Back before season 1, the consensus on “The Voice” was relatively simple: It was the latest also-ran in a series of shows all attempt to supplant “American Idol” as the singing show everyone actually cared about. Now, it is the #1 reality show on TV in the important 18-49 demographic, and it provides great entertainment.
Does it do more than that? Well, we’re going to get to talking about the show’s inability to support contestants in a CarterMatt Extended piece later in the day; for the sake of this Midseason Report Card entry, let’s focus more so on what was on the screen in season 9: What worked, what needs to be fixed, and what needs to be burned forever.
What worked – Jordan Smith’s a tremendous winner, Emily Ann Roberts has a promising future, and Jeffery Austin has some sort of magic in his voice. All three were tremendous from start to finish. There were many great vocals throughout the season, and also some good stories to go along with them. From a production standpoint we’ll give the “Voice” team credit: They generally clear more songs than any other sing show out there, and try their best to come up with great staging and unique ways for the contestants to shine.
In terms of the coaching panel, we do think that the chemistry is mostly there. (Obviously it is with Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani in more ways than one.) While we wish Pharrell sometimes brought more entertainment, he’s at least credible as a producer and brings more of that side. Format-wise the Blind Auditions continue to be a crowd-pleaser, and while there are way too many four-chair turns these days, there is still some magic that comes out of seeing someone’s reality TV dream (hokey as that sounds) come true.
The last thing we’ll say is that using iTunes as a voting measure is still our favorite thing that separates “The Voice” from other shows. Sure, at times the pandering can be annoying, but it forces contestants to think strategically and choose songs that will connect to a crowd so much that they want to buy their music. This is the perfect metaphor for the real world.
What didn’t – The Battle Rounds are still terrible for the most part, weighed down by too many advisers and unnecessary filler that makes it look like the contestants spend way more time chatting with the coaches than they do. There need to be more live shows (more chances to get to know the real contestants) and so much less filler. Rather than start the Live Playoffs with 20, have a smaller contestant pool overall, maybe bring 12 people to the live shows, and then extend it another week or to. That way, we can go down from 12 to three or four in a more acceptable manner than just sending home over half the field a week before the show came to a close.
The final complaints are a little nit-picky but still necessary: 90% of Carson Daly’s live-show questions are horrendously boring, and the show needs to be a little less heavy-handed of their desired outcome. Jordan, as fantastic as he may be, was given great performance real estate in almost every episode. Most of the other singers were not.
Overall – Still an enjoyable show, but a predictable season and design flaws keep it from being the journey to find a potential star it could be. Grade: B-.
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