Ah! — The element of surprise; the secret weapon to what makes entertainment so rewarding, is the most well-loved technique in all forms of storytelling.
The new game show, I Can See Your Voice, which is the latest addition to the Fox family, is a North American adaptation of a Korean television series by the same name.
The premise of the show is simple: play detective with true-or-false evidence to decide on an individual’s singing abilities, with the help from a panel of celebrities, in order to potentially win a cash prize up to $100,000.
In a Fox statement from August, Rob Wade, President of alternative entertainment & specials, commented on filming during the pandemic. “Safely filming I Can See Your Voice this summer was a win in itself, but when we saw the pure magic of the show and felt the palpable suspense in the room before that first note hit, we knew we had to share it with audiences this season.”
During significant points in history, other success stories that can be plucked from adversity would be Hollywood’s triumph during the Great Depression. Comedies and musicals captured hearts and minds, introducing viewers to the beauty of escapism and therapeutic diversion from unprecedented hardships.
In uncertain times today, reality television, in a competition show format, is in many ways the cornerstone of classic storytelling —particularly in the plot of going from rags to riches, we cheer and champion for our hero to win. And with social distancing being very much a part of our new normal, when we may feel less connected with the people around us, we find solace in building connections with characters or contestants.
So although there are quite a few flaws with I Can See Your Voice’s format, whether due to rushed production or intentional decisions in homage to the uncertainty of appearances:
- Only bad singers are to be eliminated, which would be mathematically impossible, if there is more than one good singer in the segment.
- Talents are showcased on stage using methods that do not involve singing, whether lip-syncing, posing with a microphone, or acting out a persona with some vague visual clues.
- Good singers cannot be chosen, if the contestant were to believe there are only good singers left in the segment.
- It’s very unlikely the contestant would choose the smaller prize, based on the odds of winning the grand prize (a fifty percent chance to win more than triple the initial winnings).
We ignore the flaws because there is a much larger story outside of our search to suspend reality. We make social judgements, all the time, based on appearance, whether in romanic relationships, in interviews, or in candidate voting, on an individual’s ability to perform a task or carry on a conversation.
And in many ways, reality television is no different in emphasizing the obvious social commentary about our personal fixation on our inherent bias. The difference is I Can See Your Voice brings our mind’s subliminal processing to the forefront, whereas other reality television shows, like The Voice and American Idol, that are indeed about singing talent, brings the power of how person of interest story, and often a sentimental story, has on our perception of others.
And while we criticize or embrace everything that reality television brings forward in these uncertain times, the one thing that makes I Can See Your Voice so exciting isn’t even the impossibility of determining whether someone is a good or bad singer based on appearances.
At end of of each round of guessing, when the contestant chooses from a group of performers, identified only by their occupation, the moment of reveal is where the true value of I Can See Your Voice resides.
We wait with bated breath to see if our assumptions were correct, whether it is with a sigh of relief or a yelp of triumph. It is in the moment shortly after our discovery, when we wind down with a snapshot of what brought this individual to the show — we find hope and relief — in dreams fulfilled by a moment in the spotlight.