As part of Warner Bros TV’s presentation for Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys Event last month, execs from Warner Brothers, the studio that oversees The Voice and producers sat down and answered questions about the Emmy winning competition reality show’s success.
Watch the a video clip of the discussion at Deadline.
Mike Darnell, who is currently the president of unscripted and alternative television for Warner Brothers TV, took part in the discussion At the time The Voice premiered in 2011 on NBC, he was the long time head of alternative programming for FOX television network. He oversaw the disastrous revamping of of Season 12 after The Voice and FOX’s own compeition, X Factor, took a bite out of Idol’s ratings the previous year.
Bickering between the female judges, the pop icon Mariah Carey and rap star Nicki Minaj was uncomfortable to watch. The cast was stuffed with weak male talent in order to facilitate the success of the gifted Candice Glover who was the first female winner since 2007’s Jordin Sparks. The ratings tanked and the press was brutal.
It was no surprise when at the end of the season, Darnell was out. Was he pushed or did he leave? He got the “ready to find the next challenge!” edit and that was that. Executive producers, Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, WERE fired and served as the sacrificial lambs.
Considering the role Darnell played in that horrible, no good, very bad season of Idol, what he has to say during the panel discussion about Idol’s disintegration is interesting.
“I will say that I was over at FOX when The Voice launched. You could feel–that’s part of the demise of Idol,” said Darnell. He admits that programming Simon Cowell’s UK bred competition, the X Factor, in the fall,”killed ourselves a little bit” and that airing Idol once a year preserved the show’s “event” status.
“And then The Voice came on and it was a twist on the concept,” said Darnell. “It’s weird to think of it but, when Idol started there was no iTunes, no iPhones. It was all phone call voting.” He continued, This Voice came on and it felt like a modern version and a whole new set of young people went over to it. I think that really did it!”
And then this: “I’m glad I moved over.” Ha. After running Idol into the ground, he was more than happy to walk away from the smouldering ashes…
Executive Producer Audrey Morrissey was also on hand to talk about why The Voice attracts top-notch talent, despite not graduating any alums who have gone on to become superstars.
It’s a really emotional show. The coaches are really invested in it. They care about these kids. We’ve not ended up having a superstar–huge huge stars like some of the other shows [like] Idol has certainly produced. But I think part of why we get great great talent, is [the contestants] know if they’re lucky enough to get a chair turn, they’re going to be on a coach’s team. Someone who’s really going to invest in them. They’re there to get that coaching for their own path. They all know there will only be one winner. But they know for the amount of time they can stay on the show, they are going to get that one-on-one time. A lot of people do form close lasting ties, and they do, post show, make a living in music.
Morrissey also discussed how they keep The Voice fresh despite airing 90 hours a year. “Every season we look–what can we do to tweak something? Is there just one little thing that would keep it fresh, keep it relevant, that’s not a change just for change’s sake?”
The discussion took place before live show ratings fell to season and series low. The final garnered only a 2.1 in ther coveted 18-49 demo. Tweaks have already been planned: the controversial Miley Cyrus and singer songwriter Alicia Keys are set to take seats next to long time coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. Methinks the producers will probably work in a few more changes in light of falling ratings.