ANNE GILDEA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - REAL LIFE - Anne.gildea@mailon­sun­day.ie

Do ray me, me, me, me, me’ goes the old gag about di­vas do­ing their vo­cal ex­er­cises. But last Sun­day, for the singers in RTÉ’s The Voice, it was more a case of ‘Do, ray, me, fa, so, la, tea, tea, tea, tea.’ It be­ing the fi­nal, the celebrity coaches vis­ited the homes of the four fi­nal­ists, and if it was one mug of liq­uid wel­come we saw be­ing of­fered, it was 100,000.

The hopes of, if not the en­tire na­tion, then sev­eral small towns were rid­ing on the out­come of this com­pe­ti­tion — so the pro­gramme mak­ers sug­gested with the bog- stan­dard re­al­ity-TV clichés. Show the lo­cals with their fin­gers and toes crossed for their neigh­bour- con­tes­tant, the ‘Vote for...’ posters in the lo­cal draper’s win­dow, the hot tea of hope pour­ing from the hum­ble spouts down home. Any one of the four could be The One by the end of this broad­cast! They could be the new ‘what’s-his-name’ who won the first se­ries, only a year ago. Rather than fo­cus on re­al­ity, the hype was ratch­eted up so much, the win­ner might be­lieve they were the next Elvis.

It was ter­ri­fy­ing: ‘It’s all in the hands of the pub­lic… That is so scary,’ said Jamelia. Oh, ‘The Pub­lic’, fickle yokes. It was glamorous: a ‘fa­mous’ singer joined each con­tes­tant for their first song. The kind of ‘fa­mous’ that does need an in­tro­duc­tion. ‘Ladies and gen­tle­men, Paul Walsh’ — who? It was lovely: with RTÉ’s ver­sion of The Loveli­est Girl In All The Land, Kathryn Thomas, pre­sent­ing; the au­di­ence full of fam­ily, in­clud­ing a blush­ing parish priest from Done­gal, and one con­tes­tant on the cusp of child­birth (Bressie if it’s a boy, Jamelia if it’s a girl, I’m guess­ing).

It was, ul­ti­mately, harsh re­al­ity: the lady with child, Kelly, was the favourite, ap­par­ently. But then it came down to the fi­nal vote from them there Pub­lic. Kathryn took the usual Very Long dra­matic pauses be­fore an­nounc­ing each vote, and made them even longer. Idea: they could have turned up the ten­sion even more if they’d had a dance troupe jazz- dance by dur­ing each mas­sive pause, car­ry­ing a ban­ner say­ing, ‘Janey, isn’t this tense or what?’ Se­ries three, lads…

One by one, the run­ners-up were named, and one of them was Kelly. The Pub­lic went for a teen called Keith as win­ner — my favourite, too, on the night be­cause he sang, like, re­ally fast. The voice isn’t that spe­cial, to my ear, but fair play with the very fast singing. There’s a singing auc­tion­eer in the lad, if the show­biz doesn’t

A ‘fa­mous’ singer joined each of the con­tes­tants – the kind of fa­mous that does need an in­tro­duc­tion

work out. The rest of the vo­cals were, to me, a bal­lady mush. ‘You’re telling me I should for­get you,’ war­bled the Done­gal run­ner-up, not very mem­o­rably. My en­joy­ment of the evening was en­hanced, though, by watch­ing it in the com­pany of, amongst oth­ers, a 50-some­thing cur­mud­geon. Each per­for­mance was met with: ‘Oh God, that is woe­geous!’; ‘Oh Lord, that is so or­di­nary’; ‘Oh Christ…’ I thought he was go­ing to im­plode with the dis­tress­ing ba­nal­ity of it all.

He’s an artist who was think­ing of en­ter­ing the lat­est re­al­ity TV com­pe­ti­tion him­self: Sky Arts’ Por­trait Artist of the Year Award. Road shows for the se­ries will be shot over the sum­mer in Dublin, Cardiff, Glas­gow and Lon­don. The win­ner will be ex­hib­ited in Lon­don’s National Por­trait Gallery and get a com­mis­sion to paint the author Hi­lary Man­tel. But the re­al­ity hit him as he watched the four judges in their silly red chairs puff about the singers’ per­for­mances: ‘Jay­sus, I can’t imag­ine tak­ing crits from a bunch of judges like that.’ Re­sult: he de­cided not to en­ter.

I, too, re­cently had a brush with a re­al­ity show. I was con­tacted about be­ing on the Ir­ish Celebrity MasterChef com­pe­ti­tion. My gut reaction was ‘no way’ be­cause it sounded too much like hard work and weird ex­po­sure, and toast is about the acme of my chef skills. Then I thought ‘weird pub­lic­ity’ is still pub­lic­ity, and I have a book com­ing out in Septem­ber, and The Nualas will be on the road and isn’t be­ing on any ould kind of telly bet­ter than a poster on a lamp-post? So I called my sis­ter-in-law, a pro­fes­sional gourmet chef, and she said, ‘Def­i­nitely do it! I can teach you.’

And though that sounded like even more hard work, de­spite my gut, I thought, ‘Okay.’ I called the pro­gramme pro­ducer and said yes, warn­ing that I was far from a chef, and wasn’t, as it turned out, avail­able for the whole run. But I as­sured her I’d be get­ting knocked out quick sharp. She said she’d be back to me within a week. I crossed my fin­gers that they wouldn’t go with me, while feel­ing good that I’d been open to an un­so­licited op­por­tu­nity. And that was five weeks ago.

Haven’t heard a sausage — or should I say a chorizo — since. I pre­sume I was deemed nei­ther foodie nor celebby enough, thank God. So, what will they be cook­ing up on RTÉ One this sum­mer: Ge­orge Hook’s boeuf en croute, Twink’s duck avec sugar- craft, Lucinda Creighton’s oeufs brouil­lés? And is any of that enough to feed our ever-grow­ing hunger for ‘re­al­ity’?

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