With more than 100 million Americans tuned into the Super Bowl, it's a huge coup for any show to get the cushy post-game time slot. This year, NBC used that slot to launch the second season of reality competition series The Voice. The show puts a spin on the American Idol format by hosting "blind auditions," in which four celebrity judges — Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, and Adam Levine — sit in Star Trek-like thrones with their backs to the auditioning contestant. If they like what they hear, they hit a button and turn around, welcoming the contestant onto their "team." When the show premiered last spring, critics were enamored by the chemistry between the judges and the focus on talent over spectacle. Are critics still in love with The Voice?

The Voice is still a pleasure to watch: After suffering through the dreck of America's Got Talent, the misfire of The X Factor, and the boring start to this season of American Idol, the "stellar" first episode of The Voice's second season "reinvigorated my enjoyment of singing competitions," says Dan Forcella at TV Fanatic. The Voice auditions are "revolutionary," and the early rounds are mercifully devoid of the musical trainwrecks that dominate other singing shows. Plus, the quartet of judges seem completely authentic and are utterly charming.
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And the performers are better than on Idol copycats: The Voice occupies a unique place in the TV singing competition universe, says Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo. Unlike American Idol and The X Factor, where a contestant's past professional experience is treated as an unforgivable sin, The Voice is unapologetic about the fact that most of its competitors are not amateurs. "These are singers poised on the edge of greatness, who just need the little extra push." Unsurprisingly, that made the performances on Sunday night far more polished and professional than on other shows.
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But the premiere had some unappealing moments: The real draw of The Voice is "the playful camaraderie" of its bickering judges, which manages to be lightly combative without crossing into toxic territory, says Michael Slezak at TV Line. But this year, the judges seem to be trying to hard to play up the personalities they carved out in season one. Aguilera, for instance, "overplays her rivalry" with Levine with cringe-inducing zingers like, "You're trying to be Justin Timberlake!" And perhaps no moment in the premiere caused viewers to squirm more than when Aguilera blatantly didn't recognize a contestant who was a former Mickey Mouse Club castmate. Awkward!
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