Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Maria and Idol: Two Deulling Realities, Two Duelling Singing Contests

There's a new singing reality show on the Canadian block, and it is going directly up against CTV's Canadian Idol on one of its regular airing nights. How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? is CBC's foray into the popular genre of singing contest. Now unlike Idol, it is obviously a one off and will not be repeated as an annual show. The aim of Maria is for the Canadian public to choose who will star as Maria in Andrew Lloyd Webber's and David Mirvish's production of The Sound of Music to play at the Princess of Wales Theatre, starting this fall. Like Idol, Maria is based on a successful BBC show. Still, for this summer the two are going head to head -- until CTV does its inevitable bouncing Idol around the schedule to fit it in between its American shows -- and I think it'd be fun to compare. After all, how often can one compare two similar Canadian shows?!

First up, the opening credits:

Idol begins with its cool blue computer-generated graphics, and even though they're reinvented this year, they can't compare with the fresh, fun, and raunchy opening Maria credits. One for Maria.

The Sets:

Idol has a pleasing-to-the-eye set, a good-sized audience, and provides space for the singers to stretch themselves if they so choose. Maria ditto. A tie.

The Hosts:

The ever-tanned Ben Mulroney of Idol is now comfortable in his role, smooth, cooly (is that a word?) dressed (though I don't like his '80s look tonight), and banters well with the judges. Gavin Crawford...hold up a second, Gavin Crawford!?! Isn't he that 22 Minutes guy? What's a satirical goofball like him fronting a reality singing show??? Well, he's adding quips and wit to Maria, and he fits! Whoever went out on a limb to hire him has creative foresight. In his first show, he was surprisingly professional, didn't look awkward, despite a couple of first-live-show hiccups. A tie...except I'm rather liking Crawford.

The Judges:

Three for Maria; Four for Idol. A Brit, a Canadian, and an American-Brit for Maria; four Canadians on Idol. One female each. Idol is a tad more ethnically diverse. Maria has Captain Jack; Idol has Sass. Maria judges have very differing points of view. In fact, each seems to have their own area that they comment on, whereas Idol judges all comment on whatever strikes them. The Brit judge on Maria makes the final decision on who goes home between the bottom two Marias; the people make the final decision on Idol. One for Idol, but by a flash of white teeth.

The Backup Bands:

Excellent both. The Maria band is bigger with both more instruments and more variety. Two for Maria.

The Songs:

The Idols pick the songs they'll sing. Simon the judge picks the songs the Marias sing. Not sure how I feel about this one. The judges have said for years to the Idols that they sucked cause they picked the wrong song, and so its good to hear contestants singing something that brings out their strengths. Yet seeing and hearing what the contestants like and think is also informative. A tie.

The Singers:

Well aside from the obvious that Maria is all female, they are a completely different bunch. The very first thing you notice as soon as they open their mouths is that the Marias are far and away better singers than the Idols. Their vocals are purer, stronger, richer, and even when pitchy are not nearly as cringing as the Idols. In fact, unlike with the Idols, not one has made me want to cover my ears. And so far I haven't heard them screech yet like at least a couple did tonight on Idol. The Marias also know how to use the stage. Either they're getting better coaching than the Idols or they have more prior experience and know the power of physical movement. Granted, the Idols are going to get better as the show goes on, as usually happens, but the top ten Idols don't have the same overall calibre as the top ten Marias. Definitely Maria has it.

The Hair and The Clothes:

I've seen some really bad hair on Idol. So far hair all good on Maria. But both shows have showcased some terrible clothing. What were they thinking?! A definite tie.

The Voting:

Maria has a real problem with this aspect. Yes, they give one hour longer than Idol to vote, but they don't give out the voting landline and texting numbers nearly enough times, and their phone numbers make no numerical sense unlike the numbers Idol assigns to their singers. I would suspect Maria's voting system, especially not giving out the numbers one more time when the host goes to stand beside the performers at the end of their numbers, will probably lead to fewer votes than they could otherwise get. Also, I didn't like having the contestants sing two at a time and then the judges commenting on two at a time. CBC ought to have given an extra half hour if needed to allow for individual assessment and individual giving out of numbers as on Idol. Finally, Crawford didn't say what time the results show would air the next night. Repeat, repeat, repeat Gavin!!! Definitely Idol wins this one.

The Results:

Maria: 3
Idol: 2

Maria wins! Now go watch it next Sunday if you haven't seen it yet. You'll have a totally escapist and fun time!

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