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Thursday 18 December 2014

Tears and a sad farewell to fame

And then there were two. After five long months, Fame: The Musical reached its crescendo with a tear-filled finale.

Finalists Sarah O'Connor, Jessica Cervi, Ben Morris and Sean Carey each sang their last song of the series and Irish audiences voted for their winners. Cervi and Morris will play Nick and Serena in a touring production.

The beauty of the TV talent show concept is that no matter how many episodes you've missed, you can tune in and pick up just about where you left off. In fact, sometimes it makes for better TV. After missing a number of episodes, I was stunned to see how far the contestants had come professionally.

Cervi's performance of the Etta James classic, At Last, was rousing and Morris's rendition of Cry Me A River belied his tender age of 23. Conversely, Carey's decision to perform Cheryl Cole's Fight For This Love can't have helped his chances.

Theatre producer and judge Robert C Kelly previously said that he surprised by the lack of talent when he first auditioned in Ireland. Well, neither can he have expected the level of progression that the 12 finalists achieved week on week.

Last night's show borrowed from the British TV reality show model by pairing the contestants with well-known names in musical theatre. While X Factor can draw in names such as George Michael and Beyonce, we got Susan McFadden and Noel Sullivan (remember Hear'Say?).

The show has been criticised for putting the vote to the public, hence turning what should be a talent contest into a popularity contest. However, there's no doubt that the biggest voices in the competition made it to the final last night. Yes, it was cheesy and over-sentimental, but Fame: The Musical was the type of show that many tuned into in spite of themselves.

Over on UTV, James Corden's World Cup kicked off after the Germany v Australia game. The show promises to be a summer-long spectacular celebrating the colour of the World Cup with a studio full of fans and celebrity guests. As the Three Lions vie to win the World Cup, this is Corden's bid to make himself the face of England's World Cup effort. It's an ambitious goal from a young man who has only been in the spotlight for a few years.

Whether it's greed or drive, Corden has seized every career opportunity that has come his way.

He's an actor -- both TV and stage, talkshow host, comedian and writer.

He stars in the latest Coca-Cola commercial and has just recorded a song, a reworking of the Tears for Fears classic, Shout, with Dizzee Rascal. Corden is the celebrity equivalent of Catherine Tate's Helen "I can do that" Marsh.

The problem is that, when it comes to TV presenting, he can't. Actors and comedians (although his CV in the latter area is quite scarce) assume they they can segue in TV presenting just by learning how to use the autocue. Not the case. It's a precision craft that has to be honed. Corden has never triumphed as a presenter before, so quite how the producers thought he could pull this off is anyone's guess. He's Division Four playing at Premier League level. It's a job for a TV heavyweight like Frank Skinner, not newcomer Corden.

Watching it was akin to attending a party that never really kicked off. The jokes were wearisome; the quirky segments were clunky and all attempts to raise excitement were premature. Worse, it looks like the show is set to become a branding exercise for his World Cup song. He has too many ideas and too little strong content. Guests included Dizzee Rascal, ex-England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and former tennis pro Boris Becker; while, in a bid to bring in a female audience, the painfully dull Abbey Clancy, WAG and fiancee of Peter Crouch, is his roving reporter. Yet even a stellar line-up couldn't save an eleventh-hour show that was created to capitalise on World Cup hype rather than entertain viewers.

BYRNE'S STARS

Fame: The Musical ***

James Corden's World Cup **

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