Rosie Millard: Viewers want to see talent, not crying

We're having too bad a time for misery on a Saturday night

Related Topics

As comedowns go, it was quite low key. But so significant. Simon Cowell, who has never been rattled by worldwide contempt of his trousers, his hair or his manner, has let himself get upset. And he let us know in a terse statement. "A slightly irritated congrats to Danny and the BBC," went the tweet. Of course, television rivalry is the only thing capable of irking Cowell, a man who has forged his career through it. The provocation was that singing contest The Voice, (made by British indy Wall to Wall and Dutch TV company Talpa under the auspices of Danny Cohen, controller of BBC1), is currently trouncing his baby, Britain's Got Talent. And after only three weeks into the competition! The truth is that BGT, even with Mr Nasty himself back as King Judge, is looking old and tired in Saturday night's Shiny Floor Show Fight To the Death. Nearly 10 million of us are watching The Voice, (which, in a senior-friendly casting masterstroke has Sir Tom Jones in the line-up), while BGT, over on ITV could only manage 9.1 million. At its peak last Saturday night, 10.7 million were watching The Voice – and in the crucial 20-minute crossover where the two go out simultaneously, it was ahead by 4 million.

The old adage that it takes a couple of seasons for an entertainment show to win more than 10 million viewers has been comprehensively liquidised and gulped back by Jessie J. You can almost hear the screams of joy issuing from Broadcasting House. Plus, Saturday night entertainment is ITV's thing, and to pour cold water on it from a bucket held by Sir Tom Jones is sweet indeed. Interestingly, the critics seem to be as irritated by The Voice as Cowell. AA Gill sneeringly dubbed it a "silk-cushion option ... an underwhelming event," while cheering on BGT as "bigger than the sum of its contestants". Well, so much for his barometer.

Viewers, it seems, like to see people doing something well. And not something silly, either, like obese men stripping, "finger knitting" or dancing in wheelbarrows. They enjoy people celebrating a skill, which singing well in public is. They don't care that some of the acts have sung in public before. They clearly appreciate the fact that the coaches – all decent singers themselves – give constructive criticism, not sarcasm. They do not want to see children crying on stage. Or adults shouted off. We're having too bad a time generally for misery on a Saturday night. Susan Boyle went through all that; she came out a star – but for every SuBo, there is a lot of BGT cannon fodder now walking around with zero self-belief.

So will Cowell turn to the light and start being a bit nicer? If he's got any nous, he should. Because if audiences have gone lukewarm on the talent-free gladiatorial circus that is BGT, what about his other baby? Who on earth will care about the X Factor when it returns? No wonder ITV was desperate to purchase The Voice, and no wonder the BBC is cockahoop that it did.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Caitlyn Jenner's first shoot is a victory - but is this really best version of femininity we can aspire to?

Sirena Bergman
The sun balances next to St Albans Church in Earsdon, North Tyneside.  

The world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change

Michael McCarthy
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral