Well, I finally forced myself to finish watching to two-hour premiere of The Four on Fox.
Let’s just say I think The Voice’s standing as TV’s favorite singing competition is secure for now.
If possible, The Four’s premiere episode was more bombastic than the network’s debut of The X Factor back in 2011.
Which would have been okay if this search for greatness featured more greatness in terms of performances, casting and format.
As it is, the format’s a bit of a muddled mess, Sean “Diddy” Combs might be on his way to becoming the most annoying singing show personality ever and the opening-night performances weren’t exactly awe-inspiring.
As a brief recap, The Four started with four artists — Lex Lu, Ash Minor, Elanese Lansen and Blair Perkins — sitting in the show’s coveted four chairs.
By the end of opening night, Elanese and Blair were gone replaced by Zhavia and Saeed Renauo. Lex had successfully defended her chair in face of a challenge from a hip-hop artist named Illakris.
Three other singers appeared on the show — Anthony Hall, Tyler Griffin and Valentina Cytrynowicz — but failed to convince the four judges they were worthy enough to challenge one of The Four.
The way this show works, a challenger has to perform once to do that. The judges vote. And if four blue circles light up around the singer’s feet, they get to choose which of The Four to challenge.
The challenged member of The Four sings first. Then the challenger performs again. The judges weigh in, but the audience decides who wins the challenge.
So let’s weigh the good and the bad about The Four.
The Four’s pluses:
* The music is more current than on other singing shows we’ve seen. Week one songs choices included French Montana, Jason Derulo and Portugal The Man.
* The show seems more welcome to a broad spectrum of musical styles. Hip-hop and rap are both welcome. In fact, rapper Lex Lu turned in one of week one’s most impressive performances.
* Some of the show’s songs are available on iTunes — specifically all winning challenge songs, which means you can download Lex’s “Wild Thoughts,” Zhavia’s “Unforgettable” and Saeed’s “Love Me Again.”
* The judges aren’t afraid to be critical. Though, honestly, the premiere offered very little in terms of constructive criticism other than the oft-repeated mantra of “you’ve got to bring greatness.” Oh, I almost forgot, there was one piece of concrete criticism from “Diddy.” He told Blair that any artist who drops to his knees at the end of the performance needs to add a few tears. If Voice contestants took that advice seriously, they’d be mopping up the floor at least once a week.
* Fergie, once a Grammy-winning artist herself, plays eye candy here and deserves an Emmy for acting so excited as blue and red circles light up around her feet.
The Four’s problems:
* The show’s claim of greatness seems a bit hollow. At one point, judge Charlie Walk told a challenger: “You’re good, but they’re great” in reference to the original Four. Well, not so much. Two of the four “greats” were gone after a single challenge.
* We’re two hours into Season 1, and we’ve yet to hear Ash Minor — one of the original four — perform. All we know is that he has an Aussie accent, is likely to attract lots of female support for his good looks and is eager to take the stage.
* The show is just as bloated with non-performance nonsense as any other singing show. The two-hour premiere featured just 12 performances. And why do challengers perform twice? Doesn’t that give them twice as many opportunities to impress?
* Fergie told us that on The Four, every episode is like a finale. Well, not really. By the time an American Idol or Voice finale rolls around, viewers are likely invested in contestants and care who wins. It’s hard to envision how we’re going to become attached to contestants on The Four. We certainly aren’t at this point.
* The biggest turn-off to me is the tone of The Four. “Diddy” regularly tries to whip the crowd into a frenzy as if they’re at a pro wrestling match rather than a singing competition. Contestants taunting other contestants isn’t only tolerated, it’s encouraged. Provoked even. Some of it comes off as rehearsed. Regardless, I’m a lot less inclined to support an artist post-The Four if they’ve acted like an egotistical A-1 jerk on the show.
As for ratings, The Four drew about 3.7 million viewers for its premiere. That’s less than half the typical audience for an episode of The Voice (9 to 10 million).
I’ll be interested to see whether than number goes up or down in Season 2.