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While both American Idol and The Voice recently went remote for the remainder of their respective seasons, due to coronavirus concerns — with varying degrees of success — neither series had actually broadcasted live from home. That changed Tuesday, when The Voice attempted its first-ever remote results show in real time.
To be honest, it was a bit rough. There were moments when the hour-long episode looked like it was live-streaming on GeoCities. I practically expected to hear the glitchy dial-up screech of a 28.8k modem whirring in the background as Carson Daly — standing alone on a scaled-down soundstage in front of the coaches’ empty red chairs — tried to connect with the top 17 contestants scattered across the country. But it was exciting, because any technical difficulties proved that this elimination show was truly, historically, without-a-net, live.
As those 17 singers were brutally whittled down to a top nine, they learned their fates via webcam, and viewers stuck at home even got to participate by voting for the wild-card Instant Save. So in that way, this felt like a typical Voice results show. And of course, no typical Voice results show would be complete without some outcomes way more annoying than any technical difficulties. Notably, only male contestants initially made it through via America’s Monday vote, leaving it to the coaches to proactively save four deserving female singers and thus ensure some sort of casting balance. Yep, so nothing had changed there. Whether the show takes place at Universal Studios or in the coaches’ and contestants’ living room, it apparently is still a boys’ club.
Anyway, from Team Blake, America unsurprisingly saved Todd Tilghman, the pastor and father of eight who’d warbled a Karate Kid power ballad in his small-town church. Thankfully, Blake Shelton then did the obvious right thing and saved Toneisha Harris — a woman that Mega-Mentor James Taylor had once compared to Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand! And of the two remaining artists on Blake’s team, the one who’d received more votes on Monday, Joanna Serenko, advanced to the Instant Save round. Blake then bid an awkward farewell to the immediately eliminated Joei Fulco over his blurry webcam, as her WiFi connection sputtered out.
As for Team Legend, America saved Cammwess, a choice I could get behind (his Bill Withers cover was lovely on Monday); John Legend then also made a wise choice, and he saved hippie songstress Zan Fiskum. Mandi Castillo moved on to sing for the Instant Save, while the computer plug was quickly pulled on fallen four-chair contestant Mike Jerel.
From Team Kelly, also once known as “Team Estrogen,” America of course saved her one male contestant, Micah Iverson — but he really did deserve the win. Sadly, Kelly Clarkson had arguably the strongest team of these semifinals, so she had a tough choice among her remaining women. Ultimately, it was a smart strategy on her part to save the also-deserving Megan Danielle, a country singer with an actual chance at making the finale. Cedrice then moved on to the Instant Save showdown, while also-ran opera singer Mandi Thomas signed off.
And finally, from Team Nick, the stormy and artsy Thunderstorm Artis prevailed — America totally got that one right — and Nick Jonas (who faced an even harder decision, since he had an extra member on his team) saved torch singer Allegra Miles. While inexplicably popular milquetoast contestant Michael Williams somehow survived again to sing for the Save, that meant that the show had to say goodbye to Roderick Chambers and, much more distressingly, to talented disco diva Arei Moon, who’d actually given one of Monday’s most vivacious performances.
When came time for the Instant Save singoff, I braced myself, fearing that wonky Wi-Fi would potentially thwart all four singers’ performances. But it soon became clear that this segment of the show had been pretaped. The Instant Save performances featured the same underwhelming budget production value that had marred Monday’s lo-fi episode, but at least this way, all of the contestants could power through their tunes without a 404.
Unfortunately, I think the fact that these performances were canned made for an incredibly anticlimactic Instant Save round. It actually would have been a whole lot more suspenseful if someone had gotten booted off the show’s Microsoft Teams server. You see, the live Instant Save situation normally either brings out the fire in the at-risk contestants, or they choke and go down in flames — but either way, it’s always good TV. But these performances, shot prison-lineup-style against bare beige walls, all lacked that in-the-moment fighting spirit. That being said, of the four contestants — Joanna doing “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” Mandi singling “True Colors,” Cedrice crooning “Breathin’,” and Michael Williams doing “To Love Somebody” — I thought Cedrice, as expected, brought the most drama. (Her Monday performance was the most fabulous of the bunch; the woman can make even a beige wall look dazzling.)
— The Voice (@NBCTheVoice) May 6, 2020
But viewers disagreed with me, and I was disappointed to see Cedrice, a.k.a. the “hottest woman alive,” go home. (Go home figuratively, that is. Literally, Cedrice was already at home.) But Kelly assured Cedrice, “You are such a star. … You are bigger than this moment,” so I hope to see Cedrice on a big, legitimate stage again one day. As for who actually won America’s Instant Save vote, I could not be mad at this result. At least this time it was a woman, Joanna, and her excellent “Rich Girl” top 17 performance from the night before really should have fast-tracked her to the top nine in the first place.
So, this Voice season has two more weeks and four more episodes to go — including the May 19 finale, which ought to be interesting. I suggest that the top four contestants who eventually make it to that finale look into upgrading to the highest-speed internet available in their areas. Perhaps they can Ask Jeeves about that. Maybe an AltaVista search could help.
But all kidding aside, in the end I commend The Voice’s producers for working within these limitations as best they can, at a time when reality television is really rewriting the rules as it goes along. I think Blake put it best when he declared, “For God's sake, if there was ever a time to realize that anything's possible and this is not the end of the road for anybody, it's right now. I mean, look at what we're just doing with this show. The show must always go on.”
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