UK pop stars Little Mix began their search for the next big thing this weekend.
The girl band, who made their name on ex-manager Simon Cowell’s show, The X Factor, are looking to find and create their own arena-filling pop group on their new BBC One show, The Search.
The programme received positive reviews and was praised for modernising and freshening up the age-old format.
Despite that, it also received relatively low early viewing figures.
Around 1.9m people tuned into episode one on Saturday night, giving the show an 11.6% share of the TV viewing audience at that point. On Sunday, that figure was 1.8m – an 11.3% share.
‘A kinder approach’
The task for Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson and Jade Thirlwall is to create six bands from thousands of wannabes – a boy band, girl vocal, girl dance group, mixed, vocal and instrument, and rap and R&B.
The winners will support the band on their next tour (which could be a while off sadly, due to Covid-19).
Lizo Mzimba, BBC entertainment correspondent
Considering its primetime slot on Saturdays and Sundays, along with the significant amount of promotion it had ahead of its launch, the viewing figures of 1.94m on Saturday and 1.85m on Sunday are incredibly low.
But it’s not all bad news. Unsurprisingly, it did particularly well with younger viewers and was one of the BBC’s most watched shows of the entire week in the 16-34 age bracket.
The BBC will be pleased with the relatively large youth audience, which also indicates the show could perform strongly on catch-up.
But it will also have wanted the show to find a good audience with older viewers as well. Saturday and Sunday night primetime shows are aimed at a family audience of all ages.
And while overnight audiences are gradually becoming less significant, they still carry a large degree of importance. However well a show might do on catch-up, no channel would be happy with a show that sees large numbers of viewers switching off or over when it comes on – viewers who might not return to the channel again that night.
The Independent described the show as “a kinder approach to TV talent competitions”, awarding four out of five stars.
“The X Factor’s stock-in-trade has too often been the humiliation of its auditionees, many of whom are invited on the show precisely because they can’t sing,” wrote Roisin O’Connor.
“But Little Mix are clear from the off that they’re looking for real talent. While each episode involves a mixed bag of singing abilities, the show never feels cruel for airing them.”
The first episode on Saturday saw them focus on the boy band section, before they moved on to the mixed group on Sunday night.
O’Connor noticed that “a lot of the boys seem to have auditioned for the sole purpose of flirting with the members of Little Mix…”
According to The Mirror, “Little Mix made light work” of pulling the lads together. The publication believes the show could “signal the demise of elder X-Factor”.
“Chatty and relaxed, the girls lounge on a massive plush, pink sofa with carefully placed cushions and jars of retro sweets for snacks,” wrote Sara Wallis.
“It would be easy to dismiss them as out of their depth. But they’ve been at the top of their game for nearly a decade, selling 50 million records. They know their stuff and they’re not afraid to say it.”
She added: “They are actually very funny, constantly breaking into voices, impressions and one-liners. They’re bound to win over even more fans – and those fans’ mums and dads.”
Last week, the stars of the show (for now, at least) told the BBC they insisted on aftercare for contestants, after seeing how the music industry treats young artists.
“We didn’t have that, really, on the show that we came from,” said Leigh-Anne Pinnock, referring to the band’s experiences on The X Factor.
The Telegraph felt they were able to use their experiences to “breathe life into a moribund genre”.
“Paying homage to their roots, Little Mix go in hunt of a new pop group in this singing contest which should prove a hit with their fans,” penned Michael Hogan, who opted for three stars.
Meanwhile, the Radio Times gave another four-star review, labelling the new show – which is hosted by comic actor Chris Ramsey – as “fun, fresh and innovative”.
“It’s impressive to see just how far the girls have come, turning the tables so they’re now are the ones offering expert feedback, vocal criticisms and general life advice,” wrote Helen Daly.
“It works – they all have their unique takes on things, with Perrie Edwards focusing on vocals, Jade Thirlwall on the bigger picture, Jesy Nelson on the vibe and energy, while Leigh-Anne Pinnock offers her heart and soul to every contestant. It works, and it’s very genuine.”