When The Voice premiered in 2011, it had all the makings of an American Idol antidote. At the very least, it promised to take a more refreshing and unique approach to the somewhat tired idea of “music competition” TV shows. “Forget the bright lights and glitzy glamour! We don’t care for quirky costumes and looks! We’re only after one thing!” the show seemed to proudly declare.
The program’s original judges — a star-studded panel of Cee Lo Green, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton — sat cozied up in big red chairs with their backs to the main stage, a posturing that by all accounts indicated that contestants would be assessed purely by the sound of their voices. Finally, a singing contest whose singular focus would be the ability to sing, many optimistic viewers (myself included) thought.
Ambitious, yes. Admirable, sure, especially given the fact that other like-minded programming too often felt littered with gimmicks (MTV’s Making the Band, anyone?) or drawn-out tryout periods that, in themselves, played out like mini TV dramas (do people really want to see weeks of auditions, American Idol? I know I don’t.). Still, a troubling pattern began to emerge.