The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Quick Takes: Clash of the Choirs

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageLast night, my television decided to air almost all two hours of Clash of the Choirs (I can think of no other explanation, as neither me or my wife ever actually turned this show on, or made the decision to tune in.) What we saw was an undeniably compelling concept, mired in nearly ninety minutes of pseudo-reality dreck. Of the remaining thirty minutes of show, half of it (the choirs singing) was very good, while the other half ("celebrities" fellating each other) was truly awful.

More after the Jump!

The show, for those who were able to miss the all-out media blitz that NBC threw at us for the past month or so, features five "musical superstars" heading out to a specific city, compiling choirs from the local talent pools, and then honing them in three weeks into a finely-tuned singing machine. As with all such shows, YOUR votes determine the winner. 

Like every show about finding undiscovered talent, each segment featured the requisite footage of bad performers singing badly. Now while Fox knows enough to revel in this kind of self-punishment, NBC wants a holiday-themed, uplifting show, and so these moments were just uncomfortable. 

After we see each choir formed, we then shift to a live studio, where the choir then performs in front of a live audience, as well as the other four "musical superstars" who then offer "criticism."

The "superstars:"

Patti La Belle – Diva, but superstar nonetheless. No complaints.

Blake Nelson – "Country Superstar". I'll take their word for it.

Kelly Rowland – I ascertain that she was once in Destiny's Child. All righty.

Nick Lachey – America's Whitetrash Sweetheart

Michael Bolton – (snicker)

Now since my little synopsis above, times five, represents the entirety of this show, let me focus instead on two aspects of its execution that really turned my stomach.

1. The PC "storylines" – If this were a Fox show, they would merely be focusing on the very best and the very worst of the singers. Back stories would be irrelevant. But since this is NBC, and we are in Christmas season, we need to look really hopeful and happy. I mean, the prize money is going to charity, right? (No word on whether these "musical superstars" are getting paid for their appearance on this show, and whether or not that money goes to charity.) So whenever a compelling human interest story came up, they tackled it at the knees and beat it to death. Thus, Kelly Rowland's choir had a woman who relocated after Katrina, and sang "Survivor" saying that it had great meaning for her. We let her in, and give her a big hug. Hey lady, how's about we take your pain and harness it for ratings! Later, in Blake Nelson's choir, we had some members of the military singing away. How did I know this? Because they were in full uniform, Nelson went to the base to offer them spots in the choir, troops in Iraq rooted the choir on via live web cam, and after the song, each and ever "musical superstar" had some comment or another about how great it was that there were troops in the choir, and how much they support them. Wait…there were troops?

2. The Criticism of the "Musical Superstars" – Paula Abdul's presence on the American Idol judging panel works, doesn't it? I mean, Cowell's a douchebag, and Jackson's a blowhard, so it makes sense that there'd be someone there with a calm voice and a kind demeanor, spouting meaningless pleasantries that are nice but essentially worthless. But in Clash of the Choirs, that's ALL there was! Each judge had to be judged that night, so no one was going to say anything trenchant or useful. Here are some highlights:

A. Michael Bolton to Patti LaBelle: "I can sum this up in two words: (He bows)" (That's not two words, Mike)

B. Nick Lachey to Michael Bolton: "My mom will kill me if I don't compliment Michael Bolton's choir." (Way to be an ass while ostensibly being nice, Dick Lachey)

and my personal favorite line of the night:

C. Patti LaBelle to Michael Bolton: "Your white man sings like a black man." (This comment was met by thunderous applause, while the white man in question mouthed the words "thank you" to Ms. LaBelle.) – Now, is racism allowed on television again? Are we really allowed to say things like this? I mean, is prejudice okay as long as we frame it in the positive? (It's not that white people CAN'T sing…it's that black people sing BETTER!) This was simply an astonishing moment for me.

There are three more nights of this show, ALL THIS WEEK! I can't tell you I'm planning on watching…but that doesn't mean my TV won't find a way to show it anyway. Stay tuned.