sensationalised and instead added to the stories of the three girls. Overall this was an outstanding piece of documentary film-making that I feel should be shown to as many people as possible.
On now to Channel 4 and their new moral dilemma series Eye Spy. The programme is hosted and narrated by Stephen Fry and aims to discover if we Brits are as rotten as the papers make us out to be. The show is basically a bunch of hidden camera stunts with various moral dilemmas attached to them. So for example the show asked if anyone would take an unchained bike, the answer was only in London, or if anyone would steal a bag full of money that they found in a phone box. There was also a number of on-location stunts in a restaurant that was frequented by Channel 4′s own Rick Edwards. These stunts involved waiter insulting various couples due to their race. So, for example, a inter-race couple were being harassed by a waiter and the show waited to see how long it would take for somebody to speak up. I felt it was interesting that a lot of people wanted to do something but none really had the courage to make a scene. Eventually the Londoners rose up against the racist waiter but in Manchester they kept themselves to themselves. I personally found some of Eye Spy quite intriguing, but there were some moments that were essentially just filler. For example a cinema full of people had to judge various moral dilemmas using glow-sticks, while there was also a recreation of the Haribo advert involving kids and marshmallows. I really think that Eye Spy work best as a 30 minute show that was based around three or four dilemmas. But, in an hour-long format, it just felt a bit too repetitive with a lot of the stunts seeming incredibly similar. Ultimately the show proved that some people will go out of their way to be helpful while others will just get on with their day without batting an eyelid. I personally didn’t need a programme to tell me this and that’s why I found the show’s findings a little redundant. However, the one moral dilemma we didn’t see was ‘If you’re respected actor, presenter and general wit should you accept a large amount of money to host a show that you feel is beneath you?’ But by the end of the show I think the answer to this one was pretty clear.
The Eye Spy folks also missed out another moral quandary, namely if a man has a hilarious yet life-threatening illness is it alright to laugh at him? Thankfully that question was answered three nights earlier on Channel 4 in The Man With the Ten Stone Testicles. The subject of this documentary was Warren William, a Las Vegas native, who had turned around in bed violently and as a result injured his testicular sac. Since then it had started to grow at an alarming rate to the extent where he couldn’t function on a daily basis and had to rely on a couple of close friends to help him with basic tasks. The programme explored how Warren, who was on welfare benefits, couldn’t get a senior surgeon to deal with his problem as he didn’t have health insurance. It also briefly looked at how the media can both build you up and knock you down as Warren became a TV star as he set up an appeal to pay for the surgery. However, the campaign backfired when somebody felt that Warren was addicted to the fame and he was forced to drop his media appearances after his benefits were cut-off. Eventually he found a surgeon who was willing to perform the operation for free and thankfully Warren’s story had a happy ending. It’s odd when people will have a reaction to a programme without watching it first, and I feel that’s what happened with The Man with the Ten Stone Testicles. Those who didn’t watch, and just read the name, were ready to make jokes about him straight away and took to Twitter to voice their hilarious quips. Meanwhile, the four million of us who did watch saw a tender story told about a man who just wanted to live a normal life but was prevented from doing so by the American healthcare system and the media. The only issue I had with the programme was the name itself as it almost welcomed people to mock the documentary rather than to sympathise with Warren. I feel that it was ultimately Channel 4′s responsibility to set a definitive tone for this documentary, however I couldn’t decide if it wanted to take itself seriously or not. While Warren’s story was definitely one that should’ve been told on TV, I feel that Channel 4 almost exploited his case to provide a sensationalist programme title which would attract a lot of interest from viewers and non-viewers alike.
Next Time: Luther, Starlings and Your Face Sounds Familiar