The Voice: elements of TV talent show need to be reviewed, says BBC

Despite its big-name judges, there are signs that viewers have fallen out of love with programme's swivel-chair novelty

When the BBC's Saturday night search for the newest singing sensation, The Voice, bows out after its live final this weekend, there will be more at stake than the fate of the show's winner.

Audiences for the show have been dwarfed by Simon Cowell's boisterous ITV rival, Britain's Got Talent, amid signs that viewers are falling out love with The Voice's swivel-chair novelty.

The BBC has confirmed the show will return for a third series but critics say it must be overhauled if it is to compete for Saturday night viewers.

In early episodes, singers perform to the backs of chairs occupied by judges, Jessie J, Tom Jones and Danny O'Donoghue of Irish band The Script. If any of the judges thinks the singer's voice has potential, their chair swivels around and the singer is chosen. Later episodes follow a more familiar knockout format.

"It's embarrassing for the BBC that they can't do anything to stop the ratings decline as soon as the spinning chairs go," said Boyd Hilton, TV and reviews editor for Heat magazine.

The ratings gap with Britain's Got Talent has narrowed since Cowell's show launched in April, when it pulled in an audience of 6.7 million – nearly 4 million more than The Voice.

Close to 6 million tuned into the BBC1 show last weekend, setting Saturday's live final up for unflattering comparisons with the Britain's Got Talent climax, which was the highest-rating TV show of the year.

But Mark Linsey, the BBC's entertainment controller, insisted he is happy with how The Voice has fared.

He said: "It's always tricky to land these shows on Saturday night and get the format right and they're ever-evolving, but I'm pleased."

Linsey is tipped to be named the new BBC1 controller after Danny Cohen, who paid £22m for the first two series of The Voice, was promoted to director of television. And Linsey believes The Voice can become a fixture of Saturday nights for years to come.

He conceded that elements of the show will be reviewed ahead of its return next year: "We will have those conversations straight away – reviewing formats and looking at what works and what didn't work, and checking the availability of the coaches."

This year's expected winner is Leah McFall, a 23-year-old soul singer praised by her coach for her "incredible range and crazy work ethic".

With odds of 1/3 to win, bookmakers Ladbrokes said: "The others may as well not turn up." More bets have been taken on McFall than any other contestant in the past two series of the show. One punter in Belfast staked £10,000 on her last week.

It would go down as one of the biggest TV talent show upsets in recent memory were McFall to miss out.

But she faces competition from Mike Ward (a country singer coached by Jones), Andrea Begley (coached by O'Donoghue) and Matt Henry (a youth worker coached by Jessie J).


Josh Halliday

The GuardianTramp

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