Too many ads drag out a strong start to The Voice’s second season

After the Super Bowl ended with some hard-to-top drama and suspense, The Voice‘s second season began somewhat abruptly, about 10 minutes before its scheduled start. Its blind auditions were as entertaining as ever, except that they came in-between a barrage of ads that seemed excessive even after having just watched the Super Bowl. After nearly every audition, the show went to a commercial break, and although some speculated that was going to pad the episode to make it end at its scheduled time, it ended after an hour that felt like two because of all the ad breaks. Big, greedy mistake on NBC’s part, I think.

The format still feels fresh, and one thing that struck me as I watched is how much more weight it has for a performer to see the four coaches spin around–or not–than it is to do the American Idol/X Factor-style “let’s vote” system. For one, the outcome of those votes is usually obvious, and thus it’s an exercise in time-wasting. But even hearing no from three or four judges seems less harsh than staring at the backs of their chairs through an entire song.

The show doesn’t hide that it casts people with experience, and actively seeks them out, so the talent was pretty strong overall, even for those who were rejected, although most of them appeared via a montage. The coaches’ banter, however, may start to get on my nerves. I didn’t mind it last season because, while it occasionally seemed forced, it was mostly playful and obvious that all four of them actually like each other and were having fun together, which makes all the difference. But if they try to ramp it up this year, especially the Adam Levine versus Christina Aguilera thing, I’m going to get impatient.

Speaking of X-Tina, as she calls herself (she actually said “Team X Tina,” which I cannot remember her doing before), the final performer was Tony Lucca, a cast member on the Disney Channel’s New Mickey Mouse Club, which also starred Christina Aguilera (and a number of other our current stars, such as Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears).

Hilariously and super-awkwardly, although Christina spun around with the other judges, she did not recognize him, giving him a generic and forced compliment. The cameras followed her backstage and she suddenly was acknowledging that they were on the show together, which I’d bet resulted from a producer or someone telling her–or perhaps it finally clicked.

She went into the green room and acted as if she remembered him all along and upped the awkwardness by saying, in front of his kid and wife, “Britney had the biggest crush on you.” It’s that combination of talent plus unexpected entertainment that will keep me watching The Voice.

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