The new dramatisation of War and Peace might edify. Scandinavian thrillers may well captivate. Breaking Bad or The Sopranos can satisfy as much as a meaty novel. The joy of TV, for me, is when treasure is found in unexpected places. For example, Horrible Histories on CBBC is one of the cleverest, funniest and well-written comedies - tucked away for the enjoyment mainly of children. I would happily exchange it for Lucas and Walliams or Mitchell and Webb. It certainly has a higher laugh per minute ratio. Just as surprising is the fact that one of the most finely crafted and well tuned narratives has to returned to the BBC for a final season before it moves to ITV - The Voice and its revolving chairs. There is little point in watching it past this stage - anything that follows can only be a disappointment. As long as someone is singing to the back of a potentially spinning chair, I am hooked. I've watched it on YouTube in languages that I don't speak. It doesn't matter. The story-telling is perfect.

At the heart of the perfection is the brilliant narrative device of a double decision. It is a mistake to assume that compelling narrative depends on conflict - as we are often taught. Engaging stories depend on people making choices, and the stakes must be high. This is the moment which seduces and enthrals. Hamlet only has one choice to make, and this can take over two hours of stage-time. An episode of Frasier will involve a rapid succession of hasty choices made by Frasier, Martin or Nils in a very short time - each one narrowly avoiding disaster. A decision made by Sara Lund at the very end of The Killing caused me to stop breathing. She made a mistake, and I was horrified.  The genius in the way that The Voice is constructed involves the participant and audience being involved in two very different types of choice in a very short space of time. This makes for perfect drama. First, we wait to see if a 'coach' will hit a button. They twitch and sigh; they twinkle and grimace; their hands hover and eventually with an accompanying sound as if from a giant pinball machine, they hit the button and spin. Our delight  is enhanced by self-gratification: 'I knew it. She has a big voice - I knew Ricky was going to turn'.  When nobody turns, our disappointment is delicious: a sadness laced with schadenfreude. The participants' lack of success does not make us any less self-congratulatory: "Yep, I knew no-one was going to turn. There was no breath support, and those top notes were thin." 
Or, "She sounded too Adele. They've really got to make it their own."
Moments later, a second decision is made. Out of all the 'coaches' who turned, the 'artist' now gets to pick one at the expense of the others. Again, we anticipate, we predict, and we self-congratulate. The longer this moment takes, the more heightened and enjoyable the drama. 

This is the basic structure. In itself, as a story-telling device, it is repetitious, but also endlessly suspenseful. However, there are other elements. There are characters. The introduction to each contestant is swift - we gain a small insight into their life, and importantly we judge them on their friends and family. This is how we really get involved. We see the person in context. We get to assess and make assumptions by the way they way interact. Like any great nineteenth or twentieth century theatre - Chekhov, Ibsen, Shaw - we learn about the character by the nature of their relationships. We judge them on the place they come from and the company they keep. We experience their starting point and we witness their journey. We watch it at the same time as their friends. The slow walk to the microphone; footsteps echoing in silence. 

The Voice seems endlessly meta-textual. Once a decision has been made, it must be discussed at length. I'm very surprised that this format does not have a 'sister show' accompanying it; there is no equivalent of the Extra Factor, Strictly Take Two or Bit on the Side. The discussion here is immediate: each coach assessing, revealing, confessing, analysing. It is how we behave after the wedding. Someone - probably Woody Allen - said that the whole point of getting married was for the bride and groom to have something to talk about for the next five years. The value of the competition on The Voice is the discussion afterwards: 'He is so unusual;' 'I really loved her sense of style and her shoes;' 'I'm really kicking myself now for not hitting my button'. This is the final act of each perfect vignette. The reason for the choice becomes clear. In all good drama, the invisible must at some point become visible. The competition is immaterial; most important is the story it initiates. 

As any writer knows, the stakes must be high. While watching the early stages of The Voice, we suspend our disbelief. Realistically, the outcome is incidental; we know from several years' experience that the victory of the overall winner is short-lived. I sometimes feel relieved when an 'artist' doesn't make it through, as it means they will not have to endure the miserable betrayal that occurs in the 'battles'. But, while we are engaged in spinning chairs and coach picking, we don't care about reality, we just love the illusion that all of this matters, especially when an 'artist' declares histrionically that this is their 'last chance.'

Like any well constructed drama, The Voice operates according to strict conventions. It has its own language. The four people sitting in the chairs are not judges, they are 'coaches'. The participants and not contestants, they are 'artists'. Cliché is rife. 'Artists' are told that they 'really made that song their own', and the coaches want to 'really work with them - it would be an honour'. Hyperbole is chucked around carelessly: performances are 'amazing', 'mind-blowing'; singers have 'such a gift', and my own favourite, they are 'totally unique'. This is familiar territory for guilty television pleasures. It is the Kay-Mellor-Effect. The dialogue is rubbish, but the plots are compelling. 

Of those discarded coaches over the years, I will only really miss Rita. Within the conventions of the narrative, she was perfect. Unabashed, transparent, enthusiastic and endearing. We saw every thought as it passed over her face. We knew the choices that she would make before she realised it herself. She repeatedly fell in love. She became consumed often. It was physical, spiritual, and lustful. All enjoyable drama demands instantly understandable relationships, even though these relationships evolve. Long running TV drama requires reinvention. Like a new alien or a regeneration on Doctor Who, I am excited to see what will happen with George and Paloma. 

I'll enjoy the stories created by the spinning chairs, because in a few weeks the chairs and the excitement will be gone. I'll be ignoring the Battles - like any second-rate straight-to-DVD sequel, they seem to belong to a different show.