“The Voice” sets new tone in reality TV landscape

Javier Colon performing on "The Voice"

By Tom Comi

It’s almost impossible to fathom that anybody could come up with anything remotely fresh on the reality TV front, so you really have to applaud NBC for its singing competition The Voice.

One of the major criticisms of many talent shows is that they are largely based on looks, so The Voice (tonight at 9pm ET) decided that its initial auditions would be based purely on vocals. Judges Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton could only hear the singers on the stage, and then they would turn their chair around if they liked what they heard.

The idea was for each judge to ultimately end up with eight performers on their team, and then they would mentor them throughout the competition. If only one judge turned around, that contestant would automatically be on that star’s team. If two, three or four turned their chairs, the performer got to pick which mentor he or she wanted. Needless to say, the person’s looks oftentimes didn’t come close to matching their voice, which is what made the show unique.

Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad, and The Voice really slipped up in the second round. Levine, Green, Aguilera and Shelton got to pit two of their teammates against one another in a sing-off, and then the judge had to choose which one advanced. The major flaw here is that the results could be pre-determined, because no judge was going to vote off their best singers even if they had an off night.

But tonight is all about redemption as NBC goes live for the next round of singing. Viewers get to vote on the performers they want to see advance, which means it is officially out of the hands of the four celebrities. They can still mentor their singers, but the American public now gets to anoint which of the remaining 16 stays and leaves. Javier Colon is probably the favorite at this point, but the title really is up for grabs.

As with any reality show, The Voice needs some tweaking — especially to its middle round. That doesn’t diminish the fact, though, that the show itself has found its own voice in the most competitive genre of television. And for that alone it deserves major props.