Reality (TV) Bites! (May 22, 2009)

I like to make a good fuss, throw some bluster around now and again, just to let the world know I am watching, trying to keep it and its denizens honest. But I have been preoccupied lately with travels, grief and career movements, so some of the little things that irritate I have allowed to pass without the benefit of a good cleansing editorial. Well no more Ms. Nice Boop!

Many of you might wonder why I bother to allow myself to become enraged by the likes of my TV set in the first place. There are, after all, so many urgent and serious things going on, and perhaps Boop, your first mistake might be in letting anything like unscripted entertainment ruin your week? And while we’re at it, um, who cares? Well I do, and in order to fully account for my enthusiasm for reality television, allow me to plagiarize my own email, sent to my friends Tim and Diane yesterday, as we debated the merits of Patti Blagojevich’s contestantship on the upcoming NBC summer show, “I’m a Celebrity…Get me Outta Here!”

“I will lay my cards out on the table. I love a lot of reality TV. I am a voyeur and am fascinated by the depths of humanity many people will plumb in the name of money and fame, no matter how slight or inauspicious. This is why I relish the idea of Blago or Patti on a reality TV show. They are a cautionary tale about political figures who wallow in the mire of their own bombast. I am beyond excited because it appears they have learned nothing from their fall from grace and are willing to pimp themselves out for as long as possible. Call my eagerness for this show my study in culutral anthropology. But seriously, the other castmates are promising too: Janice Dicksinson, Heidi and Spencer, Sanjaya. The premise of the show is that they are dropped in the jungle and America gets to devise tortures for them as it plays out on national TV. I know what I said before about Americans being dumb, ignorant sheep, but this opportunity is Christmas in July people! It’s sick, admittedly. But people enjoy plenty of other sick things too, like watching people beat the shit out of each other, so I feel no shame.”

And there you have it. My story is that I enjoy the world of reality television for the human character examination it offers, and I am sticking to it. However, the purpose of this post is not to defend my trashy adoration for this type of entertianment. No sir. My rage is pointedly directed at two shows who produced their season finales this week, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and Fox’s ratings stalwart, American Idol.

Both of these programs contain an at-home audience voting element, as you are likely aware. The philsophy is that by letting the people choose, the winners of these talent competitions will be representative of the nation, the entire nation, not just the 12 year old girls who beg their parents to allow them to dial in multiple times with their spanking new Cricket phones.

Overall, I am a great believer and champion of the democratic process, a belief strengthened by America’s “getting it right” during last Fall’s presidential election. So this week, I gamely assumed my position on the couch and prepared to witness the foregone conclusion of Gilles’ walking away with the Mirrorball trophy on DWTS. Likewise, I sat with a box of kleenex next to me as I prepared to weep the tears of joy I knew would come once Adam was finally announced the winner of AI. But instead, my loyal season viewership was rewarded with…

Shawn and Kris? To quote Kyle’s Mom on South Park: “Wha, wha, what?”

Shawn, 17 and spunky, an Olympic medalist in gymnastics, was no doubt without talent. But compared to the tour de force of smoldering sexiness and raw skill that was Gilles? No, I say! Likewise, Kris Allen is 23, adorable and may have a future in music. But are we to believe he was more deserving than the Freddy Mercury channeling rock God that is Adam Lambert? As Whitney Houston once memorably uttered on another classic reality gem, Being Bobby Brown, “Hell to the naw!”

What happened America? We thirty, forty, fifty and other somethings watch TV too. Why do we let the young tweens make our decisions for us? Is there some sort of social shame attached to picking up the phone and spending $1.99 to protect what is right? There must be, because I didn’t vote either. Curses!

I have been disappointed with the outcome of Dancing with the Stars before, and may be so again, but I am willing to give it another chance next season, because 50% of the final decision comes from the scores of judges Bruno, Carrie and Len. I am aware that the audience for DWTS skews older, so I am willing to write off this hideous injustice as a fluke unless I am proven wrong in the Fall. But AI? we are done. I mean it this time.

It was bad enough in Season 5 when I had to wave goodbye to the far superior Chris Daughtry and Elliot Yamin in favor of Katherine McPhee and Taylor Hicks. Seriously? Does anyone know if those yahoos are even still breathing? To go back a couple seasons earlier, I was incensed with Ruben over Clay, the criminally early exit of Jennifer Hudson, and two seasons ago, the ageist dismissal of Melinda Doolittle. I had threatened to remove American Idol from my DVR schedule before, only to return sheepishly later. I will not do so this time. Do you hear me Eddie? No Adam Lambert as Idol, no Boop as viewer.

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