Aside from a short-lived co-hosting role beside Bert Newton on 2007’s What A Year it’s staggering to think that Julia Zemiro has never hosted a television show for a commercial network before.
Her SBS and ABC resume is a mile long, making her an audience favourite. But perhaps this oddity is in part due to her being choosy over projects.
She very nearly declined Seven’s new singing show All Together Now, politely discouraging producers Endemol Shine, until she watched the UK original.
“I said ‘I can tell you it will be No.’ And then I watched it and I thought ‘Hang on.’
“On RocKwiz a lot of the gold comes from contestants I’ve never met and 2 musicians. And now you’re going to give me 100 of them? Yes please!
“So when I met with Endemol Shine I said ‘If you let me do what I do, then it should be great. But if you try and change what I do we might get into trouble!’”
The format is unashamedly simple, if somewhat daunting, with contenders singing in front of a 6 storey-high set of 100 seasoned singers. If any of the 100 like what they hear they stand and join in, creating a spontaneous mass-chorus. Whoever coaxes the most of the 100 to stand proceeds to a grand final with a $100,000 cash prize.
Amongst the 100 are singers of all sizes, shapes and styles including cabaret, rock, pop, rap, music theatre, opera, drag and a Michael Jackson impersonator. There’s even a karaoke DJ and a singing belly dancer.
“The contestants are a real mix and so are The 100. It felt like a party every night to have those big personalities,” Zemiro continues.
“If there is one ‘baddie’ its Alex the agent in the far left corner.
“He was one of the few who had the guts to say ‘You sound like you’re just come off a cruise.’ And then 1 of the 100 said ‘I sing on cruises, what’s wrong with that?’”
“There are no sob stories”
But the show avoids reality show drama with The 100’s Captain Ronan Keating no longer required to turn to the controversy more suited to The X Factor or The Voice.
“The judging isn’t as intense, so he is one of 100 voices. And the judging isn’t turned over to the audience where they might go in another direction. It’s more playful, with Ronan as the final voice of reason, at some point,” she explains.
“There are no sob stories, so you won’t get a long story to do with any contestants. None of the judges know who they are. The audience might get an inkling but the judges have no idea.
“It’s a singalong, entertainment show and a bit like a pantomime, I guess, every now then me or a judge will say something a little bit out there for the parents to get!”
“After 30 seconds you physically have to get up and join in.”
Yet while singalongs are a big pub and stadium tradition in the UK, are Australians as quick to join in?
“We have a big tradition of going to see bands and singing along, and karaoke is big here too. But I suppose the viewers will tell us if that’s something they resonate with?” Zemiro suggests.
“This isn’t 4 experts alone with a sense of passing judgement and taking a long time to tell you about it. It’s automatic. After 30 seconds you physically have to get up and join in.
“You have people who have done audition after audition and know what it’s like, but do they feel daggy enough to join in?”
Standing aloft on the six-storey set are singers such as Rhonda Burchmore, Silvie Paladino, Maria Mercedes, Mark Gable, Amanda Harrison, Jordan Raskopolous, Lara Mulcahy, Lucy Holmes, Michael Dalton and Andrew de Silva.
I liken it’s scale to the 2008 game show 1 vs 100 hosted by Eddie McGuire, but Zemiro concedes she completely missed that one.
“I’ve had (people say) Celebrity Squares, Laugh-In, The Muppets. But I don’t know 1 vs 100!”
No pressure on the show going into a plum Sunday slot, Seven is counting on its family appeal. The harsh reality of commercial ratings is somewhat new to Zemiro from her ABC and SBS days.
“You want Home Delivery to do well in the ratings, but ABC will probably ask me back if we don’t get a million. But with this it’s a whole different kettle of fish!” she reveals.
Yes whether in audition, singing contest or series premiere, everybody eventually has to face the music, or face the crowd. Zemiro’s own advice to contestants seems to sum it up best.
“Sing to the ‘gods’ and you will get everyone in!”
All Together Now airs 7pm Sunday on Seven.