Why 'The Next' is the new 'American Idol'
Published: September 5, 2012
Go On (8pm Tue, NBC)
On Friends, Matthew Perry created one of the funniest TV characters of all time in the neurotic quipster Chandler Bing. Perry hasn’t clicked in any starring vehicle since then, but not for lack of trying. After the doomed Mr. Sunshine and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, he returns in Go On, playing a sports broadcaster named Ryan who’s sent to a grief-counseling group to deal with his wife’s death.
The series draws on Perry’s strength — nonstop wisecracks — but can’t find the right tone. It often comes on like a silly farce, with Ryan making a mockery of the kooks in his group. But then the soundtrack strikes a sensitive chord, images of a cemetery flash onscreen, and Ryan begins pouring out his heart. I don’t mind mixing drama and comedy — Shakespeare pulled it off pretty well — but that approach takes a certain delicacy. Delicacy is in short supply in Go On, at least so far.
I’m still pulling for it, though. I’ll have to join a grief-counseling group myself if the great Matthew Perry is forced into early retirement after yet another flop.
The Next (8pm Thu, CW)
I don’t approve of the title, which awkwardly turns an adjective into a noun, but I like everything else about The Next. It travels from city to city, identifying four locally popular singers in each one. Then the show’s four mentors — Joe Jonas, Nelly, Gloria Estefan, and John Rich — get them ready for a performance showdown. During that time, the mentors move right into the contestants’ lives, meeting their friends, mowing their lawns, etcetera. It’s a gimmick, but a successful one, thanks to the stars’ appealing personalities. They take the concept just seriously enough but also have fun with it.
The Next is so much more appealing than the fading American Idol. I’m going to start calling it The Excellent.
Great Performances (9pm Fri, PBS)
I appreciate Paul McCartney’s interest in trying new musical directions — a heroic attempt to keep the creative juices flowing into old age. So I was tolerant of his recent stab at the American songbook, Kisses on the Bottom, even though it missed the mark. In a companion program called “Live Kisses,” the Beatle performs selections from the album at L.A.’s Capitol Records building, accompanied by jazz musicians like Diana Krall and John Pizzarelli.
The fact that “Live Kisses” is filmed in black-and-white is the first warning sign. Clearly, Paul is more interested in playing the 1940s crooner than in owning the material in the present. His versions of “Always” and “Bye Bye Blackbird” are pleasant — Paul’s voice could never be less than pleasant — but he has little feel for standards, despite what his bandmates say in their effusive interviews. The tempos are sluggish, and Paul has no melodic or rhythmic ideas for bringing the arrangements to life. Instead, he accents the corniest beats and ventures hepcat embellishments that only make him sound more square. And the lyrics would have been better served by playfulness than by reverence.