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The Telefile
<I>The Sing-Off</i>: Less Painful than <I>Idol</I>, And With About As Much Plot as <I>Glee</I>

While I watched Clash of the Choirs two years ago, I somehow missed last season's Sing-Off. Perhaps I was suffering show choir fatigue in the wake of Glee? Not really sure, since this reality show is pretty much everything that I'd normally be into. Anyway, this year it's airing in December and I'm bored and I have a high tolerance for singing and Nick Lachey, so I'm giving it a shot.

The show's set-up is simple: ten a capella choirs have been chosen to compete for cash and prizes. The big winners get not only $100,000, but also a recording contract. Given the number (or lack therof) of a capella bands who have gained mainstream popularity, this seems like a strange idea. Where are last year's winners? Is the best they can hope for to be cast to do the theme to a remake of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

The groups all seem to have a decent amount of talent, and we're not subjected to weeks worth of audition rounds. Plus, the show airs two episodes a week and is over before New Years... maybe Simon Lythgoe could use this as his Idol template next season.

I do have a few issues with the show, such as Nicole "I'm a Pussycat Doll" Scherzinger trying to judge actual vocal talent, and the fact that in all of the intro packages, we almost always see them performing the song they are going to do on stage. Where's the surprise? I thought maybe that was just a week one thing, since last night's premiere was supposed to have them do their signature song, but then at the end of the episode they made all of the remaining groups sit in little Family Feud-style booths and sing a snippet of their song for the next show. I wouldn't mind something more unexpected each week.

On the other hand, I love that the judges pick who gets kicked out regardless of who the fan base might be, which has already resulted in the two least talented groups getting eliminated first. Pitch Slapped, the kids from Berklee College of Music, did a terrible rendition of "Good Girls Go Bad" and Men of Note, some stupid guys from Jersey who thought they could win over girls in the mall with their pipes, butchered "For the Longest Time." I wasn't sad to see either of them gone.

As for the rest... Well, I can't help but be impressed by Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town (Jerry was in the Persuasions) and the choreography in On the Rocks (whose "Bad Romance" went viral) or Yale's illustrious Whiffenpoofs (whose collective history and vocal ability would make the Warblers jealous), but the only group that really knocked me out was Committed. I was sort of half-heartedly paying attention at the end of this very long premiere, but when I heard this gospel group from Alabama, my ears perked up. Their version of Maroon 5's "This Love" was original and pretty damned awesome. They are clearly my favorites. Though there's something oddly alluring about the Whiffenpoofs. Must be their little white bow ties.

Nick Lachey does a passable job, and judges Shawn "Boyz II Men" Stockman and Ben Folds have an appreciation for this music and the craft and really know what they're talking about. And given that the real alternative to watching this is Skating with the Stars, this is clearly the better choice.

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