Archive for Tuesday, July 5, 2011

‘Talent’ hopefuls shock audiences with misdirection

July 5, 2011

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New hopefuls audition on "America's Got Talent" (7 p.m., NBC), followed by a repeat (8 p.m.) from last week. The memorable talent on "Talent" seems to be trained in the art of misdirection. A dancer comes out and discusses his classical training and then stuns the audience with a pole-dancing routine. A gum-chewing car wash attendant in dreadlocks from West Virginia blows everyone away with a Vegas-ready impersonation of the Chairman of the Board. What you see is not necessarily what you get.

I'm not generally in the business of Monday morning quarterbacking, but did anybody see the finale of "The Voice" last week? I'm inclined to forgive and forget, but this show threatens to return, so a little criticism is in order.

For starters, it was a finale, the culmination of a (short) season's work. But the atmosphere was decidedly flat. Even when the outcome seems obvious, as it often does on "American Idol," they still amp up the effervescence. I never thought I'd be singing the praises of Ryan Seacrest, but when Carson Daly announced, "It's only seven minutes until we reveal 'The Voice,'" he seemed almost eager to get out of the building and to put the whole thing behind him. He might as well have looked down at his watch.

And maybe somebody should have been watching the clock. By the time the winner Javier Colon was announced, there was barely time for a group hug and a feeble confetti drop. He didn't get a chance to perform as the newly anointed "Voice." He just stood there, somewhat awkwardly, as the show simply ran out of time. Long after it had run out of gas.

• About 90 percent of documentaries tend to belabor the obvious with heavy-handed narration that gives the audience no credit for the ability to reach its own conclusion. Tonight's "POV" (9 p.m., PBS) offering, "Sweetgrass," goes a tad too far in the other direction.

Don't get me wrong; it's a gorgeous film and an often-mesmerizing meditation on the vanishing way of life of the Montana sheep farmer. But if you've ever watched somebody meditate, a little watching goes a long way.

Filled with beautiful scenes of pastoral life and rugged scenery, "Sweetgrass" is audaciously dull. Brazenly boring. It explores the fine line between hypnotic and catatonic.

The first two or three minutes of the film consist of a sheep staring at the camera. Chewing. Something. A full 13 minutes go by before a human voice is heard. And it's directed at a wayward sheep, not the audience. If you like long (and I mean long), lingering glances at sheep herds in motion, "Sweetgrass" is the film for you. At one point we're shown a tired cowboy sleeping, waking up and then falling asleep again. I had a similar experience while watching "Sweetgrass."

TV-themed DVDs available today include the first season of the Nickelodeon tween comedy "Victorious."

Tonight’s other highlights

• Life is hard in the Big Easy on "Kitchen Nightmares" (7 p.m., Fox).

• A baker's dozen compete on "MasterChef" (8 p.m., Fox).

• Vinny bakes something nice for the cast of Broadway's "Billy Elliot" on "Staten Island Cakes" (8 p.m., WE).

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