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The Hills Are Alive - August 3

There seems to be a pattern brewing. One production company comes up with an idea for a game show. One that is fresh, exciting, and a surefire winner. And then Mike Darnell realizes that he's going to be beaten to the punch, so he slaps together a copycat idea that feels like yet another retread. That situation has played out over this summer as The Singing Bee and Don't Forget the Lyrics! compete, albeit indirectly, for your viewing time.

Singing Bee, hosted by former N*SYNC member Joey Fatone, is something new. Six contestants compete in three elimination rounds, where the lone survivor tries to win $50,000. The overriding concept is a simple one: when the band stops playing, sing the next line, sometimes the entire chorus. The band is competently led by Ray Chew, and the vocal range of the singers is far-reaching. Whether the next song up is a power ballad, stadium anthem or pop standard, the singers are on the money. The different games keep things fresh and interesting. It is nice to see a show that has contestants playing against each other in a fun environment.

That is the point where Don't Forget the Lyrics! fails. The game is Karaoke Millionaire in a nutshell. Contestants choose a category from a stable of nine, and when Rickey Minor and the band stop playing and lyrics disappear from the giant screen, the contestant must fill in the blanks. But wait! The contestant has three backups to assist: enlist-a-family-member, fill in two words, or pick from three. Each correct answer allows the solo contestant to move up the money ladder to a final Million Dollar Song. Wayne Brady is decent, but the music is of the same period as Singing Bee, and the whole operation seems thrown together, rushed and trite.

Kudos to Phil Gurin, who has thought outside the box and given the viewers a fun half hour of television to enjoy over the summer. Copious amounts of curses to Mike Darnell. It's bad enough that the show he's producing is a copycat of one of his own shows, but it uses the same tired reveal-stalling, poorly edited voice-overs, and other clichés that have caused the genre to go into a collective tailspin. Singing Bee is well worth your time. Don't Forget the Lyrics should have never gotten past the pilot stage.  

Travis Eberle can name that tune in seven notes. Send him an e-mail at, as long as you promise not to remind him that neither show employs a Bid-a-Note round.


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