Singer Christina Aguilera is one of the judges on “The Voice.” (MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)

At the same time, the network announced it would slide the start of this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” by two minutes – that’s two as in 2 – in order to give its audience an early look at “The Voice,” which is premiering on the network on Tuesday, April 26.

In the 12-minute “sneak peek” that will air before “Tonight Show” on Thursday, viewers will see the show’s celebrity coaches – Christina Aguilera, Dee Lo Green, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton -- join together to perform Green’s hit “Crazy.” It will also include “informative vignettes” from the new show, NBC said.

A shorter, two-minute version of that performance – that’s two as in “2” – will air before this weekend’s “SNL.”

“ ‘SNL’ will air its complete broadcast from approximately 11:30 p.m.-1:02 a.m. (ET) that night,” NBC hastened to add.

Too late. The press had already broken out in an eczema of disbelief:

“It’s an extraordinary move for NBC,” fumed one.

“NBC Steals Time from ‘SNL’ and ‘The Tonight Show’ So We’ll Watch ‘The Voice’,” railed another.

“This move is certainly raising some eyebrows,” that one sniffed.

Where were these guys all those years NBC delayed the start of “Tonight Show” for those 15-minute highlight reels of tennis during Wimbledon?

NBC hardly invented the “sneak peek” infomercial in the midst of one of its shows. You can’t throw a brick without hitting one if you’re a regular viewer of “American Idol.”

And yet, NBC seemed to sense Wednesday’s announcement was going to cause a stir. “The announcement was made by Bob Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment,” NBC said in Wednesday’s news release. And yet, there was no accompanying beauty-pageant quote from Greenblatt.

An announcement from a network exec without a beauty-pagent quote? Now THAT’s a first!

“The Voice,” featuring Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton as coaches/judges of singing wannabes, is a very important piece of programming for NBC, which is in sore need of a primetime hit. The network is pulling out all the stops to try to launch this franchise.

Remember back in December, while the press was navel-lint-gazing over the whole “American Idol” vs. Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor” kerfuffle shaping up at Fox, and NBC went and pulled a fast one, announcing it would get the jump on Cowell’s show, having landed U.S. broadcast rights to a Dutch singing competition format called “The Voice of Holland” that it would launch…well, now.

“The X Factor” isn’t scheduled to premiere on Fox until fall of ‘11.

Mark Burnett – of “Survivor” and “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” fame -- is exec producing “The Voice,” as is John de Mol, who created the show’s Dutch format and executive-produces that version. De Mol’s also the guy to hold responsible for “Big Brother” and “Fear Factor.”

See the 12 minute sneak peek that had The Reporters Who Cover Television hyperventilating: