'This isn't your ordinary music competition,' host Allison Hagendorf says. But that's exactly what this CW summer fill-in is.
“This isn’t your ordinary music competition,” host Allison Hagendorf says in introducing “The Next: Fame is at Your Doorstep.” But that’s exactly what this CW summer fill-in is — doling out a pinch of “American Idol” here, a dollop of “The Voice” there, with a touch of homegrown mentoring a la “The Karate Kid” for good measure. Frankly, the ability of these shows to keep proliferating — and still spawn the occasional success — remains something of a mystery, but “The Next,” however inoffensive, might more accurately be called simply “The Latest.”Four established singers — Joe Jonas, John Rich, Nelly and Gloria Estefan — participate as mentors, with each being assigned a not-entirely unknown hopeful (most have some kind of Web presence) and tutoring them for three days. Those taped packages culminate in a quartet of live performances — the premiere is held at the House of Blues in Orlando — before the audience selects a winner, and the show moves on to another city. Finalists assemble in Los Angeles (where have we heard that before?), to select an eventual champion, who earns a recording contract. Despite the program’s subtitle “Fame is at Your Doorstep,” the conceit of having the celebs make house calls — and even tag along as the contestants go about their lives and day jobs — doesn’t really alter the fundamental dynamics of the competition format, or the frenzied crowd hooting and hollering at performances that range from genuine promise to slightly better than karaoke night. Nor does it help that the stars are all relentlessly positive — not only with their adopted charges, but in evaluating all the performers. If viewers have come to expect the occasional snark, or even constructive criticism, they’re clearly in the wrong place here. During his segment, Rich refers to the search for talent as “the eternal Easter egg hunt,” which is certainly true, and even more so since networks discovered the enormous potential in turning the audition process itself into programming. One can hardly blame CW for joining in the quest. Yet like those eggs, it’s a genre becoming cheaper by the dozen.