Okay, let’s be honest: we don’t really need two shows about lyrics, or karaoke, or whatever we want to call this particular brand of programming. NBC’s The Singing Bee and FOX’s Don’t Forget the Lyrics should, by all logic, cancel one another out from my cultural consciousness. However, in the end, I think that it’s important to declare a winner in this epic showdown. And, contrary to my initial opinion, I think that Don’t Forget the Lyrics is the clear winner.
Originally, my inclination moved to The Singing Bee a more traditional game show which is a genre that I have a soft spot for. However, in its second episode, it was clear that NBC’s series was far too rushed to be worth my time. The show had no momentum, no groove if you will: each episode was as personality-less as the last, and the various different gimmicky lyric challenges showed their inability to feel comfortable with their formula.
And really, while I might like to sit down with a predictable and simplistic game show when flipping through the channels, I don’t really see it as primetime viewing. And I think that’s the problem: the show just doesn’t feel like something is taking place. It lacks any weight, any drama, any comedy. It lacks, well, everything.
While I originally plastered it for being derivative, over time it has become clear that Don’t Forget the Lyrics has managed to stabilize into about as good as it could possibly become. The contestants have personality, the amount of singing feels better and more entertaining, and “playing along” feels much more natural. People make choices, and therefore we can relate to their decisions and make our own at home.
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.