Fifteen minutes and 49 seconds into the first episode of I Can See Your Voice (Saturday, 7.20pm, BBC One), I have to pause it for the first time. I check some emails. I look in the fridge. I ask: “Do we need anything from the shop?” and then walk to and from the shop. Paddy McGuinness is still there on my screen, frozen mid-banter, hair bleached to an ill-advised blond. My finger hovers over the “play” button but I can’t bring myself to click it. “Can I just review it based on that?” I ask my editor. “I’ve done 15 minutes and 49 seconds of it, and 14 minutes of that were Paddy McGuinness explaining the show,” I say. “I don’t have to watch the rest of it to get it, do I? Surely? Surely? Surely? Surely not? Not all of it? Surely?”
Here’s what I learned from being forced against my will to watch I Can See Your Voice, a mystery music gameshow that originated in South Korea, was ported over to the US as a Ken Jeong franchise and then, a copy of a copy later, comes to BBC primetime with Paddy McGuinness: six singers, all random members of the public, are here to try to convince you that they can sing. They are going to do this without actually singing: in the first round, for example, they just stand in a powerful stance with their microphone; in the second they are miming along to a song without actually singing it. The task of the two people guessing – again, ordinary civilians hoping to win money on a gameshow – is to whittle away the bad singers from the good. If the final singer is a good singer, the guessers win £10,000. If they are bad then the singer gets £10,000. Amanda Holden is there.
Yeah, sorry: I didn’t mention Amanda Holden was there, in her usual sleek five-hour-green-room glam, and Jimmy Carr is there, too, in a three-piece suit. Dame Alison Hammond, the only good thing about this disaster, is also there. The dissonance between the various component parts of the celebrity panel – Danny from McFly is also present – invokes the mood of a block-booked Addison Lee taxi to a press event at an out-of-town adventure park, where everyone is being very coy about their appearance fee.
It is clear the show is a calculated attempt to tap into some sort of current moment in TV – the deliberately clueless celebrity panel of The Masked Singer; the musical mystery of The Voice; the stab-in-the-dark guessing of This Is My House – but it fails on every front. Part of this is because there are, simply, too many people on camera at any one moment to make this work; part of this is because, put plainly, Paddy McGuinness just isn’t very BBC. I understand the need to try to make the most of McGuinness after signing him to a too-enormous Top Gear contract, but it is time to stop pretending. The man is ITV through and through! The man has ITV in his blood, in his bones! Let Paddy McGuinness free! He needs to throw to ad links! He cannot be constrained like this!
Anyway, I want to say: “I hate everything about this show,” but I don’t. I still like Alison Hammond. As for the rest of the programme: I think it should be handed over to the state to be destroyed.