The season three finale of The Sing-Off airs Monday night at 8pm on NBC, though judging from the number of viewers who’ve watched all season, I have a feeling you probably don’t care.
NBC’s a capella singing competition The Sing-Off has never been a huge hit. When it premiered back in the winter of 2009, NBC gave it a brief run: just four episodes. It wasn’t much of a risk to take on the launch of an entirely new music competition show. But since The Sing-Off ran during a downtime in original network programming (December 14 to December 21), NBC was able to get some pretty decent ratings. For season two, they repeated the same formula, this time increasing the show to a six-episode run from December 6-December 20. Again, decent ratings at a usual slow period (roughly 8.5 million viewers a night), but nothing to write home about.
Which is why I was surprised when NBC decided to take a chance on The Sing-Off and throw it in the ring for their fall schedule this year. Most likely an attempt to capitalize off the success of their summer singing competition hit The Voice, NBC put some major stock in The Sing-Off. Everything was increased from before: episode order up to eleven, two-hour episodes, number contestants rose from ten groups to sixteen, promos and social media flooded the market.
So how did it fare?
Not well. The show’s been living on Monday nights at 8pm, facing stiff competition from ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and CBS’s comedy block (How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, and Mike and Molly). The ratings have been dismal: just 1.4 adults in the 18-49 rating for last week’s finals. All and all, a total flop.
But here’s the twist in all this: The Sing-Off is actually the best reality singing competition on television. Far better than American Idol, The X Factor, and The Voice combined. Because unlike those other shows, The Sing-Off features:
Talented contestants who can actually sing
Remember that season of American Idol when Sanjaya Malakar was the worst singer you’ve ever heard but he kept lasting week after week after week? Yeah, that shit doesn’t happen on The Sing-Off. That’s because they have the most talented singers I’ve ever seen on any competition reality show. These are musicians who work together week after week to create some of the most insane a capella arrangements I’ve ever heard. They’re not pre-recording anything in a studio and lip-syncing on performance night. They’re not working with producers and coaches to help them find their sound. They’re together, rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing ‘til they get it right. Do you know how hard that is?
Monday’s finale features three outstanding groups. First, there’s Penatonix, a five-person group from Texas whose futuristic sound and staggering arrangements should push them into the first place win tonight.
Then there’s Urban Method, a group I personally don’t care that much about, but seem to be pretty progressive because they have a rapper, and they tend to focus more on R&B/hip-hop songs.
Finally, there’s Dartmouth College’s Dartmouth Aires, the only all-male and collegiate group left. And believe me – these boys sure know how to put on a show.
Hands down, the best judging panel on TV
I’ll always be a Simon Cowell fan, but if I’m being honest, there’s no way he could ever handle it as a guest judge on The Sing-Off. That’s because the judging panel on The Sing-Off consists of three super-talented artists who know how to provide constructive criticism while elevating the viewer’s understanding and appreciation for music. First, there’s singer/songwriter Ben Folds – a man who’s songs have been covered by every a capella group out there (he even put out his own a capella cover album). Then there’s Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman, who certainly knows a thing or two about singing in group harmonies. Finally, this season saw the addition of singer-songwriter and former a capella club member Sara Bareilles, who replaced season one/two judge Nicole Scherzinger after she took off for The X Factor). Bareilles is like a breath of fresh air on a cool spring day. You kind of always want to be around here. Together, they’re a brilliant team – the kind of personalities that the viewers and contestants alike can respect and learn from.
Theme night’s you actually want to see
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been a huge fan of American Idol’s awful theme nights. I was thrilled when The Voice kind of eliminated the whole notion of theme nights, and just stuck to putting on current, killer performances week after week. So knowing The Sing-Off was going to do theme knights, I was a little nerves. Luckily, they knew what they were doing, and put together some killer combinations. R&B Week and Country Week, for example, featured two performances each – one classic song and one modern song. There was guilty pleasure week, which featured a lot of killer 80s one-hit wonders. But my favorite theme week, by far, was “superstar medley” week, where each group had to do a mashup of three songs by a superstar artist. Check out Penatonix’s ah-mazing Britney medley and tell me you don’t wish you heard this on the radio.
No audition episodes
Guess what no one cares about? Audition episodes. Sure, it’s fun to see the bad people sing for like the first ten minutes. But then it became painfully repetitive. “Doesn’t this person suck? I know! Now look at this other terrible person. Crazy, right?” UGH! Meanwhile, watching the people you actually like not get cast on the show has to be the most infuriating thing in the entire world. How can I root for these twelve people you’ve selected as finalists when I’ve already spent four episodes falling in love and rooting for someone you ultimately cut?!?
Yeah, there’s none of that shit in The Sing-Off. What you’re getting is the best of the best already. None of that filler.
No results shows
Speaking of filler … have you ever seen a results show on any reality competition show where you didn’t spent forty-five minutes screaming at your television “GET ON WITH IT ALREADY?” They’re the biggest time-suck in the entire world. But The Sing-Off doesn’t want to waste your time. So each week, the judges eliminate at least one group (sometimes two!). Just. Like. That.
Group performances that totally didn’t suck
Group performances are by far the WORST things about singing reality competition shows. But guess what? On The Sing-Off, they’re the best. First of all, they’re clearly performed live. Second of all, all those voices together create a pretty outstanding sound. I know you don’t believe me, so I’ll just show you:
With these things in mind, if I were running the show over at NBC, I’d renew The Sing-Off for a fourth season, yet return to a shortened season. Perhaps throw it on in the winter AND in the summer. Five episodes each, so there’s no big loss. Either way, I’ll be tuning into The Sing-Off’s season three finale tonight at 8pm on NBC. And I sure hope that you do too, because you’ll see the best reality singing competition you’re not watching!