‘The World’s Best’: What’s Not Working?
CBS took a huge departure from its usually reality programming with The World’s Best. The network is known for its adventure and social game shows with the famous trinity of Survivor, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race, but World’s Best is a foray into the talent competition world, and it’s clear they don’t quite know what to do to help it stand out as must-see TV.
For starters, there has obviously been some oversight in the scheduling and advertising department when it comes to World’s Best. It seems the network had all its hopes pinned on the post-Super Bowl premiere it set for the show, and put all its eggs into that basket. While the premiere had an inevitably huge audience that would never be topped, subsequent episodes have sunk lower and lower in ratings and viewership with each passing week.
The decision to premiere World’s Best on Super Bowl Sunday may have been detrimental to the show in the long run. It resulted in it starting in February, when most other shows have already begun and people have already set their regular TV viewing schedules for the winter. On top of that, the show has changed episode length and/or timeslot every single week since it started. It does seem to be staying at 9-11 pm Eastern for the foreseeable future, but it’s probably too little too late to grab a sizeable amount of additional viewers now that we’re midway through the season.
But there’s also something about the show itself that just falls flat. While the commentary from the panel of experts is much more insightful than we’re used to seeing on a lot of these talent shows, we can see how the Wall of the World concept (and the entire scoring system in general) might be confusing to some viewers, and the trio of celebrity judges leaves a lot to be desired. While Faith Hill, RuPaul, and Drew Barrymore are all pleasant to watch, most of their comments are very generic and their personalities aren’t exciting or memorable enough to make up for that.
Lack of personality is also an issue with the acts. Well, a lot of them do seem to be charming and charismatic, the program isn’t showcasing their personalities very much. While we don’t necessarily need to see the type of long and drawn-out inspirational backstories shows like America’s Got Talent love to give to us, we do need to get some idea of who these people are so we can connect with them on a more personal level.
The two contestants we’ve seen the most personal content from thus far – violinist Manami Ito and singer Sister Cristina – have both been eliminated, while others who we know nothing about remain. That is straight-up bizzare for a show that was entirely pre-taped last year and therefore has an outcome already known by the producers. While we’ve made some comments on how obvious certain results have been due to the amount of screentime (or lack thereof) an act has had, we really should feel like we know something about the contestants we’re going to be seeing for the rest of the season.
But at the same time, perhaps the classic “journey” edit we see on American Idol, The Voice, and the like would feel inauthentic on The World’s Best. The producers hand-selected contestants from around the world so the show would be home to some of the best talent on American TV right now, and they succeeded in that. The problem is that most of the acts are already quite accomplished and successful (even if not in America) and talent competition audiences generally watch these shows to see up-and-comers get their big break.
Now, variety show rival America’s Got Talent: The Champions did manage to run a competition with known acts while still being a ratings darling, but that was an all-star season filled mostly with acts the audience had previously seen on the show. Viewers got to “check-in” with the contestants after getting to know them as newcomers to the industry when they first appeared on AGT, BGT, or another version of the show.
The performances themselves are important, of course – and we’d argue the majority of the acts we’ve been seeing on The World’s Best are stronger than most of the ones we saw on America’s Got Talent: The Champions – but viewers need something more to stay invested beyond the initial “wow” factor. People come for the talent, but they stay for the journey, and The World’s Best is sorely lacking in the latter department right now.