In the past two weeks, I have endured watching repeated trailers of NBC’s new reality show, The Voice. You know what I’m talking about, the one where four recording stars sit in silly oversized pods to judge the singing contestant in a blind audition. The idea is to achieve music purity by focusing solely on the contestant’s voice without being distracted by appearance. To do this, the judges have their backs to the stage while the contestant belts his heart out. My first thought was “Yeah right, this hokey concept is going to compete with American Idol.” Not that Idol is the yardstick for good reality television. Lacking the witty cynicism of Simon Cowell, the show has deteriorated into a boring love fest from which I half-expect Randy, Steven, and Jennifer to hug the contestant and start singing “Kumbaya.” Well, that’s another review.
But I hedged my bets and watched the show, in case it turns out to be good and I wouldn’t miss out. I must admit I plopped into my couch wearing significant filters, ready to nit-pick every little flaw. After a flashy canned trailer–the same one I’d seen countless of times–Host Carson Daly came on camera to introduce the judges, which included country crooner Blake Shelton, Gnarls Barkley’s Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, and blonde pop star Christina Aguillera. I sat straighter in my seat. A bona fide line up of judges! And one of them quite pleasing to the eye.
When the quartet opened the program with a searing rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s hit song “Crazy,” pieces of my filters fell away. Still, my mind was heavy with skepticism when the blind auditions began. The contestants who I suspect to have been previously-screened, performed surprisingly well, each one as good if not better than the Idol finalists. There are only thirty-two open slots and each judge must now select eight contestants to whom he or she will provide coaching to get them get ready for the live portion of the competition when America votes for its favorites.
What I thought would be a torturous two-hours turned out to be quite entertaining. When the judges vie for the few truly exceptional contestants, the competition became cutthroat often resulting in good humor, especially when it concerned Aguillera and Levine who seem to exchange ever-sharper digs as the show progressed.
With a lineup of terrific singers, some of whom possessed recording artist musicality, the potential for The Voice is excellent. The back and forth jabs between the judges are enjoyable and there is promise of even better entertainment when the coaching part of the competition begins. It remains to be seen whether The Voice has the legs for a season-long marathon, but my first impression of it is a good one.