Picks and Pans Main: TV

updated 05/16/2011 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/16/2011 01:00AM

THE SING-OFF:

THE VOICE VS. IDOL

Can NBC's The Voice topple FOX's surprisingly resurgent American Idol?

REALITY

The Voice boasts what should be an unbeatable lineup of celebrity coaches: Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine. It's the concept that doesn't sing-not in the premiere, anyway. Facing away from the performers, the stars sat in huge chairs that seemed to have been decommissioned from a space shuttle. This presumably allows them the purest possible vocal assessment. (Two words: Susan Boyle.) Visually, it makes for odd television. Odder still is that the coaches compete too: They'll assemble rival singing teams. This means many shots of Aguilera and Levine exchanging coyly crafty glances as if they were bidding at a camel auction. The good news? The caliber of voices is high-better than American Idol. But that mammoth FOX hit has a streamlined selection process, a peppy range of personalities among the contestants and wildly popular new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. As Tyler would say, it's crazy good.

VOICE:

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IDOL:

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Watch What Happens: Live

Bravo, Sundays & Thursdays 11 p.m. ET/PT |

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TALK

Andy Cohen, the Bravo executive who's become a de facto mascot for the network, hosts this very camp, very shrewd promotional stunt disguised as a talk show. Cohen, leaning into the camera as if he wished he could personally offer everyone in the audience a cocktail and a napkin to put under it, laughs his way through recaps and trivia contests about Bravo reality hits. Guests can range from Denise Richards to Jay Mohr, doing a Christopher Walken impersonation while reading New York Real Housewife LuAnn de Lesseps's Class with the Countess. If you want to hear informed if unflattering discussion of Ramona Singer's runway stomp, here's your show.

Extreme Couponing

TLC, Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT

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REALITY

This TLC series has hit a cultural nerve, partly because it offers practical, price-cutting tips in an era in which people are jittery about inflation. Also because it's bonkers. The shoppers here aren't just trying to reduce expenses-they want to bring their foot down on the throat of the supermarket cashier. We see them climb into dumpsters to rummage for newspaper coupons, organize their homes into mini-warehouses of surplus goods and fill cart after cart to see how large a bill they can run up, and how close to zero it can be whittled down. In one episode a woman is thrilled when her $1,077.66 total is reduced to $21.26. One thing I learned: The coupons you get at checkout? They're called Catalinas.

Why Not? with Shania Twain

OWN, May 8, 11 p.m. ET/PT |

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REALITY

Shania Twain is close to an ideal representative of Oprah Winfrey's brand of emotional healing. She discusses her problems-early death of parents, collapse of marriage, loss of stage confidence-with a warm directness that makes them sound as if they could be anyone's. The show is less authentic when she learns about recovery from non-celebrities blindsided by tragedy: There's a nagging sense their pain is for the superstar's benefit.

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