Will 'The Voice' Lose Its Momentum Now That the Blind Auditions Are Over?
by Joel Keller, posted May 4th 2011 4:30PM
Something about 'The Voice' struck me as I was watching the second two-hour episode of blind audition rounds last night: The show doesn't seem like it's been completely thought through yet, does it?
And the thought wasn't just during the shockingly thrown-together "second chances" portion of the show, when it seemed like the producers had to scramble to figure out what to do when the auditions were over and the coaches hadn't yet filled their teams.
No, the thought came to my mind even before the episode aired last night, because I knew that this was the last round of blind auditions. For a show that's been so heavily promoted around those auditions -- and the great ratings the show has gotten have made that promotion pay off -- where does it go from here? Is it going to lose momentum now that its main gimmick is over?
When NBC started promoting 'The Voice' a few months ago, you knew three things about the show: 1) There would be coaches instead of judges, 2) those coaches would be superstars (Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine), and 3) that the coaches would select and compete for contestants based on only their voices.
So we had a pretty intriguing setup going: Hey, that guy with the soulful voice is a fat white guy with a beard! That singer who sounds like a chick is really a dude! That woman with the powerful voice is bald, has a nose ring and is covered in tats! Wow, you really can't judge a book by its cover! Then, there was potential for coaches to be at each other's throats as they competed to land certain contestants.
But after that ...? NBC didn't tell us a damned thing about what was going to happen. Perhaps they kept things confusing on purpose, knowing that they had a good opening premise. For all we knew, these rounds would be going on for a month or more, sort of how they do with 'American Idol.' There was no indication that this was only going to last for four hours over two weeks.
As the first episode aired, though, we got a clue as to what would happen next: first come battle rounds, where each coach has to whittle their respective teams down from eight members to four, then come the live rounds, where the judging is left to the viewing public via all the ways the viewing public votes for these things.
Nod your head if you're thinking what I'm thinking: "Wow, after the battle rounds, the show basically becomes 'American Idol.'" What's going to keep people watching if the show is basically the same as the one that they've just lived with for the last four months?
Two things can keep this show's momentum going: The coaches and the singers. Mark Burnett was smart in casting the four coaches; they're all at the top of their games right now, not has-beens or who's-thats. But what we're also seeing is that they have a good chemistry together. Cee Lo hits on the girls, Blake's the jokester, Christina's the busty den mother, and Adam is the annoyingly picky one.
But the singers are also going to have to keep viewers tuning in. Another smart choice by Burnett and company was to bring in mostly professional, touring musicians, age 16 to 56. So there's no joke auditions, no kids who sing well in their school choir but have little to no performance experience. These people know how to put on a show; they just haven't caught their big breaks yet. It'll make for more entertaining rounds going forward, as we see their voices, song choices and performances improve. I'm already thinking, for instance, that the aforementioned bearded guy, Nakia Reynoso, will go pretty far, as will former 'Idol' flameout Frenchie Davis.
There's a danger, though, that viewers are going to get bored now that we won't see the coaches agonizing over pushing their buttons, seeing their chairs spinning around (how dizzy did they all get during that audition taping, which was probably about 6–8 hours? It might account for some of their choices late in the game) and seeing them fight for a singer. That was the conceit of the show, and now it's over.
There's also a danger that the poor planning we saw in the audition round continues in the later rounds. The mind boggles at the thought that the producers didn't have a contingency plan in case the coaches got super-picky near the end of the auditions; just the fact that Adam Levine took so long to even put one person on his team should have been a red flag to the producers that this was going to be a tough bunch. Then we got the glossing-over of some of the people who got selected to teams, meaning they'll either get a bigger spotlight later or will be eliminated early.
If there are more glitches and ad hoc plans made, people are going to start to throw up their hands in frustration that the producers are making the rules up as they go along.
So far, though, they have my (and a lot of the country's) interest. Let's hope they keep it going.
Tell us: Are you looking forward to seeing the next rounds of 'The Voice?'
'The Voice' airs Tuesdays at 10PM ET on NBC.
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