It is an epic battle for the ages, and one that’s happening much sooner than we assumed it would. Last night and tonight, NBC and FOX will each air a reality show that basically devolves down to karaoke and lyrical skills. People have to sing lyrics of hit songs, and then they receive money. They’re basically the same show…in theory. But, based on tonight’s edition of The Singing Bee on NBC, and descriptions of FOX’s Don’t Forget the Lyrics, it appears as if we’re preparing for two different types of show.
How is this all happening, two shows almost identical making it to air? Well, NBC announced The Singing Bee as a fall show in May. And then, in early June, FOX announced that it had its own show, hosted by Wayne Brady, premiering in July. NBC, not taking too kindly to yet another The Contender/The Next Great Champ debacle (Where NBC’s Mark Burnett produced boxing reality show was beaten to air by FOX’s near identical show), rushed The Singing Bee into production to beat it by a night with Joey Fatone (Of N*Sync fame) as their host. I’m almost surprised FOX didn’t rush to air their edition on Monday, although it will have a cushy So You Think You Can Dance lead-in to match NBC’s America’s Got Talent lead-in.
But what about the shows themselves? In terms of NBC’s The Singing Bee, it’s actually a really interesting experience. Because, much like America’s Got Talent, it is really hearkening back to an older generation of variety and game show television. There are no million dollar prizes, no friends from home there to root them on, and the show begins and ends all within a single thirty minute episode. People are even pulled from the audience, even when you know it isn’t close to random. Does this make for good television? Well, sort of.
The show has its pros and its cons. On the pros side, Fatone is a decent host and isn’t trying to ham it up too much (His reaction to being forced to use N’Sync as a lyric wasn’t annoying, which is saying something considering the potential for hamming it up in that moment). Also, the show’s karaoke renditions of various songs were diverse and actually sounded fairly decent. Plus, their final round is entitled “The Final Countdown” and is accompanied by the musical stylings of Europe’s fantastic track immortalized by Gob Bluth. And therefore I can’t help but be entertained.
Plus, as someone who likes old game shows, it was kind of refreshing to see something on a smaller scale and something that didn’t try to turn every contestant into a larger than life personality. I’m someone who knows a lot of lyrics, so the show was appealing to me in that degree. It flowed briskly, never felt bogged down, and certainly never got “boring”.
On the cons side, however, it was also entirely forgettable. Part of what makes reality TV event television for so many is that each episode feels impactful. Over the past few years, this has been achieved by making players into personalities and by including large cash prizes…neither of which can be found within Singing Bee. I, personally, love old game shows with small prizes and think that there’s some value…but others might just look at the series as a Game Show Network reject. And that isn’t the image I think NBC is going for.
How will it compare to Wayne Brady’s FOX series coming tomorrow night? We’ll see tomorrow, as it will be my channel surfing alternative to Canadian Idol which is airing in the same timeslot to also take advantage of the extended “So You Think You Can Dance?”.