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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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The Voice

NBC, Mondays-Tuesdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT |


In season 4, the NBC hit has been smoothly riding out the challenge that rattled that other singing contest on FOX: bringing in new stars to oversee all the singing, dreaming and sobbing. Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green have been replaced in the big red chairs by superstars Usher and Shakira. If neither plays the team-building game with the glib confidence of veterans Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, that in itself is part of the game. Unlike the American Idol judges, who are accorded a degree of royal pomp rare on TV, Voice coaches are expected to banter, tease and get each other’s goat. At the moment, I don’t think Shakira quite knows how to get a goat. But it’s a learnable skill and valuable—The Voice has made Shelton and Levine into major TV personalities, fun and approachable. As to the competition itself, we’ll have to wait for the standout voices to emerge. Meanwhile, it’s only fair to give Idol its due as it nears the end of season 12. The show has introduced a powerhouse talent: Candice Glover. And Nicki Minaj, stealing every camera shot she can with her large, rolling eyes, has obliterated the other judges. She’s riveting.

Family Tools

ABC, May 1, 8:30 p.m. ET/PT |


Good comic performers far outnumber good sitcoms to put them into. They’re cookies without jars, and sometimes you wonder how they don’t go stale. Kyle Bornheimer, a nimble, likable actor who starred in the CBS sitcom Worst Week several years ago, plays Jack Shea, an ex-seminarian who takes over the family’s handyman business after his dad (The Closer’s J.K. Simmons) suffers a heart attack. Jack is a fumbling innocent, desperate for approval but not hard-headed enough to tackle real life, let alone run a business. Bornheimer plays him with a quick, gentle silliness that’s very ingratiating. The show itself is standard construction, a framework of planks that will need more work.

The Big C: Hereafter

Showtime, April 29, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


The series is ending, but what about Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney)? In The Big C’s abbreviated final season—four hour-long episodes—her cancer has spread, steadily drawing her that much closer to the Big D of death. The show’s tone still tends to the exasperatingly adorable (do we really need fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi playing himself?), but Linney’s performance is focused, concentrated, free of histrionics and intensely poignant. A lovely piece of work.