Film and TV

Guilty Television Pleasures: Kristin Gilger's Defense of The Voice

It's almost the weekend, which means you'll have plenty of time to catch up on the shows you diligently recorded, queued, and bookmarked throughout the week. In celebration of the television you'll be watching (and maybe lying about later), we're introducing a short series of guilty pleasures on the small screen. Today, Kristin Gilger, Associate Dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University defends her favorite show, NBC's The Voice.

I am a very serious person. Go ahead. Ask anyone. They'll tell you that if you need something done, I'm the person to go to. I'll give you an answer and I'll give it to you straight. No messing around. No joking.

They'll tell you I can be counted on to show up on weekends or work through the night if that's what it takes. And they'll point out that I'm almost always the last person to leave the office at night.

Except on Mondays. On Mondays, I log off my computer no later than 6:30 p.m. and race to beat the traffic lights home. On Mondays, I skate in the door a minute before 7, scuttle past my husband, skip dinner and grab the remote. On Mondays, I have a very important appointment with The Voice.

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I will concede right now that this is a complete anomaly. I do not like reality TV shows, and, in fact, I hardly watch TV at all. I listen to CDs in the car only when NPR has ceased programming news for the day. I'd rather read a newspaper than People magazine, and, as a result perhaps, I miss most cultural references. I didn't even know who CeeLo was until I asked my 24-year-old daughter, who rolled her eyes and said, "Mom, are you kidding?"

It was during one of her laundry nights, and Lauren, a new homeowner who is still short of appliances, had just lugged in basket-loads of dirty clothes. "There's a show you should watch," she said, turning on the TV. "It's kind of like American Idol, only better."

I hate American Idol. It makes me wonder if there really is any dignity left in America. It should be called American Masochists, and even that is too kind.

But there they were: Christina Aguilera and three guys I didn't recognize, sitting in big red chairs, their backs turned to a giant stage on which stood an untidy, slightly overweight woman with bad hair and a sublime voice. You could tell Christina was listening hard. Her hand hovered over a giant button set in front of her, and she hesitated once, twice, then finally she punched it, and the chair swiveled to face the stage and the words, "I WANT YOU" blazed out in a stream of light that reached from Christina to the stage. Then two of the guys I didn't recognize hit their buttons at almost the same moment, and they, too, turned to face the woman with the amazing voice, the woman who didn't look like any singer I had ever seen before, at least on TV. They wanted her too.

I was hooked. There is something pure and refreshing about this business of judging someone based on their voice alone. It is almost un-American. And the judges are so nice. They are kind even to the singers they don't pick, giving them advice, encouraging them to come back.

I like listening to the performances - it's rare that someone is truly awful - and by the end of the season, I am rooting for my favorites. But it's not the singers who keep me coming back Monday after Monday. It's Christina and CeeLo and Adam and Blake. They represent genres of music - pop, soul, rock and country. (I was quite proud of myself for figuring this out. It took me until season two.)

Christina with the beautiful face and beautiful breasts is reliably bitchy, but in a good way. She never lets the guys get the best of her, and when she tells a singer he's good, you know she knows what she's talking about. CeeLo Green is shaped like a basketball and talks like a poet. He wears gigantic sunglasses and suits that look like tents and carries animals around with him. The second season it was a white cat the size of a goat. CeeLo would stroke the cat on his lap while he talked into the camera, and I swear, it sounded like CeeLo was the one who was doing the purring.