“Rising Star” & Host Josh Groban Include West Coast In Its Fun And Get in on the Ice Bucket Challenge Too!

When ABC’s “Rising Star” singing competition began a few weeks ago, the ratings were less than stellar.  To be honest, I have no idea whether or not the ratings have improved or not, but I sure hope they have, if only for the fact it is the first reality TV show of its type to truly include the West Coast in what happens.  This is important to me since I live in California.

It’s one of my pet peeves that the West Coast is excluded from these competition shows except for the phone in votes.  The ‘live’ elements of reality series are increasing all the time with phone apps and social media growing in scope and becoming part of the shows.  However, unless you are in a market where the East Coast feed  is carried on your cable system or you have satellite that makes it possible to watch, West Coast viewers are mere watchers.

Not true for “Rising Star” at all.  The West Coast edition shows both the East Coast and West Coast votes for the singing amateurs.  At the end of the hour, Groban is shown ‘live’ with contestants who didn’t survive the East Coast cut and one of them is saved based on the West Coast vote.  They return as a winner the next week just like the others who were voted through by East Coast viewers earlier in the evening.

The semi-finals of the show was shown last night and once again, at the end, the West Coast saved a contestant.  I love this.  Finally, I can really be included and it’s not just a mention.  I do adore that Groban hangs around for two hours after the East Coast run and appears to announce who the West Coast has saved.  Kudos to Groban and Bravo to ABC for finally bringing the West Coast into a singing show like this.

The other part of the show I like is that who moves forward is a wonderful mix of the celebrity judges and us, the viewers.  Fans vote via an app while the singer performs, as do each of the three judges (including country singer, Brad Paisley, who frequently quotes real-time voter comments on the air in his commentary).  The judges’ votes, up or down, do carry more weight, but it’s just part of the pie.  Ultimately, it’s the viewers that really tell the story.  That’s nice to see.  The judges are honest in their opinions, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, telling it how they see it, but there are no Simon Cowells in this bunch.  Groban has gotten more at ease as a host over the weeks as well.  He has a very casual style and also includes social media comments in his remarks.  He’s exhibited a great sense of humor over the weeks as a result.

The show also actively welcomes audience commentary on Facebook and Twitter and last night even invited the audience to contribute song ideas for next week’s finale via the hashtag #TellRisingStar.

As a side note, last night, host Groban began the show by accepting the ALS ice bucket challenge.  This is a growing phenomenon where people get doused with a bucket of ice cold water and in the process raise money for ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Even my favorite singer, British Tenor Alfie Boe, just tweeted last night that he’s accepted the challenge with video footage to follow.  That’s going be fun to see. :}  Groban was suitably doused in the opening teaser and then challenged the semi-finalist to accept the challenge as well.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is legitimate.  You can read the details on how it works in this New York Times article.  Basically, anyone doused donates money ($100 is the suggested amount) and/or challenges others to take the challenge as well.  As noted in the piece, the ALS Association reported two days ago that donations to the tune of $11.6 million have come its way directly from this challenge.

Back to the show, another element I like is how the judges (the other two are Kesha and Ludacris) sometimes really take the artists under their wing.  Like NBC’s “The Voice” (notably Blake Shelton who often performs with members of his singing competition team), Paisley especially has shown in interest in backing up his opinions.  He’s already fulfilled one promise to sing with a gal at the Grand Ole Opry and last night he promised another (Joshua Peavy) that if he didn’t move forward (and he didn’t by a single percentage point) that they’d record something together on his farm. I’m guessing we’ll see that song at some point in time!

“Rising Star” is unique among today’s competition show.  It is the first that I know of to really include the  West Coast in its same-night votes.  Love it!

Catch the “Rising Star” finale next Sunday evening on ABC at 9pm.  I suspect that by the nature of it being the finale, the West Coast won’t be part of the final decision, but who knows.  Maybe there’s a provision for it.  We’ll have to wait and see.

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