In the fight between NBC and Fox to get out their respective karaoke reality skeins before the other, the Peacock comes out of the gate first with “The Singing Bee.” Net sets the bar somewhere between fairly amateurish and charmingly addictive. After like-minded “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” preems Wednesday, it’ll be left to audiences to determine whose program will be playing in constant rotation.
At show’s opening, host Joey Fatone of ‘N Sync fame starts out in hyperdrive, running around the crowd and shoving a microphone in people’s faces as they belt out tunes played by the house band, Ray Chew and the Groove. There’s no Jordin Sparks, or even a Sanjaya, in this group, but nonetheless, they’re all asked up to the stage to get the game started.
Of the six contestants, one will make it to the final round and have a chance to win $50,000. In order to get there, though, players need to survive the first three acts. And, as Fatone explains, “You don’t have to sing it well, you just have to sing it right.” After listening to a few folks belt ’em out, it’s apparent he’s not foolin’.
Basic premise for each of the acts is that the band starts playing a tune, a house singer will start the song and then suddenly stop. At this point, the contestant needs to jump in and get the next line correctly.
Producers are sticklers for detail, however, and if contestants say “the” instead of “that,” or “a” instead of “an,” the buzzer sounds and they’re goners. If players are basing their answers on watching and listening to the likes of Bob Dylan or a Tom Petty in concert, they could be in big trouble.
Songs range from all eras: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 epic “Sweet Home Alabama” makes an appearance, as does Three Dog Night, Smash Mouth and Bananarama, so it helps to be well-rounded. Most of the songs selected are top-10 hits, so listening to indie rock at 3 a.m. for the last 10 years isn’t going to play to your advantage.
Fatone does a credible job keeping the energy up and even poking fun at himself when an ‘N Sync song is played. The audience does seem a bit too enthused at points, though, and one wonders if a standing ovation is really necessary before each commercial break.
Also, editing comes across as too quick and haphazard when panning the studio audience and keying in on the program’s resident dancers, the Honeybees (natch).
“Bee” has some promise, but the concept has the potential to grow old fast. It could turn into that annoying song you can’t get out of your head, but now with pictures.