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The Morning After: Perfect Pitch, Im-Perfect Couples

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Quick spoilers for The Sing-Off—and brief thoughts on the preview of NBC’s Perfect Couples—coming up:

There was no big surprise in the ending of The Sing-Off last night, unless you’ve mainly been watching the season as a battle for second place. Committed became the consensus favorite, and deservedly some from their first performance, and shocking no one, they won last night. I was more surprised by the second-place finish of Street Corner Symphony, who seem like great guys, but whom I was never able to like as much as I liked the idea of them. Actually, the song they played themselves off to—Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away”—was maybe my favorite thing they’d done, much closer to their down-home, rootsy appearance than most of the songs they chose, which suggested they really want to be an a cappella Coldplay.

But I was happy for them, for Committed, and for everyone else involved in this amiable show. The Sing-Off probably works as well as it does because it runs only for a few weeks in a slow season, and thus is a lower-stakes good time. But American Idol could learn a few things from it, such as how it rejects bombast and self-importance in favor of unembarrassed fun.

In that spirit, the judges each got a stage turn in the finale: Shawn Stockton with Boyz II Men, Nicole Scherzinger doing her best Tammi Terrell, and Ben Folds letting his hair down (insofar as it will go) with SCS. (Glad to see that Folds was actually allowed to perform his pwn music this year; “Gone” would not have been among my first ten guesses, but in retrospect it lent itself really well to an a cappella arrangement.)

One bit among the performances that was very Idol-like: having Neil Diamond come out and perform with the finalists. I know he recently covered “Ain’t No Sunshine,” but it was an odd performance coming after a lead-in that talked about how everyone has a favorite Neil Diamond song to sing. (Everyone, apparently, except Neil Diamond!) That, and the appearance of The Official  Unobjectionable Singer of America, Sheryl Crow. In all, though, season two was a welcome holiday break, and I look forward to the next go-round.

NBC

Not, however, so much looking forward to the next go-round of NBC’s Perfect Couples. I had some hopes for this show: NBC sent me the pilot, which I could not stand, and a second episode, which I quite liked. When I heard that NBC would be previewing the show, but not with the pilot, I assumed it would be the second, more successful episode.

But no, it was a third episode, which was much closer to the pilot in that it seemed to draw every character in terms of his or her most grating personality traits. The second episode I’ve seen gave me hope that the show would move past this, becoming more of an eccentric, good-spirited hang-out comedy about three very different couples finding they have surprising things in common.

Instead, it’s shaping up as one of those sitcoms in which you have no idea why these people would spend so much time together, except to set up the jokes. I know that Perfect Couples can be better, so I have some hope. But right now it’s one for three, and I’m not too eager to double-date with it again soon. [Update: Oh, and the best thing about the sitcom so far? The A.C. Newman theme song.]

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