A Chorus Line of Cringe
Here is a piece I wrote for the Green Guide about Battle of the Choirs.
A Chorus Line of Cringe
I LOVE failure. My favourite movie of all time is Mariah Carey's Glitter, a vehicle that is trapped in a multi-level car park somewhere. I have a daily YouTube ritual of watching Celine Dion butcher AC/DC. The worse, the better, in my opinion. In the '60s, it was called camp but in this age of Dancing with the Stars and 1 vs 100 we need a word that encompasses the embarrassing extravagance of it all. I defer to Bart Simpson, and "Craptacular". This, of course, brings me, to Battle of the Choirs.
Battle of the Choirs is yet another competitive reality format from the fevered minds of the Dutch. The Seven Network has polished it up a treat and a more shiny turd you will not find on any network. The show is easily described ? choirs sing contemporary songs and the best one wins money and a recording contract. It's not unlike Idol, Dance and Talent. Like those shows, there is a panel of judges, some exciting new vocabulary and those truly horrific moments when you realise the competitors have overestimated their level of talent.
The judges are constructed to formula: a previously anonymous industry know-it-all with a sharp tongue, someone exhumed from the career cemetery, a nice girl and someone with a familiar face and some expertise in the field. In this instance, the Dicko/Jason Coleman judge is George Torbay who, the publicity department assure me is "one of Australia's most sought after choral conductors". In the vein of Mark Holden, Ross Wilson and Todd McKenney, we have Iva Davies, whose obscurity tag is replaced with "music icon". Annoying former Hi-5 poppet Charli Delaney fills the role made mundane by the likes of Bonnie Lythgoe, Dannii Minogue and Marina Pryor. Finally, there is the delightfully weepy founder of The Choir of Hard Knocks, Jonathon Welch. I adore him. He is so earnest and heart-on-his-sleeve enthusiastic, I don't mind that his judgements take up half of the show.
There is an unnecessary amount of argy-bargy between the Choir judges but that is clearly their brief. Having auditioned to be "the nasty judge" on more than one talent quest, I know that disagreeing with your fellow judges is a production directive rather than a personal decision. However, Torbay and Welch are so passionate about choral singing, the producers may have lucked upon a natural animosity. My favourite judge is Delaney, who is happy to sing bits of the songs and show off her preferred "choralography," the only TV judge who understands the TV maxim of "show, don't tell".
Yes, you read right, "choralography". Every reality show should teach us something, even if only something new for our vocabulary. The first time you hear it, you think the judges are drunk but it does purport to be a word. Choralography is, apparently, the choreography of a choral group, and it will come in handy watching this show, because while Battle of the Choirs, on the surface, is all about the singing , you will get so much more from the choralography.
You may notice I have avoided mentioning the choirs. I am attempting to be polite to the poor innocent victims caught in Seven's efforts to topple 60 Minutes. The tragic, eager, mediocre choirs. The Melbourne contingent arrives with wacky names including Sunbury Divas and VoxSynergy and the judges impress upon them the need to stand out with costuming and (here it comes) choralography. The hand movements and facial contortions accompanying a four-choir medley of Kylie songs in episode one were as distressing as an entire hour of strobe lighting.
One thing I have to say in Choir's defence, it is a place where ordinary-looking people can thrive on television ? and I'm not just talking about Kochie. A choir, it seems, is somewhere ugly people can go so they aren't alone. Faced with four choirs, some 200 or so people, I had trouble finding the kind of face that I would normally see on television. Not only that, I had trouble finding the kind of face that I would consider pleasing to the eye, and if you've seen the kind of men I've dated, you'll know I'm not that fussy. I wasn't looking for Brad Pitt, just someone hotter than David Koch would do.
Many of the choirs are cringe-inducingly terrible, the judges are fourth rate, and the hosting, from Kochie, is not unlike that of the dreaded drunk uncle that takes over the speeches at a 21st. There is, however, something compelling about Choir. Like Dancing with the Stars, it should be an abomination but somehow it works. Perhaps it's the dagginess of the host matching the dagginess of the content. It could be the sheer ordinariness of the contestants, people who look like they really do need the money. Or it could be the inordinate pleasure I take from failure. You can do nothing but derive perverse joy from watching a pack of women from Sunbury, dressed like spinster bridesmaids in satin gowns and tiaras, attempting to scat in unison, thereby killing Christina Aguilera's Candyman. Craptacular.
Battle of the Choirs screens Sundays at 7.30pm on Seven.