Thirteen may be an unlucky number for some, but for NBC’s singing competition show “The Voice,” it’s anything but. The reality hit is going into its 13th season this fall, and shows no sign of fading among TV fans. It’s also a hit among TV Academy voters — it earned 8 Emmy nominations, including one for best reality competition series, having already won three trophies in the category, including the last two years in a row.
“Thirteen is officially my lucky number and always has been my whole life,” executive producer Mark Burnett tells Variety. To him, it’s about more than just the talent competition — it’s the camaraderie among the coaches. While Blake Shelton and Adam Levine have been constants since the show’s debut in 2011, it’s also seen a rotating panel of star turns from the likes of Usher, Shakira, Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani, “It’s a reality show meets a sitcom,” says Burnett.
The producer credits the leadership of host Carson Daly, whose role includes wrangling and often refereeing the coaches every episode. “Traffic cop might be a better analogy,” says Daly with a laugh.
“People thought it was a very crowded marketplace to have another singing competition reality show, and we were really felt like we had something special with ‘The Voice’,” adds Daly. “It’s hard to be really cool and also entertaining family television. We just struck that balance. And it’s been a wonderful ride ever since.”
The new season, which bows on September 25th, will feature returning coach Miley Cyrus (back for her second time in the chair) as well as Jennifer Hudson, making her American “The Voice” debut (she did a season for the U.K. version).
“They’re playing great together,” says Burnett. “This is Miley’s second go around and she totally understands how to work with the boys. And Jennifer, she can totally stand on her own.”
As for Shelton and Levine, their rivalry — and on-screen banter — is what keeps them coming back, season after season. “They’re competitors. They both want to beat each other. but it’s like a family playing a board game,” says Burnett.
Levine even credits the show’s family vibe with his decision to become a father. “I think that joining ‘The Voice’ when I did probably contributed to me even starting a family at all,” he says, recounting how Daly’s three children are frequently on set. “We all live crazy lives as touring musicians… So to see how it could be functional in an otherwise dysfunctional career, I was inspired by that.”
And even so many seasons in, they say there’s no shortage of talent for them to discover. “That’s the most amazing thing about it,” says Burnett. “Here you have a country of 300 million Americans, and new talent popping up every day. And people who took them 12 seasons to decide to send in an audition and now want to be on the show.”
So despite the influx of other competition shows, like the return of “American Idol,” the team isn’t worried. “There was a definitive moment in the show’s run where it’s almost like America said, ‘OK, this is the show we’re going to audition for,” says Daly. “And it’s unbelievable, this great talent.”