The TV Column: ‘The Voice’ rises. Here’s what we heard.
By Lisa de Moraes,
Though you can hardly swing a dead cat in any of the top-10 TV markets in the country without hitting a promo for NBC’s new singing competition series “The Voice,” most TV critics are not getting a chance to see the show in advance of Tuesday night’s unveiling. But NBC held a screening Monday afternoon for fan boys and girls at its digs in Burbank.
The network’s new programming chief, Bob Greenblatt, stopped by briefly but had nothing to say to the crowd. Paul Telegdy, NBC’s head of reality programming, however, kicked things off by telling them that Mark Burnett would not show up, as promised, because he was “stuck in post-production in Santa Monica” and that this very first episode we were about to see had been delivered to the network at 9 o’clock Monday morning.
“We may have a surprise in the middle of it,” Telegdy hinted.
The show kicks off with host Carson Daly blah, blah, blahing about how this show, unlike any other, puts vocal ability first. Though NBC insists in its press material that Daly, who also hosts the network’s “Last Call With Carson Daly,” became “the entertainment icon that he is today” when he became host of MTV’s “Total Request Live” lo these many years ago, today on this tape he’s more Brian Dunkleman than Ryan Seacrest.
The show then explains the rules. Ever have someone try to teach you how to play mah-jongg? It’s kinda like that.
As best we can tell, four celebrity singers will pick wannabes to be on the “teams” they’ll “coach,” only then they have to kill off those team members they deem weakest — like a nature documentary where the mother eats her young, but only the really lame ones. Then, at some point, viewers take over and a winner is eventually chosen. Anyway, it’s a huge hit in the Netherlands, whence it sprang. If more than one celeb mentor picks a singer, he or she gets to pick which team they want to go with.
Christina Aguilera is the show’s diva and the Den Mom. She gets to do most of the talking and break up fights.
Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine has been cast as the Artful Dodger.
Cee Lo Green is the adorable rascal.
And country singer Blake Shelton is the good ol’ boy.
The gag of this show is that all of the auditioners have been pre-screened by the producers and deemed good enough to be “invited” back to perform at “blind auditions.” There will be no melange of lousy singers in this series, the way there is on “American Idol.”
As each person auditions, the celebs sit in goofy red chairs with their backs to the singers. They decide whether they want someone on their team based on their “Voice” alone. Except it’s also about song choice. Anyway, if a celeb likes what he or she hears, a button on the chair is hit, the chair swivels around, and the words “I Want You” light up under the celeb’s legs. If no coach swivels for a singer, that singer is sent home.
So each auditioner shown at the screening has some visual story to tell.
One aging singer can’t decide which color eye shadow would suit her best, so she went with them all, and says, “Not being able to see me is probably an advantage.”
Another, a very pretty girl, doesn’t elicit any swivels, and the male judges in particular want to kick themselves when they swivel after her performance — when it’s too late to choose her for a team — and see what they just passed up.
The celebs are confused when they hear a woman’s voice and then a guy’s voice during one audition. It’s a singing couple who go by the name Elenowen and live in her parents’ basement. Though Adam initially thought it was a chick who could also do a guy’s voice, he’s one of a couple of judges who inexplicably swivel for the couple, which means the singers get to pick one of the celebs. “You’re the leader, baby. You choose. I trust you!” the wife coos. “You’re so cute I want to barf,” Adam snaps back.
Oh, and Frenchie Davis is back. Remember Frenchie — the Washington-area singer on “Idol” from several seasons back who got tossed from that competition because she’d done work for a porn site? She’s done “Rent” on Broadway since, and yet we’re to believe this show will vindicate her after all these years.
Then there’s the beauty for whom life has been a perfect hell because she’s always been picked for things based on her stunning good looks. This show is a “huge, huge thing” for her. Even bigger than when one of her online music videos got a million views in three days — “mostly in Europe, which is crazy because I’m not European!”
“It might help if the coaches could see me. But hopefully my technique will win them over,” she gushes, as we mourn the fact that Groucho Marx is dead instead of hosting this show.
Christina and Adam and Cee Lo all swivel for her, and Adam and Cee Lo begin to foam at the mouth when they see her, and fall over each other with their “your voice is flawless and so are you” and they’d “be incredibly honored” to have her on their team. Christina advises her to avoid having a male coach because they “might end up hitting on you.”
“Christina, I grew up listening to you,” Hot Chick responds like she meant it to sting and picks one of the guys — we won’t spoil it and tell you which. But backstage her mother raves, “You just had to tell Christina Aguilera no!”
“I’ve always been judged by my looks,” Hot Chick tells the camera. This show, she says, proves that all those people who picked her for things based on her looks were wrong.
“It’s why this show is so important,” gushes Daly.
Not to be out-sung
As best we can tell on the eve of “The Voice” unveiling, Simon Cowell decided to give a lengthy interview about his hopes of bringing Paula Abdul back by his side as a judge of his new singing competition series, “X Factor.”
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .
NBC pulled a fast one on Cowell when it announced late last year that it had bought the U.S. rights to the “Voice” format and would get it on the air in the spring. Cowell and Fox network have, for more than a year, been acting like his show is the only “American Idol” competition on the horizon. They’ve plodded along at a leisurely pace to get Cowell’s show launched some 21 months after Fox announced Cowell would leave “Idol” to launch his Brit show in the United States for them.
Since NBC announced its acquisition of the format for “The Voice” — which reportedly has trounced both “Idol” and “X Factor” in its country of origin — Cowell has been trying to get the spotlight back on him.
Not coincidentally, on Monday, Cowell had a lengthy interview in Deadline.com about how he has, at long last, “made up his mind to bring back Paula Abdul beside him.”
Yes, Simon’s still way back there, talking about judges he would like to see join him on his show, including Abdul, who was his colleague when he was on “American Idol,” and Brit singer Cheryl Cole, who is relatively unknown in this country.
“I think there’s a good chance it will be her,” Cowell said of Paula. “We’ve agreed that we would meet as many people as possible, and now we’re reaching the deadline we’ve got to make the decision soon. But I think she’s got a good shot.”
Negotiations for Abdul’s deal have not even started, Deadline reported, adding, “and, of course, he could change his mind.”
Paul Reiser’s swift kick
NBC has pulled the plug on Paul Reiser’s sitcom after two episodes of really low ratings — even by NBC standards.
“Well, that was fast!! Apparently networks like big numbers quickly. Who knew?” Reiser tweeted upon getting the bad news.
“The Paul Reiser Show” opened with just 3.3 million tuned in; by episode No. 2, only 2.5 million were still hanging around.
“Feel free to start a groundswell movement. I’ll back you up,” Reiser continued.
Reiser was scheduled to be a guest on Jay Leno’s late-night NBC show on Monday night, ostensibly to plug his new sitcom. Oops.
In case you missed it, Reiser played himself in “The Paul Reiser Show” — a former NBC sitcom star who fills his time these days kvetching about life in general and about the wackiness of those who live in the wealthier western regions of Los Angeles.
Yes, it’s very Larry David. David’s the guy who co-created and, for many years, executive-produced the NBC hit comedy “Seinfeld.” Post-“Seinfeld” David created and stars in a comedy series in which he kvetches about life and the wackiness of those who live in the wealthier western regions of Los Angeles.
Only, David was smart enough to sell his old-codger-comedy-writer/producer series to premium-pay cable network HBO, for which a premiere crowd of 3 million prompts a breakout of happy dancing and sometimes even an immediate second-season order.
Reiser, sadly, sold his show to NBC, which, despite appearances, still believes it’s a broadcaster and needs to do broadcast numbers. Which, based on his tweet, was news to Reiser.