"American Idol" has ruled the TV landscape for almost a decade, drawing the biggest small-screen ratings of any show and quickly dispatching a series of wannabe competitors. But for next season, NBC has teamed up with "Survivor" heavyweight producer Mark Burnett to launch what could be the most serious challenge to the "Idol" throne yet.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, NBC is aiming to steal the thunder of both "Idol" and Fox's other upcoming reality singing show, Simon Cowell's "The X Factor," with a singing competition tentatively called "The Voice of America."
The show is based on the #1 program in the Netherlands, "The Voice of Holland," which has reportedly put up some of the biggest ratings in Dutch TV history, steamrolling that country's versions of "Idol" and "X Factor." The new singing program is slated to premiere next spring, potentially going up against "Idol" and getting a jump on the fall launch of the first season of the American version of "The X Factor."
"Voice" will feature a panel of four celebrity coaches, who will sit with their backs to the contestants during the audition rounds in order to focus on their voices, not their looks. If they approve of the performance, they will push a button that will send the singer to the next round, claiming them as one of their students. If more than one judge likes a singer, that singer gets to choose which celebrity will be his or her coach.
"Somebody will show up with all the right moves and look like a star, but their voice is only good, not great, and they don't get chosen," Burnett explained. "You're dealing only with your sense of hearing — do you believe this voice is worthy of your commitment? The coaches have skin in the game and will be a part of the careers of these young performers after the show."
After the four teams are set, the coaches will mentor the contestants and pit the teams against one another, with viewers picking the winner. At times, the mentors will also place two team members against each other, giving them the same song to sing in front of the studio audience in order to decide which one they would like to keep developing. The final performance rounds, featuring the top vote getters from each team, will air live. The winner will receive a recording contract.
The heat from the new kid on the block comes as "Idol" continues to tinker with its formula. In addition to the previously announced changes to its format, Entertainment Weekly reported on Monday that after the 325 Hollywood-round contenders were whittled down to 60, the whole crew moved to Las Vegas, where the remaining singers have been rehearsing to perform Beatles songs on the stage where Cirque du Soleil performs its Beatles homage, "Love."
New in-house mentor Interscope boss Jimmy Iovine has not only been providing advice on the new "American Idol," but has brought along a group of mega-producers to guide the singers as well. Among the knob twiddlers offering advice: Alex da Kid ("Love the Way You Lie"), Tricky Stewart ("Baby"), Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins ("Telephone"), Polow da Don ("Turnin' Me On") and Jim Jonsin ("Whatever You Like").
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