Some of us may still be recovering from the cultural moment that was American Idol, but it looks like there's no rest for the weary reality fan ahead. A plethora of talent competition shows, including The Voice, America's Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance and last night's Platinum Hit, all take center stage this summer. But no matter how fantastic, absurd, or otherwise unpredictable their respective contestants are, it's the judges that give them their -- pardon the pun -- voice, not to mention their mood, sense of humor and overall vibe. And yes, they also give the shows their legitimacy (or lack thereof). Here's how each judge rates:
Cee Lo Green, The Voice
Xtina may have been the main focus of the original promotion for this show, but Cee Lo Green has established himself as its true centerpiece, a Buddha-like figure (and not just physically). He certainly seems the coolest and the wisest of the judges/coaches -- in one episode, he actually commented on a singer's "breath control"! While the other three stars bicker, he just wants to get some talented people on his team and make some music with them. If he would only remove those sunglasses to prove he actually has eyes, I'd give him a 10.
Adam Levine, The Voice
The Maroon 5 singer is competitive, arrogant and eager to stir to things up (Cee Lo called him "a wild card") and willing to fight to the death with the other three judges for the people he wants. But he usually wants people because they've got different styles than him, which is a risk -- one only Cee Lo is willing to take as well -- while Blake and Christina stick to their comfort zones. It gives Levine credit as a musician and songwriter, which I don't think he gets enough of. He's invested in the competition, he's having fun and he's hilarious - in other words, he would never have been hired by Idol.
Blake Shelton, The Voice
It doesn't seem possible that someone could be cockier than Adam Levine, but Blake Shelton manages. He's not a bad judge -- he knows what he's talking about and fights for people he's confident he can work with -- but he's the one that's always starting fights for no reason and that's annoying. What was with the pointing and laughing every time a contestant picked over another judge? His approach slows down the show and he's nowhere near as funny as he may think.
Christina Aguilera, The Voice
Weeeell, she does make herself heard over Blake and Adam, so I'll give her that. But besides her sassiness (which is pretty forced), there's just not much there. She picked the girls with voices like hers for her team, and every comment she makes is some version of "you were great!" Don't get me wrong: she's no Paula Abdul, but while I totally respect her achievements as a recording artist and performer, I still don't think she's bringing much to the show as a judge.
Sharon Osbourne, Howie Mandel and Piers Morgan, America's Got Talent
I grouped these three together because they are the most vanilla judges on TV, which is why AGT is the dullest competition show on TV. They always agree with each another and they all reflect the studio audience's opinion. When a talent is weird, they're freaked out. When someone is bad, they say no. And when someone is good, they say yes. Nice, predictable, boring.
Rating: Minus 2 (cumulative).
Nigel Lythgoe, So You Think You Can Dance
He's not too popular, but I actually like Nigel a lot. He's definitely tough on the dancers, but he has a good eye for talent and he isn't unnecessarily cruel like our old friend Simon Cowell. And he's goofy! (It's funny because he's English.) He's always doing these weird hand motions and making metaphors about swans and complimenting peoples' hair. He's like Michael Caine, but less charismatic and... stranger.
Mary Murphy, So You Think You Can Dance
Some people may hate her ear-piercing screams of delight (and I can't really blame them), but her absence from the panel last summer made us realize how much we missed her whole hot tamale train of crazy. And she's not just screeching and overly enthusiastic and inanely seal-clapping like Paula Abdul -- Murphy knows her stuff. She's a ballroom expert and is able to critique the Latin dances in nitpicky ways that fans just adore. So I'm thrilled that she's back again this year for the entire summer... though I've got my earplugs on standby, just in case.
Kara DioGuardi, Platinum Hit
Believe it or not, I actually loved Kara on American Idol, but something was up with her on the first episode of Platinum Hit. She seemed informed and fair when she spoke to the contestants, but then she went on to pick the songs I hated as the winners of the first challenge, while the song I loved was in the bottom two. This either means I have bad taste in music or Jewel has infected Kara's brain.
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