ABC's Boy Band set out to create the next boy band supergroup and become a new summer sensation, but we're just over a week away from the first season's finale (Aug. 24) and there's still no word about a second season. It's Making the Band mixed with American Idol and a little bit of Survivor. How could this possibly go wrong?
Despite everything looking perfect on paper, Boy Band has slipped in ratings since its debut. This part is boring so we'll make it quick: The show has slipped to fourth place in its time slot in ratings and viewers. It's been holding steady at a 0.5/2 in the key 18-49 demo with an average 2.3 million viewers each week. For a little perspective, that's just over a third of Big Brother's 6.3 million average Thursday viewers. Yikes.
"I think that we were feeling that there might have been a larger audience who was interested in putting together the next boy band," ABC president Channing Dungey told press during the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this month. "I still stand behind the quality of the show, but you are right. It didn't connect with audiences in quite the way that we had hoped."
That's not a good look coming from the head of your network — but not all hope is lost. Boy Band has the right ingredients to be a great summer hit, they just aren't being used in the right way. If the show gets a pick up for a second season — and we sincerely hope they do — here's what needs to happen.
Expand the Voting Time
Once the show hit its live shows after three weeks on the air, it was allegedly America's turn to decide which of the young men would make it into the final five — but the voting window is maybe three minutes long and only during the east coast airing of the show. First of all, that disqualifies half the country from being able to vote in their own time zone, which is unfair on its own.
Secondly, this is a show that targets millennial women. It taps into our nostalgia and our love of cute boys that sing for our affection. You know what millennial women don't do these days? Watch live TV. If the show delayed eliminations until the next week, much like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol do, it would give the entire country time to vote and allow its target demo to actually watch the show and form an opinion. Closing the voting so quickly eliminates lots of potential viewers and removes their motivation to care when they know their voice isn't going to be heard when deciding who makes this band.
Show the Architect's Decision Process
The pilot episode showed "architects" (read: mentors) Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, Spice Girl Emma Bunton and Timbaland conferring in their "war room" about which 18 of the original 30 guys would make it to the next round of competition. We haven't seen that war room or the three architects confer about who is sent to the bottom two for elimination since the start of the show.
It was assumed they got together off camera to save time on the show and Nick presents the group consensus. In the quarterfinal elimination Emma spoke up and exposed dissension in the ranks when Sergio Calderon — a 16-year-old bilingual crooner who usually sticks to the top of the pack — was put in the bottom two by the former Backstreet Boy. Nick said it was because Sergio hasn't had a breakout moment yet and he wants America (the small fraction of it that gets to vote) to decide if he belongs in the competition. Emma told the entire audience she didn't agree with that decision and she was very upset (as everyone should have been) to see Sergio in that position.
Arguments like that without context stir up doubts in the minds of your viewers as to how these decisions are made. Why does Nick's vote count more than Emma's? Was it at least a majority decision if not a unanimous one? We didn't get to see those conversations play out and thus we feel weird about how this group is being formed. We want to know what the architects are thinking and why. Knowing that helps fans and voters make fully informed choices with their picks.
Actually, More Architects in General
Instead of having Nick, Emma and Timbaland work directly with the boys, their interaction is limited to overproduced and (many times emotionally manipulative) segments. They have short conversations rather than forming relationships with these guys and personally helping them develop into artists. Multiple boys have been sent home from this show because the architects didn't feel like they "knew" them well enough — but is that really the boys' fault? If you're going to call the panel architects, then they need a more active role in building this group's career than just quick pep talks and judging them.
Do you know why The Voice dominates the music competition space? It's because that show takes the time to build and showcase unique relationships between the judges and the talent. Half the fun of The Voice is seeing how a contestant works with their judge of choice and their dynamic in the rehearsal room. If you're going to score a Backstreet Boy, a Spice Girl and one of the most successful pop and R&B producers to walk the Earth to be on your show, let's see them work.
Make Nick Carter teach them how to dance (as he did in the pilot). Have Emma train them on defining their distinct personalities within the group. Get Timbaland to school them on musicality and how to nail a live performance. We want to hear their expertise and see which of the guys can take that coaching and use it to make them bonafide pop stars.
Give Us More of the Boys, Too
You've made it 1,000 words into this article and we've barely talked about the boys competing on this show. That's because as a weekly viewer I, like the architects, don't really know them that well. There are certain standouts like 19-year-old single father Chance Perez who dominate every week, but as a whole I have a surface level understanding of who these guys are. The few minutes we get to spend with them each week are spent on produced stunts that don't really give us a view into their emotional lives, making it harder to connect with each of them.
Then there's the wasted time. Do I love telling my roommate how En Vogue is one of the greatest girl groups of all time or getting down to Boyz II Men during our weekly watch sessions? You bet. Are the nostalgia inducing performances necessary considering those legendary acts never actually interact with the boys we actually tuned into watch? Not at all. These performances, combined with the inevitable Rita Ora bit, take up 20 minutes of valuable time we could be using to get to know these guys better.
I feel like Jaden Gray has been trying for three weeks now to tell America about his dad going in and out of jail. We're not really sure how that's affected him emotionally because he barely gets to tell us the fact before the segment is over. A handful of the contestants had packages made about their lives at home and those fared way better than some of the overly produced segments like the mom section during "Girl Power" week. It doesn't have to be over the top, but Boy Band should take a note from Dancing with the Stars and just check in with each guy about how they're doing that week, what they're struggling with and let their audience fall in love with these babes.
Boy Band has all of the essentials and the right people involved to make it a big success — they're just throwing too much paint on the wall instead of trusting the premise. It's not that people aren't interested in building a boy band, because we definitely are. It's just that the show isn't giving its milliennial target audience a chance to get involved, and they're not serving up what they want, you know, the boy bands, when they do. So quit playing games with our hearts, Boy Band, and say you'll be there bringing sexyback with a new and improved Season 2.
Boy Band is currently airing Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.