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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An Introduction to Malaysian Reality TV Singing Contests

A few days ago, Suki was just crowned the first ever "One in A Million" champion. I hardly watched the show, the timing didn’t agree with me, but by and large I follow most of the local (and foreign) reality TV singing contests.

But first, some definitions - these shows are really just singing contests, not much different from your school year-end "talentime" contest. But the difference in these so-called "reality shows" is that instead of the just judges scoring the singing, the scoring is entirely (or partly) decided by the viewers – either via call-in votes, the ever popular SMS votes (text messaging) and even online voting. Further to that, some shows (notably Akademi Fantasia) ups the “reality” portion of the show by showing daily footage of the contestants in their everyday lives (they are usually housed together for the duration of their participation) to let the viewers “get to know” the contestants better.

some of these shows prelude the contest proper with footage of the judges touring round the country for open auditions, usually with the editors focusing on the very bad ones (for humor value) and the potentially good ones to balance it out.

It all started with American Idol (AI). That’s not a local production (obviously), it’s the massively popular American edition of the original Pop Idol show from the UK. Astro our local cable broadcaster started showing from the 3rd season in 2004 onwards, the one where Fantasia Barrino won. The subsequent winners were Carrie Underwood (2005) and Taylor Hicks (2006). AI usually starts in January and goes on until May.

So let’s see what we have here:

Malaysian Idol (MI) – this is the local edition of Pop Idol, spawned mainly from the huge success of its American counterpart. By and large, it follows the same format as the worldwide franchise, with Paul Moss, Fauziah Latiff and Roslan Aziz as the resident judges. As successful as it was to attract the best undiscovered talent in the country, the show never really captured the popularity or media frenzy as its main competitor Akademi Fantasia or compared to American Idol. Strangely enough, it only lasted for two seasons. The inaugural champion was seasoned performer Jaclyn Victor, followed by pretty-boy Daniel Lee (who, most people noted, beat the more talented Nita in the final). I feel that MI, in its short run, had a very cosmopolitan appeal in terms of contestants and viewer following, and because of the maturity of the finalist, I felt that the level of talent (subjective as that may be) was the highest overall (although not necessarily with Daniel – my running joke it’s that he brought the series to an end…)

Akademi Fantasia (AF) – the local version of La Academia, has been wildly popular in recent editions, partly due to the massive media advertising and tie-in campaign, and particularly its appeal to both the urban and rural Malay teenagers. There has been 4 editions to date, however in the first year, 2003, it hadn’t really reached it widespread popularity yet (maybe it had something to do with the fact that AI hadn’t been telecast here yet). The first winner was Vince, followed Zahid (2004), Mawi (2005) and Faizal (2006). The biggest contention against this show is that due to its largely schoolgirl following, the male contestants stand a far superior chance of winning the contest, evident when more talented and but less popular singers (especially the girls) were eliminated. It can be said that the importance of the ‘popularity’ element of the show far outweights the 'talent' half of the equilibrium. The second contention is that with the age of the contestants decidedly lower, the talent of the participants are usually said to have not reached their maturity yet. But it is undeniable that in terms of exposure and financial success nationwide, this one comes out tops. Traditionally, the series starts in May right after AI.

One in A Million (OIAM)– the successor to MI. They basically reformatted the whole show, with a myriad of different elimination processes, renamed and rebranded it, recycled Paul Moss and saved a whole of money in franchise licensing fees. There may be other reasons, but I didn’t really follow the series. But the big selling point of the show is that it offers a million ringgit to the winner. The first winner this year is Suki. This being the first year, it was moderately successful, but next year, plus the attraction of the biggest cash prize so far…

Project Superstar – Mandarin version of AI, originating from Singapore. Malaysia just concluded their first season, but since me no speak good Mandarin, so me no really watch so much. But what I do know is that the judges have a say in the voting, and they are usually highly critical of the participants.

(Astro Talent Quest doesn’t count as a reality singing contest because the winner is chosen by the judges, although they have a special prize for viewer’s choice).

Mentor – TV3’s reply to Astro’s AF, but far less popular. Far, far, less. In this show, the judges’ vote constitutes 70% of the scoring. Unsurprisingly, not many people have even heard of this show.

(all images from wikipedia)

[tags]American idol, Malaysian idol, suki, one in a million, akademi fantasia, vince, AF, mawi, Astro, Astro talent quest, mentor, project superstar, pop idol, jac victor, daniel lee, paul moss, roslan aziz, fauziah latiff, fantasia barrino, taylor hicks, carrie underwood[/tags]


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