The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - NEWS - Fiona Looney is on hol­i­day

Right then, guys and girls, lit­tle peo­ple of the world, do­mes­tic pets and any aliens that may be read­ing. I’ve fi­nally come up with it. ‘It’ be­ing the thing I’ve been try­ing to come up with for ages. My feed­ing-in process has con­sisted of 15 years of won­der­ment at the ge­nius of Who Wants To Be A Mil­lion­aire?. Such a sim­ple for­mat: so clever, so bombproof. I al­ways wanted to em­u­late it, and though I lived in hope, I never thought I ac­tu­ally would. And here’s what I’ve come up with…

Be­cause I’m a light-en­ter­tain­ment sort of guy at heart, be­cause I’m so against mak­ing kids cry on telly in the name of rat­ings, it seems my in­dus­tri­ous Num­skulls have come up with some­thing that’s sort of the op­po­site of that. So what is it? All right, enough of the tease. With­out any fur­ther ado, ladies and gentle­men, please get ready for the ar­rival of… Sing For Your Sup­per.

Here’s what will hap­pen: Seven peo­ple will be plucked from an arena au­di­ence of thou­sands, and just mo­ments later will be asked to sing live on telly, ac­com­pa­nied by a full live band. That’s real mu­si­cians play­ing real in­stru­ments; no back­ing tracks. But also no queues, no weeks of end­less au­di­tions, no tragedy dressed up as tri­umph — just a good old time had by all.

What will the seven singers win? Sup­per on us, straight af­ter the show. The seven sup­pers will range from fish and chips around the cor­ner (for the least-best per­for­mance) to a meal at the finest res­tau­rant in the area (for who­ever gets the big­gest thumbs-up). But that’s it. There is no more. No end­less, on-screen au­di­tions. No PRspin­ning head­lines about the tragedy or tu­mult of the con­tes­tants’ backgrounds. And most im­por­tant of all, there’ll be NO CRUEL TEARS and no shat­ter­ing of dreams lead­ing to un­told psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional dam­age. We’ll never have heard of any of the singers be­fore the show. And we’ll most likely never hear of them again. Be­cause it’s all just for fun. Hey, do you re­mem­ber that? En­ter­tain­ment for the sheer hell of it? No one gets hurt, no one feels dirty or less of a per­son af­ter watch­ing it. And ev­ery­one wants to be there, be­cause no­body loses and ev­ery­body wins. It’s the same idea that was at the heart of Don’t For­get Your Tooth­brush.

Sing For Your Sup­per will also be unique in that it’ll be­gin an hour be­fore we go live on the air. To my knowl­edge this has never been done be­fore. The ac­tion will start straight away, as we be­gin to pluck out that night’s singers from the au­di­ence right there and then. Once cho­sen, our Mag­nif­i­cent Seven will have just two back­stage run-throughs of the given song. While they ready them­selves, the host (me, I think) will carry on invit­ing peo­ple up on stage to sing with zero prac­tice. Should any of these have-a-go heroes prove su­per-tal­ented, they’ll be thrown into the mix too. Why? Be­cause a pro­gramme that’s so sure of it­self can cope with any­thing thrown in at the last minute. By the time we go live, Sing For Your Sup­per will be hit­ting the ground run­ning, as it’ll tech­ni­cally be half­way through the night’s events. No other TV show has done this be­fore. From the mo­ment the show be­gins, we’re on the way to dis­cov­er­ing who’s go­ing to eat what, where and with whom that night. Like most of what’s good about life, it’s gor­geously sim­ple, it’s to­tally in­no­cent and it’s pos­i­tive.

It’s also the show I wish I could have pitched to my beloved BBC but they’d al­ready com­mit­ted to The Voice. It’s less than half the price, 10 times the fun and it eu­phor­i­cally es­chews the delu­sory prom­ise of fame and for­tune. No one is go­ing to go home dis­ap­pointed from a night at Sing For Your Sup­per, be­cause even if you mess up, you get to be on the telly and have a slap-up meal (or a bag of fish and chips) over which to laugh about it. Plus, from a cor­po­rate point of view, be­cause it’s an orig­i­nal for­mat, it can be sold around the world and pay for it­self a thou­sand times over.

Es­sen­tially, Sing For Your Sup­per is the anti-X Fac­tor. So it was im­por­tant that I take it to a chan­nel that agrees it’s time to push the bound­aries and draw a new line in the show­biz sand. Who wouldn’t love the chance to sing in front of an arena au­di­ence, while be­ing broad­cast live on the telly, with lit­tle or no risk to their pri­vacy or san­ity? Just the once, just to know how it feels?

And so it’s done. Sing For Your Sup­per has been de­manded by the en­ter­tain­ment gods. Be­cause ev­ery­one knows from the off that there’ll be no pseudo-life-chang­ing car­rots dan­gled in front of their noses, if you do get cho­sen, great. And if you don’t, no big deal. No one gets hurt. Ev­ery­one goes home smil­ing. Now, that’s en­ter­tain­ment... And on which chan­nel will this lit­tle gem be broad­cast? Ah, for that, you’ll have to wait and see.

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