On Friday August 12 2011, Karaoke Battle USA debuts on CBS. Don’t worry if you missed it, even we weren’t fully aware about its premiere date. Remember seeing one commercial before Friday, but there wasn’t much promotion leading up to that. We are always excited whenever karaoke gets center stage in terms of mainstream media and there’s no better for him than a primetime show on CBS. But does this show it do anything to dispel myths that still plague karaoke? More importantly, is it actually entertaining? We would actually be willing to suffer through the most stereotypical karaoke programming and imaginable as long as it was watchable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like CBS will have a hit on their hands unless the rest of America happens to disagree with our opinion.
The first signs of trouble come from the fact that there wasn’t much promotion for this program in the first place. It’s also a bad thing whenever a new program debuts during the summer. It’s basically a time when throwaways and left over shows get a chance to fill the schedule. Rather than having reruns, sometimes it pays off to throw on a program that might potentially hit it big. Other times a show is clearly a garbage heap that needs to find a home so that the network doesn’t lose all of its investment. Reality shows are relatively easy and cheap to produce so it’s easy to see why they went with a show like Karaoke battle USA.
This isn’t going to sound a nice, but the show doesn’t exactly have a solid pedigree. When Joey Fatone is the person hosting your show, you’re pretty much going to be in trouble. He’s actually a pretty personable guy and a watchable host, but he doesn’t bring any star power into the picture. You might as well have a complete unknown do the job because you’re not really getting any benefit from this former N’Sync band member.
The judges include Joe Levy who is a national music writer that you might recognize from other shows that comment on celebrities and music. He’s a pretty decent charge but again, he doesn’t bring any star power into the picture. The second judge who no one will recognize at all is the national karaoke champion, Brian Scott. We know who he is, but most people would think he’s just some guy in a cowboy hat. Here’s a clip of Mr. Scott giving some pretty good advice to anyone looking to participate in competitive karaoke.
The judge with the most Star recognition is Carnie Wilson who you will recognize from the buffet line. Or maybe you know her from Wilson Phillips. She’s supposed to be like the Simon Cowell of the judging panel and she certainly the most vocal. But if you’re going to have a mean or vocal judge, it’s essential that you have somebody who is actually entertaining to listen to. That way you can secretly enjoying some of the mean things that are said rather than completely hating the judge altogether. Carnie Wilson is an okay choice but she doesn’t have any personal charm and sometimes you would rather the other judges get a bit more attention.
A show can overcome lackluster judges if the format and performers themselves are stellar. In this case we are dealing with people who are competing for spots in competitive karaoke, so you can guess the level of talent we are working with. One of the problems with this show is that there isn’t really a clear direction with the way it wants to go. Being good a karaoke can sometimes mean different things for different people.
You don’t necessarily have to have a good voice which is something that the show emphasizes. But at the same time, if you’re going to have a nationally televised contest then you don’t want it to be a freak show either. But in many cases, you’re not really seeing stellar talent that deserves any kind of record contract. In the best case scenarios, there are people who are able to put energy into the performance to stand out from the rest. But you can’t really get over the feeling that none of these performers should be rewarded if they don’t have a spectacular voice.
The show tries its best to simulate the karaoke experience in a bar. There are some interesting segments that remind viewers about fun aspects of karaoke and how it can bring people together. We enjoy these parts because anything that spreads positive messages about karaoke is a great thing. And in one sense, they try to make the viewer seem like they are in a karaoke bar as a part of the action. Unfortunately, it never really comes together because you don’t really know any of the people involved and the low-quality camera really makes you feel like a viewer rather than participants. There something about the way this show is shot that is somewhat off-putting and prevents the viewer from really connecting to whatever is going on the screen.
When you are in a karaoke bar it’s fun to watch her friends get up and sing because you are surrounded by the energy of the room. Even if you have to sit through total strangers were absolutely horrible, it can be a fun thing because you come together as a single group. This show however, isn’t able to capture the same magic and there is a real noticeable disconnect throughout the entire experience. Basically you watch some people who are good mixed in with segments featuring people who are horrible, but you never really feel like you’re in a karaoke bar at all. It’s actually really boring to watch the show and we had a hard time sitting through the entire two hour one time. This show might be tolerable for a half-hour sessions at most, and we challenge anybody to actually enjoy spending two hours of their life getting through one episode.
There are clearly good aspects of the show, but when you boil things down to the very basics it’s extremely boring to watch. None of the magic of karaoke is captured accurately. At best, you might be entertained by the sideshow or freak show aspects when truly horrible singers come up on screen. But even when you see some of the better karaoke performers, it’s not really that exciting. When you had everything up, the show has a lot of things going against it. Low production value, no celebrities or noticeable stars, questionable talent, and a horrible time slot, would be hard to overcome for any show. We’ll see of Karaoke battle USA catches on, but unless some major changes are made we won’t really care one way or the other.