Fiona Sturges on All Together Now
T“This is no ordinary singing competition,” promises the voiceover at the start of All Together Now (Saturday, 7.15pm, BBC One), in which members of the public honk their way through pop classics in the hope of trousering £50,000 and a selfie with Geri “Ginger Spice” Horner.
Mere months after the choral contest Pitch Battle, the Gary Barlow-masterminded Let It Shine and Sky’s Sing: Ultimate A Cappella limped off under a cloud of poor ratings comes this dismal six-parter trying to plug the Saturday night entertainment gap. Quite possibly the most half-arsed talent show of all time, All Together Now is an illustration of how, even when the barrel has been scraped clean, commissioning editors remain resolute in their belief that we will watch any old bollocks just as long as they throw in a Spice Girl.
This, naturally, is a show with a “twist”. So rather than having contestants perform in front of the usual hatchet-faced judging panel, our wannabes are required to strut their stuff in front of “The 100”: a throng of “experts”, among them cruise-ship entertainers, West End performers, pub singers, wedding crooners, session musicians and tribute artists, all arranged vertically like the Galactic Senate in Star Wars. It is, to put it charitably, the hopeful leading the hopeless.
To the rules, then, which dictate that, roughly half a minute into a given performance, members of The 100 can vote with their feet – and their vocal cords. If they would like a performer to stay
‘This show is basically televised karaoke after the tequila has been cracked open’
in the game, they must jump up and sing along with them. All of which means this is less a show about unearthing new talent than a publicity-chasing bunfight in which the judges endlessly mug for the camera, and contestants are rewarded not for their singing but their ability to pick a good song. It’s basically televised karaoke after the tequila’s been cracked open, the egos uncorked, and someone is already collapsed in the corner barfing into an ice bucket.
Anyone hoping that head judge Geri would successfully perform CPR on this ailing conceit will already have sent for an ambulance, since here she looks defeated and grimly aware that, after years spent paddling against the tide of post-Spice oblivion, she’s now reduced to jostling for screen time amid 99 anonymous pillocks. The show nonetheless dwells on the judges’ thoughtful and insightful criticism. “Ooh, she made me go all funny,” gibbers wedding singer Jessica, pointing at her goose pimples following Harriette from Cheltenham’s earsplitting version of Don’t Look Back in Anger. Meanwhile, host and comedian Rob Beckett, charged with the fruitless task of building the tension, cheers himself up by quietly taking the piss. “Topman’s had a sale,” he murmurs as Triple Fret, a three-piece boyband, enter stage left.
In the pantheon of TV talent shows, All Together Now isn’t merely a dead horse. It’s the horse’s dusty remains, identifiable only by an old tooth and some mouldering tufts of mane, over which Ginger Spice stands despondently holding a whip. Truly, it’s time to pull the plug on this deathless format. All things must pass. For the love of God, make the singing shows stop.
Judge dread: Rob Beckett and Geri Horner