Imagine if American Idol (while it was still relevant and tolerable) and Tinder had a baby. That miraculous love-child would be Rising Star, TV’s latest singing competition show that premiered on June 22. While I recognize we need another singing competition about as much as we need a hole in the head, or about as much as we need another Kardashian, this show does add an interesting spice into the mix of typical reality TV.
This show includes real-time voting. Users across the continent (Yes! You read that right! Canadians can vote too!) download an app to their smartphone, and are able to vote in real-time as the contestants are performing by swiping their screen! If contestants get at least 70 per cent, the “wall” goes up, and the contestant moves on to the next round (no idea what happens in the next round… stay tuned I guess?) As Josh Groban, the host, said 134 times, this new interactive element is taking TV places it has never gone before, and I have to agree, it really worked! Cheers to the 135th time!
There was also this whole piece about people auditioning using Instagram videos, and then being “spontaneously” called from the audience to perform. That “twist” was annoying and confusing and I didn’t like it, so let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.
Josh Groban is on board as the host/contestant mentor for the show, and he was surprisingly charming, funny and un-annoying (take notes Ryan Seacrest, who is so peppy it makes my ears bleed). Also, as a side note, I was surprised that Josh Groban wears glasses… has that always been a thing?
The show also has a cast of “experts” who are there to give comments and who vote alongside us mere mortals at home. Each of the expert’s votes are worth 7 per cent, meaning that to get to that 70 per cent you really need to have at least one of them on board OR be insanely popular with everyone at home.
The experts are Ludacris (he’s still around?), Ke$ha (who looked surprisingly clean and put together) and Brad Paisley (who began the show by namedropping that he flew with the President of the United States to visit the troops). While the experts are obviously still getting to know one another and developing their banter, I was really surprised at the feedback they gave! Especially Ludacris, who was surprisingly critical… I loved it.
It seems like they are trying to recreate the magic of the panel from The Voice by having the same tokenism on their panel (a country singer, a black artist and a female pop-star). Seriously, The Voice literally just rotates people in those archetypes (except Blake Shelton, who is apparently pure gold for The Voice). The panel on Rising Star has not reached the same magic sweet-spot some other shows have mastered, but maybe it will in a few episodes.
While everyone was “checking in,” we got to learn a bit more about each of the contestant’s backgrounds (the sob-story portion of the show). During this portion, the TV screen was set up to mock a smartphone. Contestants scrolling through their pictures helped to keep this “future of TV” feeling going. Thanks Josh. Something unique about the contestants? There are both individuals and groups. Sure, some of the auditions fell flat, but such is life in the world of reality TV!
The Voting and the App:
I was amazed that the app didn’t crash! Literally, it was the smoothest app I’ve used in a long time! You would “check in” a minute or two before each contestant sung and would then vote during their performance. After hearing the sob-stories it was sometimes difficult to vote no, but a judge has to do what a judge has to do. If you feel any different, you need to set up a coaching call with Simon Cowell. Now.
Yes, there were way too many commercials, and I would have rather had more contestants to swipe, but episode one of Rising Star was a solid premiere for a new audition in a crowded field. With X Factor cancelled, and ratings rapidly declining for American Idol and The Voice, could this interactive piece be just what the world of reality TV needs? I guess only time will tell.
On to episode two…