Where once there was end of the pier entertainment there’s now Saturday night TV, most of which appears to have taken the  lowest common denominator, and halved it. These programmes could double their entertainment value by talking long walks off short piers.

However, before someone mistakes that for a primetime TV pitch, let’s consider The Voice. Most Saturday nights I’m generally found relaxing with some French Poststructuralism, at least once You’ve been framed has finished, but visiting friends meant watching The Voice.

It’s easy to see where The Voice came from. At the BBC development meeting following the inexplicable viewing figures of ITV’s X-Factor’s ‘talent’ contest, the conversation probably went along the lines of ‘FUCK.’ Despite the best thing about the X-Factor being the adverts, the BBC were duty-bound to tap into its audience of people who don’t actually like music. So quickly conceptualised The Voice.

Initial bafflement at what’s going in the in the Voice is never fully resolved, but it involves celebrities punching massive red buttons to spin their chairs around to be nice to singing hopefuls. You can tell they’ve rehearsed their button-thump; Tom Jones has all but sold the rights to his, while Ricky Wilson’s will need mending before the others.

There’s also someone called Rita Ora, who’s attractive, but without any defining feature whatsoever. She’s beauty’s equivalent of sheet metal. Her modulated accent is impossible to place. It’s the sole voice that can work automated phone systems. I suspect Rita has never questioned the parentage of HM Revenue and Customs’ pre-recorded voice while it calmly asks you to confirm you want the catering department as opposed to someone that can ACTUALLY FUCKING HELP WITH YOUR TAX RETURNS. However, Rita repeats herself so many times you wonder if she’s short-circuited herself, and it’s already hard enough identifying who she is without her changing of clothes and haircuts with the frequency of a fugitive. She looks so different for each mentoring day that contestants appear even more overwhelmed than usual.

And they’re not the only ones. There’s a ‘battle round’ during which two singers try to empty their lungs louder than the other. One of these is between two 16 year old girls who deliver a song with the emotional gravitas of wheels-on-the-bus. Following the battle, the judges pick their favourite, while the loser waits to see if they’ll get picked up by another judge. However, the celebs clearly haven’t read this small print, and instead indulge the loser some platitudinal praise with the critical acumen of an air hostess, before not choosing them.

Unlike the X-Factor‘s one way ticket to obscurity via a number one single, knowing the BBC The Voice probably doesn’t even have prizes. The winner is likely to walk off with a book token or a year’s free BBC licence, but it’s addictive fun guessing who Rita Ora is in every new shot, at least for the first 2 hours.

My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here –


It features no bears.

and here


and on ebook here –