Mark Burnett should be at least a little panicked. Just two days after CeeLo Green announced he would not be returning to The Voice, news broke that fellow original coach Christina Aguilera is expecting her second child, leaving the fate of not one, but two red chairs possibly empty on the hit NBC singing show.
But at a press screening Monday for the two-night Season 6 premiere, which continues Tuesday at 8/7c on NBC, the executive producer did not sound flummoxed about what — or should we say who — lies ahead for Season 7.
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"We knew from the beginning, if you want to have a show with the biggest superstars in music in those red chairs, they have a day job. It's called being musical stars, and The Voice isn't the day job. The hardest part is the jigsaw puzzle of schedules," Burnett told reporters. "They're at the top of their games, so you can only imagine what it's like trying to piece schedules together and trying to work it out for four people."
When pressed about whether Aguilera would be able to return for the fall cycle or if there were any possible names in the running for Green's spot, Burnett reiterated that there "hasn't even been a discussion about that at all."
Instead, the executive producer turned the focus back to the current season, and particularly the return of last spring's newbie coaches Shakira and Usher. "It's not like it's a matter of just re-upping deals. It doesn't work that way. They have massive opportunities," Burnett said, pointing to CeeLo's expressed desire to pursue other projects. "We just take it a stage at a time. We're having a great time obviously and we've been really blessed with the acceptance of Usher and Shakira to join The Voice."
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So does that mean Usher and/or Shakira might return for the fall and appear in back-to-back seasons for the first time? Host and executive producer Carson Daly had nothing but praise for both, who he says bring a "fiery energy" to the show this season. "He's a tough, tough coach but I think he's raised the game of the coaching style for the other coaches because he really, really is involved," he said of Usher. But Usher may still want to watch out for Shakira. "She's got the confidence about her now. She's hungry for a victory and she handles the boys really well," Daly added.
Although Usher kept mum about whether he would be available, and willing, to return in the fall, he gave the gig a big recommendation. "A lot of why I really wanted to do the show was an opportunity in some way to reintroduce myself. For a lot of years, being viewed in one specific way," he said. "That intimate look in my point of view, my perspective — I never would be able to give my audience that. I think it's great and I would encourage others to do the same."
In the vein of recent series modifications such as the steal and the Twitter save, Daly said there are other possible changes in store this year beyond the coaching lineup. "We always reserve the right to tweak the format of the show," Daly said. "We do reserve the right to look back and say, 'How can we tweak this show to keep what's important?' Authentic music and the highest level of talent on screen with four of the biggest people in music. With that do come some tweaks, and there might be some surprises this year."
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC. Do you want Usher or Shakira to come back?
(Reporting by Liz Raftery)