“Can a TV Show Make a Difference?”
Last year we asked if the late night chat show format was dead. The jury is still out on that one. But one man does appear to be taking the platform to a new level. An Englishman, adopted by America, is not only making very funny TV, he is making positive change in the country.
John Oliver was born in Birmingham in the Midlands of England and at University was a member of the Cambridge Footlights, the comedy troupe which was also the birthplace of the careers of John Cleese and Graham Chapman of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden of The Goodies, Peter Cook, David Frost, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Griff Rhys Jones, to name just a few.
Oliver was making a splash in Britain as a stand up comedian and made appearances on TV shows like Mock the Week, when Ricky Gervais recommended him to become the Senior British Correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
His success on that show brought offers to host his own show, including replacing Craig Ferguson on the The Late, Late Show. He began hosting Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in April 2014 on HBO. Given HBO’s ad-free subscription model, Oliver has full creative freedom to write and say what he thinks, including free rein to criticise corporations, where he sees fit. His work on the show led to Oliver being named on the list of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2015.
Oliver‘s comedic commentary has been credited with helping influence US legislation, regulations, court rulings, and other aspects of US culture; this influence has been labelled “The John Oliver Effect.”
Last Week Tonight has had a bearing on numerous issues including
While many of these subjects may appear dry, they are far from that in the hands of Mr Oliver. While pointing out major injustices, he succeeds in making his segments hilariously funny. The Peabody Awards honoured Oliver, saying his program engages in “investigative reports that ‘real’ news programs would do well to emulate.”
Oliver discussed the tobacco industry trends and practices. He also introduced Jeff the Diseased Lung, a mascot that he created for the American global cigarette and tobacco company Philip Morris International, the makers of Marlboro cigarettes, whose Marlboro men had a habit of dying of lung cancer.
The YouTube clip of the segment has had over 10 million views. Jeff the Diseased Lung later appeared at a protest organised by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in New York City in May 2015 and Philip Morris released a much criticised response to the segment, trying to justify their advertising and practice of prosecuting/persecuting small countries that try to limit sales of tobacco products in their territories.
John Oliver has made numerous stands on Gun Control, both on Last Week Tonight and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Rightfully so, because far too many innocent people continue to die daily in America because of the lack of it.
Here is just one of his segments, but type “John Oliver Gun Control” into YouTube’s search bar and you will find the rest.
Sadly, his conclusion is that nothing will happen on Gun Control due to the obscene power of the NRA and the 88% of Americans who would like to see more gun control being far less vocal than the gun manufacturers, resellers and those who believe that any form of gun control is a invasion of their rights. Oliver has highlighted the absurdity of this far better than I could, but are controls on who and how people drive an unacceptable restriction on their human rights? Motor vehicles have a primary purpose, which is not to kill and maim living beings, guns do not, but driving still has more controls than gun ownership in most of America.
Donald Trump is god’s gift to comedians. They do not have to write their own material, they just have to repeat to what he says, to anyone who is not so blinded by their own prejudices that they will believe anything that this sociopathic, megalomaniacal, crackpot has to say.
But John Oliver does write his own material and this exposé of Trump is both highly amusing and chilling at the same time.
Like the other important issues that Oliver has covered, he has returned to the Donald on more than one occasion since then and continues to provide the truth that is totally lacking in the Trump campaign.
John Oliver‘s revealing of the dodgy dealings of America’s corporations, organisations and public figures goes even further than that. To illustrate a story about the practices of companies that purchase the records of debtors and attempt to collect on them, Last Week Tonight set up its own debt collection company and acquired $15 million worth of debt owed to hospitals in Texas, they paid only $60,000 for this. He then forgave the debt, with a little showbiz flair. Ensuring that the people who incurred the debt, because they could not afford to pay their medical bills, could no longer be hounded for the money.
To highlight his report on how easy it is to set up a church and receive tax exempt status in the US he set up a church called Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. People felt moved to make donations to the church and they were forwarded to the charity Doctors Without Borders.
Hallelujah Brother! Carry on the good work.
If you can view Last Week Tonight in your area, or any other programme involving John Oliver, I highly recommend that you do so. If you can’t, seek out the clips on YouTube and subscribe to the show’s channel. You will not only be better informed, but also highly entertained.
By Max Power
The semi final of The Voice 2016 began with the results of the public vote.
Andrew Loadsman, Adam Ladell, Jack Pellow and Tash Lockhart were voted straight into the final round. So all of my predictions from last week, except Alfie Arcuri, won through.
But, as always, there was a twist. The four losing competitors got a chance to sing again, for two places in the final.
Ellen Reed was first to perform again this week. Ellen‘s mum was invited into rehearsals and she told the story of Ellen‘s struggles, that at one point caused her to cut all of her hair off. No one seemed to see the irony of telling that story standing next to Jessie J, who has most of her hair cut off.
Ellen sang Good Luck from Basement Jaxx. It really didn’t sound like a Basement Jaxx song. Ellen sang better this week, less flat and off key, but still not my cup of tea.
In her comments afterwards, Jessie J gave a good ‘Never give up on your dream’ speech, which is the title of one of my favourite, lesser known, Rod Stewart songs, check it out when you get a chance.
Aaliyah Warren was up next. She was wind blown and looked great, she sounded pretty great too. She was told in rehearsals to keep the mike up to her face throughout the song. They kind of got around this by by keeping it on a mike stand for most of the song. There was a huge cheer from the crowd when she took it off and stepped out from behind the stand, some people are very easily pleased. The song wasn’t that great, so the whole thing fell just short of being there.
This was another similar performance of a similar song from Alfie. He needs to change it up, in my opinion. But it was very good, if you like that sort of thing.
Ronan thought last week’s was a good song choice, but he would wouldn’t he? As, in theory, he picked the song. I thought the song choice let Mitch down again this week. I agree with Jessie J, who said that this might not be the environment for Mitch. But I am sure that in a concert set up, singing songs that he either wrote, or selected himself, he would have quite a following
So we were treated to this years first instant vote, that only the Eastern states got to participate in. For those not familiar, that means that about two thirds of this big brown land were excluded from the selection.
If I had a say, I would have said that it would have to be Aaliyah and then a toss up between Alfie and Mitch to go through.
But those instant voters, in their infinite wisdom, saved Alfie and… Ellen Reed. I could not believe that!
I really think that Ellen should have gone weeks ago, so much better has been eliminated for her to continue in the show.
Before that result was announced, we were treated to a guest performance.
I really liked this clever song, with clever lyrics and some nice Clarence Clemons style sax breaks. I also like the fact that Mike told the audience ‘You can stop clapping and just listen.’ part way through.
I must admit that I was watching for continuity errors, after last weeks insider reports that the guests and coach’s performances are recorded ahead of time.
So, now we had a final six, competing to be in the grand final next week.
Jessie J gave good pep talk this week. She told Jack ‘It has to start from within, don’t give up, no
Jack‘s performance started out OK, but very quickly went completely flat. Sadly this was Jack‘s worst performance that I’ve seen. Ronan said it was pitchy and Benji said that it didn’t matter. I’m old school and believe that it really does, especially in a competition where you only get one song to impress with.
When I heard that Adam was going to sing a Coldplay song, it left me feeling much like I did last week when Mitch was given Justin Beiber song, far from enthused would be putting it mildly.
Adam was very flat from the outset. The performance was not very musical all the way through. Unlike Jack, none of the judges mentioned that this was pitchy. Is there an agenda there?
There was a point in the rehearsal footage that I thought that this might be the performance that changed my opinion of Ellen. But the live performance was all over the place and probably technically her worst showing.
Let’s take a minute to remember Aaliyah, The Koi Boys and everyone else who was cast aside so that she could be here in the semi-final. Once again, no coach mentioned the pitch issues.
Andrew always gives a big performance and never struggles with pitch, like we saw some do tonight. I didn’t think that I was going to like this one when it started out, but once it livened up, it was as good as ever.
There was a bit of rivalry revving up from Ronan, in rehearsals, dissing the other coaches comments on Tash‘s song choice last week. I agreed with Jessie and Delta then and they were not saying what Ronan was insinuating that they did.
Tash looked fantastic in red this week (or was it orange?) and once again made some nice sounds. But once again the song did not do it for me. These over emotional songs that don’t connect are just not my thing.
The set up for this was a real heart string tugger, introducing Alfie‘s sister, a Hodgkinson’s Lymphoma sufferer and there was a mock up video clip of him singing the song at her wedding.
Emotional blackmail aside, this was an excellent performance, definitely the best I have seen from Alfie. Ronan made comments afterwards about bringing something special to the final, which were totally irrelevant.
So we got another instant vote that excluded more than half the country. Personally I would have left out Ellen and Adam at this stage.
But Adam was the first to go through… Then Ellen Reed, I wanted to switch off at this point! But I had to see who was missing out. It was Jack, who had a poor performance tonight, but is still a better artist than the two that went through. Tash Lockhart was the last qualifier, which was great, but it was a tragedy that Andrew Loadsman should go out. It leaves quite a mediocre final, especially considering some of the talent that started out in this competition.
But you can never trust the public, about half of them voted yesterday for politicians who have consistently proven that they are only interested in helping the already rich and ignoring the needs of the environment and those who really need a helping hand. So why would the public have any more idea in a singing competition?
For better or worse, we’ll have a new government of some sort and a new Voice winner next week, so tune in, to see if they can get it spectacularly wrong again.
By Max Power
Jessie J opened up the third of the live shows by having a conversation with Sonia Kruger, that went something along the lines “The public have got to vote, otherwise the people that should stay go home”. This sounded like the height of hypocrisy to me, considering that she and the other coaches have already sent home much of the best talent, before the public even got a chance to be involved.
We started out with the results of the voting for Team Jessie.
Mikaela Dean was last in the vote and leaves the show. This either blows my theory that there was some conspiracy to keep her in the competition, or confirms that maybe voting does make a difference.
Once Mikaela said her goodbyes and we saw her highlights reel, we were into the live performances, starting with Ellen Reed.
Kelly Clarkson‘s original version of this song was pretty tuneless, so this was right in Ellen‘s wheelhouse.
Who is voting for this candidate for the tone deaf party?
Once she had shouted he way through the tune, Delta Goodrem talked about her lack of connection, but somehow believes that she hits the right notes.
Let’s remember that The Koi Boys were sent home so that we could hear this.
I like Jack, he’s different enough to be interesting. Is his moustache getting more eccentric?
I liked this performance a lot, especially the trumpet. I hope it has enough wide appeal to see him into the finals.
Team Madden was Team Veronicas this week, apparently Joel and Benji are touring in Germany. That’s a colossal cock up on the scheduling front.
Lane Sinclair was voted out, Sonia Kruger said “Isn’t she gorgeous?” She really is! But she was standing next to Aaliyah at the time, who is totally, supermodel, stunning and that’s a tough place to take a compliment.
Lane is a quality artist and way better than 2 out of 3 of Jessie‘s finalists. She has more chance than most to have a real career in music.
Her eye contact, or lack of it, was heavily emphasised in rehearsals, but did not really change much in her performance. Aaliyah sung really well, with some nice tones, but the song was not quite good enough to make it great.
I never thought that Andrew was controlled or contrived before The Veronicas said so, but I did in the performance tonight, but only to look at. It sounded great, I particularly liked the harmonica. It was a great bluesy performance all around.
Once again this week there was talk of the competitors reading and being upset by comments posted on the Internet and in social media particularly.
I fully understand that there are trolls out there and that some people can be really cruel and vociferous. But does anyone else think that the inference in the comments on The Voice and their general attitude is ‘take no notice of them, we’ll tell them what to like’?
Kim Sheehy lost the vote. There is no doubt that Kim has talent, but I am afraid that I don’t see her having the wide appeal to be a pop star. But others have overcome that, look at Sia for example.
Adam played piano. I must admit that I am always more impressed with singers who play an instrument. To me, it shows a deeper understanding of music. This was by far his best performance, that I have seen. The song really suited him and demonstrated his abilities.
Another good performance from Alfie. He is good every week, it’s just all a bit similar for me, but I know that a lot of people will like what he does and he could build a career out of it.
Geogia Wiggins missed out in the voting and that was the right choice for me. Still, it was horrible to see how much it upset her and her tears. But Georgia is only 16 and has plenty of time to make her way in the music business, if that’s what she chooses to do.
I must admit that as soon as I heard that this was a Justin Beiber song I was put off and the performance never made me feel any better about it. For me, it was the worst I’ve seen of Mitch. I like Mitch, but if he’s judged on this alone, then he will be out next week.
Tash sang really well and looked amazing, but I thought that this was really a song and arrangement strictly for a singing competition and was way too over the top. Like Delta and Jessie, I don’t blame her for that. She should still go through, because she rose above what she was given to do.
So I am assuming that next week we are down to one performer from each team. But you never know with this show, anything could happen.
The choices are fairly easy for me, Jack Pellow from Team Jessie, Andrew Loadsman from Team Madden, although Aaliyah certainly has plenty of appeal. Alfie Arcuri from Team Delta, he is just more consistent than Adam and Tash Lockhart from Team Ronan and she is my tip to win the whole series this year.
I have always had my doubts about whether the The Voice live shows are really live. They certainly aren’t for me, as I am in a different time zone. But there often appears to be editing taking place in what goes to air. Coaches comments are cut short and segues into the performances are too smooth to be believable, especially considering the set changes that take place.
This disbelief was again confirmed last night, when The Veronicas went from the coaching chair to appearing on stage to perform, in different outfits, in a time frame that could only be achieved by a quick change artist.
Of course if the shows don’t go out live, it confirms what I have said all along about the tweets displayed at the bottom of the screen being fake.
No matter how fake, we’ll be tuning in next week for the final ‘live’ performances, semi-finals or whatever they choose to call it, on The Voice.
By Max Power
After the The Voice coaches knocked out most of the best talent last week, the live rounds, where the public get a vote, began last night. Jessie J‘s team kicked off proceedings.
Ellen Reed was first up with Ghost. It was a horrible song, full of fake emotion. Ellen can be screechy and wanders out of tune when she goes hard.
The performance was followed by a lot of false and untrue praise from Jessie.
Brianna Holt sang Samson.
The rehearsal clips confirmed that self doubt was to be the theme for team Jessie.
There was a nice piano part on the song, although I didn’t like it over all. Brianna is a far better singer, with much more control and connection than Ellen
Jack gave us a kind of country version of the song. It was his best performance since the blinds and the best so far tonight for me.
Another sappy ballad, I didn’t like it at all. Mostly because of the song, but I only like Mikaela‘s voice when she sings soft. Personally I think she also loses it when she goes hard.
Both Jessie and Mikaela proceeded to talk gibberish after the performance, things like ‘Not the girl behind the person in front’ and ‘So much you in that’. Pity there wasn’t time to edit that out.
All of the coaches kept picking Mikaela to save, which sounds like a plot to me and of course Jessie saved her. Really, Mikaela and Ellen should be going home, but only one of them can. Let’s hope the public get it right.
And let’s not forget that The Koi Boys should have been in this group and would have been better than any of them.
Lexi looked sexy in her specs and sang well, but it was another song that did nothing for me.
Aaliah also sang well, but again an ordinary song, that never pushed any of my buttons.
Boy George joined the throng, promoting his tour and reminding us that he has been a coach on the British version of The Voice this year. He also joined the beat up for Mikaela, something smells distinctly fishy here to me.
The Maddens opted to tame Andrew. Just what the show needed at this point, I really don’t think.
But Andrew is a pro and did what they asked of him, I just wasn’t in the mood for so many D&M ballads tonight. With a show this contrived, you would think that someone would contrive to vary the tunes a bit
By now a video game seemed more appealing than this show. Again Lane sang OK a song that really wasn’t worth singing.
Ronan had been noticeably absent from comments until now and I believe got his first line of the night, at this late point in the show. I don’t remember what he said, but the fact that he had said nothing until now seemed strange to me.
The Maddens saved Aaliah, but all of this group were better than Jessie‘s save.
In rehearsals Tash said “Oh my gosh I’m going to cry already” Ronan said “Let it all out”. He resisted the urge to rub his hands together, because there is nothing The Voice likes more than a few tears.
At last! Tash gave us something different. This was head and shoulders above anything else so far tonight and she looks a million dollars. I can’t believe that she had so much doubt about the performance. I told her she had it all.
Mitch sang with a band around a camp fire on the set. It was quite a mellow version of the old Aussie standard, but had some very nice tones and I really enjoyed it.
Georgia sang mostly in the dark. She is cute and has abilities, but I have very mixed feelings about her style of staccato highs and lows. But this was better than the endless ballads of the first two groups.
I like Emad and this song, but somehow the two did not go together. I felt it was rushed through and not really connected, despite what everyone on set tried to kid us into believing.
Ronan saved Mitch, even though all of the other coaches tried to put us off track by not mentioning him. I’m sure the public will vote for Tash and I hope that they save Emad too.
Tonight’s show appeared to be sponsored by Google. I found that hard to understand. Why would Google need TV advertising? It’s kind of like bread or water deciding that they don’t get enough exposure.
In rehearsals Elle mentioned being gun shy after reading social media views on her appearances. Delta told her to sing to ‘that moron troll guy’. I hope that I am not one of those moron troll guys. I try not to be. But I do try to be honest, because there is so much bullshit spouted on the show.
The initial appeal of The Voice to me was that the judges did not destroy the aspirations of the contestants, for entertainment value. But now it seems to have swung 180 degrees and there is too much commendation and poor singing is covered up with fake praise, which leaves us no choice but to highlight it here.
Elle looked good when she appeared on stage, with a heavy fringe to cover the forehead M that she saw on her self in rehearsals. It was a lively performance and the most active of the night, but somehow I wasn’t convinced that she either wanted, or needed somebody to love.
Delta made Kim practice with a book on her head and would not reveal why. The big secret was that graphics, including spiders, were projected onto her face while she sang.
I have not been a fan of Kim, but this was very good and the best of the songs, that I wasn’t familiar with, tonight.
The word ‘artist’ could not have been more over used in the comments on the performance.
Despite her abilities, I’m not sure that I will ever warm to Kim, it’s her look as well as singing style that does not appeal to me, but I have no doubt that I am not her target market and artists like KD Lang have crossed over to a wider audience, but it is a hard sell.
Alfie performed on a dangerously high platform. He had some very nice vocal dynamics, but we were back in the lame song choice area again.
Adam was billed and introduced as ‘one of the most inspiring artists on the show’ which he no doubt is and I certainly don’t mean to minimise his achievements in overcoming his affliction. But let’s not forget that we get them every year, the pretty young blind girl, people who stutter and people in wheelchairs have all featured and been equally as inspiring.
Unfortunately, I found Adam‘s version of Imagine, one of the most inspiring songs ever written, kind of pedestrian, despite all of the pointing and it had not a hint of John Lennon‘s connection with the theme.
Delta saved Alfie from the public vote, although all of the other coaches picked Kim. Delta basically said Adam is going through, so pick your chick.
A couple of favourites are starting to emerge for me now, in Tash Lockhart and Andrew Loadsman. I hope that The Voice does not contrive to see them go the way of the best talent that has been dumped already.
By Max Power
The Voice is well into its 5th season in Australia and each year the producers come up with more ways to take the public out of contention in deciding who they would like to see win the competition, or even appear in the latter rounds.
Following on from battle rounds, we now have Super Battles, where four contestants compete against each other by singing about a minute each of a bunch of songs that are connected by some loose, lame theme. The coaches then send half of their contenders home, without the public ever having a say in the decision.
The first Super Battle was based on Michael Jackson songs, most of which were rearranged to make them far less appealing than the King of Pop’s originals.
Only The Koi Boys got anywhere near the level of fun and excitement that MJ created with the songs himself. All of the other arrangements left so much to be desired.
Mikaela Dean sang flat and not one of the coaches mentioned it and, astoundingly, Jessie J took her through to the knock-out rounds ahead of The Koi Boys, who have undoubtedly been the most entertaining act on the show this season. The public have been robbed of seeing them again, or any opportunity to vote for them and show how much they have been enjoyed.
There are numerous hidden agendas on this show, but I really do not understand one that denies the viewers the opportunity to see more of the best acts and eliminates them before they get a chance to really shine. It appears to me that the theme here is to dispose of all artists aged over 30 as soon as possible.
Shame on you Voice producers..
The second super battle offered much more, but it appeared that the Maddens had elected to have all of their best performers battle each other, so that at least two of them would go no further.
The weakest theme of the night, girls singing boys songs and vice versa, produced some of the best performances.
Nazzereene Taleb gave an excellent, brief rendition of Earned It, with some sweet high notes. Blake Morgan had some very interesting tones, even with a look that it is very familiar to The Voice viewers from last season.
Aaliyah Warren was very easy on the eyes and as good as anyone in the first Super Battle, except The Koi Boys of course. Andrew Loadsman is very John Butler like, well worth seeing again and seems to be a favourite to take out this years competition.
So none of them deserved to go, but unfortunately Nazzereene and Blake are gone.
Delta gave her battlers the very loose theme of hits of stage and screen.
Elle Murphy gave us her version of Adele‘s Skyfall. She tends to go out of tune when she goes hard for the big notes. Sherin Majd sang very well, I thought, but the problem with Opera singers on shows like this is that there are only a few arias that are popular with the wider public. So they either push them into musical theatre tunes, or we get the same songs churned out every year. So, as good as she was, we don’t really need to see any more of that.
I like Maryann Wright, she has a very expressive face. But her version of I Don’t Know How to Love Him fell short in several places. You can not help but feel for Adam Ladell and admire his determination in his battles with Tourette syndrome. He sings well, but I feel he has been over hyped and is not quite ready for prime time.
Elle got picked to go through, as the second flat singer tonight.
Ronan‘s team were given Irish songs as their theme.
Georgia Carey kicked off and I liked her tone and presentation, but not the song, or the crowd clap along. Nina Ferro gave us a nice version of With or Without You. It was a bit musical theatre in places, but had some very nice points.
Georgia Wiggins sang Zombie. She did well, but looked nervous and uncomfortable, like she was working too hard. But she fits the youth agenda, so she went through.
Emad Younan got the old relic Danny Boy. It was a bad song choice for him, but he did OK and I did want him to go further. Thankfully he beat the age bar.
This was another group where all could have gone through ahead of some who already have and were less deserving.
We were now into the national themes, governed by the coaches’ country of origin and this one was, of course, American songs.
Carmel Rodrigues gave us a Meatloaf song, who she told us was her favourite artist in the first round. But I am afraid it was mostly a bit tuneless. Horrifically, I can no longer hear I Would Do Anything For Love without thinking of Mrs Brown’s knickers and that’s an mental image that you really don’t need when watching a young girl sing.
Talia Giancaspro sang Jolene as a threat, rather than the plea that Dolly Parton wrote, so never really connected with the song. This rendition also had another annoying, out of time, clap along from the crowd.
Lexi Clark‘s performance had some interesting parts and I particularly liked the funky guitar breaks.
Lane Sinclair closed out this group with Bruce Springsteen‘s I’m On Fire and was head and shoulders above the rest.
Lane and Lexi went through, but the Maddens probably should have sacrificed most of this group and allowed their entire first group through.
Naturally Delta‘s next theme was Australian songs.
Kim Sheehy I found a bit thin vocally in parts and the performance was not quite enough and the same could be said for Calvin Swart.
Marcia Howard was the best of this group, but suffered from the age bias. Whereas Alfie Acuri has been hyped up, way beyond what his performances deserve.
I would only take Marcia through, but Delta took Alfie and Kim.
Ronan‘s final group did not seem to bother with a theme.
Mitch Gardner gave us The Beatles‘ Blackbird. He had nice range and diversity, but needed more oomph. Kayleigh Killick also suffered from lack of oomph, even more so, despite a great song. She stayed in tune, but looked very nervous.
Tash Lockhart paid tribute to the recently departed David Bowie, with Heroes. That’s more like it, a top performance.
Sam Trenwith finished with James Brown‘s Man’s World. So far, I have found Sam a bit over the top, but I thought that this lacked passion and soul
I would have picked Tash and Mitch, and Ronan actually got it right.
Jessie‘s final, British themed, round featured the boobalicious Jade sisters, Nada and Jasmin, who harmonised well and gave us plenty of sass and attitude.
Madison McNamara was really connected and believable in her version of Jealous.
Brianna Holm sang The Scientist. She had really nice tones, pity about the song.
Ellen Reed gave us a curate’s egg, good in parts, not so much in others.
Brianna and Maddison should have gone through but Jessie picked Ellen instead of Maddison.
So we move into the knock-out rounds and public voting, with much of the best talent gone. But there are some still worth watching and hopefully some that will surprise us by stepping up.
By Max Power
The Voice returned to Australian screens on Sunday night, amid the usual massive promo hype.
Despite all of that promotion, I still managed to miss the first half an hour of the show and do not feel inclined to catch up with the online streaming, or the repeat showing, which is bound to air very soon.
For me, the shine has very much come off of the show. There was far too much scripted conflict last year and any illusion that there was a real contest taking place completely disappeared.
The permanent fixture, Joel Madden, seems to have also negotiated a long term gig for his twin brother, Benji, who returns for his second season, as co-coach.
Delta Goodrem is back, to provide the glamour and supply Australia’s sole representation on the panel.
Jessie J returns for her second season. Hopefully without the manufactured, girl on girl, conflict we saw last year, but still with plenty of her insight and down to earth honesty.
The new boy is Ronan Keating, who takes on the International Star role, vacated by Ricky Martin. There is no denying that Ronan has had a very successful career, both as a solo artist and with the boy band Boyzone. But, because he has appeared on so many of these talent show panels in Australia before, he feels very much like the economy replacement option.
With Ricky Martin MIA (missing in action) I wonder who will take on the role of Opera and musical theatre patron. The big money has to be on Delta, as she has given a home to some of these outsiders in the past. But I am guessing that they will be evenly distributed between Delta, Jessie and Ronan Keating.
I call Opera and musical theatre singers outsiders, not simply because they are not my cup of tea, but because the target demographic of the show is obviously the teenage to early thirties market and these competitors are added to keep mum and grandma interested. I suspect that not a lot of dads follow The Voice, unless they are the dad of someone who is taking part.
There was little that impressed me amongst Sunday night’s competitors. But there was one stand out, the paint spraying, factory worker, Maddison McNamara. This girl was quite something and even at this early stage, I would say she will be one to look out for, in the coming rounds.
The singer/guitarist, Jack Pellow, also had something to offer. The young, single father, back story was overplayed for my liking, but I won’t hold that against him.
So will you be following this year’s “competition”?
I am not sure that we will. But, as we’ve been with The Voice for 5 years, I have no doubt that we will be looking in and maybe voicing an opinion here, or elsewhere.
By Max Power
OJ Simpson was a huge star in American Football, he broke all sorts of records at college and professional level and then followed that with a film, TV and advertising career. So, when he was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her male friend, then followed that with a low speed police chase along the free-ways of Los Angeles, it was the biggest story of its era.
Outside of America, he was not so well known. Those of us that did know of him, recognised him from the Naked Gun movies, where he did not say much and we were told in TV promos that he was a well known sportsman. So, although his murder trial was covered here, it was not the blanket coverage that America received and we are not so familiar with the larger than life Defence Dream Team, who regularly appeared on US TV and in all other forms of media.
One of those Dream Team of litigants was Robert Kardashian, father of the, now infamous, Keeping Up with the Kardashians reality TV family. The mini series, The People V. OJ Simpson, makes shameless, exploitive references and cameo appearances of the Kardishian kids, despite the fact that they were all far too young at the time to have any bearing on the case whatsoever.
All of OJ‘s defence team were very colourful characters and had been involved in high profile cases before. Being Hollywood, I guess that they had to be larger than life people themselves, to be noticed in that environment. The series certainly makes the most of that, the hair and make up departments must have been working overtime. All of the characters appear to be gross caricatures of the real people that they represent. David Schwimmer‘s Robert Kardashian is just about acceptable, but John Travolta‘s Robert Shapiro is a cartoon character. Travolta rarely moves a facial muscle and does all of his acting through his jaw.
The OJ trial took place in a taut atmosphere of racial tension. The Rodney King case, where a black man was filmed being mercilessly beaten by four cops, who were all acquitted, by a jury that included no African Americans, was only 2 years before. The verdict triggered riots, lootings, arson, and civil disturbance across Los Angeles, for six days.
This case was not alone, African Americans have a huge mistrust of the police and feel that they are frequently mistreated by law enforcement, which has not changed to this day, with several high profile incidents of unarmed black men and children being shot by police in the last few years.
OJ‘s team used this racial tension as their defence, in the face of overwhelming evidence that Simpson was guilty of the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Lyle Goldman.
This is well documented in the series, with Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) and Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) holding numerous press conferences, framing the case as the racist LAPD against the black hero, OJ Simpson. In the show Cochran even redecorates Simpson‘s home, before the jury visits, in order to make it more ethnic and appealing to the black jurors.
Conversely, the prosecution team are portrayed as naive, less competent and far less prepared. As well as being hampered by a key police witness, who made even the black prosecution lawyer feel uncomfortable and had a personal collection of Nazi memorabilia.
Interestingly, I stumbled across an episode of Dr Phil, where they discussed the series with Ron Goldman‘s father and sister, and Nicole Brown Simpson‘s sister. None of them were happy with the series. Primarily because they were not consulted and the show does not concern itself much with the victims of the terrible crime.
Although you can have nothing but sympathy for what happened to them and their families, they all came across as highly media polished personalities, bordering on TV characters themselves and I found that made empathy harder to come by. So maybe the caricaturisation of the players is not as extravagant as it appears to be.
The People V. OJ Simpson airs on Channel 10 at 8:30 on Sunday nights. Despite its faults, I feel inclined to stick with it. It has an all star cast and it’s intriguing to see them chewing up the scenery.
By Max Power
As I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here 2016 reaches the sharp end, we thought it was time to air our views on this muckiest of reality TV shows.
I’ve pretty much given up on “Reality TV”, as it contains hardly any traceable amounts of reality. Competitors are cast, coached and scripted in the extreme and edits are made until what goes to air bares no relation to what would really happen, had they been in a real competition anything like the one we are told is going on. I have just become totally sick of being lied to, manipulated and conned like that.
However, I’m a Celebrity offers something different. It certainly doesn’t offer many genuine celebrities. But its main appeal is not the competition, but an opportunity to see a different side of people that we have seen previously in the public eye and not in their usual role of acting, singing or playing sports.
This year’s batch produced some real unknowns, a few that had been out of the public view for quite a while and some sports people that we genuinely recognised.
Rumour has it that Shane Warne was paid two million dollars to appear in this season’s run, which may explain why so many unknowns were recruited for the supporting cast. So let’s take a look at who they are.
Courtney Hancock – Is an iron woman athlete, who I had never heard of before she appeared on the show and I am guessing that only followers of that particular sport would have done. She was obviously chosen to add a bit of youthful glamour, which she did. She seemed like a nice girl, but did not feature much in the nightly highlights show and was the first to be voted out.
Akmal Saleh – Would have to count as one of the better known of this year’s bunch. He is a stand up comedian, who has appeared on numerous Australian variety and panel shows, as well as in films, sketches and worked as a radio host. In camp he was funny and had a positive and reflective outlook on jungle life and life in general. He was portrayed as being unhygienic and dirty, but I was surprised that he left so early.
Bonnie Lythgoe – A dancer, choreographer, director, television presenter and producer, who had rarely been seen on Australian screens. Apparently she was a judge on the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance? Having appeared on another Channel 10 reality show seems to be the highest qualification for being a jungle celebrity. Bonnie came a across as a pleasant woman, who quickly befriended the others in the camp. I was surprised that she outlasted Akmal, but maybe that was part of the process of keeping the balance of the sexes even.
Dean Geyer – Initially I did not recognise Dean when he entered the camp and the fact that he has a South African accent lead me to believe that he may have been just a local that they had thrown in to make up the numbers. But gradually he vaguely looked familiar. He was in fact a finalist on Australian Idol ten years ago. He followed that up with a role in Neighbours and then moved to LA to score a regular spot on Glee, opposite Lea Michele. Dean kept a fairly low profile in the camp, but was regularly seen shirtless, showing off his chiselled bod. He proved a fierce competitor in the Tucker Trials, although he seemed to lack a sense of humour at times and his uninformed views on guns would put him firmly on the red neck side of the fence.
Val Lehman – Was the star of the highly popular TV series Prisoner (Prisoner Cell Block H in some areas), from 1979 until 1983. The show would have to be Australian TV’s biggest export, after Neighbours and Home and Away. Val left at the height of the show’s success and although she has worked regularly since, she has never subsequently achieved those giddy heights of fame. In the jungle Val proved almost as grumpy and strong willed as Bea, her most famous character. She never liked the food, or some of the younger camp mates, but was a fearless competitor in all of the trials that she entered, even beating the younger and more physically fit Bonnie Lythgoe in a tug of war.
Jo Beth Taylor – Is best known for hosting Hey, Hey It’s Saturday and Australia’s Funniest Home Videos. She took a long break from TV and made her come back in another reality TV show, Dancing with the Stars. In camp Jo Beth clashed with Laurina Fleure, but bonded strongly with Bonnie Lythgoe and Anthony Callea. She seemed to miss home and her family more than any of the camp mates and heartily celebrated when she was voted out.
Laurina Fleure – Is a model, whose biggest claim to fame is appearing as a contestant on The Bachelor and protesting about being fed a dirty street pie. She has proven to be, as people from my mother’s era would say, a proper little madam. She spends an inordinate amount of time attending to her Nike eyebrows and suntan, despite all current advice on the dangers of skin cancer. She claims to meditate and think deeply, but this is often far outweighed by her vanity, nihilistic philosophy and dubious conversation choices. Laurina has been portrayed as the camp villain and appears to be the least popular with the others. I am surprised that she has lasted this long, but maybe that says more about the people voting, or the casting director’s decisions, than anything else.
Havana Brown – Was another total unknown to me before she appeared in camp. She is a DJ who apparently had a huge hit with her single We Run The Night and several others. She has also appeared in a dozen episodes of Neighbours, back in 2000, when she was 15. She is a very attractive girl and Shane Warne has taken a real shine to her. She claims to do no exercise, but has a very impressive mid-section. She keeps a fairly low profile, but is very popular with the other camp mates and will eat almost anything in the Tucker Trial challenges.
Anthony Callea – Was runner-up in the 2004 season of Australian Idol. He followed that up with his debut single, The Prayer, which became the fastest-selling single by an Australian artist and stayed at number one for five weeks. There was much speculation about his sexuality during his Australian Idol run, with many teenage girls fervently denying that he could be gay. Today there is no doubt; Anthony married his partner, Tim, in New Zealand in 2014. Anthony has proven very popular with most of the camp mates, with the notable exception of Laurina. Most interestingly, he has bonded strongly with Brendan Fevola. Although they have a common Italian ancestry, I would have thought that they move in very different circles in the real world, but this has proven no barrier to their friendship. Anthony may be very small, but he has demonstrated a wiriness and determination, beyond expectation, in all of the challenges he has been given.
Brendan Fevola – Played 204 AFL games for the Carlton and Brisbane Lions football clubs. During this time he won two Coleman Medals for the highest goal scorer for the season and was named in the All Australian Team three times. Unfortunately, he became just as famous for his off field exploits, which often involved drinking, gambling womanising and other unsavoury behaviour. One of his most regrettable choices was, during an extramarital fling, taking a nude photograph of the model Lara Bingle, when she clearly didn’t want it taken and then distributed it to his mates, via whom it found its way into the mass media. But Brendan has done a lot of work on himself since then, including rehab and therapy. He reunited with his wife and is totally devoted to his children. Brendan still has a tendency towards petulance, but has been popular in the jungle and seems to have enjoyed the adventure more than anyone.
Shane Warne – The Sheikh of Tweek, The King of Spin, Spin King, Warnie, Warney,Warney! Shane is Australia’s highest ever wicket taker in cricket and played throughout Australia’s domination of world cricket during the 90′s and noughties, ensuring that position with his own massive contributions. But he has many parallels with Brendan Fevola. Most of Shane’s indiscretions have involved women and he practically invented the phenomenon known as sexting. His opinions are sometimes oafish and ill informed. On the show he has disrespected, his former Australian captain, Steve Waugh and had a dig at Steve’s twin brother Mark. He has stated that he does not believe in evolution and if man came from apes, why are there still apes? He regularly professes his love and dedication for his children on the show, which I have no doubt is genuine, but you always feel that he is not far from his next poor decision. Like Brendan, he is also still prone to petulance, but he has also shown excellent leadership and diplomacy.
Paul Harragon – The Chief, is a legend of Rugby League, claiming an inaugural premiership for the Newcastle Knights, as captain, in 1997. Paul also represented NSW 20 times in State of Origin and played for Australia in 17 tests. After he retired from Rugby League, he had a successful media career, most famously as co-host on the NRL version of The Footy Show. The Chief has given us no surprises in the jungle. He comes across as a fierce competitor, but a genuinely nice guy, polite, generous and interested in other people’s welfare. If there is any justice in the world, he will finish as number one this year.
All three of the famous sportsmen have demonstrated the qualities that team sports teach people, having a red hot go, supporting and encouraging your team mates, motivating them when the chips are down. For this reason I believe that they will be the final three, in sports mad Australia.
If the fame craving, without substance, personality of Laurina prevails, it will be a sad reflection on the voters and modern attitudes.
While there are elements of the show that I find totally unsavoury, the constant forced consumption of items that your body tells you shouldn’t be eaten and the regular covering of the competitors in the same obscene gunk, the hosts of the show are excellent, in my opinion. For a man who did all of his training in veterinary science, Chris Brown makes a superb presenter. He is obviously easy on the eye for the ladies, but he also has great chemistry with Julia Morris.
Julia is simply one of Australia’s funniest women. There has been much condemnation of the ‘canned’ laughter at her jokes. But, to be honest, I never noticed it until it was pointed out and without it, things would sound pretty flat, with just crickets to respond.
It may be true that some of the rats, snakes and lizards featured have now appeared on television more than many of the celebrities had before they went into the jungle. But I think the show has been a success and would welcome it back, with a little less grossness and animal cruelty, next year, as long as Paul Harragon wins. Chief! Chief! Chief!
By Max Power
With the retirement of Dave Letterman, Jay Leno and Craig Ferguson, the entire face of light night TV has changed.
In Australia we now get Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and James Corden nightly. I have given them some time to become accustomed, but I am afraid the updates are completely bug ridden to me.
All of the new guys seem to think that they are actors and song and dance men. I prefer my chat show hosts to be stand up comedians, who would rather leave the acting and singing to the acknowledged professionals.
This week I witnessed two of the un-funniest clips I have ever seen. Jimmy Fallon did a skit with Bryan Cranston where the entire joke was that they were hanging on wires and could not get close to each other. That went on for far too long, indeed the fact that it even started, was far too long.
Stephen Colbert matched that with a skit based on the computer game Candy Crush. Maybe this would have been improved if I had ever played Candy Crush, or ever had any interest in playing the game. Incredibly he persuaded Liam Neeson to play the other lead role in the sketch. Once again, laughs were notably absent, except from those taking part.
Who comes up with these ideas and how many insiders on the shows see them, without realising that they have no entertainment value whatsoever?
The constant references to video games in the Colbert show tend to indicate that I am not in the target market for this programme, but that would also exclude a lot of people who are still up and awake at the allocated time slot.
Letterman could never really be described as a hard hitting, journalistic interviewer, but Colbert‘s interviews are as shallow as they could be, with practically no new or interesting information, beyond whatever book or film the interviewee is there to promote.
With the exception of Craig Ferguson, I really only ever watched these shows for the guests, to see what they had to say when they were not acting or performing. But Colbert gives us none of that, as he tends to talk over them and the interviews are more about him than them.
I have little to say on Fallon, as I have never warmed to him and have probably never sat through an entire show. I do remember one episode where Jennifer Aniston was the guest and he roped her into some unfunny skit, on the Friends set and then rolled out Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow to join in. Jennifer Aniston was rolling her eyes at the pathetic premise and so was I… and no doubt most of the viewing audience.
James Corden was well known to me as a comic actor and writer, before he took over Craig Ferguson‘s Late, Late night spot. I’d also seen him do some very funny skits. The one he did for the UK’s Red Nose Day, as Smithy, from Gavin and Stacey, with the England football team, was hilarious.
But there has always been something about him that has seemed kind of fake to me and this is amplified in his chat show. In what I have seen of this one, Corden replaces Fallon‘s unfunny sketches with unfunny game shows.
All three of the replacement hosts suffer from making their shows far too much about them and their guests are mere pawns in their own self promotion.
The current king of TV chat shows, in my opinion, has been around for quite some time. He does not have the burden of trying to produce 5 shows a week. Instead he makes do with one quality show per week.
He usually has three chat guests and one musical guest each week, who appear on set together and the balance is almost always good.
There are no tiring, unamusing skits, but there is a Big Red Chair, from which members of the audience are tossed, if their stories do not meet muster.
I am, of course, talking about Graham Norton and any one of his shows would beat the entire output of Fallon, Colbert and Corden combined.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon currently airs about three times per day on ABC2
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert usually airs around 11:30 weeknights on Channel 11 and is followed by The Late Late Show with James Corden.
The Graham Norton Show airs on Channel 10 at 8:30 on Fridays with repeats on Channel 11, sometimes twice a week.
If you are more impressed with the current crop of late night men, you can pick up some of their extensive output by clicking the links below.
By Max Power
Tonight the Australian version of The Voice drew to its convoluted conclusion. With no offence intended to any of the finalists, it felt much less conclusive than in previous years. The coaches’ saves and altering of the format, meant that the public had far less of an influence on who made it into the final and resulted in one coach having no finalist.
Interestingly, the coaching team made up of twins, had two finalists. Coincidence, do you think?
As expected, the two hour and twenty minute show featured lots of throwback footage of the finalists’ path to get here. Indeed, the show kicked off with a film clip that was part interview, part performance, by Joe Moore, Liam Maihi, Nathan Hawes and Ellie Drennan, the final four title contenders. This culminated with an onstage performance, where they were backed by a choir of the last 12 competitors to be voted off.
In fact the performers voted off in recent weeks featured heavily all night, usually with Naomi Price grabbing most camera time, appearing front and centre whenever they were cut to and being the most animated.
So, after more clips and much more coaches chat, the four finalists were set to perform. Each of them would sing two songs, one solo and one as a duo, with their own coach.
Liam Maihi was first up and his cancer suffering mother was included in the rehearsal footage. As I have stated before here, I am not a fan of the emotional manipulation that these type of shows indulge in, with stories of sick and deceased relatives to tug on the heart strings. But it would be churlish in the extreme to begrudge Liam’s mum her time in the spotlight, for the support she has no doubt given him in his career so far.
Liam’s song was Fix You by Coldplay. Now to say I am not a fan of Coldplay would be a vast understatement, but this song suited Liam much better than one of my favourites, Never Tear Us Apart, that he performed last week. It was a great demonstration of his skills, connection and tones. I believe that it was one of his best performances on the show.
To mix it up, the first duet was up next. Jessie J and Ellie Drennan gave us Halo from Beyonce. This song has been done a lot on this show, so did we need another one?
My first impression was that there was way too much black eye shadow on Ellie’s face. This is a cute 16 year old, do they really need to make her look like a semi-goth?
The performance of the song was kind of what I expected. Jessie is not known for easing up and standing in anyone else’s shadow. Jessie was her normal impressive self, Ellie got better as the song went on. But I would have preferred a different song.
Nathan Hawes was the next soloist. The theme of the parents showing up in rehearsals was to continue throughout and I was OK with that. After all, this is a family show and when any young person succeeds in any field, be it music, sport or academia, there is most often supportive parents behind them, encouraging them both emotionally and practically.
We found out, from Nathan’s parents, that he first sang to them two years ago. But he was so shy and lacking in confidence, that he did it with his back to them.
Nathan’s solo piece tonight, was Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, from the one and only Bob Dylan. I am aware that my reviews of Nathan’s performances are very samey, but that is because the performances themselves are too. So let’s say, for the last time, that Nathan has very nice tones, plenty of talent and potential, but he needs more variety.
For this particular song, I did not feel that he connected with the lyrics at all. But that was hardly surprising. It was written and released over 30 years before he was born and the peace and love, globally aware, caring nature of the 60’s artists has long since been replaced by the consumerist culture of greed, for most people today.
In Joe Moore’s rehearsal, his parents were introduced only as ‘his family’ and for a while it was not clear exactly what part of his family. They actually looked so young, that I briefly thought that they may have been friends of his.
Joe’s final solo song was Scars from James Bay. I have to compare him to Nathan again, because they are similar. But Joe connects so much more with his cover songs and, although you can hear the echoes of the original artist, you could equally believe that they are his own songs. This was another top performance from my tip to take out the competition.
When he finished, both the Maddens and Delta Goodrem said that he was the most ready for what comes after the show and, for once, this was not just blowing smoke up the artist’s arse.
Liam Maihi and Ricky Martin’s duet was James Arthur’s You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You. Ricky seemed to be not directly on the mic at times, but then, he has always been more show than connection. The song suited Liam more than Ricky, to be fair. Liam looked stiff compared to Ricky, but didn’t sound it. This was his second excellent performance of the night.
Ellie Drennan’s solo song was Nothing Compares To You made famous by Sinead O’Connor, but written by Prince, who of course called it Nothing Compares 2 U. This was a nice version, but Sinead’s tore you apart. The performance ended with fake rain falling in front of Ellie. To truly honour the writer, it should have been Purple Rain.
Afterwards, Ellie admitted that she found it hard to connect with the song. Not surprising really! Some 16 year olds have felt that kind if passion, have you read Romeo and Juliet? But most haven’t.
Jessie J got very tongue tied in her response, but summed up with “the journey is more important than winning”, or words to that effect. .
So we had two more duets to come and they were both from the team that had two coaches. How very convenient!
It was decided that Benji Madden would sing with Nathan Hawes and Joel Madden would sing with Joe Moore.
Nathan and Benji gave us the 90’s classic Wonderwall from Oasis. The song hugely lifted when Benji came in, after the first verse. There was just more oomph in his parts. Nathan seemed to cut out when Benji was doing harmonies. However, it was still good and an enjoyable version.
Not having seen Benji sing with anyone but Joel before, this reminded me a little of my early thoughts about The Beatles. For many years I never knew which of them sang lead on any of their songs. But, in time, I realised that it was because they always sang harmonies and they all sounded quite similar.
A tip for young players, when listening to or watching The Beatles, the one singing lead is the one who wrote it. This was easy when George Harrison sang lead, as he always wrote alone, but all of Lennon and McCartney’s songs were credited to both of them, no matter whether they wrote them together or separately.
Joel and Joe’s duet was Demons by Imagine Dragons. There was a clip of a very casual and low key rehearsal, with a few mistakes. When they appeared on stage, it became apparent that Joe is about a foot taller than Joel. I wasn’t keen on the start of this one, but once again the harmonies took it somewhere else. Joe really led on this and while it was not as good a song as the last, I think I enjoyed it more.
Afterwards, Benji said that Joel’s been doing this for almost 20 years and Joe holds his own, but he actually does a little more than that.
With an hour to go, we had a halfway vote off, whereby two of the competitors would be eliminated.
Ellie was the first through and Liam was the first out. Joe went through next and Nathan had to sit with his coaches and watch clips of his journey on the show.
Joe and Ellie were now to perform original tracks.
Ellie Drennan’s song and first single is called Ghost. It sounded familiar, maybe because formula songwriters were employed to put it together. It repeatedly featured the line “just floating away” and that is what it did for me.
Joe Moore’s song was called Invincible and we were told that he co-wrote it, no doubt with the same writers of Ellie’s song. It also sounded familiar, but seemed to raise the crowd more than Ellie’s original. I liked it, but I thought it was a bit of a television song.
Afterwards the Maddens kept telling Joe that he’s the real deal.
So finally the votes were in and despite my wishes and belief that Joe gave the better performances all throughout the series, they gave it to Ellie. The girl is good, but I think Joe will be more popular, both immediately and in the long term. But we wish the best of luck to all who took part.
There was a promo for auditions for the next series of The Voice, but I have serious reservations about whether it will go ahead. There was so much fake in this series that you could no longer take anything on face value and as the old adage says, “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time“.
The Voice has already moved firmly into the ‘some of the people, some of the time’ category and that may not mean the end, but it certainly means that the fat lady is warming up in the wings.
By Max Power
PS We have added links below to some of the best songs performed tonight on The Voice. Just click on them for more information.