NBC looks to younger ‘Voice’ to save its ratings


From left, Adam Levine, Shakira, Usher and Blake Shelton on the set of the singing competition series, “The Voice.” A juvenile version of the contest may be in the works. (Adam Taylor/AP)
April 15, 2013

NBC is having a good TV season, as long as its ratings-engorged reality series “The Voice” is on its schedule. When “The Voice” is not on its schedule — not so much.

What’s a network to do?

Enter “The Voice Kids.”

The franchise’s producers recently issued casting calls for New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, in doing so letting the cat out of the bag about a juvenile version of the network’s season-salvaging singing competition.

Unlike earlier attempts to clone successful singing competitions by using prepubescent divas and their stage moms, this one’s already had the kinks worked out and is succeeding, ratings-wise, in several other countries, noted the New York Post, which first reported the casting calls.

Remember: “The Voice” is a Dutch format, and NBC purchased the U.S. broadcast rights to the format after losing a bidding war to land Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor.”

In the fall, when NBC had two nights of “The Voice” on its schedule (and Sunday NFL football), the network made a miraculous ratings comeback, from its usual mired-in-fourth-place status to first among broadcast networks.

Among 18-to-49-year-olds, the Monday edition of “The Voice” is the No. 2 entertainment series on the Big 4 broadcast networks, behind only CBS’s “Big Bang Theory.”

That edition ended in mid-December and, until the latest edition debuted last month, NBC sank back to mired-in status. The return of “The Voice” in March has boosted NBC back into the prime-time pack, after the network ran a distant No. 4 for most of the singing competition’s break. For the ratings week of April 1-7, NBC tied Fox for No. 2 among 18- to-49-year-olds, who are the currency of the network’s prime-time entertainment ad sales.

Cloning a singing show with a kiddie edition, though, is not a new concept. Fox tried a junior version of “American Idol” in the summer of ’03; “American Juniors” set out to find not a single winner, but a singing group of five. It became one of the highest-rated TV shows of that summer — about 12 million tuned in to the debut, which is about 2 million more people than caught the unveiling of the very first “American Idol” season.

That 12 million also was ever so slightly bigger an audience than NBC bagged with that year’s March debut of an “America’s Most Talented Kids” show.

“American Juniors” ratings plunged by 40 percent toward the end of July, though producers insisted that they were satisfied with the show’s strong teen audience, and a second season was planned for the fall of ’03. But that got postponed to the summer after the third season of “American Idol,” and then canceled altogether.

The winning made-by-TV group from “American Juniors” made a brief appearance on the “American Idol” Christmas special in December ’03, and their debut album dropped in October ’04. They disbanded in ’05.

On the bright side, the show gave us Lucy Hale, more famous for her work in “Pretty Little Liars,” and the sisters Tori and Taylor Thompson, who went on to compete as a duo in . . . NBC’s “The Voice,” on Cee Lo Green’s team.

CNN’s Bourdain boon

CNN may have figured its way out of its ratings problem: Dump news.

The premiere of “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown: Myanmar” attracted 747,000 viewers at 9 p.m. Sunday — 282,000 of them 25 to 54 years old. In that key age bracket, Bourdain finished 106 percent ahead of cable news rival Fox News Channel and 65 percent ahead of MSNBC.

CNN noted that that its new Bourdain show clocked 32 percent more viewers than did last April’s premiere of Bourdain’s Travel Channel series “No Reservations” (567,000 viewers).

CNN announced last May that it had ordered the new Bourdain series, which would look at cultures worldwide through their culinary and travel rituals. The series, CNN explained, signaled a broadening of the cable network’s weekend programming from its traditional weekday news coverage.

Plaza moment planned?

Media spent a good-ish chunk of Monday morning debating whether “Parks and Recreation” thespian Aubrey Plaza’s storming of the stage during Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards show was staged.

That is so 1999.

It’s MTV.

It doesn’t matter.

Plaza had the name of her new movie, “The To Do List,” scrawled across her chest above her strapless dress when she got up from her seat. She was also seated in the front row even though she was not one of the night’s big winners — and walked onstage and attempted to de-award Will Ferrell, who’d just been named Comedic Genius.

We agree with her completely.

In fairness, Plaza appeared to be offering Ferrell a drink, presumably alcoholic, in exchange for the trophy.

Ferrell opted to hang on to the trophy and Plaza eventually gave up, returning to her seat and dropping the beverage.

“Aubrey Plaza, everyone! Just like we rehearsed it. . . . It was perfect — not too long, not too short. Right on the money!” Ferrell vamped. Plaza rolled her eyes and tried to smile.

MTV insisted afterward that the super-awkward incident was not planned (not unlike how MTV Productions insisted that the unveiling of Janet Jackson’s right breast at that Super Bowl halftime show it produced had not been planned).

MTV also said that Plaza was asked to leave the ceremony after the incident. When did MTV get so stuffy?

Hours later, Plaza tweeted to let us know that it had been a carefully thought-out homage to Kanye West’s infamous interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

“Thanks for the advice @kanyewest went better than planned!” Plaza tweeted, which leaves you wondering how badly she’d planned for it to go.

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