Whiling away the hours before another grim episode of Smash last night, we went against our better judgment and watched a two-hour episode of The Voice, the first live episode of the NBC singing competition's second season. And, hey, it wasn't half bad!
What we saw of last year's contestants wasn't great; they seemed somehow even more amateurish than the warbly American Idol kids, perhaps owed to the fact that they were surrounded by all the ridiculous pomp and circumstance — a light-swirling black stage of doom, celebrities hamming it up while perched on thrones, ginned-up excitement created out of nowhere — that NBC is turning into a cottage industry. Something about the show was even cheesier than Idol, and the contestants didn't have the chops to cut through (or, y'know, chop through) all that artifice.
The beginnings of this season didn't seem to indicate that that would be changing any. Amid all the swivel chair antics and the creaky judge hamming — they pretend to fight and bicker with each other, all the while looking tired and bored behind the eyes — was a lackluster group of song-screamers who didn't earn all the whooping and hyping. But, of course, that was weeks and weeks ago and we hadn't yet seen the full breadth of the show's pool of talent. Last night though, which marked the first America votes! part of the competition, after initial auditions and fairly ridiculous battle rounds in which the judges (who are also mentors) whittle down their teams to the favorites, we in theory saw the best and the brightest, and, hey, some of them were certainly bright.