Like Idol’s judges, The Voice’s coaches need to learn how to give pant-shitting critiques

The Voice aired its first live performance episode last night, and after losing a lot of its momentum on the duel/battle rounds, it came back strong, with a striking, high-energy set that hosted strong performances, including group numbers with teams performing alongside their coaches.

The episode only had eight performances, so it could have been more tightly packed, and we can do without Alison Haislip telling us about Twitter, though that the show had five of 10 trending topics in the US during the two hours is impressive. But it was a mostly fun performance show, and thanks to the age and talent level of the performers, felt noticeably different than American Idol.

However, like American Idol‘s new panel of judges, the coaches seemed to be incapable of doing anything but praising contestants; at worst, they are simply warm and supportive. That’s not to say that they need to all be Simon Cowell, but Dia Frampton’s awesome version of “Heartless” shouldn’t receive roughly equivalent feedback to Xenia’s weak performance.

Here’s what the judges said about one contestant. Christina Aguilera: “What I love most is that you’re smiling.” Cee Lo Green: “I enjoyed it.” Adam Levine: “I just love seeing you have fun.” Blake, the contestant’s coach: “I’m so happy and proud of her, and my heart is swollen right now.” Seriously, that’s totally weak, and not up to the level the judges gave us in the audition rounds. Adam Levine and Blake Shelton dissed the back-up dancers (Blake called them “mimes”) at one point, but that was the harshest criticism of the night.

The judges did have some playful, borderline forced banter that was a little edgier–particularly when Adam Levine said “shit” on live TV (which was edited out of the west coast version). After Beverly McClellan performed, Christina Aguilera said something confusing about Adam soiling himself over Beverly’s performance. Adam apparently finally understood, and while Christina was talking, he could be heard saying in the background, “Beverly, you’re so good I shit myself.”

The Voice has work to do before it’s good enough to make me shit myself, but it’s closer to that point than American Idol is.

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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.