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Thoughts on this week’s The Voice, Glee (Born This Way), The Killing (Super 8), Supernatural (Frontierland)


The Voice: Let me get this out of the way before I sing praises: There’s a lot about The Voice I didn’t like. Carson Daly is a bad host (“this is new American family!” …What?). There isn’t really much of a “competition” yet, no matter what Cee Lo might say during the teasers. And the lack of auditions similar to American Idol somehow takes away from the idea that anyone in America can be the titular voice (not like American Idol has the most transparent audition process, but at least you get to see the crowds in the stadium).

But you know what? I loved it. Well, I enjoyed it as much as one can enjoy a reality television singing competition. There are sob stories, yes, but those sob stories aren’t really the point, and are thankfully decentralized compared to American Idol‘s audition phase. And while the editing of NBC is a bit suspect (did we really need to cover Vicci Martinez and Tje Austin’s faces before they went on?), the actual competition is fairly breathtaking. It’s amazingly refreshing to cut out the fat of “they think they can sing so we’re going to put them in front of the judges!” and focus directly on the talent. Some people don’t make it through, but they’re still far and away better than American Idol‘s bottom tier. And they aren’t wearing something silly like a duck costume in order to get on stage.

One of the best aspects of the show is the banter between the judges, whom already have defined their specific niches  from the get-go. Adam and Blake are easily the most restrictive with who they choose, with Christina’s choices being the most suspect so far. Each, however, seems genuinely excited about not only defeating the other judges, but also building a squad that he or she can mentor to the best of their abilities. Their relationships with the contestants are the real crux of the show, and just like The X-Factor, it is those relationship and talent building that are instrumental to the show’s identity (take note, Fox: How is The X-Factor going to separate itself if The Voice continues to dominate in the ratings?). So far, the standouts are Vicci Martinez (Team Cee Lo), Xenia Martinez (Team Blake) and the entire Team Adam (that’s Javier, Jeff, and Rebecca for those of you at home).

And really, how amazing is it when the first button is pressed and the tears start to well up in the contestant’s eyes? Damn you, reality television. Stop playing with my emotions.

Grade: B+

Glee: I watched Glee this week after swearing never to return. This was largely motivated by the immense hype behind this particular episode (which, coincidentally, scored a series low in ratings thanks to The Voice) and my morbid curiosity for the iceberg the series was obliviously crashing into.

To “Born This Way”‘s credit, not all was bad. In fact, much of the episode reminded me of classic season one episodes that made the show so exciting to watch in the first place. There was a great blend of satire, humor, and emotion. Yet at the same time, the series can’t find an internal logic to keep it going from one episode to the next. Not only that, but the theme of “being ourselves!” is so overdone in the show that it’s hard to stomach any mention of the theme that isn’t handled with a taste of subtlety. And boy, was this week’s episode not subtle.

Quinn wants to be prom queen, Rachel wants a new nose (which, by the way, took up the majority of the episode. Go figure), Kurt wants to be accepted, and Emma wants to get over her OCD. Everyone has aspects about them that they were “born with” that they want to get rid of, but that they just need to accept as part of themselves. Thank you for the 90-minute PSA, Glee. And while the show was entertaining (the actual cover of Born This Way was extremely well done), the series still lacks a central logic and focus outside of these messages that Ryan Murphy feels are important. And they are. Just don’t make it so explicit to the point of finger wagging.

Also, Santana’s a lesbian? (Or, should we say, Lebanese?)

Grade: C+

The Killing: We’re getting somewhere! Instead of using a red herring from a previous episode to drive a cliffhanger that’s squashed within the first five minutes, the suspect from the previous episode continues to be the main suspect at the end of “Super 8” as well. Of course, Bennett won’t end up being the actual killer (too easy!) but it is nice to have the show make use of its cliffhangers and not have a new suspect every week because they can. That’d be (ironically) too procedural for a show that prides itself on being extremely serial.

The continuation of suspects alone makes this week much more entertaining than last. The twist at the end, further intertwining the corruption of the mayoral campaign within the murder story, begins to solidify this connection outside of a chance stolen vehicle. Not a moment too soon; that particular aspect of the three-ponged narrative was tiring because of its seeming irrelevance to the central plot.

The Killing‘s ratings make it a likely candidate for a second season. And I’m enjoying the show immensely. I just hope that the actual pay-off doesn’t come too late in the game.

Grade: B+

Supernatural: I can only hope that the next season can rectify the haphazardness of this season. Sure, there’s been some highlights (“The French Mistake” and even “Frontierland”), but overall the season has been a mess. We have a war in Heaven we never really see (most likely for budgetary reasons) that seems to serve only as an excuse to make sure Cas isn’t a deus ex machina for all episodic plots. We have the worst and least-fleshed out main villain in the series’ history (Eve), who is so irrelevant and unconvincing that I don’t particularly care what her backstory or motivations are. She’s just a glorified Supernatural female monster-of-the-week. And we know how well this series writes its female characters…

Let’s leave the issues with season six out of this discussion for a minute, though. Because honestly? “Frontierland” exceeds my expectations with flying colors. It’s humorous, its creative, and it uses Dean (and his apparent love for Westerns) hilariously. In fact, tying Samuel Colt into the story makes me miss the less intricate but more grounded mythology of the first two seasons. The Colt was all powerful. Demon’s couldn’t just be killed by burning their bones or using Sam’s new-fangled demon powers. It was a simpler time (like, for instance, the frontier).

Great episode. Worst season since the third.

Grade: A-

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