The Voice UK: Judges have agreed to be encouraging


Forget Mr Nasty, reality TV is about to turn nice: Judges on new show The Voice have agreed to be encouraging

Friendly face: Holly Willoughby has agreed to be encouraging

Friendly face: Holly Willoughby has agreed to be encouraging

For the past decade Simon Cowell”s caustic put-downs to desperate singers drove an era of mean TV where it seemed the nastier the treatment the higher the ratings.

Every new talent show launched around the world needed its own version of Mr Nasty, from acid-tongued Aussie Jason Gardiner on Dancing On Ice to Cowell clone Piers Morgan on America”s Got Talent.

But moods are changing and, according to senior industry figures, 2012 is likely to herald an era where TV finally turns nice. BBC1″s highly anticipated new Saturday night talent show, The Voice, which launches in the spring, features friendly faces Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates as hosts.

The biggest contrast to its main rival, The X Factor, is that the judges – Tom Jones, Jesse J, Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.I.Am and Danny O”Donoghue (from rock band The Script, apparently) – have an agreement with producers that they will offer only positive encouragement to the singers who audition.

Soul-destroying feedback is being replaced by uplifting motivation, which Beeb bosses believe will be a ratings winner in the current climate and was behind its decision to splash out 22 million on the Dutch format.

In the U.S., The Voice, with the same positive approach, outperformed the recently launched American version of The X Factor. In fact, Cowell – the architect of mean TV – has been forced to significantly lighten his show by adding upbeat video packages featuring the contestants in church and with their families.

Back here, many in the industry have attributed the ratings fall suffered by The X Factor this year compared with main rival Strictly Come Dancing to the difference in tone between the two shows.

Viewers reacted against the constant rows between Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland, Tulisa Contostavlos and Louis Walsh on the ITV show. Meanwhile, over on Strictly, even resident villain Craig Revel Horwood lost some of his infamous bite, with his criticisms more pantomime than spiteful.

There are a number of factors behind the decision by TV executives to launch lighter, more inspirational shows and soften those they believe have become too negative.

Ranting: Simon Cowell, pictured on American X Factor, was dubbed Mr Nasty because of his callous manner towards contestants

Ranting: Simon Cowell, pictured on American X Factor, was dubbed Mr Nasty because of his callous manner towards contestants

For one, grim economic news has left viewers craving escapism from their entertainment choices. TV executives are also desperate to avoid any more Jeremy Clarkson-style scandal from foul-mouthed presenters or panelists on live shows ITV has already moved to replace divisive Mr Gardiner from the upcoming series of Dancing On Ice, fearing viewers would no longer accept his cutting (but often hilarious) comments on the celebrity skaters.

And Queen of Mean Anne Robinson is also exiting, having filmed the last episode of BBC1 quiz The Weakest Link, which was viewed as not fitting with the new era.

An executive at the BBC tells me: “There”s definitely a view that uplifting content works at the moment. We don”t believe viewers will embrace contestants being verbally bullied by a mean judge in the same way they might have a few years ago.

“The Voice is all about positivity and bringing the best out of the contestants on the show.” Only time will tell if viewers embrace the new wave of warm and fuzzy shows.

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Comic Matt Lucas is keeping it in the family for the launch of his new BBC1 panel show, which he developed and made without his usual sidekick David Walliams.

His partner in crime on The Matt Lucas Awards, which has started filming, is his mother, Diana. The weekly series features the former star of Little Britain awarding trophies, known as Lucases, in a selection of amusing categories.

Keeping it in the family: Matt Lucas films with his mother Diana in his new BBC1 show

Keeping it in the family: Matt Lucas films with his mother Diana in his new BBC1 show

Three guests will join Matt and Mum during the humorous presentations. On one early episode the line-up is Louis Walsh, Germaine Greer and Clive Anderson.

A source close to the show tells me: “The idea is to reinvent the panel show. It is a big project for Matt because he”s stepping out without David. But he”s very excited about introducing his mum to the public.”

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BBC can”t see the stars in their own eyes

Yet again the judgment of BBC comedy bosses is in question after two series they axed won big at the British Comedy Awards.

Shooting Stars (with Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves) won the coveted prize for best comedy panel show. Ironically, the series was chopped by the Beeb under its round of “delivering quality first” cuts.

My comedy source explains: “How can Shooting Stars possibly not be a quality show when it has just been named the panel series of the year

The decision looks even more ridiculous now. If the BBC had any sense they would listen to the public and reverse the cancellation.” Another BBC2 series, the dark comedy Psychoville, won best comedy drama, despite being dumped by Corporation bosses.

Given the chop: Shooting Stars with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer has been cut despite winning big at the Comedy awards

Given the chop: Shooting Stars with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer has been cut despite winning big at the Comedy awards

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Text Santa to raise cash…

Credit must go to ITV director of television Peter Fincham, the former BBC1 controller forced out over the Queengate debacle, who tomorrow night makes a bold bid for the channel to move back into the business of telethon-style TV.

Text Santa is a two-and-ahalf hour live Christmas Eve fundraising initiative that will air from 7.30pm, with Ant and Dec hosting. The aim is to raise money for nine charities during the festive season.

But it”s also a move to create an annual event for ITV to equal the BBC”s main charity fixtures Children In Need and Comic Rel ief, which Fincham realised the importance of during his time at the Beeb.

Popular: Ant and Dec host the fun-filled Text Santa telethon which will raise money for charity

Popular: Ant and Dec host the fun-filled Text Santa telethon which will raise money for charity

Viewers will be encouraged to make donations by text message during a number of touching prerecorded video packages. Celebrities doing their bit will include comedian Paddy McGuinness making an attempt to star in multiple pantomimes, and the cast of reality soap The Only Way Is Essex performing a Christmas carol. I wish ITV”s Text Santa every success.

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Will you be watching EastEnders on BBC1 or Downton Abbey on ITV1 on Christmas Day at 9pm

If it”s Downton, you will be sending ITV bosses a very big present: they”re hoping to achieve their first festive win over the Beeb in recent memory. Whatever you end up watching, have a very Merry Christmas. My pick is the long-awaited return of Absolutely Fabulous.

Which one will you be watching EastEnders and Downton Abbey go head to head but Absolutely Fabulous is a must

Which one will you be watching EastEnders and Downton Abbey go head to head but Absolutely Fabulous is a must

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Klass struggle for Daybreak

Popular Myleene Klass has followed Eamonn Holmes and Natasha Kaplinsky to become the latest big-name presenter to rule herself out of the hunt to replace Christine Bleakley on ITV”s Daybreak.

“I have had offers, but have had to turn them down because it doesn”t work for my family,” she tells me.

“My rule is that I”m there for when my children wake up and for their bedtime. I”m not driven by big-money contracts.” BBC Breakfast”s Sian Williams has remained quiet and is still the favourite to make the move.