WEB EXCLUSIVE: Couch Potato on why The Voice is “The X Factor minus all the fun bits”

(Left - right) Reggie Yates, Danny O'Donoghue, Tom Jones, Jessie J , Will.I.Am and Holly Willoughby pose for photographs at the launch of the new BBC TV show The Voice UK in London.  Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
(Left - right) Reggie Yates, Danny O'Donoghue, Tom Jones, Jessie J , Will.I.Am and Holly Willoughby pose for photographs at the launch of the new BBC TV show The Voice UK in London. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Have your say

Our Sunday web-only columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:

It arrived with a fanfare and a forthright declaration of what it wanted to be, or rather, what it definitely did not want to be.

“It’s all about the voice.”

“It’s uniquely about talent.”

“It’s a singing competition unlike any other because it puts vocal ability first.”

“It’s not like a traditional karaoke talent show.”

It’s BBC1’s The Voice which landed last Saturday with all the subtlety of the Canyon Diablo meteorite in the Arizona desert and is nothing whatsoever like The X Factor.

That is complete tosh, of course. It’s The X Factor minus all the fun bits, which I’ll come to after giving Auntie’s great white hope some brief slack.

The show, which features four “coaches” facing away from the singers and judging them purely on their voice, had the best Saturday night TV ratings debut in five years.

The panel – Tom Jones, Jessie J, Will.he.is and someone named Danny O’Donoghue – is pretty decent and, crucially, contains no member of Girls Aloud, N-Dubz, Take That or the Minogue family.

They have “countless number ones between them”, or 16, collectively. (I counted them, it really didn’t take that long).

The banter feels less forced than on X Factor, and because the coaches decide who they mentor instead of having them thrust on them, you won’t have a situation come the live shows where they’ll say something ridiculous to a performer they don’t believe in, like: “Frankie Cocozza, you’re a born rock star.”

Best of all, they’ve got spinny chairs.

I can’t, however, shake the feeling that once the gimmick of the blind auditions is over, it’s going to run out of steam in a hurry.

More worrying, though, is the already apparent endemic, snooty, snobbish attitude that has doomed every talent show the BBC has attempted over the last decade, from Fame Academy to So You Think You Can Dance.

It is simply that, despite repeated insistence to the contrary, they’ve taken all the elements of Simon Cowell’s singing show, apart from the one that elevates it to greatness – the amusingly woeful auditions.

So while Britain’s Got Talent last weekend had the mad brilliance of a German named Dennis Egel and the water-cooler moment of young opera singer Jonathan Antoine, The Voice was a sea of grey that actually disguised its real ambition – to be The X Factor.

If that’s not the case, why are they using that series’ vocal coach Yvie Burnett, or inviting a singer on last night who’s previously made it through to X Factor Bootcamp, twice.

They’ve already split up a couple (Cowell’s signature move) and some X Factor judges’ catchphrases are creeping into their vocabulary.

“You’ve made those two songs yours.”

“You need to make it your own.”

“You kicked it.”

The categories even seem the same, with Jessie J more or less overseeing the girls and Tom Jones the overs (over 16 stones, that is).

But the most regrettable act of X Factor theft is the sob stories: “I’ve been picked on.” “I’ve suffered with alopecia since I was a young girl.” “My mother passed away four years ago.” “I’m Sean Conlon and I was in 5ive.”

What’s gone from funny to annoying the quickest, however, is the panel’s constant name-dropping.

Will.i.am: “I was living in Ireland with Michael Jackson, we were recording.”

Jones: “I sang with Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry...”

Jessie J: “I did a gig with Macy Gray a couple of weeks ago in Brazil.”

And Danny O’Donoghue. Well, okay, he hasn’t actually dropped any names yet.

But he will have this one for the future: “I once sat on a doomed BBC1 talent show panel next to Tom Jones, Jessie J and Will.i.am.”


Just A Minute, on BBC2, a simple analysis. Works on radio, doesn’t work on television.

See also, Chris Moyles.


I was surprised to flick over to Challenge channel on Monday to see a young Konnie Huq on a 1992 episode of Blockbusters.

Bob Holness asked her: “You’ve appeared on television before, haven’t you? Where was it?”

Huq: “It was on Blue Peter.”

Of course it was, Bob. I can’t believe you didn’t recognise her.

She presented the damn thing from 1997 to 2008.


This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:

ITV1 wasting everyone’s time by remaking Titanic (it sinks, get over it).

The BBC axing the brilliantly entertaining Total Wipeout to recoup part of the £22 million it’s spent on The Voice.

Watchdog investigating which Easter Eggs look the biggest but really have a lot of cardboard in the box.

BBC1 failing to understand the concept of “highlights” by showing two hours of the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Sport Relief: The Mile Show presenting us with the horrifying prospect that the Beeb’s coverage of the London Olympics will be merely an extension of The One Show.

And MOTD2 going a pun too far during its post-match analysis of the West Brom v Newcastle match with the on-screen caption: “Baggies trousered.”

So we can look forward to the next Wolverhampton Wanderers game. “Wolves to the slaughter.”


This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:

TV Burp’s final episode. The return of Mad Men, on Sky Atlantic, with 1960s commercials during the breaks.

One night (the third night) of BBC1’s four-night drama One Night (work that one out).

And Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards winning all four Winter Wipeout courses, which means I would be even faster than him over the Big Red Balls, having once, drunkenly, beaten him in an arcade ski race.

Sadly, now, we’ll never know.


Standing in for a crocked Lorraine Kelly this week on her ITV1 morning show was the one, the only, Fiona Phillips.

A woman who, aside from the line-fluffing (“The website is on our website”) and the sheer daftness (“Tanker driver Steve says, ‘I’m a tanker driver...’”) has three distinct settings.

There’s the flirting: “I won’t be kissing you, Patrick (Duffy). Well, I might, you never know.”

“This early in the morning you are smouldering, Chace (Crawford), it has to be said. You’ve got very good skin.”

“Gary Lineker, you are a little boys’ idol all over the country, I have to say, and grown-up women’s, I have to say.”

That’s not all she has to say, though. There’s also the “Fiona knows best” setting:

Lineker: “Danielle has a movie coming out. It’s called We Are The Freaks.”

Phillips: “No, We Are Freaks, not We Are The Freaks, Gary. It’s just We Are Freaks. Husbands, they never listen, do they?”

(Lineker, who let it go, had listened correctly).

To Holby City actor Hari Dhillon: “You have a birthday in your family on Thursday, don’t you?”

“Yes, our youngest, he’s having his first birthday.”

“No, he’s having his second. He’s already one.”

“No, this is his first.”

“Why should I know more about your son than you?”

And setting number three, bringing every conversation back to herself.

To Joanna Page: “Have you got that photo of David Cameron bowing to you at Downing Street?”


“Do you know I’ve got one of me with the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance?”

Patrick Duffy, recalling his wife crying while seeing him in bed with Victoria Principal on Dallas: “I asked, ‘Why are you reacting that way?’ and she said, ‘You had a look on your face I thought you only had with me’.”

Phillips: “I think I’ve seen my husband doing that.”

And, after seven minutes of biting her tongue during an interview with Charlotte Moore, a mother of two autistic lads, simply couldn’t resist returning to her favourite topic: “You’re so inspirational. I mean, I’ve got two boys and I find it hard to cope with them sometimes.”

Please, get well soon, Lorraine.


Embarrassing Bodies featured the case of Yvonne “whose poos are at a standstill and are golf-ball sized”.

She said tests revealed she has “a slow transit through the bowel”.

No wonder she’s got problems, with a sluggish Ford van in there.

If only it was a Honda Odyssey. They go like s*** off a shovel.


Make up your own answers time on C4’s The Million Pound Drop: Live last Saturday with this question from Davina:

“Why did Richard Madeley tweet today that he was considering suing the press? Was it that they took naked shots of Judy? They photographed him in bondage gear? They criticised him for driving after drinking a glass of wine (the correct answer)? Or they alleged he was boring and had girls’ hair?”

The two contestants lost £125,000 on the latter, which is surely the legal definition of the libel defence “fair comment”, and £200,000 on the first possible answer, about his wife, which was clearly ridiculous.

Because if I opened a newspaper to be greeted with naked pictures of Judy Finnigan, Madeley needn’t sue.

I’d claim damages against them myself.

Ditto the bondage gear.


Phillip Schofield on ITV1 last Sunday night: “An amazing performance of the legendary Bolero – that can mean only one thing.”

It’s time to turn over to Countryfile.

But also, apparently, it was the final of Dancing On Ice where Emmerdale’s Matthew Wolfenden joined an elite band, including Gaynor Faye, Sam Attwater and Hayley Tamaddon, whose names you’ve vaguely heard of.

But everyone was attempting to build the tension nonetheless.

Christine Bleakley: “This has got to be one of the closest competitions of all time.”

Karen Hardy: “It’s our closest final yet.”

Christopher Dean: “This has been the best ever series.”

Bleakley again: “It’s been a tremendous series.”

It’s been the usual dirge, Christine. Not least the continued un-flushable presence of Louie Spence whose ice-skating expertise had him telling Wolfenden: “What you’ve just done on ice surpassed what you see on just feet.”

He needs to go, clearly, as does the whole show.

But if it must stay, Tony Gubba is a keeper for his bewildering commentary: “There were left-outside tree turns and then a drape, followed by inverted print pivots, clock lifts, a floating angel and a finally a roll-up into a carry and a caress.”

But what he does in the privacy of his commentary box is his own business really.


In memory of the dearly departed TV Burp, I give you This Week’s Apprentice In A Nutshell.

Jane McEvoy: “Maria fell asleep in the car.”

Lord Sugar: “Maria, you’re fired.”

(Cue the jingle). This Week’s Apprentice In A Nutshell.