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'The Voice' exit Q&A: Austin Jenckes says 'It was just my time to go home'

On Tuesday night’s episode of The Voice, two more singers went home, leaving a freshly minted top eight. EW spoke with one of the eliminees today, folk-rock power singer, Austin Jenckes, about his thoughts on the controversial Twitter instant save, what his Coach Blake Shelton is like off-camera, grooming that beard of his, and who he thinks will win the competition.

Check out our Q&A with Jenckes after the jump.

'The Sing-Off' season 4 groups revealed: A very careful aca-sessment -- VIDEOS

The little engine that could known as The Sing-Off is back for a fourth season, and after revealing the 10 new groups competing on the show’s official Twitter, my a cappella senses are tingling!

The Sing-Off was never officially canceled, but it was a pleasant surprise when NBC picked it up for a fourth season in March, after going off the air in November 2011. After the huge success of a-cappella-pixie-dream-film Pitch Perfect (for which The Sing-Off producer Deke Sharon arranged the music), and an estimated 40 bajillion YouTube views for season 3 winner Penatonix, bringing back this cult favorite was a no-brainer.

With Mark Burnett Productions now in the driver’s seat, NBC seems to be upping the production value but scaling back from a 16-team season 3 to only 10 teams for season 4, which premieres December 9th. And from the looks of the new teams, the smaller size indicates a focus on quality over quantity. I like the sounds of that! Take a look at the information we were able to gather on the newest teams vying for the The Sing-Off title:

'The Voice' results: Eliminations and instant save?

[SPOILER ALERT!!! Read on only if you have already seen Tuesday night’s eliminations round.]

The second night The Voice used the Twitter instant save, there were some singers we normally never see near the bottom. Read on to find out who won’t be joining the remaining top eight artists….


Ranking 'The Voice' Top 10: Who will need to be instant saved tonight? -- POLL

Tonight, two more singers go home, leaving a scant eight singers left in the competition. After a Monday night of middling performances and strange coaching techniques (Vinyasa yoga anyone? Care for a multi-man lift atop your baby grand piano?), and a lack of standout performers, has tonight’s possible pool of eliminations been split wide open?

Well, the game isn’t quite as unpredictable and exciting as viewers deserve. A quick glance on the iTunes Top 200 singles chart will give you a rough idea of who will remain in the top seven. It’s the bottom three singers who are up for grabs. Tonight is also the second night of the controversial Twitter instant save. Last week EW spoke with eliminated singer Josh Logan, who spoke of the “mass confusion” backstage as crew and singers were scrambling to tweet and re-tweet to their fans. The social media savior segment is still new, but clearly it has some logistical kinks to work out. We’ll have a better idea tonight, as viewers are now familiar with the process. Is the save a good or bad thing in terms of audience engagement? Perhaps that will depend on who goes home.

Here’s how I would rank the top ten artists, taking into consideration iTunes appearances (as of press time), Monday’s performances, and most importantly, cutest offspring (it’s a tie between Will Champlin’s baby and Ray Boudreaux’s preternaturally loud toddler).

'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?

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