DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

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Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

KIM AKASS

MONIQUE NAZARETH

ROGER CATLIN

GARY EDGERTON

TOM BRINKMOELLER

GERALD JORDAN

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
How Have the Social Distancing Versions of 'American Idol' and 'The Voice' Fared?
May 17, 2020  | By Mike Hughes
 


As the music competitions end their seasons – American Idol on Sunday, ABC, 8 p.m. ET, and The Voice on NBC, Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET – some things are clear: Yes, both shows are flawed, especially with judges who, well, don’t want to seem judgmental.

But the music-from-home part has worked well. Idol quickly got it right; Voice flubbed its first try, then made a course-correction.

Both shows started with the flash and fuss that TV prefers, then hit a wall when the COVID-19 shutdowns began. They sent contestants home and eventually decided to have them perform there.

Idol was first and said people would be singing into iPhones. It sounded crude and makeshift, but it wasn’t. Each had been sent a full kit with three cameras, the right lighting, and professional sound equipment; each would benefit from a skilled director, cutting between the cameras, and even between musicians and back-up singers who were also in their own homes.

The Voice followed eight days later and stumbled at first. Trying to wedge 21 performances into two hours squeezed out much of the entertainment value; the show was just a blur of bland settings.

By the next week, however, both shows had it right.

Both found a new personal touch. One singer on Idol, Sophia James, did “In My Room” … in her room. Others had backdrops that ranged from decks and a gorgeous lake to cold apartment walls. We saw spouses, parents, siblings, and even toddlers. The humanity of it all became more apparent.

Of course, there isn’t always a level playing field. Some people had better settings, while others had more texture to their backstories.

On Idol, for instance, there is Samantha Diaz, who goes by Just Sam (top). She was in the foster system, then was adopted by her grandmother, sang to subway riders, and decided not to endanger her grandma’s health by returning home. Instead, she’s alone in a Los Angeles apartment – a story she describes with wide-eyed charm.

Or on Voice, there is Todd Tilghman. He’s a Mississippi pastor who came on camera with his wife and eight kids, one of whom already charmed viewers as a contestant on NBC’s Making It.

This new emphasis on at-home personality gives the contests an additional treat – some sweeter than others – but it’s certainly interesting. It’s an enjoyable way to wrap up a disrupted TV season.

 
 
 
 
 
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