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American Idol and The Voice's remote episodes are affecting and unsettling, emotional and apocalyptic

  • "As a lapsed regular viewer of both shows, I find the quarantine versions’ attempts to power through to be the most fascinating things they’ve done in years — moving and full of the sort of actual reality that reality shows often efface," says James Poniewozik. "They’re not much of an escape, though, which may be one reason that ratings for the two shows have dipped. For decades, after all, people have watched singing competitions to see dreams come true, not turn bittersweet. They’re used to impossibly polished performances, not shaky broadband connections." He adds: "Essentially, Idol is trading one romantic image (the emerging star hitting the big time onstage) for another (the aspiring artist plugging away in solitude, singing in front of the mirror). At the same time, it puts an idyllic sheen on the audience’s own shelter-in-place experience. You’re stuck at home, we’re stuck at home, it says; let’s hang out and I’ll serenade you from across the street. It all feels more intimate than the usual home-visit video packages...Where Idol styles all those bedrooms and backyards into idealized tableaus of Americana, The Voice takes the opposite approach — treating its home videos with saturated color and video effects to create the sort of images you’re used to getting from a TV studio...It’s a distinct choice from Idol, but one that fits the electric-Thunderdome aesthetic of the now-desolate Voice set. If the quarantine version of Idol creates an idealized vision of the hearth, the homebound Voice appeals to nostalgia for TV itself — ordinary, pre-Covid, high-gloss TV, with all its artifice and showbiz wizardry. Both shows are applying an augmented-reality overlay to quotidian lockdown life."

    TOPICS: American Idol, ABC, NBC, The Voice, Coronavirus, Reality TV