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Is The Voice too nice by half?

The BBC talent show needs its own Simon Cowell, says Alison Graham

Published: Saturday, 14th February 2015 at 9:00 am

I love those "fawn having a cardiac arrest" moments in The Voice UK when a judge pushes the button and swings round to confront the emoting tyro who wants nothing more than to sing for a living. That brief glimpse of horror as the judge realises he/she has chosen someone who, shall we say, isn’t the accepted idea of a pop star. That little moment when “What the hell am I going to do with him/ her/this lot?” might as well be strung in fairy lights across the stage before the judge recovers enough to offer a slightly reserved hug.


I live for those moments. I hang on to them as if they were flotation aids in a wave machine just before everyone drowns in The Voice’s constant, enveloping foam of positive reinforcement. It’s at its worst when no one turns round, or when the judges who haven’t pressed their buttons get a hair shirt from the wardrobe department and beg forgiveness of the shrieking, tin-eared hopeful. Oh, how the judges wail that they wish they’d turned round, how they will beat themselves up for this until the curtain rings down on their own careers. Begging the question, why didn’t you turn round, then?

I understand this, it’s the BBC so people have to be kind, but there are times when I yearn for a Simon Cowell to deliver the coup de grâce, which is kinder in the end to the people whose mums, and only their mums, think they sing beautifully. The truth delivered early on will save them an awful lot of heartache later. Sorry, but you don't have much of a voice, you're off-key, it's not going to happen for you. Now off you go and do whatever makes you happy. Sing in pubs, sing in your living room, sing in your heart.

Yet The Voice’s soft mattresses of vapid encouragement, its downy pillows of egregious support, make me feel a bit sick and wanting to eat tar. I know I’m going to sound like Captain Mainwaring here, but television is turning us into wet blankets.

It’s not just talent shows that foster this general dampness. I must turn here to my local news station BBC London News, the natural home for the capital’s crybabies, a television news magazine that insists on cosseting every mewling milksop who has a tale of mild inconvenience.

A couple of years ago BBC London News invited a traumatised young woman to tell the story of how, during a snowstorm, her Tube train was terminated and she’d had to walk home. This was in a London winter, something that requires little more than a bobble hat and a pair of trainers. She wasn’t negotiating the Siberian permafrost with a team of huskies.

More recently it gave air-time to a man who had been caught in the post-Christmas King's Cross station closure and the ensuing chaos. This was described as a "terrible experience" and the “victim” was allowed to whine at length about his trauma in a specially filmed report.

But what had really happened to him? He had missed a train. He wasn’t dead or injured, he had missed a train. People of Gaza, people of Homs, people of Donetsk, can you hear this? People in Britain suffer, too, you know.

We are so weedy and pathetic – when we should be looking at what’s happening elsewhere in the world (see above) before we write down every single one of our blessings. And then we should just shut up.


The Voice is on BBC One tonight (Saturday 7th February) at 7.15pm


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