Sep. 23, 2013 at 1:37 PM ET
“The Blake Shelton Show” ... err ... "The Voice" is back!
The country star is kicking off the new season of NBC's singing competition with a three-season winning streak, with Danielle Bradbery, Cassadee Pope and Jermaine Paul emerging as champions on his watch. Shelton dominated last cycle, with two of his singers winding up in the top three, and all three of his finalists reaching the final six.
With that many victories under his belt, one might think the show would level the playing field for fellow coaches Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green this time around. After all, based on the rules of the show, Shelton starts with an advantage.
Auditioners know he’s the coach who picks winners, and given that successful singers choose which coach to work with if more than one turns their chair around, there’s no reason for any country crooner to pick anyone else. In all likelihood, Shelton will find himself with singers who the other coaches covet because of his track record at mentoring champions.
But instead of things getting a little tougher for Shelton this time around — the show could've eliminated country acts or given him mild electric shocks every time he mentioned being an Okie or name-dropped that he’s married Miranda Lambert — he’s getting even more star power in this fifth season. As fans will see in a few weeks, he’s going to be joined by the legendary Cher for the battle rounds. Who doesn’t want to see him and Cher onstage ripping through “I Got You Babe”?
Even without knowing who the coaches have to work with this season, Shelton enters the season as the favorite to coach the winner again. The question is: Is this a bad thing?
If you were drawing up the ideal reality show coach in a casting office, the result would probably look an awful lot like Blake Shelton.
He’s wildly successful, but not one to brag about record sales on the air. He’s driven to win, but with a personality that makes it seem like it’s no big deal either way. He’s a country music star at a time when the genre’s very popular. And he’s a coach whose strategy is not to overthink things, allowing his contestants to stay in their lanes and keep on doing what the audience likes.
It’s not a shock that he’s created a dynasty on ”The Voice.” But dynasties can be dull. If fans already know who’s going to win a competition before it begins, there isn’t much reason to watch.
That would be a problem if “The Voice” was all about who wins. With apologies to the former champions, it’s not. This isn’t “X Factor” trumpeting its prize money, or “American Idol” with its grand stable of successful artists.
The stakes here are relatively modest. The grand prize is a recording contract, and it’s hard to argue that the winner hasn’t earned at least that. Despite the assurances from the coaches that everyone onstage is bound for fame and fortune, there hasn’t yet been a superstar to emerge from past seasons to create great expectations for the next winner.
“The Voice” may suffer less from the negative effects of predictability than other reality shows because at its heart, it’s all about the coaches anyway. The show has been very good at playing up story lines that weave the coaches into the competition.
Odds are great, for example, that fans will be seeing a lot of clips of the other three coaches talking about taking Shelton down. Maybe fans will even get some conspiracy theories, or someone attempting to spike one of Shelton's special lattes during the auditions to make sure he’s knocked out each time a country singer takes the stage. Odds are small it’ll be anything but good-natured banter, but then again, ask Simon Cowell whether mean-spirited sarcasm is any better as a recipe for long-term success.
“The Voice” also might be the best reality show out there at not taking itself too seriously. Everything about the show — from the blind auditions to the battle rounds to the knockout stage — is designed with viewer entertainment in mind. It’s not about the singers — it’s about the coaches, four successful singers who look like they’re having fun out there and encourage everyone watching to have fun right along with them.
And as long as Blake Shelton is America’s favorite coach, his winning streak is likely to continue.
"The Voice" kicks off season five at Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC.