Television premiere season is kicking up. Lots of possibilities. Ashton Kutcher sure looks intriguing on Two and a Half Men… (I’m being mostly facetious) Here’s five reasons you should pass up 2 Broke Girls tonight and watch the Sing-Off! (Or alternatively, watch 2 Broke Girls and catch the Sing-Off tomorrow online, where you can rewind it and watch the awesome performances over again.)
- No Audition Round: There is nothing I will be more upset over… period… if, because this show is expanding to a full run, it includes audition rounds. There is nothing more trite then watching reality judges sort through the riff-raff — the bad singers, the egotists, the strange little men in costumes — so that they can find for us the truly great performers. It’s so trite that American Idol is the only show that still really sticks by the old model of trying to make me laugh at the bad people or tug my heart-strings at the sentimental sob stories that won’t even make the cut. (We’ll see soon how the X Factor handles that rubbish in a few days.) The Sing-Off is great because it opens in media res, showing us only the finest acts, already selected. It knows what it’s audience wants: good singing and great competition, not farce or melodrama. There’s a reason ESPN doesn’t air college football walk-on tryouts, and there’s a reason that The Sing-Off comes in feeling so clean and presentable: every group it decides to put in front of the camera deserves the spot-light rather than hogs it.
- The Judges: Simply put this is the best judging panel out there two years running and it had been hobbling with a bum leg that entire time. Nicole Scherzinger, to put it bluntly, was annoying as all get out. My friends and I made a game out of making fun of her continued awe that these singers were in fact singing without instruments. Not that it’s not worthy of awe; it’s just that it never seemed to sink in that some point you have to cross you arms, nod your head and own it: we’ve been singing a capella for years, and we’re going to keep doing it. Nicole was like that over-eager kid who screamed at every Christmas present she got, whether it was a whistle or a pony, simply because it was wrapped. Now she has thankfully moved on to The X-Factor, where she’ll be shocked to realize that the instruments are back! In her place is Sara Barellis, who I have always found an intriguing presence. She could essentially say nothing though, and the panel would be a stark improvement. Shawn Stockman and Ben Folds have been doing most of the work for two years anyway. Barellis will be a nice enhancement to what already works. Simply pu these two are the best at what they do. They are consummate artists and they have perfected the art of the two-minute critique. They are never too easy on their charges, they have an encyclopedic knowledge of what they are talking about, they are funny and charming, and they get chills up and down their spine during a beautiful performance just like you do.
- The Teamwork: Does any show have a teamwork narrative quite like this one? Maybe Sunday Night Football… While most reality competitions strive, as a part of their missions statement, to stress the wonder of the gifted individual, The Sing-Off seems hard-pressed and hard-wired to tell us that we do this together. I like that message, don’t you?
- The music is great: This is my biggest concern. Will having weeks more to fill mean weeks worth of filler-music. I don’t think so. The Sing-Off uses themes to perfection: in essence, it uses them lightly and doesn’t really mention them. Song choice is broad but fresh, and what the singers can do with what they are given is astounding in so many ways.
- Music, in itself, is great: I will not be watching the premiere live tonight. Why? Because I am going to go play in a community band. I can’t simply stand by and watch others work in a group to perform music and not do the same as it turns out. So I will be watching tomorrow; tonight, in whatever little way I can, I will be continuing to share in the joy of making music with other. It is a joy we need to spread, and no show on television is more radiant and persistent about how music can bring people together then this one. If for nothing else, watch it for that.