Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monday Television 9/10/12: 'The Voice' and 'New Normal' Debut

Monday night at 8:00pm ET I sit and watched the premiere of 'The Voice' season 3 on NBC. I actually had never watched this reality show before. When I initially heard about it, I thought it had a nice premise: the judges aren't allowed to look at the contestants while they audition for a part in the show. I liked that the thing was based solely on the voice talent of the contestants. Quickly after I realized that didn't mean much, because the people that were going to appear on the show weren't going to look particularly that much different than the American Idol contestants. That diminished my excitement to watch the show and so I never did. Until now! 

Watching 'The Voice' for the first time I understood that the appeal of the show relies more than in any other show, on the judges. Adam Levine, Cee-Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton are all pretty big personalities and watching them interact was honestly kind of fun. The banter between Levine and Shelton is especially entertaining considering how other celebrity judges like Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez were nothing but disappointing in the role. I could see myself tuning in to watch a little bit every now and then going forward, but I don't think I'm going to watch regularly, and that's basically because it's a singing competition show. 

In my view, the formula of those kind of shows just feels tired by now. There may be little (even fun) variations to the formula in the structure of the show, but at the end of the day we know the winner is going to be whoever is a cute white guy that plays the guitar who probably won't become a huge pop star. America seems to be incredibly pleased with voting for a winner in this kind of competition, but I don't see what's the point in watching when it doesn't amount to anything and the ride isn't as new and enjoyable as it once was.

Next up was the "sneak peek" of 'The New Normal' which basically means the premiere since they aired the pilot hoping people will show up to watch the next episode tonight and then stick around on Tuesday nights for the rest of the season. 'The New Normal', brought to you by Ryan Murphy (creator of such terrible shows as 'Glee', 'Nip/Tuck' and 'American Horror Story') is about a gay couple (Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells) who want to have a child so they get a single mother determined to give her daughter a better life named Goldie (George King) to be the surrogate mother. However Goldie's grandmother, played by Ellen Barkin, is a huge racist and homophobe, so she's against the whole thing. 

It seems like a very earnest and well intentioned show, set out to explore how the nuclear family has changed in recent times and send a heartwarming message. In reality it's a horribly conceived show. It isn't unusual to say that a Ryan Murphy is unfocused, but the change of tones in this one really turned me off. A good embodiment of this trait is Andrew Rannell's character who goes from being a hugely stereotypical diva-type gay character who sees a baby in a store and utters "oh my good that is the cutest thing I gotta have it" to a completely earnest and emotional new parent throughout the episode. The rest of the episode is just like that, shifting from earnest emotion into completely stereotypical and unfunny comedy. Particularly irritating is Ellen Barkin's character who is a Sue Sylvester Redux only she says such ridiculously racist and homophobic comments you can only roll your eyes at how unfunny the whole enterprise is. 

After that NBC aired the 'Go On' pilot, which I had already seen back when it was on after the Olympics as another "sneak peek". This show I liked much better than 'The New Normal'. Matthew Perry plays a recent widower who reluctantly goes to grief therapy in order to get back his job, but quickly finds a new family in the people over at the therapy sessions. Many people have pointed out how this is very similar to the 'Community' pilot and I would agree. Don't expect 'Go On' to have a zombie movie homage episode soon, though. 

There is a particularly amusing scene in which Matthew Perry takes over the therapy session to have the patients run a March Madness kind of tournament to determine whose tragedy is the most tragic. The rest of the episod is very by-the-numbers, but that one scene and a very charming Perry (much more Chandler than what he did in 'Studio 60' or 'Mr. Sunshine) may be promise enough to tune in again.  

'The New Normal' and 'Go On' both air new episodes tonight in what will be their regular time-slots for the season. I'll tune in to see what their second episodes look like and to see if I'll tune in in the future. Tuesdays at 9pm is going to be a rough time once the season is on full throttle with 'Happy Endings', 'New Girl' and FOX's new 'The Mindy Project' all airing in that hour.

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