"The Voice" and the Super Bowl may seem mutually exclusive, but NBC is doing everything possible to have that not be the case.
It's that network's year for the NFL championship game, and the coveted post-game slot goes to the singing competition's second-season premiere Sunday, Feb. 5.
Reminders will be built in as the New England Patriots and the New York Giants vie in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. "Voice" judge Blake Shelton and fellow country-star wife Miranda Lambert will perform "America the Beautiful" before the game, and first "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson, who will be a guest mentor on "The Voice" (as will Lambert), will render the national anthem.
"It's exciting, because it's just such a rare opportunity," says "Voice" host Carson Daly of the scheduling. "NBC only gets the Super Bowl every four years, the way the rotation (among the major broadcast networks) works. We have a hit show, and we have the Super Bowl, and with the chance to get all these new people who didn't even see Season 1 on board for Season 2, we feel very grateful."
"The Voice" settles into a weekly Monday slot the following night, paired with NBC's new musical-drama series "Smash." Also returning to the high-backed, rotating chairs are original judges Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine, whose group Maroon 5 featured Aguilera on the hit "Moves Like Jagger" ... now up for a Grammy Award for best pop duo/group performance.
Levine deems the slotting of "The Voice" immediately after the Super Bowl "very flattering," and he's also looking forward to the halftime show that will star music icon Madonna.
"She's unbelievable," he says. "There's really nothing more to say about her, because it's all been said. I don't know her, but she definitely deserves this. This has been a long time coming, I think. When you look back, almost everyone that should have done it has done it. She's one of the people where you think, 'Wow, why hasn't she?' so I'm really happy that it's her this year. I'm very curious and excited to see it."
The other guest mentors for the sophomore round of "The Voice" are Lionel Richie, Jewel, Alanis Morissette, Ne-Yo, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Robin Thicke.
"That was one of the areas of the show we really wanted to improve on," Daly says. "It was such a whirlwind to get Season 1 on, we went back and looked at it. We're doing more of the blind auditions, with the chair turning; I think America loves that, because it's really fun, and you can almost play along at home. The battle rounds and the mentoring are big differentials from other shows for us, so we wanted to beef those up."
Levine coached the eventual first-season winner of "The Voice," Javier Colon, who received $100,000 and a recording contract. "He was instantly the winner in a lot of people's eyes," Levine reflects, "but I loved the fact that I got to fall in love with certain artists over time.
"While I might not have believed as passionately in (competitor) Dia Frampton as Blake Shelton did, I learned so much from watching her blossom and evolve in front of our eyes. That was a really cool thing that, to me, added to the show's legitimacy. If we can be surprised, then clearly everyone else can be, too."