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The Voice, returning Sept. 20 for its 21st season on NBC, will mark its 500th episode this fall, having turned its iconic chairs for hundreds of contestants and welcomed a dozen A-list judges since its April 2011 debut. As Ariana Grande, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend and stalwart Blake Shelton take a seat on this year’s panel, longtime host and producer Carson Daly breaks down the highs and lows of the past 10 years.
How has the show managed change over 500 episodes?
When the show started, had a show like [American] Idol, for instance, had a panel change as many times as we’ve had, that would have been a bad thing; it would have been like, “Oh, this group of coaches or judges are falling out with each other.” But The Voice came on the air with four of the biggest names in music, and so it was never a surprise to anybody that John Legend or Adam Levine would need to go out on tour. I think our revolving door of coaches has been a big secret of our success.
Looking back, what moments stick out to you?
The very first time I saw the promo for season one when Javier Colon, who, of course, won, sang Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” When I saw the way that NBC cut the promo, I was like, “Oh my God, this is going to be a hit show.” But [thinking] back [what sticks out is] larger than just people singing cover songs. When [the school shooting in] Newtown, Connecticut, happened [in December 2012], we were on the air live. The next night, we did a cold open of our show where we’re holding the names of kids who had been shot. We sang “Hallelujah” and held up those signs with candles, and that was a moment that always stood out to me as a really important one.
What have been the biggest challenges?
COVID, in general, was tough. We did two seasons during COVID, one completely remotely, and we’re still in some sort of a hybrid. We did our entire live shows, including the finale, from my rental house in Pasadena. All of a sudden, overnight, we were able to shoot this national show from a rented guest house. And [also] just keeping things fresh. We’ve been on for 21 seasons — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but you also want to evolve, so I think we’ve done a good job of making minor tweaks in the format just to keep everything fresh.
What’s been the key to finding the right group of judges every season?
There’s no magic formula. We haven’t had a lot of divas and egomaniacs and people who are there for the wrong reason. What makes the show good is the ribbing. When you watch Blake give it to Ariana Grande and she gives it right back and calls him her grandpa, it’s hilarious. As soon as there’s a comfort factor and people can get in the rhythm of the show and have fun with each other, that’s when we know we’re onto a good panel.
How long do you see the show going? Are you ready to do another 500?
The format is so strong, it could outlive any of us. Now we’re on once a year, so maybe we won’t be in people’s faces as much, so there’ll be more of an appetite when we are on. I hope I’m hosting it for show 1,000 if there’s a God in heaven.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The Wish List
Adele is high on Carson Daly’s roster of judges he’d like to recruit. “When you find somebody with a voice like that and with a sense of humor like she has, she would be excellent on our panel,” he says. And he’d also like to host Pink, “one of my favorite people on earth. She’s as real as it comes.”
This story first appeared in the Aug. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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The Fien Print