Thursday, July 12, 2007

Singing A Different Tune

Summer television viewing is always hit-or-miss. You can either watch reruns of shows you like (or those you didn't watch first time around due to other interests), or you can take a chance at something new. I did the later last night - though the two something-news I checked out had a lot of similarity.

NBC put on a new show this week called Singing Bee, hosted by N*SYNC member Joey Fatone. Joey is a likable enough host, always smiles and such. And he has his musical background to fall back on. The show actually debuted on Tuesday, but I missed it and caught the reshowing last night. Turns out this was originally slated for the fall season, but NBC had to rush it out this summer. Why?

FOX was putting out their own show called Don't Forget the Lyrics! , hosted by Wayne Brady, which debuted last night. I've been a fan of Wayne's since classic Who's Line Is It Anyway? from the BBC which Comedy Central used to air. I'd also catch his afternoon talk show when I could - he is always personable and has a great rapport with everybody he talks to. He's they type of guy I'd like to know, who would be great fun at parties or just to hang out with. And for DFTL!, they even managed to pull in the American Idol show band leader Ricky Minor over to help out. Why is it scary that I know that? Shudder.

Now, both shows are a half hour in length. Both are game shows (and boy do I have a long love-affair with game shows starting back in my childhood in the early 70's!). Both have live bands and contestants singing to win big sums of money. Both rely on contestants' knowledge of song lyrics from popular songs - again, something I enjoy. My brain is so full of song lyrics (most of them right) it is scary. My son looks at me oddly every time a song comes on the radio in the car and I just start singing out...sorry, I digress. Sounds like the same show, right? We'll, that's kind of where they diverge.

Singing Bee is like a classic spelling bee in that it has elimination rounds. It starts with six contestants picked "randomly" from the audience. Six become four when they have to finish lines from songs done by the band. And by finish, they have to be exact lyrics. Throw in an "oh" or "well" or anything and you are wrong! Bye bye bye, as Joey used to sing with his bandmates. The four then face off head-to-head in pairs, cutting it down to two. The two remaining then face off, and the winner gets to go to 'the Final Countdown' (yes, introduced by that famous 80's song snippet played by the band) where they have to try and get five out of seven songs right for $50,000. Everyone else gets nothing. So, the way it is structured, each show is self-contained.

DFTL! is more like a lot of game shows you've seen recently. Ten categories with two songs each (the contestant only has to work with one of the two songs in each category). Each song gotten right moves them up the money scale. There is a safe-zone at $2500 (meaning you don't go home empty handed unless you really suck at song lyrics). After that, you can play up the scale, doubling money as you go, up to a million dollars. You have "back-up singers" - ie. three life-lines ala Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? to help you out. Basically here, the band plays the music and the contestant sings karaoke off the screen. When the blanks show up, you have to fill them in - usually a four or more word phrase (more words the higher up you get). Now, this show also has that manufactured 'drama', the long lingering on the questions - do you want to lock in with those words? are the answers right? we'll find out after this commercial! In the first half hour, we still were on contestant one who only sang about five songs. Luckily, FOX knows that this generates carry-over between shows, so they're putting it on multiple nights a week.

Now, I love music, I love singing (even though I'm not good at it), I love real people doing bad karaoke, and as I noted above I love game shows. However, I can't see committing myself to two shows, even though with the DVR I can turn these half-hour offerings into something like 21 minutes or so apiece. So, one gets that DVR recording contract (see, musical analogy) and one gets bounced from the living room. Which am I going with?

We'll find out after this break.

Okay, just kidding.

I'm going with Don't Forget The Lyrics! - even though I am very mad at FOX right now (find out why right here tomorrow!).

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