Few seasons in reality show history have ever had such an obvious wire-to-wire winner as did what host Quddus very optimistically referred to as “Duets, Season One.”
With the exception of one week where there was a tie at the top, J. Rome led in the scoring all five weeks where the “superstars” did the judging, and there was never any indication he might be in trouble once the audience took up the voting. Thursday night, the soft-spoken partner of Jennifer Nettles was officially named the Duets winner, edging out her other protégé, John Glosson. Jason Farol, who was mentored by Kelly Clarkson, finished third.
There are several reasons why this show is unlikely to come back despite the impressive amount of star power it had on hand, but the most obvious one is the ratings, and the finale sure didn’t do much to win over casual viewers who tuned in for the coronation. Jennifer and Kelly, the two singers who still had skin in the game, opened the night with a blistering duet on “Would I Lie to You;” the three finalists all had one last duet with their partner; and both Robin Thicke and John Legend got to perform one more time with their singer who lasted the longest: Bridget Carrington for Legend, and Olivia Chisholm for Thicke (the latter doing nothing to clear up the mystery of how she lasted so many weeks).
J. Rome won a vague deal with Hollywood Records, but despite his ability, he will have his work cut out moving forward – take the case of Javier Colon, the first-season winner of The Voice, who is practically in the witness protection program even though his show had millions more viewers than Duets. The iffy future of the show didn’t stop Quddus from hilariously hyping things all night long: promising that the winner’s life “will change forever;” referring to Bridget’s “incredible run” (she finished fourth in a field of eight); insinuating that Jason is some kind of national heartthrob to rival The Bieb.
In the end, there were three big problems with Duets. The first was something out of its control: there are just a whole lotta singing shows on the air right now, and ABC didn’t help by scheduling the premiere just one night after the season finale of American Idol. The second was the amateur talent, which can be summed up as J. Rome and the Seven Dwarfs. Finally, there was the secret scoring system that cut the viewers out of the process for the first several weeks, didn’t force the superstars to stand behind their opinions, and basically gave the impression that everyone was half-assing it.
The show established Jennifer, who didn’t have a strong public image outside of country music before now, as a likable personality who will almost certainly get offers to do other shows. While she was both lucky and shrewd in picking the most talented singers, her ability to complement her partners, and a commitment that never wavered even as she managed the early stages of a pregnancy, were keys to their success. John Legend had some decent critiques, and he might likewise be heard from on a future reality show. Kelly and Robin both had previous stints with The Voice; she was awesome on this gig, while he was mostly irrelevant when he wasn’t helping to sandbag his singers.
Good luck to J. Rome. And if you watched every minute of this season as I did, drop me a note. Maybe all of us can meet in a broom closet sometime and reminisce.