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'The Voice' fans get a bigger voice: Will you use the Twitter 'Instant Save' tonight?

For the first time Tuesday night, social-media-happy fans of The Voice will have the power to save a contestant in the live eliminations with the “Instant Save.”

Voting via Twitter, you can prevent one of the bottom three singers from going home. Here’s how it works: During the live broadcast, host Carson Daly will give a signal for viewers to start casting their votes. For five minutes only, you can save your artists by tweeting their official keyword (which is their first name) with hashtag #VoiceSave. According to the official rules on the NBC website, retweeting someone else’s already-composed tweet counts as a vote, but only one tweet per Twitter ID will count. The singer with the most tweet-votes remains, and the other two will go home.

Here’s Carson Daly explaining how the Twitter save works:

Ranking 'The Voice' Top 12: Is this season a man's game to win? -- POLL

Voice fans: I know it’s a tad early in the game, but is season 5 shaping up to be the most interesting season of the highly rated reality competition yet?

After the reveal of last week’s top 12, it’s apparent that this season is already breaking two important trends. One, with only four female singers remaining, is it safe to say we can expect The Voice to be a male one? There hasn’t been a male winner since season 1’s Javier Colon and season 2’s Jermaine Paul. Factors of probability aside, has there ever been a season with male singers of this caliber of talent? Week to week, I find myself scurrying from Matthew Schuler’s indie-rock power-ballad camp to favoring James Wolpert’s versatile vibrato, to even rooting for clutch player Will Champlin, who many times seemed a goner without a coach’s save. Now I’d wouldn’t be so careless to rule out Tessanne — who’s been a favorite this entire season — but it’s not going to be easy for the powerhouse diva to steamroll past these guys. This talent pool runs deep.

Secondly, in addition, to the dearth of ladies in the competition, there’s also a noticeable lack of a female country singer. As my colleague Samantha Highfill wrote in her analysis of season 4’s artists, The Voice looked like it was on the the fast track to becoming a single-genre show with the purpose of exclusively catapulting country singers. While there’s nothing wrong with discovering another country star, this departure can only signal good things for Voice viewers. It will force Blake to rejigger his coaching sensibilities, give more screen time to idiosyncratic voices, and make it more fun to watch without the looming threat of winner déjà vu.

Here’s a refresher on the current top 12 (and the order I would rank them):

NBC News will air Richard Branson's maiden space voyage live -- VIDEO

Next August, NBC viewers will be able to watch one eccentric billionaire launch himself and his children into the final frontier — provided everything goes according to plan.

Matt Lauer announced on Today this morning that NBC plans to broadcast Virgin Galactic’s very first passenger spaceflight live. As of now, the company is on track to send the world’s inaugural space tourists — Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson and his children, Holly and Sam — up through the atmosphere in August 2014, though Peacock Productions president Sharon Scott cautions that there’s a chance that goal may not be met. “They are hoping for August, but it’s completely engineering-driven,” Scott told NBC News before today’s big announcement. “There’s no guarantee for that. August is the desire.”

Branson, of course, betrayed no hint of uncertainty on Today, bearing only excitement and a big, wolfish grin: “[It's] eight years in the making,” he told Matt Lauer, sounding like a proud dad at his kid’s college graduation. “It’s going to be a beautiful baby when it’s finally finished.” Nearly 700 members of the one percent have already signed up to take Virgin spaceflights, he said — including both Leonardo DiCaprio and Stephen Hawking.


'The Voice': Which coach has the most valuable team? -- POLL

The live rounds begin tonight! After two exciting knockout rounds last week, the top 20 singers are settled and the coaches have their five final picks. Have you found yourself aligning with any particular teams this early in the game? Do you fancy Blake’s army of country and soul singers? Or Christina’s band of divas and diva-men? This time around, instead of the coaches deciding our fair singers’ fates, it’s you, America. Read on for a crash course on the teams and vote for your favorites.

Here’s a refresher on the Season 5 teams:

Kerry Washington's 'SNL' promos? They're handled -- VIDEO

Will Kerry Washington and Saturday Night Live be two great tastes that taste great together? We won’t know for sure until this weekend — but in the meantime, please feast on Washington’s new SNL promos.

They’re basically three minutes of the Scandal star playing the straight woman to Taran Killam’s loud buffoonery, though Washington does get a few moments to shine (“BUCK UP, TARAN!”). Let’s just hope that the show itself gives the actress more to do than stand around looking pretty. (Remember the great January Jones debacle of ’09?) Also: Killam does a pretty good Eminem impression, albeit a bit too Beavis-esque.


'Dracula' series premiere react: He wants blood, revenge, and power...from the magnetosphere

Fans of kooky, over-the-top, costumed TV series are having a very good year. Joining the ranks of Sleepy Hollow, Reign, and Once Upon A Time in WonderlandDracula is NBC’s pick for a new series with so many confusing things going on that it must be entertaining! For a show that recalls everything from The Prestige to Captain Planet in its pilot alone, it certainly delivers.

The pilot episode opens with Dracula’s return from suspended animation. A mysterious figure in a Van Helsing hat (Hint!) and henchman-turned-blood-bag free him from a complex, Underworld-like tomb. Flash forward to Dracula, donning a Victorian-era tuxedo, in a much less undead state. With his righthand man Xaro Xhoan Daxos R.M. Renfield (Game of Thrones‘ Nonso Anozie), Dracula prepares his new persona, Alexander Grayson the American industrialist, and the game plan for his London society party at his estate, Carfax Manor.

For those familiar with Bram Stoker’s classic or its many film and TV iterations, the book’s characters remain in this series — but with a twist. Renfield works for Dracula but rather than a spastic, obsessive Englishman, he’s a calm, cool, and collected African-American man.  Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is an ambitious journalist instead of a naive lawyer. Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw) is a medical student rather than a teacher. Lucy Westenra is still Mina’s flirty, upperclass friend, played with sinister swagger by Merlin‘s Katie McGrath.

At Grayson’s lavish party, Dracula presents his latest technological endeavor. To me, the party looks like the “Masquerade” scene in Joel Schumacher’s Phantom whereas the uppity British attendees deem it “distressingly American,” which I guess is the same thing. Straight out of The Prestige (and real history), Dracula illuminates dozens of wireless light bulbs using energy harnessed from the magnetosphere. (I wonder what Neil deGrasse Tyson would tweet!) But geomagnetic technology is dicey — Dracula’s steampunk factory needs coolant systems to be fully operational.  The board members of the British Imperial Company have access to high efficiency coolant patents; however, Downton Abbey‘s Sir Anthony Strallon, Lord Snobby, and Sir Haughty do not sell their company’s assets to “interloping colonials!”

Turns out the British Imperial Company is a front for the centuries-old Order of the Dragon, an evil Illuminati that has traded in the influence of the cross and sword for private clubs and oil interests. Dracula aims to replace any need for oil with free electrical power, thereby destroying the Order of the Dragon’s revenue stream and the organization itself. This basically makes Dracula a steampunk, undead Captain Planet, which is a mash-up of practically every Millenial’s favorite pop culture references.

Taking a cue from Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, Mina happens to look exactly like Dracula’s lost love, who was brutally burned at the stake by the Order of the Dragon. There is an instant connection between Mina and Grayson, reminding me that The Vampire Diaries‘ storyline involving doppelgängers is nothing new in the world of modern vampire tales. Unlike other popular Dracula adaptations, Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann a.k.a. German Liam Neeson) is Dracula’s partner in crime, working to take down the Order, and also responsible for killing Helsing’s loved ones.

Standouts include Rhys Meyers in his element as Dracula and Victoria Smurfit as Jane Weatherby, lover of “Victorian” dresses from Jovani and being naughty at the opera. (I guess Gerard Butler wasn’t interested in the show since he’s already played the Phantom and Dracula.)

With just enough action, intrigue, sex, and style, this first episode sets up the series as derivative yet appealing like The League of Extraordinary Men‘s more charming, younger sibling. Will you take a second bite out of NBC’s Dracula?

Edward Norton speaks Japanese, flirts with Bobby Moynihan in 'SNL' promos -- VIDEO

Make that “is flirted with by Bobby Moynihan” — the Academy Award-nominated actor doesn’t exactly reciprocate the Saturday Night Live cast member’s advances. The Japanese thing, though, is totally legit; Norton studied the language at Yale and worked in Osaka for five months shortly after graduation, and he’s still got a pretty good handle on the language.

Anyway, Norton’s promos are pretty endearing, and he seems pretty relaxed and confident in the following clip — especially for a first-time host (albeit one who’s done cameos on SNL before).


Check out Sarah Silverman's failed NBC pilot -- VIDEO


“This isn’t like, ‘Can you believe they didn’t pick this up?!'” Sarah Silverman says by way of introduction in the following video. “It’s like, ‘They probably did the right thing, but we liked the show.'”

Maybe you’ll like it too. The proposed series, Susan 313, starred Silverman as Susan Farrow, a recently single woman moving back into her old apartment building. The cast includes comedy bigwigs like famed standup Tig Notaro, actress/Casey Wilson’s writing partner June Diane Raphael, and Harris Wittels, the Parks and Recreation writer who coined the term “humblebrag.” Also, Jeff Goldblum is there! Also, what is perhaps a Wreck-It Ralph reference within the show’s first minute! Wait, why wasn’t this thing picked up again?


Jimmy Fallon discusses Jay Leno and 'Tonight Show' plans

Great news for viewers who just can’t get enough of Jimmy Fallon slow-jamming the news — it’s not going away anytime soon.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Fallon shared his plans for his move up to The Tonight Show, and explained that the Late Night team intend to pretty much do the exact same thing, just an hour earlier. “We have to. That’s my background from Saturday Night Live,” Fallon explained. “I do sketches, I act, I do impressions. It’s just part of my background, so I have to do that stuff. There’s a hole in late night for that. No one else is doing it. We started doing it five years ago and we’ve gotten really good at it. I’m doing musical stuff, ’cause I love music and so do the Roots. And people look forward to doing musical stuff when they come on our show….We’re doing our show as if we were doing The Tonight Show. It’s news to everyone else. We have been doing The Tonight Show.” READ FULL STORY

'Parenthood' spot inspection: Heed the warning signs, Bravermans!

I only cried once. I ONLY CRIED ONCE! It’s a Braverman miracle. But don’t be alarmed: Though the two often seem to correlate, you can’t judge an episode of Parenthood by how many times it makes you sob. I recently saw a film that was so melodramatic I wept for 75% of its duration, even though it hardly developed a character beyond “she’s the nicest one, and she’s definitely going to die in an hour.” It went for the cry every time and it was not enjoyable.

Parenthood, by contrast, doesn’t go for the cry. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Parenthood is only about the cry.

Thursday’s episode was a great contribution to a confident season. Perhaps its swing to the less-than-three side of my crying average had to do with its focus on non-original Bravermans — people we don’t know enough about to get emotional just thinking about all they’ve been through in the last four years.


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