You Can’t Make 25 Seasons of a Hit Show Without a Great Crew

To paraphrase the recent viral Faye Dunaway commercial blooper: “Live TV… there’s nothing like it.” Particularly on “The Voice.”

The 25th season — yes, really — of NBC‘s “The Voice” came to a conclusion with the May 21 live show and the crowning of Asher HaVon as the winner. But don’t expect the team that brings the competition to life every week to stop working.

“We’re about to do blind auditions for the new season,” “The Voice” director and executive producer Audrey Morrissey told IndieWire during a recent visit to the penultimate episode’s dress rehearsal. “The casting is done, the background checks are in, that’s all happening concurrent to [finishing Season 25]. We already have a team doing pre-interviews.”

A competition series doesn’t remain a powerhouse in its 25th season without a well-oiled machine behind it. What’s particularly striking about “The Voice” is just how well-oiled it is. And that stems from Morrissey’s seemingly unflappable demeanor, one that carries the live shows off with aplomb (and an occasional proposal).

“She’s like the clown that’s juggling,” host and co-producer Carson Daly told IndieWire. “And as she’s juggling, someone throws in the chainsaw. And then she grabs that and starts juggling. She’s got so many balls in the air.”

Never more so than during the live shows. The pre-taped blind auditions and battle rounds? Those are all long days of filming, but that’s to be expected when making TV. But live shows add a ticking clock to what Morrissey is juggling, one that starts counting down days before the live episodes air on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“Wednesday morning, we have a big meeting with the creative team,” Morrissey said. “[The teams] have a total pitch deck with photos. ‘This is the type of lighting we see. This is the imagery that will be on the screens. This is the type of wardrobe we see the artist in, with like a guitar player and a bass player and we want 10 dancers or a string section. And here’s how it will be laid out.’ The makeup department’s there, the hair department’s there, the wardrobe department’s there, the lighting. … Every single department is hearing this pitch. Then we debate it, if we want some changes or this or that. And then everybody walks away with their marching orders.”

Those marching orders must be somewhat fulfilled by Friday, at which point dry blocking — “hopefully with set pieces” — begins without the cameras. The weekend brings with it more rehearsals before Monday’s dress rehearsal for the individual performances. By that time, the sets and costumes, hair and makeup have all been finalized and are in place (not to mention the music and dance rehearsals that happened concurrently with the design and build process).

The dress rehearsals unfurl at an unrelenting pace. Stand-ins for the coaches and Daly take their places, and the show begins. Each contestant sings full out with the band and backup singers and, between numbers, stagehands briskly remove the set builds and roll out the next while an actual clock counts down how much time is left in the commercial break.

At times, Daly’s stand-in moves to another portion of the stage to tee up the B-roll, and as soon as it begins to play, the stagehands continue with their work while the clock counts down the seconds remaining. (They’re so adept at sweeping up confetti and glitter at this point that Times Square should hire them for January 1 every year.) Sometimes the show stops and adjustments are made to where everyone is standing, but there are no adjustments for timing. If a stagehand doesn’t complete a task, they have to grab whatever time they can during the B-roll to finalize the work.

“Dress [is when we] watch it for the first time and hopefully we feel like that order stays because to upend an order after dress rehearsal is a really big deal,” Morrissey said. “It’s even worse on a Tuesday show. It’s my job to get the show off the air on time, so if anything goes long, I have to find ways to trim. Or if we’re under — which we’re usually not — I have to find ways to stretch. I really control the show by how long I let the coaches speak. If we’re under, I’ll let them speak a little longer. If we’re over, I’ll trim the time they have.”

Tuesdays also bring with them the final voting tallies, which have to be verified and confirmed by an independent voting company and a team of lawyers before being shared on national TV. “Carson’s always in a panic, like, ‘How are we looking, Audrey? Is everything working?’ He doesn’t know. We tell him in his ear right before,” Morrissey said. “We realized we get the highest ratings if we say the name as close to the end of the show as possible, so it’s always this holding it, holding it, holding it, but then rushing it out and getting off the air. It’s a little anxiety-ridden.”

But if Morissey and “The Voice” team do their jobs right, the only anxiety for viewers is whether or not their favorites will advance. “To be able to do it this long, at scale … it’s like golf,” Daly said in his dressing room shortly after dress rehearsal ended. “When you watch people play golf, it’s like, ‘Oh, that must be easy,’ because they make it look so easy — until you go out there and try to hit a golf ball. ‘The Voice’ is like that. This whole crew is so talented, they make it look easy.”

“The faces of this show have been our coaches,” Daly continued. “They’re the big names everybody knows, but this show just wouldn’t have one iota of success if it’s not for the backbone of the show, which is the men and women that nobody ever sees or really knows about, the crew. It’s so easy to produce TV now, pretty cheaply, but we just have a higher standard and so we’ve been lucky enough to be able to produce and make it look cinematic. Our crew makes that possible from top to bottom, from editing to sound and light. I know the singers are great and the coaches are awesome, but at the heart of it is the production team behind this show.”

SOURCE: Indie Wire

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Founder and owner of Performer.com/Performer Media LLC, a multimedia content creator for a variety of national plus local print & electronic media affiliates.