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Archive for Monday, December 6, 2010

Nick Lachey and ‘The Sing-Off’ push ‘Skating with the Stars’ onto thin ice

December 6, 2010

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Nick Lachey hosts “The Sing-Off” (7 p.m., NBC), now in its second season. The five-episode seasonal series features 10 vocal groups performing songs from many genres.

The groups range in experience and fame, from a very “Glee”-like high school ensemble from Ohio to Yale’s esteemed Wiffenpoofs, an a cappella tradition since 1909.

While the young (and not so young) talent are almost invariably inspiring, the three judges, Ben Folds (Ben Folds Five), Shawn Stockman (Boyz II Men) and Nicole Scherzinger (“Dancing with the Stars”) set the show apart.

While Scherzinger remains predictably pleasant, Stockman and Folds offer informed criticism, much of it technically specific and often way over my head. Stockman plays the music industry pro while Folds acts as a kind of avuncular professor.

From “Dancing with the Stars” to “Idol,” judging has become rather predictable, nasty and catchphrase driven. In contrast, Folds and Stockman are polite, smart, thoughtful, informed and genuinely encouraging. And that’s rather refreshing. Breathtaking, even.

If you’re torn between network competitions, let me suggest that watching unknown talent blossom on “Sing-Off” is a hundred times more rewarding than the sight of Vince Neil trying not to stumble his way through “Skating with the Stars.”

• Turner Classic Movies celebrates the 90th birthday of a jazz legend with “Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way” (4 p.m., TCM).

Blending interviews, recent performance footage and archival materials, “Brubeck” extols the musical influence of the artist best known for his mid-20th-century masterpiece album “Time Out” while also appreciating his role as a husband, father, inspiration and ambassador for his nation and his music.

Executive producer Clint Eastwood and director/producer Bruce Ricker have assembled an impressive cast of Brubeck fans and collaborators including Bill Cosby, President Bill Clinton, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and filmmaker George Lucas.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Trace Adkins hosts American Country Awards (7 p.m., Fox).

• “Martha Stewart’s Holiday Open House” (7 p.m., Hallmark) hopes to take the dread out of gingerbread.

• The Patriots host the Jets on “Monday Night Football” (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

• On two episodes of “In Treatment” (HBO), Frances’s sister declines (8 p.m.), Sunil shocks Paul (8:30 p.m.).

• Brenda avenges a colleague on “The Closer” (8 p.m., TNT).

• Honeymoon killers on “Hawaii Five-O” (9 p.m., CBS).

• “Men of a Certain Age” (9 p.m., TNT), starring Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula, returns for a second season of midlife-crisis comedy.

• “Tabitha’s Salon Takeover” (9 p.m., Bravo) enters its third season.

• A lover’s quarrel turns ugly on “Chase” (9 p.m., NBC).

• Old evidence bobs up on “Castle” (9 p.m., ABC).

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