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Refreshing for Reality

Originally posted on my old website on December 19th, 2013.

It is no secret that I have a thing for Reality TV - especially competition shows like Top Chef, Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, X Factor - and the list goes on.

For some reason I have never given The Sing-Off a try, in fact I didn't even really know it existed until I started watching this season - which is apparently the third (or fourth?) season. In retrospect it was probably because Nicole Sherzinger was a host in the first few seasons - and that is a GREAT reason to steer clear of the show. The other big reason is because the show is a capella, I immediately thought it would be like watching an episode of Glee - yet another good reason to NOT watch the show.

So I watched the season premiere expecting to hate it. I am shocked at how entertaining it was. I have to say, I am quite impressed - and here is why:

First off I kind of like how slick it is. By slick I mean every performance, from the opening "all groups" performance to each individual performance; everything is polished, slick and entertaining. There are no auditions, no fake acts that we have to suffer through that the judges are going to humiliate before rejecting. There are no ludicrous challenges that make even the most talented seem like a novice. It is just quality performances preceded by contestant bios made to showcase their personalities - and not a hardship story in sight...yet (you know what I mean: they recovered from an accident and are lucky to be alive, or lost a parent due to cancer, or are a cancer survivor, or lost a grand parent just 2 days ago - you know the usual stuff that say, American Idol bios can only be made about.)

Here the group Ten takes us to church!

And then we have judges that actually have real comments to make on the performances. And they do it intelligently too! Ben Folds is articulate and knowledgeable. Jewel makes constructive comments like "That was harmonically challenging how you changed keys every four measures," and "Great bass and I like the way you cut off your notes," and, "Was that an F sharp? You covered 3 octaves there!" Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men fame seems to know what he is talking about too. What a difference from the judges on X Factor where all they do is go "I Love you!" and "There is a market for you" and "you were a bit pitchy."

The 'Sing-off' part comes at the end of the episode when the bottom two groups have got it...sing off. But even this is polished, rehearsed and slick and they have prepared and practiced the song beforehand - and instead of being an awkward moment as in other shows, it is sometimes the highlight of the episode.

Even Nick Lachey is surprisingly slick and professional - quick with the banter and comebacks and looks super comfortable hosting and running the show - unlike Mario Lopez's awkward obvious-I-am-following-a-script performance. Don't get me wrong, Nick probably is too - but he does it soooo much better.

Finally, I am amazed at the talent themselves. Who knew a capella groups were that interesting? There are absolutely no instruments used in any performance - and all bass, drumbeats etc come from members of the group. I have to say I am very impressed. And as a jaded ex-New Yorker, it takes a lot to impress me these days!

Check out the last note in this performance:

Bottom line: I am enjoying the show thus far.

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