The semifinals are here! Unlike what Blake might say, it ain't "Over" yet. America, so much nearly lies in your hands. Can you believe it? We only have so many days left to savor Christina's bizarre headgear, Adam Levine's war on my dislike for him, Cee Lo's pussycat, and Blake Shelton's pointer finger. Now huddle in close, we'll get through this together.
Not afraid to be servicey, we've provided you with a team breakdown, In case you just woke up from a six-day coma:
Tony Lucca vs. Katrina Parker on Team I Love You, Man
Erin Willett vs. Jermaine Paul on Team Naked Cowboy
Jamar Rogers vs. Juliet Simms on Team Fancy Feast
Chris Mann vs. Lindsey Pavao on Team Toddlers & Gothic Tiaras
It's important to remember how little time we have left with the merry band of misfits NBC plucked up off the street and turned into shiny pennies to judge our musical orphans. There's only so much time for them to remind us that this is the actual, for real-time “go big or go home” moment. Not all those other times. This time is for real-real, not for play-play. Are we ready for tears, America? This is what we call (in the biz!) the waterworks episode.
First up is Tony Lucca, President of the Christina Aguilera Fan Club. He's singing “How You Like Me Now” by The Heavy. And, okay, yes, it is very strong. It all feels very Robert Palmer in a cool, updated way. (And I would just like to go on record that I TOTALLY wrote that last sentence before Blake Shelton said it. All of the original thoughts and ideas are actually mine.) Not that it even matters; he could sit on the stage in a diaper for two minutes and tweens the country over are going to be ripping iPhones out of the hands of strangers in order to maximize their dialing capacity. Everyone is into it, though. Even The Godfather catnip himself — pretty diamond collar and all! But still! Lucca held his own.
NEXT: Ave Guetta
I just want to say to America: Shame on you! Shame! It's so sad how you all just don't care about Adam Levine. He starts talking and it's like crickets in that room. I feel bad for the poor kid. It'd probably because he's so unattractive that people don't care about him. Life is cruel to the uggos.
After the commercial break, Erin Willett steps up to perform “Without You” by David Guetta. Erin starts off REALLY rocky. Surprisingly so. She's not strong on those low notes and it feels a bit out f range for her. But still, Erin is the silent favorite of the competition. The one people go, “Aw, yeah, I forgot I like her” after she sings.
However, this rendition is just not working. She's not connecting with the song and it all feels a little forced — which is so crazy when you think about how deep the chorus is. Youuuuuu. Youuuuuuu. Yooooouuuu should really be able to connect with that, Erin. Homegirl is crying afterwards — I think she knows she didn't capture Usher's essence, which is why she's sad. Right? Or maybe I'm just heartless and she's actually crying about her dad because the song is talking about living without someone. Yeah, okay, she's probably crying about her dad because she has feelings and emotions unlike some of us. Moving on! Is her risky take on a current pop hit enough to move her forward against teammate Jermaine? The judges all seem alright with it, but no one's blown away. That seems to be the general consensus this whole episode, though.
Chris Mann is up next, singing “Ave Maria” by former boyband 98 Degrees. Just kidding! It's Bach. And aww shucks, Chris brought his Bieber haircut with him to rehearsal! So cute and young and hip. I wish Christina would let him use her DIY red sex toy microphone stand to really emphasize the beauty of this operatic moment he's about to unleash on the world.
Imaginary visionary, Clarence St. Clair, was unafraid to pull out all the stops tonight for his favorite operatic snuggiebear, Chris Mann. All those fake tea lights in the audience? Both stunning and complying with fire safety standards. He's given us classic opera prima donna glamour with faux-candle realness. He said it came to him either in a dream or when he was watching the Celine Dion classic “It's All Coming Back To Me Now” in the green room while clutching the neon spandex onesie of last week's acrobat. Oh, Rocco. Sigh. A moment in time. Rocketing back to reality, teen girls are screaming for Chris in erratic bouts (totally not at all provoked by an audience coordinator or anything, right? NEVER!), even though they have no idea what he's singing. I find it really adorable when the bastions of youth culture pretend to have any idea what's going on when it comes to something not in their cultural zeitgeist. Let me tell you, Chris is going to do big things on the touring opera circuit, or opening for Josh Groban after he doesn't win The Voice. I think the judges agree.
NEXT: The Killers kill
Just in time to bring our IQs up a couple notches, we're back from commercial break with astrophysicist Christina Milian. We move on after a quick tutorial in the quantum logistics of star movement in relation to black holes.
Jamar Rogers is up, singing “If You Don't Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin. Originally, it seemed like the song choice was an attempt to euthanize his chances with a song that is very much stuck in its time of origin, but Jamar tried his best to make it his own. His bottom notes are killer, but overall the song underwhelms. Jamar should be allowed to be unleashed at all times. Jamar is a DEFCON 12 MFer, you know what I mean? Christina Aguilera adjusts her tiara (it was made by Robert Smith and a bedazzler-sporting spider named Icarus), so the judges see she deserves to win Miss Congeniality this year (even though we all know Adam's a shoe-in for that award). She wanted to get up on stage and sing with Jamar, you see, because, you know, she hates the spotlight and attention. Everyone dug it — especially 1990s Will Smith, from whom Jamar stole his outfit for tonight's performance.
After the commercial break we're treated to Teams Adam & Cee Lo performing “All These Things That I've Done” by The Killers. Obviously Prom King & Queen Jamar & Juliet kill this tune because their wheelhouse was made upon the bones of Killers' past.
Another break because we haven't been serviced with enough advertisements yet. Christina Milian's bangs are getting photobombed by Chris Mann and it is everything good in the world. You know what? You're alright, Chris Mann. Unfortunately Christina's thesis on the monkey flu in third world countries completely overshadowed you.
NEXT: It's all kinda Fugee, isn't it?
Jermaine Paul is tasked with performing “Open Arms” by Journey because the entire state of New Jersey really needed a hug. He's surrounded by the ballroom from Beauty & The Beast (Clarence has always seen himself as modern-day Belle), on loan from France. Actually, Gaston is a close personal friend of Clarence's, so he just brought it over on his back. (Gaston is such a f**king showoff, isn't he?) Jermaine does a fine job shooting songs out of his vocal chords like lasers.
America, I think I have The Voice fatigue, because I just find so much of these disconnected and uninspiring. Is it just me, or do you agree?
Katrina Parker talks with Adam during rehearsal, yadda yadda, she's doing “Killing Me Softly” in the style of The Fugees. Katrina's voice was lovely, but it was a note-for-note duplicate. Somebody hit the snooze button! The judges are now doing this thing where they don't even compliment or critique the voices anymore, but rather just talk about their own existential crises.
Christina Milian is punk'd yet again by Chris Mann & a cut-out of Purrfect the cat. I think I am being tricked into being endeared to Chris Mann, you guys.
NEXT: Oh my lord, the brows!
Blake Shelton is up now to perform his new single “Over.” And lucky for us, if you forgot that it was Mr. Shelton performing, Mr. St. Clair made sure to sneak Blake's name into the set. Otherwise Blake would've totally forgotten where he was and wandered off into the hills of Burbank searching for a horse. Thankfully, he is calmed by the false light of a neon sign drawing that says “free beer to-go.”
Lindsey Pavao is here to be ~dynamic~ and show range by performing... “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver. Which... doesn't really show any range considering this song is in her vocal sweet spot. Maybe that's why they got the Chad Kroeger stunt double to play guitar, though. A range of tolerance! I really wish they didn't have back-up singers here, as it really takes away from the performance and the inherent delicacy of Lindsey's voice. She deserves to stick around over Chris, but we all know that moms love to vote for things and hate it when girls shave parts of their heads, so she's probably doomed.
But to get to the most important issue of the evening: Who let the blind drag queen do Lindsay's makeup?
Instead of discussing the performance — yet again! — the judges would like to take this moment to remind you that behind all the make-up, craft services, and money thrown their way, they're really just fans. And they love this show. I'm so glad they love the show, these judges. I was worried, so I'm glad they’re constantly reminding us about how much they love this show. (Somebody must've just renewed their contract$.)
NEXT: Juliet Simms' murderous rampage
Last performance of the night, folks! Can you even stand it? Oh wait, you actually can't? Oh well, too bad! Because now it's time for “Edge of Glory,” performed by Teams Christina & Blake. Look guys, they're matcherz! Denim glory! Did you hear that noise? That's the sound of a million girls pinning the s**t out of Lindsey Pavao's dress to Pinterest. It's easy to hear it, though, because 90 percent of the song is inaudible as the singers can't seem to keep the microphones up to their mouths so people can, you know, hear them sing.
Now it's time for professional girl crush, Juliet Simms, wailing away on “It's a Man's Man's Man's World” by James Brown. I like her sparkly claw in spite of its functionality in the regular world. She looks like an extraterrestrial Tom Ford model. And she murdered it. And me, consequently, as I am now a ghost.
Here was the moment the judges were waiting for — awoken from their trance of show appreciation and general musical fandom, they see that the show is actually fostering some talent here. Carson was roused long enough from his sleeping-while-being-awake stance remark “that's as loud as its ever been in this room. Ever.”
Was Juliet's rendition of James Brown enough to take down Jamar Rogers? Does Katrina actually have the chance to defeat Tony Lucca? Can a skinny love beat out an operatic heavyweight? Does anyone actually believe that Blake's team of perfectly adequate, lovely people with very nice singing voices will win this thing? Does someone actually tie Christina Aguilera down to her chair to keep her from jumping on stage to perform every 20 seconds? Leave your thoughts in the comments, we'd love to hear them!
Check back here tomorrow to find out all this and where Christina Milian keeps her Nobel Prize for Science!
Follow Alicia on Twitter: @alicialutes
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S5: E10 Whereas its Thursday night buddy, Community, manages to tread that line between heartwarming moments and zany comedy, 30 Rock continues to succeed on its ability to deliver laugh after laugh – some of which come so fast that you don’t even notice them until you give it a second viewing. (This is why it’s become my practice to watch every episode at least twice, if not more.) That’s the 30 Rock schtick – non-stop laughs. That’s why many of us groaned when the show took its unwelcome dive into the personal lives of the characters last season and partially this season; we care about them, but as much as this year’s Christmas episode hoped we would. When characters on other shows spew lines about family and Christmas, we all breath a collective, contented little Christmas sigh, but when Liz or Jack do it, we take as a joke and only a joke. The characters on the show may not be incredibly deep, but that’s not why we watch. We watch to have ridiculous humor thrown in our faces so we can work off our dinners of cheesy blasters with a half hour of belly laughing.
“Christmas Attack Zone” served up plenty of killer one-liners, but in the end we expected to have a little Christmas revelation. This worked back in season 3 when Jack and his mother (Broadway legend Elaine Stritch) closed the episode with a side-by-side Broadway style rendition of “The Christmas Song” but now, the characters are so wildly comedic that it’s hard to reign the audience back in. Still, considering all the obstacles they had against them, I think in the end they pulled off the closest thing to heartfelt that they could manage.
The episode opens on Liz “Pie-thieving Grinch” Lemon getting an invitation to Christmas Eve dinner from Jack since his mother likes her and she’ll be around avoiding her family drama – really Liz? Your aunt’s friend Alcoholism sounds like a hoot. Yikes. Back on the TGS set, there’s even less Christmas spirit – Tracy’s new bid for a Golden Globe has him wearing all black and trying desperately to be as serious as possible (no “Merry Kristmas from Kabletown?”…sad) and Jenna can’t even stop crying long enough to relish in the fact that Tracy’s act makes her the sole star for the TGS promos. Sadness overcoming narcissism? No way. And the star on this Christmas tree of sadness? Pete gets word that NBC wants promos from every show except TGS. Merry effing Christmas, guys. I guess even that giant Christmas tree outside can’t spread the cheer around these parts.
A long awaited appearance from Jack’s darling Avery (guest star Elizabeth Banks) comes just in time for the holidays and her pregnant belly is beginning to show. She’s mostly been hiding it by holding objects in front of her to avoid suspicion – cut to the ham wearing a pilgrim hat she held in front of her body on Hotbox with Avery Jessup. Avery’s off to her own family’s Christmas celebration but not before the MentaLiz works her magic (thanks to a lost TV remote and reruns of The Mentalist) to discover that Jack hasn’t told Colleen about his lovechild. Whoops. Colleen’s the only person scarier than Jack, and now she’s going to be really pissed. Avery understands his need to keep feelings down – the Jessup family crest is a knight that refuses to express his feelings, yikes – but this whole baby thing is kind of a big deal. Avery reasons that Colleen did the same thing so she should understand and once again Jack’s caught in another lie, Liz works her Mentalist magic and outs him for not telling Colleen about meeting his estranged father, Milton (Alan Alda). Of course, Colleen screams at Jack when she hears that he “knocked up a Protestant,” so he quickly jumps on the phone to get Milton to the city so he can rub Colleen’s past in her face. See what I mean about all this personal drama? These characters just aren’t built for this much inner turmoil.
Tracy is getting serious about his new thespian lifestyle – a.k.a. making people cry and stealing Steve Jobs’ favorite mock turtleneck. He’s purchased the rights to his second Chunks movie (nice dig at Eddie Murphy’s Norbit bad luck charm, writers) to avoid it interfering with his serious acting. Kenneth tries to convince him that laughter is important too, but Tracy’s not listening. It’s kind of like the comedy version of Clarence the angel from It’s A Wonderful Life…well, sort of.
Jenna is uncontrollably emotional, but Liz thinks it’s all because she missed Paul. They were supposed to think of a joint costume for Tom Ford and Elton John’s super gay New Year’s party, but now she’s left to go by herself. Of course Jenna is a delusional space cadet and has convinced herself that she’s illogically crying for no reason over a party that she’s invited to and plans on attending. MentaLiz swoops in to save the day, catching Paul at his roller skating tranny restaurant to get Paul to come back. The best part of Liz dropping by a transvestite bar? The Lemon lookalike rolling by on roller skates. Win.
Liz makes it to Jack’s Christmas dinner, which has since become a “Christmas Attack Zone.” Happy holidays, y’all. Jack is stoically stirring as he awaits the giant ambush he’s planned. Liz tries to prevent it all, spilling the secret about Jack’s plan to anger Colleen. Milton’s on board: he’s angered by Colleen’s hypocrisy. Avery shows up and she’s seeing red and she plans on giving Colleen a piece of her mind. Jack’s just received the best present he could hope for: a room full of people who hate his mother. Liz tries desperately to stop the whole process and she insists that this can’t happen at Christmas (says the women who wanted to spend it at the corner café at the Penn Station Kmart) and she heads off to find Colleen in the Escher wing of the house. (They may not be big on character development at 30 Rock, but there’s nothing quite like a well-placed shout-out to M.C. Escher.)
Colleen finds her way out of the Escher wing, and comes down to dinner in time to take a stab at Avery for carrying a bastard child. Milton surprises her and berates her for depriving him of hippie road trips with Jack (“Yeah…or other stuff.”) With that, Jack gets his second present of the year: Colleen’s total silence. Of course, like father like mother, Colleen’s got her own Christmas Attack Zone planned.
Jenna is still in pain, flipping through pictures in a photo album that looks suspiciously like the one my 12-year old self dedicated to Justin from *NSYNC, when she finds a picture that sets off an idea in her head. Of course, she has no one to share it with and Liz shoes her off the phone so she can deal with Jack’s drama, so she has no choice but to return to Paul. He shows up at her door to say hi, but he can’t stay for an absinthe enema and he just wants to get something off his chest (no not his fake breasts, he seems to have left those back at his apartment this time). They simultaneously announce their tandem idea to dress at Natalie Portman from Black Swan and Lynn Swann – two black swans, one slightly uncomfortable racial reference, and an excuse for Jenna to cross dress and offend some people by donning black-face make-up at the Tom Ford party.
Tracy is still on his serious warpath – ruining Ludachristmas with his Darfur slide show – and now he’s doing his Christmas Eve charity work: showing his film Hard to Watch to a group of battered women at a shelter while donning a diamond encrusted chain with the word “Poverty” dangling from the bottom. Pardon my language, but holy shit. Kenneth his hiding behind a doorway and whispers about laughter being the best medicine and just like that Tracy changes his mind and shows the sad women his DVD of The Chunks 2 instead. All is well again.
Back at the Christmas Attack Zone, Colleen fakes a heart attack to win everyone over again and it works. Avery melodramatically pleads with her to hang on so she can meet their daughter, little Colleen. (Enjoying this little taste of General Hospital?) They all join around Colleen at the hospital and determine that they should share all their secrets (sorry, Liz, your crush on The Mentalist wasn’t that much of a secret). Avery and Jack decide to have a wedding with family instead of eloping, Liz decided to hop on a bus so she can handle the misery of Christmas amongst her own family, and Jack basks in the glory of both his parents yelling at him at the same time. Jack places some carefully chosen insults to inspire even more joint berating as Liz retreats to New Haven. (See, even the writers are uncomfortable with letting this end with too much sentimentality.)
A befitting end to a 30 Rock Christmas comes as Jenna and Paul sing “Night Divine” – a decidedly religious Christmas carol – while donning their cross-dressing and slightly inappropriate swan costumes. And where they should have ended on that high note, the tag takes it too far, giving us more of Tracy’s Chunks at the Christmas dinner table. If I wanted to see more of that, I would have gone back to the original Eddie Murphy movie that inspired it all.