South Africa's most-watched reality television show Idols SA makes its return. It's a big year for the singing competition as it turns Sweet 16.
"As we turn 16, your living room will, from this Sunday, transform into front row seats of the biggest entertainment spectacle, enough to make you forget about your lockdown woes. This is because Idols SA is back and we are really excited about the show – from the wooden mic, right up to the live shows. This year's Idols will be more than just a show," says executive producer and director of SIC entertainment, Gavin Wratten.
This year's auditions in Pretoria, Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town were filmed before the national lockdown in March.
The first stop was the Mother City where hopefuls had to impress Randall Abrahams, Somizi Mhlongo-Motaung, Unathi Nkayi and guest judge Cassper Nyovest.
We spoke to Gavin ahead of the show's premiere to find out how the coronavirus has impacted the show, what's new and how they keep the show fresh after all these years. He said the future of the reality music show will largely depend on lockdown rules that President Cyril Ramaphosa will put in place as the nation fights the novel coronavirus.
Regional auditions wrapped up just before the national lockdown was implemented. How did you go about filming theatre week?
Like the rest of Mzansi, introducing health and safety measures, while necessary, has been challenging. However, with Idols being a reality show, we could use the problem, as part of the solution. We allowed the narrative around theatre week and how each contestant had to audition, to be driven by the challenges the pandemic created for us. This has made for a very interesting theatre week, especially when it came to the group round. The result though, has been very positive, with some amazing new and fresh talent coming through.
For the first time this year, you introduced online pop-auditions. Why did you decide to go this route, did it bear any fruit?
We have always faced the challenge of making auditions accessible to everyone in Mzansi, no matter where they live. In the past, the sheer volume of people entering Idols has proved challenging for us when wanting to try online auditions. However, new technology that has allowed us to manage online entries better has emerged and made the process really easy to manage. The outcome has been incredible, and the talent we found online has been really exciting to see.
It's a big year for Idols SA as it turns 16. How do you keep the show fresh after all these years?
Idols for me has always been, and will always be, about the contestants. Luckily every season we have new contestants with new and interesting stories and talents. Just allowing them to tell their stories and guide them on the path to stardom always allows for fresh and interesting content. We just need to tell their stories in an honest and exciting way to remain fresh and current.
What can viewers expect from this season, do you have any highlights to share?
For me personally, the biggest highlight so far is that the number of talented singers in South Africa seems to be growing. We saw that this season, with the highest number of golden tickets being handed out in memory. So, from a talent point of view, I think we can expect amazing things. Our guest judges this season have also brought so much energy to the audition tour, so expect lots of tears, laughter and emotion from Cassper Nyovest, DJ Zinhle, Buhle from the soil and Dr Tumi.
What measures will be put in place once the live shows kick-off?
At this point, what lockdown measures will be in place at the end of September is not clear to anyone, so we have not committed to any course of action yet, when it comes to the live shows. We have been in discussions about a variety of possible scenarios, and are making plans for them, for now, we need to wait and see, like the rest of the country, as to what happens next.
Catch Idols SA every Sunday at 17:30 on DSTV Mzansi Magic (Channel 161)
– Channel 24