‘The Voice’ of a new reality generation

Allison Lasher, Blogger

I’ve never been a fan of reality shows centered around competitive singing. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an episode of “American Idol” and to be honest, I’ve never even seen “X Factor.” Sorry, Simon. For some reason, I just don’t feel qualified to be watching these shows. When I watch “Idol” with friends, I find myself asking the singers in the room if the contestants are actually as good or as bad as I think they are. I don’t like feeling like I lack the expertise to judge people on shows that others around me have. Additionally, if I want to hear singing, I’ll go to a concert; I need more than just a good voice for a reality show to be entertaining.

Enter, ironically enough, “The Voice.” I only started watching “The Voice” this season because it was rumored a girl I barely knew in high school was going to be on the show. For those unfamiliar with the program, “The Voice” features four accomplished singers — Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine — as coaches who choose their teams on voice alone. After watching seven episodes of the blind auditions searching for someone I recognized, I accidentally became a convert. “The Voice” has what its predecessors do not. It combines celebreality and team-based competition with actual talent, making for a show that relies on more than just the typical singing-show format.

After the rise and fall of William Hung, I got really tired of contestants on singing competitions who were only entertaining at their own expense. “The Voice” relies on the entertainment value of legitimately talented individuals of all ages — and seemingly stable mental health, which is more than I can say for “Idol.” And by sorting the contestants into teams, the format encourages viewers to root for their favorite team in the same way you pull for a tribe in “Survivor” or a team on “The Apprentice.” It takes the pressure off the viewer to judge singing ability and allows them to get into the spirit of the competition and just enjoy.

The second component that’s got me waving my foam finger for “The Voice” is what I call the “celebreality” factor. Dictionary.com defines celebreality as “a type of television show featuring the real life of a celebrity,” and yes, Dictionary.com really has a “celebreality” entry. With the celebrity singers as coaches rather than just judges, they actually have to put some work in. I enjoy watching them really listen to the contestants, seriously considering whether or not to push their button. More importantly, I love seeing them sell themselves to the no-name contestant on why they should be chosen. This element leads to hilarious and often heated arguments between the coaches and it reveals elements of their real personalities we otherwise wouldn’t see. Seeing them in business mode and arguably working, appeals to the same crowd that loved “The Simple Life,” albeit in an upscale and socially acceptable way.

For me, “The Voice” has transcended the singing-competition genre and become a reality hybrid. Talented singers, team-based competition and celebrity characters merge together to create a reality super-show suitable for any fan. My only concern is “The Voice” is coming back for two cycles per year, up from its usual one. Nothing kills a show faster than it being too available. I wish NBC would play hard-to-get with the audience — we need a chance to miss “The Voice” before it comes back around. The only hope is the coach change — from Cee Lo and Christina to Usher and Shakirawill usher  in (pun intended) a new era of “The Voice,” differentiating it enough to keep this next season fresh.

Highs: Blake Shelton, Cee Lo’s antics

The country singer is the breakout star of the show. His wit is unmatched and his tactics to woo the contestants are highly entertaining. If viewers didn’t know him before, they’re certainly fans now. And Cee Lo is to “The Voice” what Flavor Flav was to “Flavor of Love.” Cee Lo is part lovable insanity, part genius.

Lows: Carson Daly, Christina Aguilera’s fan

I loved Carson Daly when he hosted “TRL.” I worshipped him, thought he was the cat’s pajamas and everything else people say about people they like. So it pains me to say not just that he doesn’t add anything to “The Voice” as its lackluster host, he that actually profoundly detracts from it. His awkward pre-audition interviews and random commentary are at best hard to watch, and if he was gone, he would not be missed. Speaking of not being missed: the black lace fan Christina waves around. Can we get someone to take that from her? Thanks.

— Allison Lasher