The final four are revealed
With "The Voice" revving up for its season finale next week, we moved ahead on Wednesday night, cutting the singers from eight to four. The coaches counted for half of each singer's final score, splitting 100 points between their two finalists. America voted too, and good thing; the coaches were softies! With the exception of Adam Levine, they all basically awarded the same number of points to each singer. Good thing voters have opinions to spare.
Team Cee Lo: Nakia vs. Vicci Martinez
Man, Cee Lo is made of mush. He subtracted one point from Vicci's rockin' performance of Florence and the Machine because he couldn't hear her over the drums. It was his only criticism of either performance, and then he said after he watched the performance again, he would give her that point back. He also read a poem. Cee Lo, are you crying underneath those sunglasses? Despite Nakia's powerful turn singing Adam Lambert's "Whataya Want From Me," Vicci's feisty, mesmerizing performance of "Dog Days Are Over" enthralled America, and she won handily against Nakia.
Vicci Martinez: 124
Team Adam: Casey Weston vs. Javier Colon
We're still upset that Adam chose Casey over the soulful voice of Jeff Jenkins for the semifinals, but we have to give him credit for being the only coach to show any guts when awarding points to his finalists. Adam gave Javier 65 points to Casey's 35 and pleaded with Casey to understand he did it for practical reasons not based on talent, and that he considered the two of them equals. But Javier already has had so much disappointment in the music industry with a broken record deal, he said. "Javier, I had to see you go to the finals," Adam told his singers. "You've had so many chances and I appreciate that and I respect that so much I can’t see you not go to the end. Casey, you’re going to be fine. I swear to God you're going to have the most amazing life singing music." Adam, we hate to ruin your earnest moment, but America wanted to give it to Javier all along.
Javier Colon: 138
Casey Weston: 62
Team Blake: Dia Frampton vs. Xenia
Blake Shelton is like the daddy of the show. He is earnest without being annoying, funny without being over-the-top, and dashing without being slick. Team Blake! Oh right, the singers. Blake has parented his two girls, and nurtured them as they grew into performers, even taking them on a trip via private jet to see him perform and meet country star Brad Paisley. He couldn't decide between Dia's evocative, moving performance of R.E.M's "Losing My Religion" and Xenia's intimate portrayal of The Script's "The Man Who Can't Be Moved." Blake divided his points evenly among the two. Voters were only slightly more decisive, giving the win to the compelling Dia.
Dia Frampton: 106
Team Xtina: Frenchie Davis vs. Beverly McClellan
We were hoping Christina Aguilera might show some more guts than the other coaches in the final stage of selection, but we were wrong. Like all the others, she awarded her two divas 50 points each, and then makes her decision as per usual all about Christina, telling them she stays awake at nights thinking about which songs to give them to perform and that all she can do is give them her best. "How can you judge apples to oranges or country to pop?" she said. "I wanted to give America the opportunity to choose and find out what they love about you guys." Despite all those neck tattoos, there was something compelling about Beverly and her powerful performance of "The Thrill is Gone" by Roy Hawkins that sold voters over Frenchie's pretty performance of Madonna's "Like a Prayer."
Beverly McClellan: 107
Frenchie Davis: 93
Next week, we get to see the final four perform and we get one step closer to crowning a winner of the first season.
"The Voice" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Something weird, something disgusting and a version of Celine so astonishingly awful
By John Kubicek
This week "America's Got Talent" is back in Atlanta, and things get very, very disturbing. I kind of hate the dull acts we've seen a million times before, like dance troupes or cute kids, but tonight we get something totally different. There's something weird, something disgusting and a version of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" that is so astonishingly awful that it will make you envy those who were fortunate enough to die when the Titanic hit an iceberg, because at least they never had to witness this performance.
If you don't like the grotesque and strange acts, tonight we also meet 11-year-old Anna Graceman, who is positively fantastic, which isn't easy for me to admit since I really hate kids.
Your regularly scheduled "America's Got Talent" writer, Carla Patton, is indisposed this week, so me and my grumpy, kid-hating attitude will be here tonight and tomorrow, praying that the number of obnoxiously cute but relatively talentless children is kept to a minimum. Not that it matters, because we all know that some blandly attractive guy with a guitar is gonna win anyway, because that's what happens on every competition show.
The show opens with Nick Cannon in a giant aquarium tank being eaten by a shark. I think this might be a metaphor for his wedding night with Mariah Carey, but I can't be sure. Then it's on to the crapfest of mediocrity that NBC has the audacity to call America's "talent."
This awful drag queen (who should be on "RuPaul's Drag Race") with a big afro starts with a painful Macy Gray impression, then busts into a lively disco dance number. Much like Piers Morgan, I must be missing something, because this is, at best, a sideshow act. But Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne are dumb enough to put him/her through.
That's a whole choco-lotta hair!
Attack Dance Crew
He/she is followed by some jump ropers and a fiddle band that plays Cee Lo's "Forget You" (a song I've heard so many times in so many different ways that I'd like to forget it) and a six-year-old DJ whose entire act, as I see it, consists of pushing a few buttons and scratching a record. That's one talentless kid tonight who is put through on cuteness alone, because if a guy in his 20s or 30s did that, he'd have been laughed off the stage.
Do these guys know that there's a show called "America's Best Dance Crew"? This illustrates my problem with "America's Got Talent," because a lot of the acts could easily just compete on different shows, making "AGT" superfluous. Also, there's nothing particularly special or innovative with their dance, especially because Howie is 100 percent right that these guys are glorified cheerleaders. However, as often happens with this show, mediocrity rises to the top and they move on.
Weird Orifice Man
Next, for a change of pace, is the single greatest moment of the night, because I have no idea what the hell it is. A man named Joseph Ravens is covered head to toe in a stretchy fabric with a giant red orifice, and he rides a stationary bike seat and pushes giant bags of something out of the hole. When he's given birth to all of his comedic genius, he leaves without saying a word or getting judged. I'm clueless, but in the best possible way, because it is certainly the most memorable act of the episode.
What does it mean??????
Captain and Maybelle
Weird Orifice Man officially turned this show around, because next is a husband and wife pair and he is like a sword swallower, except he swallows coat hangers and a massive pole that he then uses to life cement blocks while it's swallowed. This is definitely unlike anything I've ever soon, and luckily they're put through to Las Vegas, because I'm unnaturally curious about what other things he swallows. But to borrow and completely diminish a classic movie line, please, no more wire hangers.
I want to look away like Maybelle does, but I can't.
Armand and Angelina
This engaged couple wants to make love with music to everyone, and boy do they. They perform a rock opera version of "My Heart Will Go On," and it's the single worst thing to ever happen in the history of the world. She has crazy eyes and sings bad opera in Italian, and he's even worse. It defies any conceivable sense of badness and transcends into greatness, a sentiment Howie shares with me, because he loves how craptastic it is and convinces Sharon to go along with him and put them through over the boos of the audience.
You know how I said earlier that I hate kids on "America's Got Talent"? Well, Anna Graceman is the exception. This 11-year-old from Juneau, Alaska plays the piano and sings Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You," and it's actually, genuinely good. This is why I hate annoying kids like that 6-year-old DJ, because Ann really has talent and proves that kids don't need to be held to a separate standard. Anna Graceman is, without a doubt, this year's Jackie Evancho.
Congratulations, Anna Graceman. You're gonna be in the finals!
"America's Got Talent" airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Singers are whittled down to eight
Tuesday night on NBC's "The Voice," we had to say goodbye to a few favorites as coaches Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green whittled their teams down from four to two. Adam made the shocking decision to oust amazing crooner Jeff Jenkins. Instead, Adam chose hottie Casey Weston. We also had to say goodbye to adorable Devon Barley whiles star-in-the-making Javier Colon won the audience's vote. After the audience chose Vicci Martinez from Team Cee Lo, the coach chose Nakia to fill out his final two, sending country Curtis Grimes and adorable sister duo Tori and Taylor Thompson home.
And then we still had performances from the eight semifinalists. Was anyone else's head spinning from the overload? And is anyone else also head over heels for coach Blake Shelton after his performance?
Team Xtina: Frenchie Davis vs. Beverly McClellan
The divas faced off with Madonna's "Like a Prayer" from Frenchie and "The Thrill is Gone" by Roy Hawkins for Beverly. Is it just us, or does superstar Xtina have one of the weaker teams on the show? As much as Frenchie seems like she should blow everyone away, she almost felt outdone by her backup dancers and the show's atmosphere during her performance. She rocked her final notes, but Beverly out-sings her every time. Beverly has amazing spunk and an incredible voice and goes for it every time.
The coaches on Frenchie:
Adam: "You're amazing. You had much more command over this song than you did last week."
Blake: "As an outsider, this has to feel good for you, I know you had a tough call last week. That performance is a giant middle finger to anybody who thought that was a wrong decision."
Christina Aguilera: "That took some breath and lung and power, control. You got it, Frenchie. You have all of that. I love you to death."
The coaches on Beverly:
Cee Lo: "Killer B. I love you so much. I like your every action out there, every inflection, so innocent, so sincere. ... Why I love you the most is because there’s something about you, if somebody didn’t allow you to be yourself you’d kick their ass pretty good."
Xtina: "Honestly, i have to say you are one of the reasons I’m so thankful I signed on to do this show. ... We know that you can really belt your way through and you're such a powerhouse, but I knew there was this bluesy, soulful side to you that could just break it down and tonight you did that and I love you for it."
Our pick: Beverly
Nakia took on "Whataya Want From Me" by Adam Lambert, and shone in his white suit. The guy knows how to work a crowd and entertain, but how could he hope to live up to Vicci's ridiculous, bring-down-the-house performance? Wow. Vicci came out guns blazing, rocking the drums and a beehive/mohawk hairdo while she sang "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine with a fierceness that put the other competitors to shame. Her knockout performance put a bullseye on her back.
The coaches on Nakia
Adam: "Wow. I’m actually not familiar with that song. You just forced me to like it. ... I’m pretty sure even though I haven’t heard that song before you probably sang it better than that person did originally. You sold me, man."
Blake: "That was over-the-top awesome. That was like freakin' award show type performance except for it was really in tune also."
Xtina: "Nakia, you’re so entertaining. I love the way you just kicked that bench back with such authority ... You have great stage presence."
Cee Lo: "We did black and white because black and white is the color of big business. My man is going to be the next big star. What do i want from you? I want you to win, Nakia."
The coaches on Vicci:
Adam: "She did kill it, that’s right. Amazing job. Seriously incredible visual dynamo. ... Coolest performance of the night."
Blake: "No question the most powerful performance of the night. It’s like somebody threw gas on stage and threw a lit match up there."
Xtina: "That was a great performance, and I loved it. I was all about it. I was so all about it."
Cee Lo: :"I’m so excited for you, I'm sitting on edge of my seat. The future is so bright for you Miss Darling. ... I salute you, darling. Great job."
Our pick: Vicci
Team Blake: Dia Frampton vs. Xenia
Xenia is so endearing, so sweet, so earnest that we want her to do well, but the 16-year-old just doesn't have the chops to stand up to the competition at this point. Her song, "The Man Who Can't Be Moved" by The Script featured her unique, smoky voice, but Dia has been raising the bar every week. She did a stunning, soulful version of R.E.M's "Losing My Religion," making it her own and proving that she deserves a Final Four finish.
The coaches on Dia:
Xtina: "I've seen you grow so much on this show. I’m really surprised. You take the cake for artist I think who has shown the most growth."
Cee Lo: "I noticed in the reality reel you [Blake] said Dia has vision. I commend you for allowing her to be in creative control. ... You're really very, very inventive. A gorgeous girl with a great voice."
Adam: "I thought it was awesome, another atypical choice. Your decisions are really unique. That sets you apart from everyone."
Blake: "This show just did what it’s supposed to do. A girl stood here on stage and performed. A girl stood there and let her heart and soul land there. That’s what you’re supposed to do and you do it every time."
The coaches on Xenia:
Adam: "You have such a unique tone to your voice, when you start singing everyone knows it’s yours. You can’t teach that. The song was a little sleepy but you sound so great."
Xtina: "He’s [Adam] right on. Your voice is so unique. What baffles me every time is the level of maturity your voice has. I enjoy it each and every time."
Cee Lo: "i enjoy you to watch you be so unaffected by this whole thing. You very gracefully perform songs under so much pressure. Great job."
Blake: "We’re all thinking the same thing because it’s so obvious. ... One day when I'm done with this show and I'm back in Oklahoma and driving my truck, I know I'm going to hear Xenia’s voice on the radio and it’s going to stand out. It's going to be a voice that doesn’t sound like anybody else’s."
Our pick: Dia
Team Adam: Casey Weston vs. Javier Colon
Stubborn Casey likes to argue with coach Adam, but the coach is always right, and this week she was gorgeous and grounded singing "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton and made famous by Whitney Houston. But we learned this week that Javier, who sang "Fix You" by Coldplay, has had record deals that have fallen through and singles that haven't worked out. But somebody saw the spark, and, Javier, you may not rock as much as we wanted to Coldplay, but you don't need to. Javier has the forward momentum, tonight he had the hat toss finally showing us his whole noggin, he has the charm and the smile and the voice. Javier's got it in the bag.
The coaches on Casey:
Blake: "Just watching that reel there, [Adam] was pretty hard on you. It’s working. Every week I’m never expecting you to blow me away and you do every time."
Adam: "We’ve definitely had our thing we battle a little bit. I want you to have your own opinions. I want you to have a strong opinion of who you want to be. Our arguments pay off. You were incredible."
The coaches on Javier:
Xtina: "I’ve been waiting for you to take that hat off and see what’s under that. ... I know Adam’s trying to tame the beast; you're such a crazy, amazing vocalist. I'm waiting for you to come out of your cage with a soulful record."
Cee Lo: "Wonderful song choice. You impress me every time. You can do no wrong."
Adam: "I knew you were going to sing the hell out of the song. I just wanted you to take the hat off. You're the real deal. I will tell you right now competition or no, you have one of the best voices I’ve ever heard ever. So that’s it."
Our pick: Javier
Who are your final four picks? We don't have to wait long to find out! Results will air Wednesday at 8 ET/PT on NBC.
"The Voice" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
It's a roller coaster for Ashley as the guys fight it out in Chiang Mai
By Diane Vadino
Special to MSN TV
Previously: Bentley was a tremendous douchebag. Ashley is still hung up on him, which isn't entirely her fault -- she's not seeing what we're seeing! Still, it's a nightmare, and he's on his way back ... next week.
Tonight: There is a whole lot of crazy, "Hangover"-style footage of the guys trudging through Bankgkok on the way to Chiang Mai. Is this the biggest group (11) we've ever taken overseas--in this case, to rid ourselves of the Bentley drama? "If you can't find romance in this kind of environment," J.P. says, "you're hopeless." Ashley may very well be hopeless, and for the record, he's talking about Chiang Mai, rather than the overall environment of "The Bachelorette," an environment in which many non-hopeless people may, indeed, find it difficult to find romance.
This evening, we will have a one-on-one, a group date, and a two-on-one. The men ooh and ahh over over that last one, signifying their knowledge that only one of the guy will be coming back to the Mandarin Oriental. First up? It's Ben F. Ames tries to tell us that he's jealous of winemaker Ben, but I do not believe him, because Ames the one-person all-Ivy team is either (a) at work, (b) in a Meatpacking District nightclub or (c) learning to scuba dive in Tahiti right this very minute. (Speaking of "The Hangover," it's J.P., I believe, who looks just like a shorn-head Bradley Cooper in his Ray Bans, with the setting sun behind him. Sigh. Of course, he'd have to seriously up his douchebag quotient if he's going to catch Ashley's eye.)
"[Our] romance has been good to this point," says Ben, and it's really as if you can hear him put the air quotes around "romance" as he speaks. "The more I get to know him, the hotter he becomes," says Ashley, which is what my friends say when they don't think someone is hot at all. Regardless, they consider making out in front of a temple before refraining, in deference to local traditions about not making out in front of temples, leaving the making out to dinner, which is conducted at the middle of a massive floral display that for some reason reminds me of an Ice Capades set. Ben tells a sad story about his father's death and explains that he is now ready for love. When Ashley asks him to accept the rose, she does it in that crazy little-girl voice which means she weally, weally likes him.
Next up is the group date, which turns out to be a glistening, "Top Gun"-style muay thai boxing extravaganza. "I've been in some street fights," says Lucas, who seems emotionally prepared for this. Ames, at the other end of the spectrum, has not, and does not. "I have not been in a fight in my life," Ames says. "I might have to come out of my shell and kick some ass." After many glistening push-ups -- Mickey goes from sheen to glisten in approximately two sit-ups; it's incredible -- this does not come to pass. The guys are sent off to battle in individual match-ups, like J.P. and Mickey. "The Jew from Long Island kicked [the ass of] the Irishman from Cleveland," says victor J.P., though it's unclear as to whether he is ultimately making use of an ethnic or geographical stereotype here. Everyone else emerges un-mangled, except for Ames, whom perpetually cheerful Ryan pounds into oblivion. "My attitude toward violence is that there is usually another way," Ames says before the fight. Lucas aptly summarizes: "He was studying at Harvard and Yale while we were [fighting in the street]." Ames leaves the ring in a daze, and our poor, pink-shorted Ivy Leaguer is carted away in an ambulance. It is basically the opposite of an ad for higher education.
Many hours later, there is a cocktail party, and we wait anxiously to see if Ames has, indeed, lived through his first punch. Someone is saying, "If anyone can wear pink shorts..." as he walks through the door. Long live Ames! He literally cannot speak and it is sort of charming. And disturbing. He was a champ. Blake, in any case, gets the rose, by virtue of being adorable and not having been knocked out.
Next is the two-on-one date. These are always more dramatic than the others -- how could we forget floating away in the helicopter on Ali's season while we left Kasey behind on a volcano? -- and tonight's is no different. Apparently after seeing Ashley display some semblance of a relationship with Ben C., William offers the ultimate trump card, and tells Ashley that Ben C. is already making plans to date online. "I can be the most romantic guy in the room, I can be the funniest guy in the room, I can be the biggest **** in the room," William says. He has at least proven the final statement. Ashley calls Ben C. out on this immediately, walking him out while William waits behind, smugly, on the picnic blanket. William, however, lasts only as long as about halfway through dinner, as Ashley -- who was desperately on the lookout for any glimpse of the spark from their first date -- is left wanting. "I'll walk you out," is how she puts it. "I am the world's biggest jackass," says William, at the beginning of his shame spiral, which evolves to include something about burrowing into the ground and covering the hole with a rock. It's not very pretty.
Speaking of shame spirals, Ashley spends the rest of the episode in one, as she tried to wrangle with her feelings for Bentley. I'm in the sizable minority of people who are on Ashley's side with this: We've all been there! He's a douchebag! She doesn't know it yet! It's wholly unfair for the audience to have so much more information about this dude than she does -- it is truly like watching a horror movie, because we know where the guy with the machete is, and the heroine doesn't. It is not, however, her fault that she is being stalked by a serial killer -- just as it seems to us not entirely Ashley's fault that she fell for the wrong guy. Most women I know would have fallen for that “dot-dot-dot” line, too.
Nick goes home at the rose ceremony, but of course we're all looking to next week, when Bentley returns. Personally, I felt like we saw some spirit from Ashley tonight, when she kicked off William for bragging about being “a 30-year-old boy.” (Um, thanks, but no.) Here's hoping she'll deal with the loser adolescent that is Bentley with equally swift and vengeful justice next week. We're not holding our breath.
"The Bachelorette" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Karen finishes the first chapter of her book, and Drita initiates attack mode
In other news, Renee Graziano also is growing some self-awareness. It truly counts as news on this show. Here are the key points:
- It's time to kick ex-husband Jr., who is clearly carrying on with other women, out of his comfortable spot in her house. (Ya think?)
- Her 17-year-old son A.J. should NOT be a mobster.
- She should get a job, specifically as a stylist. (We must note we are incredibly pleased she's doing something besides Jail Mail: Incarcerated, Not Incorporated.)
- Renee is fully responsible for her own misery. (Eureka!)
Drita's daughter Aleeya, 10, also tackles her daddy issues, asking her father when is he coming home. At some point, he apparently told the fourth grader he'd be home by the end of fifth grade. He fudges and says "soon." Aleeya: "Soon is not good enough, you know." Sock it to him Aleeya!
Carla's husband Joe, on the other hand, actually came home this episode, but since we didn't get to see him, it wasn't that interesting. After six years in the slammer, Joe apparently tells his kids he's been in jail all this time. That's some model parenting going on right there. I'd much rather see the real, live Joe than his kid. Don't hide from us, Joe!
It sounds like next week, Drita will have read the first chapter of Karen's book. We get to learn all sorts of dirty secrets that Drita does not want out there about her children's father. Drita is prepared. "I'm not cool with it. When it comes to my family, I will go to war. You better have a lot of [bleep] soldiers."