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Thursday, March 22, 2012

How "The Voice" ruined TV for me

I'll begin this, my first TV related post, with a few caveats. I don't actually watch very much television, and what I do watch has been Tivoed* and de-commercialed. I haven't seen more than 4 or 5 commercials in the last 15 years and I probably don't even know how to deal with a commercial break anymore. I very seldom watch a show on the same day it airs, and I would be lost if I couldn't rewind and fast forward at will.  I also watch a particularly eclectic mix of shows. The idea of turning on the TV and watching whatever comes on seems very foreign to me.

I can’t watch America’s Got Talent any more. Or Canada’s Got Talent. Or Britain’s GotTalent, for that matter. I used to enjoy all three versions of the “Got Talent” franchise, as well as both the British and American versions of X Factor, but they are no longer on my “to watch” list, and it’s all because of The Voice.

The Voice is, much like X Factor or Got Talent, a competition show primarily for singers (AGT has been won by a singer every season). The format of The Voice, however, is different in some very fundamental ways. On The Voice, in case you haven’t seen it, contestants are pre-screened by the producers and only the best are invited back to audition in front of the judges. The judges listen to the auditions while facing away from the stage, and judge acts based solely on their voices.

If they like what they hear they can hit their button and turn their chair, indicating that they would like to add the singer to their team. If only one judge turns their chair, they get that singer. If more than one judge turns, the singer chooses who they want to work with. After selecting their teams, the judges mentor the singers as they compete against each other. It is a format that emphasizes the skill and talent of the singers and minimizes the popularity contest element prevalent in the other shows.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy the variety aspect of the Got Talent shows. It isn't all singers doing much the same thing, with much the same songs. The sheer variation and the creativity people put into trying to make unlikely things entertaining is, in and of itself, entertaining. What I've never liked about the Got Talent series is the open mockery of people who plainly have no business being on a public stage, who generally seem unaware of their complete lack of ability, and who in some cases seem mentally ill.

What makes it worse is that what you see on the show has been prescreened by the producers. We are supposed to be laughing at the poor, hapless schmuck belting out an off key rendition of some tune that was barely popular in 1983, let alone now. I’ve never liked that aspect of the show and, after watching The Voice, I find it turns my stomach.

The Voice shows that you can have an extremely entertaining show based only on actual talent, where making a mockery of some person’s dreams and ambitions is as unnecessary as it should be. On a recent episode of Canada’s Got Talent, Stephan Moccio actually said to a fellow human being, “The best part was that you actually thought you could win.” What a smug little... well, let’s keep this post family friendly. Needless to say I don’t think I’ll be watching much of the “Got Talent” audition shows any more. I may stop watching the rest of the season entirely.

The only things I really have against the X Factor when compared to The Voice is the quality of the performers and the judges. During season 1 of The Voice, at one point Adam Levine made a comment that any of the contestants on the show would have won Idol or X Factor. I find it difficult to argue with this, as I was thinking much the same thing myself. With the exception of Josh Krajcik, I didn’t find any of the contestants on X Factor to be compelling enough that I wanted to hear more of them. I have bought both DiaFrampton and Javier Colon’s albums (didn’t care for Javier’s, but loved Dia’s album) and am planning to have a listen to Beverly McClellan’s album in the near future. Overall, a much higher quality of performer, I think.

Likewise, The Voice has better and more interesting judges than X Factor. Nicole and Paula (replaced for season 2) were clueless numbwits for most of the season. I cringed any time either one of them opened her mouth. L.A. Reid was competent but lacked anything resembling a personality, and Simon Cowell is Simon Cowell.

On the Voice, Blake Shelton seems like a genuinely nice guy, Cee Lo is 5’2”** of awesome, and Adam Levine is one of the smartest and best spoken music industry insiders I’ve seen. Christina Aguilera… well, she believes her own press too much, and doesn’t seem to believe in wearing clothing that actually covers anything, but is otherwise not overly offensive.

The Voice is a talent show the way talent shows should be. It celebrates great singers without regard for image, age, gender (it's sometimes surprisingly hard to tell by listening), or any other irrelevant criteria. It promotes the enjoyment of truly talented people without resorting to the public mockery of those who aren’t (but think they are). It is judged by people who are demonstrated experts in the field they are judging, and who are interested first and foremost in the careers of the contestants rather than their own waning and inexplicable fame (with the possible exception of Xtina).

The Voice airs Monday nights at 8/7C on NBC, or whenever you like on the “Tivo”.

*The Internet is my Tivo.

** According to IMDB he’s 5’6”, but he looks shorter to me.


  1. Mrs. Chatterbox and I watched American Idol for a few years until it became boring and predictable. I think the novelty of these programs has worn off and it's going to be more and more difficult for winners of these programs to make a go of it. Good post!

    1. We never really got into Idol. Because we don't get (American) broadcast TV here, we have to make an effort to find new shows and that one just never interested us much for some reason.

      I've just today discovered that there's a "The Voice UK". I'm retrieving the first episode now on the "tivo" and I'll have a look this evening to see if it's any good.

  2. I watched American Idol but only briefly when it was the final three singing. Then I disagreed with the winner and stopped.
    Maybe that was a bit dismissive, but ah well!
    I watch The Voice UK and I really enjoy it. The judges are good (except one who I don't care for) and their feedback is very sound.
    It's my kind of show - I like to close my eyes and really lose myself in a song, so this is perfect for me!

    1. Now I'm wondering which one you don't care for. I'm not a huge fan of Jessie J, personally, and Tom Jones' name dropping is getting a little bit tedious.

      The battle rounds are going to be interesting.

      (I watch both US and UK versions) ;)


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