Sunday, September 16, 2012

Season 3 of "The Voice" transitions from unwatchable to legitimately maddening

   From left to right: Miranda Lambert's husband, former Mousketeer,
   massive tool, half of Gnarls Barkley, and the short haired guy from
   Maroon 5.

This fall, NBC launched a new sitcom called "Go On", in which widowed sportscaster Ryan King (Matthew Perry) is forced into a handful of "coping with loss" therapy sessions with "Community"-esque misfits before returning to work full time. And Ryan isn't ten minutes into his first session when his sports background takes over and he decides to turn the various losses and pains suffered by the group's established members into a bracket-style tournament that the Tyler James Williams character dubs "March Sadness".

But this parade of sob stories fighting to win over a jury of one's peers isn't unique to "Go On" - in fact, the ridiculous, over the top sob stories on the new season of "The Voice" consumed a third of the primetime hours on NBC this past week.

Back around the end of last season in May, I said I was swearing off the show for good. Lolnope. It appears I'm back. How unfortunate for me. But these are the choices I make and I have only myself to blame. Anyway, back to the topic at hand: ridiculous sob stories.

On one hand, it is important for us to learn who these people are, especially because they're about to get lost in a shuffle of 63 other singers. So I'm not automatically opposed to hearing, to use an example from last season, that a Katrina Parker suffered an illness that actually affected her ability to sing for quite some time. And oh, there were legitimately lame sob stories up the butt last season - I wrote about my growing disappointment with "The Voice", a show I liked in its first season, back in April and specifically singled out a particular line that I couldn't believe I had to listen to, which was something along the lines of "I mostly just stayed in my room" - as if that was a) anything worth emotionally clinging to as a viewer, and b) is such a pathetic excuse for a reality show sob story that it was the point where I said "enough".

But here's the thing, NBC/Mark Burnett/Carson Daly/whoever I need to address this to - when I said the sob stories were lame last year, I meant that we didn't need them at all, especially not in place of actual contestant personality. I did *not* mean that you needed to up the ante with the sob stories. Gee, Mackenzie Bourg, sucks that you were in the hospital for fifty different but concurrent one-in-a-billion diseases, but all that does is lamely contrive an underdog story that has nothing to do with your singing abilities. It sucks to hear that Adriana Louise had to suffer through being held hostage by criminals when she was younger, but...what does that have to with her as a singer? Honestly, she, without a doubt, had enough of a stage presence that her confidence and enthusiasm was all I needed to know about her. And those are qualities worth rooting for in someone - for a show that so clearly wants to be about celebrating uniqueness that in the minds of all involved would be snobbishly unappreciated by competing talent shows, it asks us to feel sorry for these people over and over and over. Just as often as it wants me to pity the gifted, I keep wanting the most clearly titled show on television to remember what it's about first and foremost - the voice.

Am I a bad person for wanting Adriana Louise to shut up about her hostage crisis? Will I end up creating an actual "March Sadness" bracket when all the coaches' teams are filled? And will I ever bail on this increasingly irritating show that does many things right but enough things so very wrong?

Stay tuned.