Don't Forget the Lyrics
RDF Television for Sky One, 11 May 2008 to 9 August 2009 (36 episodes in 2 series + 2 specials)
Hnrk! Debuting right after the new version of Gladiators, here's Sky One's newly-imported American format to try and wrench us from the analogue channels. And, hold the phone, it's not a bad attempt. Good, even. Though it's formatted to high heaven, and so much of the credit needs to go to the original production, there's some top people working on it and more than enough cash splurged on it that it looks considerably more slick than many BBC One Saturday efforts in recent years. A good introduction, then.
We all like to sing along with our favourite songs. But do we really know the lyrics? Don't Forget the Lyrics puts that to the test. Shane Richie hosts and together with a live band challenges contestants to sing along with well-known songs - without music or lyrics to help them, with thousands of pounds up for grabs if they can.
The game begins with the contestant being shown nine categories - Love Songs, Pop, Musicals etc. Should they wish to win the jackpot, they will have to play all of the categories eventually, but it is their choice in what order they are played. After picking a category they are then offered a further choice of two songs. The contestant must pick one to sing along with the live studio band. After choosing their song, the band starts up, and the lyrics appear on-screen. After usually a minute or so of singing, the music and lyrics disappear and the contestant must carry on singing.
In the early stages, they may only be required to sing a further three words. As the game progresses, the number of words required increases to the point that by the later stages, 12 or more words may be required. A slight niggle is that the game is rather easy in the early stages, and perhaps suffers from a rather flat first 20 minutes until we get to the more difficult stuff.
After they have sung their lyrics, they are asked if they wish to "lock-in" their lyrics, or use a back-up (see below). They can also walk away at any point, talking with them any money they have won thus far. Should they "lock-in" their lyrics, they are then committed, and the lyrics are revealed to be right or wrong, sometimes with the, "We'll tell you after the break", routine so often used these days. Rather tediously, sometimes the correct answer is revealed in two halves which will have most people watching on a Sky+ recording reaching for "x6" feature. Anyway, if it turns out they are right, they move up to the next prize level - starting at £500, and working up to £125,000. If they are wrong, they leave with nothing. The only exception to this is if they successfully complete the fourth song, guaranteeing them £5,000 no matter what happens.
Like all good gameshows, there are three back-ups to help the contestant in the event they don't know the lyrics. The first is the Back-up Singer. With this, the contestant can choose one of two friends to come on-stage and sing the song again with them, with their friend hopefully filling in the lyrics they couldn't remember. The second back-up is Two Words. Here, if after singing the song they missed out lyrics, or are uncertain on some, they can use this back-up to have two correct lyrics added to their response. The contestant is allowed to choose where the two correct lyrics are placed. If, as a result of the placing of these lyrics they remember other missing lyrics, they are allowed to add these to their response. They are also allowed to change what they have already sung should they feel their response was incorrect as a result of seeing the two correct lyrics. The third back-up is Three Lines. Here, three different options for the missing lyrics are displayed, and the contestant can choose which one they think is correct. This back-up also has an extra advantage in that it can be used by the contestant to confirm what they have sung if they are uncertain.
Each back-up can only be used once, and if the contestant is still uncertain after using some or all of their back-ups, they are still free to walk away with whatever money they currently have.
Should the contestant successfully sing along to a song from all nine categories, they are then allowed to go for the jackpot. This requires them to correctly sing the lyrics to one more song, a number one hit that fits into one of the previous nine categories, with no backups or opportunity to bail out. Should they correctly fill in the missing fifteen words, they walk away with the £250,000 jackpot.
Shane Ritchie is a good host, working well in the lively atmosphere created by the live band, and noisy studio audience. The concept doesn't sound particularly engaging, but the traditional game elements (the contestant singing the wrong lyrics, using back-ups, and attempting to decide whether to play on or not) create a passable amount of tension, which makes the game somewhat better than it appears on face value. Perhaps the only negative is that on some songs, the volume of lyrics sung before the contestant actually takes over is perhaps a little too much, but this is a minor criticism in what is actually a very reasonable show... even if it is just karaoke Millionaire.
"Lock in those lyrics!"
Based on a US format
The American Version of the show is presented by Whose Line is it Anyway? US panellist Wayne Brady.
The largest prize won on the programme was £125,000. This was won on two occasions, firstly by Helen Norgrove on 24th January 2009, and then by Joe Connors on 26th April 2009. No contestant ever attempted the £250,000 song, meaning the programme ended its run without ever having a jackpot winner.