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Oct 05 2007

Sweden copies U.S. TV shows badly

Dr. Darling and I decided we’d give the Swedish version of “American Idol” a shot this season, even though past experience indicated that we’d be disappointed.

Swedish television makes regular attempts to duplicate US and British reality-style programs and usually misses the mark…most often because they can’t or won’t commit to the kind of production budget necessary to do them right.  I mean, re-arranging the furniture and slapping up a coat of paint does not an Extreme Home Makeover make.  Even Swedes themselves hated the localized version of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy“… it barely lasted one season.

Swedish Idol, on the other hand, is very popular even though American Idol is also aired here (several weeks behind the actual competition) and therefore can be directly compared. But it’s pretty tough to screw up a singing contest and Sweden has a well-deserved reputation for producing excellent vocalists. Plus, the country is small enough that it’s not unusual to know someone who actually knows one of the contestants.

The main reason we hadn’t checked the show out earlier was the language.  Because the competition phase is always a live broadcast, there are no Swedish subtitles available via text tv, and I just didn’t want to work that hard to follow it. This year I figured my Swedish was up to the challenge, plus the show is airing at a time when we aren’t watching anything else.

The audition phase was fairly entertaining, as was “Stockholm Week”, but when it came time for the top 16 contestants to begin singing in front of a live audience, it went very quickly downhill. The format here has them singing every other night during the first week or so…which means there’s not a lot of rehearsal time and it shows.

The girls do seem to have plenty of time to have their hair done, however, because several of them have been clipped and coloured to the point that they’re barely recognizable from their earlier appearances, and the results have not necessarily been an improvement. I also suspect that the contestants don’t have all that many options when choosing what to sing, because song selection has been consistently crappy. (I’m no expert, but I’m fairly certain that Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” is not a good tune for showing off a male singer’s vocal range, let alone a female’s.)

The taped interview montage that runs before each contestant’s performances always show him or her working out with a choreographer, but we have yet to see any of them do any kind of dancing. And the judging seems so be all over the map. I’ve seen a number of decent vocal performances ignored because the contestant didn’t project enough energy or flare, and just as many mediocre vocals praised as though they were worthy of a Grammy, all because the singer “looks like a star.”

Now the show has reached the stage where it’s only on once a week, and we were hopeful that this would mean the performances would improve. But tonight’s show failed to impress either myself or the Swede (“Tainted Love” was actually one of the better numbers) and I doubt we’ll tune in again. We gave it the old college try, but it’s just too lame to invest any more time in. At least now my excuse for not watching it is something other than “I’m too lazy to deal with the Swedish.”

Feed my ego!

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