I've watched only an episode-and-a-half of The Voice, NBC's new prime-time singing competition, and I don't think I've ever seen a full episode of America's Next Semi-Talented Matinee Idol or whatever it's called. Still, I'm writing this because NBCUniversal paid me I've been forced to sheepishly admit that The Voice is awesome. (If you're wondering where on the critical spectrum I fall, I think Smash, the network's other aggressively hyped Monday-night singfest, is sharp and pretty, but I can't quite stomach the repackaged Glee-ness.)
As you probably learned by going anywhere near a television in the weeks leading up to the post-Super-Bowl premiere of the second season (like the swamp ape, the first season is sometimes discussed but may not actually exist).
Here's how the show works. Christina Aguilera in a low-cut dress, Blake Shelton in a tux vest, Cee-Lo Green in big sunglasses, and that one guy from Maroon 5 sit in big spaceship chairs that are turned away from the stage while they listen to "blind" auditions. If they like the voice they hear, they push a big red button and spin around to try to woo the singer to their team. In later episodes, they'll coach them or something, and we can all hope that doesn't suck.
I have a feeling some other jaded city-dwelling intellectual types are enjoying this show, and for good reason. I'll elaborate after the jump.
Yay! I still have a career!
5. The production quality is slick as hell
With four highly, erm, polished artists sitting in the coaches' chairs, it's no surprise that this show is an HD digital wet dream. I went to Radio Shack a couple of months ago and bought this HD antenna, and the fact that I can get this sensory overload for free makes me think life in the 21st Century is pretty damned OK (contrast this with my day job, where I have to read and think about failure).
You know from the opening chords: The logo comes at the screen like the Millennium Falcon and "THIS_IS_THE_VOICE!" bellows forth from God's synthesizer. The cinematography is great too: cuts between the coaches' faces and the performers are well-timed to build suspense without condescending to viewers. And (this is important) because all the contestants are actually people who sound great to begin with, the songs are good listening. There are a few duds but no William Hungs.
For that necessary comic relief factor, we have:
This is an untouched photograph.
4. Hahahahaha, it's Carson Daly!
Seriously, what's he doing here? He interviews contestants and their babies in a Starbucks. He's completely superfluous. He's... wonderful.
3. We learn something about the coaches/judges.
As fun (and scary to crows) as Steven Tyler may be, and as much as I like to ponder whether it doesn't really itch for Simon Cowell to wear a v-neck sweater with no shirt underneath, this foursome of maestros is presented as a bunch of real people.
The schoolyard dissing between Shelton and the Maroon 5 guy (whose name I REFUSE TO GOOGLE) can be a little grating, but they really manage to look like they're having fun. The best part is getting to see Aguilera look genuinely tormented as she decides, maybe, to push her button, and then flinch and pull her hand back as the singer hits a flat note. (Note: Swear to God, when I wrote that, I didn't mean for it to sound sexual at all. That's how good the show is.) The second-best part is seeing Cee-Lo's reaction when his chair spins around and the singer is either way hotter or way less hot than he was expecting.
2. The sob stories are allowed to fail.
I cannot stress how amazing this is in the world of reality television, where people are primed for success or failure from the minute we meet them through made-for-TV social cues that would make even Rain Man say, "Geez, I get it, already! He's a vindictive asshole and I want him to cut himself while preparing the celery, which I know he does because I saw it on the preview and the intro and also three minutes ago, before the ads!"
People with interesting stories get more airtime: the fat white soul singer who had a bad relationship with his father, for example, or the Indian-American girl who was supposed to go to med school but dropped out because she wanted to be a singer and will look like a total ass in front of her parents if she screws this up. But this has no correlation to whether or not any of the coaches pick them. (Spoiler alert: The soul singer doesn't get picked, and the Indian girl does. Also, she's hot. I think Cee-Lo got her.)
1. Cee-Lo Green has a big fat cat with long white hair that he holds in his arm and strokes during solo commentary cutaways.