Interactive television hurdled to a new level Sunday night, and although it doesn't seem to be getting the attention it should, I think it changes the game forever.
Television has tried to be interactive for years, and it seems the trailblazers for this innovation are the music competition shows. American Idol kick-started it all by allowing you to submit text votes — a real innovation at the time — for your favorite singer. Other programmers allowed Twitter commentary in semi-real time.
But on Sunday night, ABC launched Rising Star, another singing duel that promises superstardom to some unknown. Here's the kicker: in an obvious marketing ploy, the network has developed an app so you and I can play along with real-time voting. Shamelessly admitting the idea plays on our need for instant gratification, ABC lets us give a virtual thumbs up or down — while the singer is still on stage. That beats the heck out of having to wait until after the show to vote!
I know, it's all a little bit hokey — unless you're Carrie Underwood or one of the few who were actually discovered on American Idol. Side note: I was watching the night Carrie's prerecorded audition aired. After her song, I said, "There's your next American Idol." Not bad, eh?
Now that real-time interactive TV is here via a computer app, I wonder what comes next — movies which you choose the outcome? Game shows with at-home contestants? The possibilities are endless and I can't wait to see what happens.
Of the singing shows, I like The Voice best — not only because Blake Shelton is such an entertainer, but also because they do it right. The judges don't get to see the contestants at first, so their opinions are based solely on the contestants' voices. Too often, I think, judges are consciously or subconsciously swayed by a person's looks — both positively and negatively. Also on The Voice, the judges actually get to judge for the longest amount of time. It's a mistake to turn the judging over to the viewers, who, I think, tend to vote for the cutest boy rather than the one with true singing talent. Too often the best singer (in my opinion) gets booted and the wrong contestant wins. Tessanne Chinn should have been the Season 6 winner! She was clearly the singing talent in that group.
Maybe they'll let me judge next year — from the comfort of home, of course.
Writer James Mulcahy
spent 35 years as a newspaper journalist at small and large papers. He is currently a freelance photographer/writer/graphics designer, and he drives a school bus.