Follow the Line


Reel Stories: Sting


The X Factor is over. Not another show with a supercilious Simon Cowell sneering at wannabe pop stars — that’ll be the Why-Oh-Why Factor.

However, the modest mogul must follow-up on his global hit. It aired in Britain in 2019 and was the last to air. He has also provided a steady stream new talent to his record label.

Cowell’s solution is to retreat backstage and allow Take That’s Gary Barlow to assume charge of a talent contest.

The five singing contestants show their talent, belting out classic chart songs, and the winner moves on to the next episode. The Garyoke Challenge would have made this a reality, but Cowell decided to take the title of an old Johnny Cash song: Walk The Line (ITV).

Simon Cowell’s solution is to retreat backstage and allow Take That’s Gary Barlow (pictured) to assume charge of a talent contest

Simon Cowell’s solution is to retreat backstage and allow Take That’s Gary Barlow (pictured) to assume charge of a talent contest 

Gary lamented the lack of music programs on television in a Mail article earlier this year. He claimed that performers have been either “shoehorned” into reality television shows or are used to fill in for the lurid party game format The Masked Singer.

Walk The Line aims to change that by focusing on five performances. Craig David (as Gary), is also a singer with countless songs and can offer real insights.

The series airs every night this week, with a prize of £500,000 for the winner — chosen by an audience vote, not by the judges or the viewers.

This concept seems unfinished. There’s far too much build-up to each song, performances last just 90 seconds, and — thanks to needlessly complicated rules — we sit through endless explanations from overworked host Maya Jama.

Goodness knows Dawn French, comedian. She certainly doesn’t.

Five singing hopefuls show off their voices, belting out chart classics, with the winner going through to the next episode

The show features five singing talent hopefuls who belt out classic chart songs.

Desperate to be down with da kids, she told one singer: ‘I had all the feels listening to that.’ 

He’d just crooned God Only Knows by The Beach Boys — a number so old, Dawn was probably the only person in the studio who was even born when it was first recorded in 1966.

When Ella Rothwell took the stage, the last contestant was over, all quarrels ended. She sang a song she’d written herself, a throaty tune called I Wonder If You’re Happy, as good as anything on Adele’s latest album. Gary sang the chorus back to her.

‘That’s a hit,’ he said, which is an understatement. Promoted right, it’s a song we’ll be hearing everywhere all next year. Cowell and Hector must have realized what an amazing talent this song is. If they had to invent a new show just to launch Ella, you’ll hear no complaints from me.

Sting is not a fan of the soft soap treatment he gave on Reel Stories (BBC2). Dermot O’Leary plied the former Police frontman with flattery and sycophantic questions as they watched a few film clips spanning his career.

It was more of a 45-minute belly laugh than an interview. Since the band broke up in 1986, Dermot reminded us, Sting has ‘made 15 albums, won 11 Grammys and tried to make the world a better place’. The singer claimed any tensions in The Police arose ‘because I was writing all the songs. It’s kind of a democracy and then it becomes a benign dictatorship, but that’s the nature of art.’

Dermot didn’t dare ask him about the brawl with drummer Stewart Copeland, backstage at the Shea Stadium in New York in 1983, when Sting suffered a broken rib that required hospital treatment.

Although this is a very nice approach, if the programme removes any unpleasantness from the pictures, the program ceases being history and can be branded propaganda.

ABC list of the weekend: Clark Kent’s arch-enemy Captain Luthor flew to Moldova and Mongolia in search of kryptonite, in Superman & Lois (BBC1). He didn’t find any but, if he’s going alphabetically, there’s Montenegro, Morocco and Mozambique next.