NBC’s Idol, X-Factor clone (sigh) has blind auditions, ugly people, swivel chairs

NBC has announced that it will air a new talent competition series that’s produced by two reality producer superstars, Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett and Big Brother producer John de Mol. The Voice of America is based on a European format and features celebrity mentors picking teams of singers who are eliminated until one team member remains for each.

In case there’s any doubt that NBC is just attempting its own American Idol and The X Factor, NBC notes in its press release that its series “is modeled after the very popular Dutch version of the show (‘The Voice of Holland’) that has displaced the Dutch version of ‘The X Factor’ and ‘American Idol’ as the #1 talent competition show in Holland.”

The “unique twist,” NBC says, is that “the initial audition process is blind; coaches can only hear the singer but cannot see them.” So it’s like the Fox series but potentially with ugly people!

Oh, but that’s not all: there are also swivel chairs. Yes, NBC says that if a coach likes an audition, “he/she pushes a button to select the contestant for his/her team of competitors. At this point, the coach’s chair will swivel so that he/she can face the contestant he/she has selected. If more than one coach selects the talent, the power shifts to the contestant who may choose which coach he/she wants to work with throughout the competition.”

Swivel chairs aside, the show does have its producers going for it, but I can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind thinks we really need another American Idol clone. Are network executives so insecure that they need to keep attempting derivatives of America’s most-popular TV show? Perhaps I’ll be surprised and it’ll get huge ratings and lift NBC from its last-place position, but it barely makes sense for Fox to be attempting X Factor, a show that would probably be virtually ignored if it wasn’t for Simon Cowell’s involvement, and this sounds like it could easily become NBC’s next Fame.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.