NBC’s new American Idol rival The Voice debuted with nearly 12 million viewers, making it the highest-rated premiere of the season. Another six million viewers tuned in for an encore of the two-hour premiere. How can NBC keep the show from becoming a future punch line on 30 Rock ? Here are 10 ways:
1. Keep the talent level high. We have one more week of blind auditions. We don’t want to see anyone come before (or behind) the coaches that producers don’t honestly believe has a chance of being picked for a team. We see the phrase “colorful array of talented vocalists” in an episode description, and we get nervous. Respect the coaches, respect the viewers. Javier Colon’s show-stopping stripped down take on Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” has broken into the Top 20 on iTunes. He had two solo albums on Capitol before parting ways with the label and switching his sound. There are three other songs from contestants in the Top 200 today.
2. If the show gets a second season, don’t milk the blind audition round, though you’ll be tempted. Having the coaches’ backs turned to contestants, and the coaches having to sell themselves if more than one of them wants a contestant for his or her team, is one of the best reality show twists in recent memory. NBC could attempt to stretch it longer than two weeks. See No. 1.
3. Do not use theme nights. Every time these singers take the stage, it should be with whatever song they think they can sing best. Not what song out of this week’s options they can sing the best.
4. Keep the pressure on the coaches. The “Battles” round, which begins May 10, has the coaches pitting their own team members against each other in dueling duets. Each coach will choose which of his/her eight singers continue and which go home. We don’t like it when Idol makes it about the judges, but in this case, the coaches will have mentored each member of their team, so they are an integral part of the show. It’s that investment that makes what they have to say — and the decisions that they will be forced to make — mean something.
5. That said, fuel the coaches’ rivalries. If they’re doing a reality show, their reputations are already on the line. Now you have them choosing teams and mentoring. We’ve seen Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine be competitive with each other already. How many times did Adam and Cee Lo Green turn their chairs around at the same time?
6. Keep Blake Shelton’s mic on at all times. The country star could be the odd man out, but he’s the biggest smartass on the show, so he’ll keep himself entertaining.
7. Keep the focus on the contestants, not on their families. It’s sweet seeing loved ones tear up watching the auditions with host Carson Daly and praying a coach will hit his or her “I want you” button, but that’s enough of them. Viewers would rather watch the contestants with their mentors once we get past the first round.
8. Do not force two-hour shows. Beginning May 10, The Voice moves to its regular Tuesday at 8 p.m. time slot, shrinks to an hour, and goes head on with Glee and NCIS. (It was nice of Glee to do that 90-minute episode on The Voice‘s premiere night to try to keep viewers from switching over, right?) With the two-hour Biggest Loser: Couples slated to air after The Voice then, NBC isn’t likely to try to supersize the episode, but let’s keep this in mind for the future as well: Don’t squander the audience’s good will by wasting our time.
9. If established singers guest on the show, put them to work. If the ratings remain high, we assume we’ll be seeing special guest stars at some point. We’d much rather see someone like Blake Shelton’s fiancé Miranda Lambert sing a few bars in a mentoring session than take the stage herself.
10. No swaybots. The appreciation for the talent on this show is genuine now. Never fake it.