Frank Sinatra’s songs, Harry Connick, Jr.’s band hamper already-weak final five Idols

Having Harry Connick, Jr., work with the final five and arranging the contestants’ versions of Frank Sinatra songs was inspired: He’s hilarious (“you think Shania Twain was up in here doing this?”) and insightful, and gave them good advice while entertaining us, which is a challenge for many mentors.

Alas, his on-stage big band thing failed the five finalists, three of them in particular, as it didn’t give them a chance to “do their thing,” to paraphrase the judges parroting themselves. And, okay, Lee was good, and Mike was good, and Crystal wasn’t bad, but this wasn’t anywhere close to Adam Lambert’s “Feeling Good”, or for a more direct big band comparison, Kris Allen’s “The Way You Look Tonight” or Allison Iraheta’s “Someone to watch over me”, all of which were part of last year’s final five Rat Pack episode.

This is a weak, unbelievably weak, final five, but again, the big band thing didn’t help them at all. “I wouldn’t see you singing this kind of music,” Kara told Crystal, and that sums up the whole night: they were forced to sing in a genre that was old and not their own. Ellen joked about all this when she said to Casey, “I don’t know whose idea it was, but I thought it was a bad idea to have the piano on-stage. Not good.” After Lee’s performance, she said, “At first I was distracted by Harry’s organ.” Funny, but also kind of an (unintentionally?) well-placed jab.

Oh, and the show ran over by a minute or so, which is understandable since there was only 12 minutes of obviously necessary filler before anyone sang an actual song, including Frank Sinatra’s daughters offering Simon “one of dad’s hankies.”

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.