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’?