If you’re visiting this site for the first time, welcome. If you’ve been here before you probably know my taste in television viewing starts with live sports events and ends with live sports events. In the middle there is a mix of, among other shows, Blue Bloods, The Blacklist, Fixer Upper, Designated Survivor, and any time the Mark Wahlberg movie, Shooter comes on. I used to watch Survivor, Blindspot and Elementary but they lost me somewhere along the way. I really miss Justified, Longmire and 24.
I am, or should I say was, a fan of some of the “talent” shows that permeate network television these days. While I don’t watch America’s Got Talent, Dancing With the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance I did watch American Idol and The Voice. Obviously I don’t watch American Idol anymore and after 45 minutes last night I won’t watch The Voice again.
American Idol was a phenomenon and a huge hit for FOX. Whenever you involve votes from all across America you open yourself up for surprises but the quality of American Idol winners has been impressive, especially the first few seasons. The first Idol was Kelly Clarkson who has gone on to multiple GRAMMY wins and superstardom. She was followed by Ruben Studdard and Fantasia, not anywhere near as successful as Clarkson but both are still making music. Then season 4 brought us Carrie Underwood. After that it was hit and miss. The misses; Taylor Hicks, Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze. The hits; Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Philip Phillips and Scotty McCreery. I admit the last four seasons of American Idol were basically unwatchable and the winners unremarkable but in my mind that’s because the judges were marginal at best. American Idol was at its best when Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and especially Simon Cowell sat behind the desk. They were great judges because the actually judged. Cowell, in particular, pulled no punches and in my opinion the artists were better for it. American Idol, at least in its first 10 years, actually fulfilled its promise of trying to find the most talented performers in the competition. While the judges were always talked about, the show wasn’t about them. That’s precisely the problem with The Voice.
Copying Fox to some extent, NBC came up with its own singing competition with the premiere of The Voice in 2011. I watched. I watched then and I continued to watch until about 10:15 PM ET last night. No more for me, please and here’s why. The show is not a showcase for contestants; it’s a platform for the celebrity coaches. I can tell you who won that first season, it was Javier Colon, but the only reason I know that is because he plays golf and in 2011 was playing in a Celebrity Pro-Am I produced for The Golf Channel. If you put a gun to my head I couldn’t tell you any other winner of The Voice and I watched the show! I can tell you that Adam Levine and Blake Shelton have a bit of a bromance and a friendly rivalry. I can say with certainty that Miley Cyrus, Pharrell, Christina Aguliera and Gwen Stefani have interesting wardrobes. I know for a fact that Blake points his finger in a funny way when he wants a performer to “pick” him as a coach. And I can honestly say I have never heard any of the “coaches” say one bad word about any single performance on the show.
Where The Voice succeeds is in its earliest episodes, The Blind Auditions. This has become the only part of the show that is remotely interesting. With their backs to the stage, the four coaches are judges listening to the singers and deciding whether to push the button that turns the chair allowing them to compete for the chance to mentor the performer. Sadly this part of the procedure only lasts a couple of weeks. Then the show spirals downward into a series of nonsensical mini-competitions called The Battle Rounds and The Knockout rounds and the Battle/Knockout rounds where the best of the rest don’t really get eliminated thanks to gimmicky “steals”. Through it all the coaches remain the stars of the show as Adam ribs Blake, Blake returns fire giving Adam crap, Miley Cyrus (or Gwen or Christina) sit there looking goofy and Alicia Keys (or Pharrell) wax philosophical. It’s all so damn predictable.
Through the course of several weeks the competitors get whittled down thanks to texts, online votes and iTunes sales until we inevitably and mercifully get to the FINALS. Five hours of programming over two nights to come to a conclusion that anyone who checked the iTunes store already knew. Through it all we were subjected to SNL lite skits featuring the coaches (who else), performances featuring the finalists with their coaches, and mind-numbingly unproductive reviews of the singers from the coaches. My wife and I watched the first two hours on Monday night. We liked Josh. He had a good original song, a nice performance of Jack and Diane and a painful duet with Adam singing Smooth. We were curious about who would win the title and watched the next night to find out. We didn’t make it.
Thinking we (I promise not to speak for all of America) were dying for three hours of Carson Daly introducing acts NBC and the producers of The Voice gave us (and all of America) exactly that. From Stevie Wonder to The Weeknd to Bruno Mars to Kelly Clarkson to John Legend to Sting to KISS my wife watched and I suffered through the finale. I gave up for good when, for reasons I simply can’t fathom, the show insisted on continuing the long-standing decision to “bring back” singers who failed to perform with the four who succeeded. There’s a reason these poor souls got the boot and to pair them once again with the people who can actually sing only underscores the rationale why these knuckleheads were dismissed in the first place. I went to bed. My better half tried to muddle through but joined me a few minutes later. Bottom line, I don’t need three hours to tell me what I can find out thanks to the internet. An hour would do just fine, include some performances, eliminate others and tell me who won. Good TV.
I woke up this morning to discover the guys we liked, Josh, finished fourth. The teenage girl who talks like Minnie Mouse and sang like Tracey Chapman finished third. The all grown up child star finished runner-up failing to follow in the footsteps of the all grown up child star that apparently won the whole thing last year (these people should not be allowed to compete). That meant Sundance Head is this half season’s The Voice. Sundance Head who competed on American Idol nine years ago becomes the next nobody. But mark my words they’ll no doubt kick off next season on The Voice, which probably starts in two weeks, with a “comic sketch” featuring Blake Shelton and his five trophies. And they will do that with one less viewer.