American Idol had a pretty good 2011, but if there was any doubt remaining that Fox is feeling some heat from NBC’s The Voice, that was ended at Sunday’s Fox panel at the television critics’ winter meeting in Los Angeles.
The Voice is the first of the many Idol-like knockoffs that has gained much traction with viewers, and the combination of its star mentors and a premiere date following next month’s Super Bowl has raised hopes for its second season. Just last week, Idol suffered a minor embarrassment when its first champion, Kelly Clarkson, agreed to serve as a team mentor for coming season of The Voice.
But the Idol gang isn’t concerned – why, just listen to them. Clarkson heading to the competition is actually a tribute to Idol’s strength, said Fox head of reality Mike Darnell: “It’s a compliment to Idol that other shows want to use our superstars on their shows. We’re not hiring a lot of people on The Voice to be on our show.”
That’s fair enough, but other criticisms were on shakier logical ground. Idol judge Randy Jackson brought up the past recording career of initial Voice winner Javier Colon as a negative, ignoring that his show has cast several performers with record contracts in their pasts (Idol merely requires that its singers not have a contract that is currently in force). Idol executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz suggested that her show’s open audition system is preferable to what they do on The Voice, which is to invite pre-selected contestants to come to Los Angeles for the blind audition. But after ten seasons, the Idol audition formula and its increasingly contrived-looking bad singers are looking a little old hat.
Executive producer Ken Warwick even ripped the British version of The X Factor, something Darnell couldn’t have been too pleased about given that Fox has a stake in that franchise. Warwick reminded listeners that the biggest X Factor winner was Leona Lewis, who hasn’t done much in the U.S. since “Bleeding Love,” and crowed “this is the show that produces the stars.” Well, maybe. Season 10 champ Scotty McCreery has gotten plenty of exposure, and seems on his way to a nice career in country, but whether Idol is still capable of creating someone who can compete in the heavily dance-oriented and producer-dominated world of the current pop charts is up in the air.