The Voice creator John de Mol: we need to make the live shows “more exciting”

TV format king says coaches should have more power to override public votes - and Jessie J, will.i.am, Tom Jones and Danny O'Donoghue should stay

Series two of The Voice UK is likely to overhaul the live phase of the competition – according to the man who created the original format, John de Mol.

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“The Voice UK started incredibly well,” de Mol told RadioTimes.com. “But it has three stages – blind auditions, battles and live shows – and the live show is the part that looks the most like other talent shows. We’ll have a meeting with the BBC to come up with some new ideas to make the live shows a little more exciting than they are right now. We have time – it’ll be months before they start work on series two.”

The Dutch media mogul conceded that it is hard to make wholesale changes to the format of live elimination rounds – “you are creatively a little bit limited: you have to lose contestants and before that, you have to hear them all” – but pointed to the decision-making of the coaches as one area where improvements could be made.

“I think the role of the coaches can be bigger and more significant,” de Mol said. 

Although The Voice UK’s live shows initially gave coaches more power than they have on rival talent shows, by allowing them individually to decide between their own contestants without input from the other three mentors, de Mol asserted that the format change in last weekend’s semi-final – where eliminations were entirely decided by the public – was a mistake.

“Yes, they already have more influence than the mentors on The X Factor, but still not enough in my opinion,” de Mol said. “In the semi-final, the coaches were just watching the talent perform. They had no influence at all and that’s something we should change.”

Amid falling ratings for The Voice UK’s live shows, the programme was arguably dealt a further blow by its own audience last weekend when both the apparent front-runners, Ruth Brown and Jaz Ellington, were axed by the voting public. De Mol said the result came as a surprise to the show’s producers, but observed: “I’m used to it. The Voice is in 50 countries and what you see is the audience sometimes have different opinions to the professionals. Because the coaches have influence on who’s going until late in the show, it makes it possible for the real talents to stay for as long as possible.

“But on Saturday, it was 100 per cent up to the audience. Sometimes it’s more a popularity contest than a singing contest, and that is something I would like to change. That’s the difference between the Voice and other singing shows.”

De Mol – who launched the Voice format in Holland in 2010, and whose company Talpa has a representative in London working with The Voice UK’s production company Wall to Wall – did not agree that the solution to the drop in ratings might be to give viewers a better chance to get to know the contestants by increasing the number of live shows.

“The live shows are not the most exciting part, so we’re not looking to extend them,” he said. “What we have is enough. The Voice should be like the Champions League. It’s a few matches and you have to be there at that moment, you have to perform. That’s something you can ask of future top talent. Although we have seen the talent in the blind auditions and the battle rounds before the live shows, that’s the difference between The Voice and other talent shows: other shows tend to be more of a popularity contest, but The Voice is purely based on singing quality.”

De Mol, whose CV also includes the creation of Big Brother and Deal or No Deal, said the standard of performers originally auditioning for The Voice UK series one was “the best out of the 50 across the world”, and that the blind audition and battle stages did not require any major tweaks. “The blind auditions, particularly the way the coaches performed, was really great television. We’re working hard to have that same impact in the live shows. The blind auditions and the battles worked so I don’t think we should change them.”

De Mol also expressed a wish to retain the coaching line-up of will.i.am, Jessie J, Tom Jones and Danny O’Donoghue: “We’ll talk about the coaches with the BBC right after the final this Saturday. As far as I’m concerned – and I was involved in the final selection of them – we have four great characters and we’ll stick with them, but it’s too early to say. They have their own agendas and schedules. None of them have signed for series two yet because we don’t know exactly when it will [go into production]. You can’t sign someone until you know if it fits with their schedule.”

He agreed, however, that the relentless positivity of the coaches might be something viewers have tired of as the series has gone on: “Again, that’s the live shows. It’s something we have to work on. More competition.” He added: “We’re setting up a two-day international conference in August with 20 of the countries who show The Voice to share ideas. We can learn from the experience of other countries. Sometimes they come with suggestions and we think, that’s not a bad idea!”

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The Voice UK’s grand final airs on BBC1 this Saturday at 7.20pm.