"The Voice" is used to taking on the big dogs. For two seasons, it has gone toe-to-toe with the 800-pound gorilla of reality singing competitions, "American Idol," in a battle for viewers. And while "Idol" continues to rule the ratings roost, the red-chair gang will see if they have the right stuff to take on the other singing show starting this week.
When former "Idol" judge Simon Cowell launched the American version of "X Factor" last fall, he had the lane all to himself. "Idol" and "The Voice" skirmished in the spring, and by the time the first season of "Factor" made its debut, the only competition was the daunting string of ratings wins the acerbic Brit had put up during his run on "Idol."
But with the two-night "Factor" season premiere (Wednesday and Thursday) shaping up as one of the most-anticipated launches of the fall, audiences of Cowell's high-glitz show are curious to see how it will fare against competition from the first fall go-round of "The Voice." Cowell lashed out at the "Voice" show runners last week when he found out they had added a third episode on Wednesday this week to coincide with the "Factor" debut.
Cowell told TMZ that the move was "cynical, cold-hearted [and an] unprofessional" way of doing business, especially since the two programs had a "gentleman's agreement" to stick to their previously announced nights.
Now with the shows going head-to-head, we break down each program's strengths and weaknesses:
"The Voice": When the show first launched, its seeming hodgepodge of celebrity judges seemed entirely random and all over the place. But with the sizzling repartee between Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine and the strong, quirky personalities of Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton, its panel has emerged as one of the most solid and entertaining on all of reality TV.
"The X Factor": After booting ineffective judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger following season one, Cowell has taken a big chance hiring Britney Spears and VMA pre-show performer Demi Lovato to join him and music-industry veteran L.A. Reid at the table. So far, the word is that Spears is a tough judge and that viewers may be surprised by the sometimes hard-to-read singer's adjudicating persona.
Advantage: While the "Voice" foursome has won our hearts, viewers love novelty, so "Factor" gets the edge when it comes to the celebrity factor. Plus, after years of hiding behind her team, America will get to hear Spears speak on a weekly basis for the first time in ages.
"The Voice": Audiences have fallen in love with the whole blind-audition/ spinning-chair shtick. Add in new rules that will give judges the chance to "steal" two of their rivals' contestants and a "knockout" round, and you have a fresh look for season three.
"The X Factor": Though audiences didn't tune in with numbers big enough to justify Cowell's pre-launch hype, "Factor" definitely blew the competition away with its awards-show-caliber staging and design. The whole boys/girls/elders/groups format feels a bit unwieldy, but the first season spawned the most diverse group of finalists in reality singing show history.
Advantage: Since Cowell has not yet revealed any major changes to how business will be done, "The Voice" has the edge — for now.
"The Voice": Stacking the deck, season three will feature Mary J. Blige helping out Levine's team, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong working with Aguilera, Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas on Green's crew and crooner Michael Bublé helping Shelton.
"The X Factor": Justin Bieber is rumored to be joining Reid's team, while Nick Jonas has been confirmed as a mentor for Lovato's crew. The other two mentors have not yet been revealed.
Advantage: The "Voice" quartet is impressive, but if the Bieber rumors are true, then Cowell has scored another slam dunk.
Which show do you think will come out on top? Let us know in comments below!