Reality Rocks

Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, Sara Bareilles Campaign To Save ‘The Sing-Off’

photo: NBCNBC hosted its Upfronts presentation this Monday, and along with the network's fairly awesome announcement that "The Voice" will be returning for a third season in September came the quite un-awesome news that NBC's other, more underrated vocal competition, "The Sing-Off," has been cancelled. It was the day the a cappella music died.

But the show's cast members and diehard fans aren't going without a fight. Judges Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, and Sara Bareilles, along with host Nick Lachey, all took to their Twitter accounts this week to mobilize viewers to #SaveTheSingOff, and a grass-roots campaign, led by former contestants Street Corner Symphony, is now fully underway.

Boyz II Men singer Shawn has been the most vocal (no pun intended) of the bunch, posting a link to a petition asking NBC to reinstate the show and tweeting: "Now is time to show the power of social media! If u want @thesingoff back in the air, let ur voice be heard!! This has more to do with the movement that a Capella music was beginning to have because of the show and the great response it received... Show support to ALL of the groups that were on the show by letting them know how amazing they really are!!! And let's make #SavetheSingOff a trending topic!!! Let's go everyone, let's save the most unique vocal competition show on TV!!!! And one more thing, however u want to show support, SHOW IT! Dowatchalike!!!! Make it as profound and creative as possible!!!"

[VIDEO: Boyz II Men perform hits medley at Yahoo! Music]

Sara also tweeted, "Aw, man. Our little show needs some love. :( #SAVETHESINGOFF," and Ben posted, "On #SaveTheSingOff : Thanks for the support! So many loyal fans. If we were to make that hashtag trend tomorrow, it could help quite a bit...So moved by twitter response so far. Trend #SaveTheSingOff tomorrow & @shawnstockman @NickSLachey @SaraBareilles will make it heard."

Personally, I think this is a great cause, and I'll be signing that petition as soon as I'm finished writing this article. "The Sing-Off" was, granted, the cheesiest show on television, so much so that I often wondered why its main sponsors weren't Velveeta, Cheetos, and those California cows--but that was exactly its charm. Starting off as a two-week lark during the holidays, the feelgood family funtime program, with its shiny happy people in Huxtable sweaters and Warbler blazers, made for the ultimate seasonal viewing alongside the other networks' Rudolph and Frosty reruns--almost hearkening back to Christmases past, to a simpler, sweeter time when relatives would huddle around a rabbit-eared analog TV set to watch G-rated Perry Como and Bob Hope holiday specials. For me, watching "The Sing-Off" in December became as much a Parker family holiday tradition as waiting for Band Aid's video to come on VH1 Classic or bickering with my carnivore dad about my vegetarianism and refusal to partake in the Christmas ham. Hey, I got all the Christmas hamminess I needed from "The Sing-Off"!

The problem came when, presumably, some NBC exec got greedy, and, following the success of "The Voice," probably figured: "Singing competitions are all the rage! Let's milk 'em dry!" So the third installment of "The Sing-Off" was expanded to a full fall 2011 season, hit the airwaves right around the time of Fox's "The X Factor"...and got clobbered in the ratings. This was a shame, since Season 3's winners, Pentatonix, were easily the best group to ever compete on the show (their "Video Killed The Radio Star" performance was one of the standout reality TV moments of 2011), and the addition of new judge Sara--who replaced Nicole Scherzinger, who'd ironically defected to "The X Factor"--was a very welcome improvement. However, now it sadly seems that NBC has killed the a cappella star.

But of course, the main reason why "The Sing-Off" was must-see TV, and why it deserves another chance, was and is Ben friggin' Folds. While "The Sing-Off" never truly launched a star pop group (although Pentatonix still have a shot; their YouTube channel is amazing and racks up millions of views), it most definitely launched Ben's television career and--this is not hyperbole here--established him as the best reality judge around. While other talent shows (like "The X Factor" and "The Voice") hired A-list celebrity judges who demanded $15 million paychecks, "The Sing-Off" recruited real vocal experts like Ben, and the result was, believe it or not, a series that was at times downright educational. This piano man, who'd actually curated the compilation Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!, clearly knew a thing or two about both good AND bad singing, and all throughout "The Sing-Off," he was funny, likable, and tough but fair, and he always offered insightful, genuinely MUSIC-BASED critiques. Jennifer Lopez could certainly learn a thing or two from Ben Folds.

[VIDEO: "Sing-Off" performances & clips]

And so, I enthusiastically urge the NBC powers-that-be to listen to Ben et al, and to revive "The Sing-Off" in its classic two-week holiday format--perhaps having it premiere right after "The Voice" Season 3 wraps in December. But if that doesn't happen, and if the rumors are true that "The Voice" may come back for a fourth season in spring 2013 with an entirely different panel of judges...then I urge those same network honchos to hire Ben for that show.

Now please excuse me while I go sign that petition...

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