As Javier Colon takes the grand prize, a few thoughts for improving NBC's The Voice
They cleaned up the sound problems that made host Carson Daly sound like he was broadcasting from the world's biggest bathroom, capping a season that produced one of the few ratings bright spots for perennial underachiever NBC.
Still, as unscripted competition The Voice crowned clean-headed father of two Javier Colon as its big winner Wednesday, a few chinks emerged in the show's armor, exposing some serious tinkering needed by executive producer Mark Burnett before this contest takes flight again.
The rules are too complex -- I got several emails from readers trying to figure out how the show's voting worked, how its "battle rounds" unfolded, exactly what the superstar judges might win if their singer won and what exactly the victorious singer would get as a grand prize (perhaps they didn't speak about it much, because the prize seems dinky compared to American Idol's million-dollar deal; Colon gets a record deal and $100,000). Time to figure out a more streamlined competition, increase the big prize and give host Daly a slicker way to explain what is going on.
The results shows are too obviously padded -- On Wednesday's show, viewers sat through more than 50 minutes of awkward duets and incidental solo performances before producers unrolled the results on the competition in a frenetic few minutes at the show's end (thank God for DVR recording; the Deggans clan did a lot of skimming last night). By the time they announced the winner, there wasn't even enough time for Colon to sing at end. Who crowns somebody The Voice and then doesn't let them sing?
The celebrity duets were mostly not happening -- Colon was infinitely more on-key than Stevie Nicks (am I the only one who thinks her voice increasingly resembles a malfunctioning muffler? In the wrong key?). Beverly McClellan and whoever she sang with (I know: OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder) seemed to be warbling different songs. And Miranda Lambert's duet with Dia Frampton nearly put me to sleep (I know who Lambert slept with to get the gig; husband/singing coach Blake Shelton). Now that The Voice is a bona-fide hit, perhaps they can spend more time finding quality stars to share the stage with their talented finalists.
Judges need to offer more than empty compliments -- I get that they're trying to be supportive, thy're trying to not be Simon Cowell and they have picked such good singers that there's little to criticize. But the last few weeks of The Voice was finlled with too many empty compliments, as the show's celebrity coaches built toward the big finale. They need to call out singers when they disappoint, even by the show's lofty performance standards.
One snarky aside -- It was cool to see The Atlantic Monthly and The Grid.com publish commentaries on how The Voice was the anti-American Idol weeks after I did similar pieces here and for NPR. Yeah, i'm going there; can't help it.
All this grousing doesn't obscure the fact that NBC finally presented a talent show revealing the depth of undiscovered talent out there. Forget about backstory and journey -- BS shorthand for putting performers on TV who don't blow the doors off the joint.
The Voice has thrown down a gauntlet, challenging other talent contests to stop fooling around and start putting real talent on their stages. If they can start next season with a decent sound mix and these fixes in place, they should have a formidable franchise in place.