Pierce: ‘The Voice’ is choice; it’s so over for ‘Idol’
Published: May 6, 2013 11:50PM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:31PM
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Judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, and Nicki Minaj, and host Ryan Seacrest during the "American Idol" session at the 2013 Fox Winter TCA on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Calif. Courtesy Frank Micelotta/FOX

We’re heading into the least appealing part of NBC’s “The Voice” — the part that’s the most like “American Idol.”

And “Idol” is unwatchable these days.

For all that these two shows have in common, there are also some significant differences. And most of those play out in favor of “The Voice.”

The contestants • “The Voice” relies on pre-screened contestants — many of them ringers who have previously been signed to recording contracts. So we don’t get the mean-spirited “comedy” that results from the awful singers on “Idol.”

It also means that there are no real rags-to-riches stories on “The Voice.” We won’t get a Kelly Clarkson — a waitress turned “American Idol” winner.

Advantage • It’s a toss-up.

The format • “Idol” has tweaked a few things, but nothing major. Contestants audition for the judges; audition for the judges again; audition for the judges again; then they sing for the viewers, who vote them out.

The most brilliant thing about “The Voice” is the blind auditions, when judges choose contestants by hearing, not seeing, them. Then the contestants sing with/compete against other members of their teams. Then they’re matched against another team member. Finally, it’s “Idol”-ish as viewers vote.

It’s not the same from beginning to end.

Advantage • “The Voice”

The judges • Simon Cowell set the standard for singing-competition judges, but he’s left “Idol” for “The X Factor,” where his act is wearing thin.

The four current judges on “Idol” are the worst lineup yet. Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are dreadful; Keith Urban is a nice guy who fades into the background; and Randy Jackson’s act got old about eight years ago. Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe has gone public with his complaints about his judges’ lack of chemistry — but the problems are much worse than just that.

“The Voice,” on the other hand, has the best judging panel of any singing competition in TV’s modern era. Adam Levine is an unexpected TV star; he and Blake Shelton have a Sonny and Cher vibe going as they needle one another.

And Shakira and Usher are huge improvements over the prickly Christina Aguilera and oddball Cee Lo Green in past seasons.

All four of them are smart, funny, personable and know their stuff. You’ve got the drama on “Idol”; “The Voice” is all about entertaining the audience.

Advantage • “The Voice”

The Utahns are out, but “The Voice”is still worth watching (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5).

About the only reason to tune in to “American Idol” (Wednesday and Thursday, 7 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is if you have insomnia.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.