NBC’s ‘The Voice’ Distinguished Itself From ‘Idol’–and Found a Winning Formula

Jul 7, 2011

Any one of the four finalists on NBC’s bangup freshman show "The Voice" could have taken the title. We thought Vicci Martinez, Dia Frampton and especially Beverly McClellan were each worthy of being the champion. But it was Javier Colon who took home a recording contract and $100,000 at the culmination of the hit music competition program–and bravo for him.

No matter the outcome, it was a thrilling conclusion to a 10-week season that brought the buzz – and the ratings – back to NBC after years of the Peacock Network being in the cellar.

One of the fascinating elements of "The Voice" is that it hooked many people who had never been fans of music competition reality shows like “American Idol,” present company included. It has been said by several of the four coaches that the reason they took on the gig was that there would be no substandard talent allowed that they could trash and burn — someone like “Idol’s” William Hung or Sanjaya, who was better known for his hairstyle than his talent.

The formula worked, and viewers can see in the behind-the-scenes and rehearsal clips that each coach — Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera — and their team developed mutual admiration in an environment conducive for artistic growth.

For a staged television show, the emotions that emerged seemed very real. There was no one you wanted to fail — no one who appeared to be an arrogant jerk who should get sent packing. Each contestant had a unique combination of talent and interesting backstory that made segments of the audience root for them. It was genuinely sad to see many of the finalists let go, particularly for their coaches, ensconced in their big, red, powerful chairs.

There was some internecine squabbling between Aguilera and Levine that originated on the show’s premiere and then spread from the pop diva to fellow coaches Green and Shelton, but it only added to the fun.

Aguilera’s obsession with asking several of the male contestants to take off their pants may not have been exceptionally family-friendly, or within the bounds of good taste, but to whitewash the elements of attraction between the star performers and their proteges would have been inauthentic.

All this exposure is good for the careers of these recording artists, especially Shelton — “Big Country,” as Levine calls him — with whom many viewers who are not country fans were not familiar. They have all reportedly signed deals to be back for the next season, although whether the three men will get a raise to match Xtina’s higher per-episode salary has not been publicly disclosed.

We will miss “The Voice,” which is slated in the prime slot after the Super Bowl on NBC in 2012. Its next edition is scheduled to return at midseason on Mondays from 8-10 p.m.

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