In the past week, I’ve been sucked into the talent show videos rabbit hole. It started–oh, hell. I don’t know how it started, but I began compulsively watching the best and worst auditions of Britain’s Got Talent, then it widened out to America’s Got Talent, X Factor, and whatever else I felt like watching. There’s something compelling about the best and the worst, duh, for respectively, the spine-chilling, ‘holy shit!’ factor and the, ‘I cannot believe what I’m seeing/hearing right now. This is a train wreck’ impulse.
I’ve learned a few things watching these audition shows (and followup clips when I really like an act). One, there are a lot of deluded people out there. I’m not talking about the people who are decent at what they do, but don’t quite have the ‘it’ thing, but people who have no talent whatsoever. There were a few I was convinced were doing it as a joke, but many were so sincere.
Side note: I started watching Season 8 of American Idol, and any time they would take a closer look at a contestant, I knew the person was either going to be terrific or terrible, usually the latter. Any time a singer said, “I know I’m going to win,” I knew they’d be awful, but I rarely was ready for how terrible they would be. Then, most of them would be shocked that they weren’t given a golden ticket, and some of them explosively so. I couldn’t help thinking, “Where are your friends? Your family? Isn’t there anyone to give you some tough love?” I know some of them probably just ignored their family (one guy explicitly said his mother told him he couldn’t sing) and friends, but others had family and friends with them that told them they were the best and shouldn’t give up! I understand wanting to support your loved one, but it’s cruel to give hope where there is none. It’s like telling me I could be a WNBA star if I just really tried hard enough. Or I’m going to be president. It’s. Not. Going. To. Happen, and my friends would be doing me a disservice if they encouraged me to pursue either of these activities.
Which brings me to point two–I’m uncomfortable when the cameras play up to people with clear mental health issues. Unfortunately, show biz is a magnet for mentally unbalanced, which has always been the case, and it’s always been glorified to some extent, but not like this. To clarify, I’m not saying these shows are saying it’s cool to be mentally ill, but they’re not shy about exploiting the mentally ill for the views. They could easily cut away from the person who is melting down and throwing expletives all around, but that makes for good television! It made me exceedingly uncomfortable to see the screaming, crying, flailing about contestants who needed therapy more than they needed to be on a reality show, but I’m sure I’m in the minority on that one.
Point three: I’m conflicted about the more daring acts such as sword-swallowing and knife-throwing (among others). They’re thrilling to watch, but the inherent danger in them makes me wonder if we should be encouraging them. One guy got seriously hurt as his wife shot a flaming arrow at him, and it missed its mark. It hit him in the chest, and it was clear to see he was in pain when he tried to talk to the judges afterwards. There’s this one sword-swallower who did some really crazy shit, and he kept upping the ante while going from one talent show to another. I watched him several times, and by the end, I was inured to the shock of what he was doing.
That’s the other problem with binge-watching these shows, especially one season of a show. People get boring after five or six times of seeing them. It’s not necessarily their fault, but they become one-dimensional. It’s actually why I stop visiting websites after some time–they don’t change. I get bored. It takes someone very phenomenal to retain my interest, which might be my problem. In addition, watching the live shows of American Idol (which I used to do fairly regularly) is not nearly as interesting as watching the auditions and Hollywood Week. Why?
My biggest problems about these shows is that they exist to find the person with the broadest appeal to the masses. The judges will even say in an audition that a person is or isn’t marketable. Yes, I know that’s an important part of being a performer, but to bring it front and center means stripping anything unique or refreshing about a person. It’s weird because they say they’re looking for someone unique, but then they whittle away the uniqueness from the person. They even ask who are you like in the auditions, and when someone is *too* creative, the judges knock them for that as well.
By the time they reach the live shows, they’ve been coached within an inch of their lives. They become overblown, overdone, and processed to the point of them becoming Spam. The diamonds in the rough are now cubic zirconia, and it’s boring as fucking hell. I’ve watched the first live show semifinal, and I don’t remember one single performance. I’m in the middle of the second semifinal watching Nick ‘Normal Gentle’ Mitchell, and I’m vastly entertained. He’s a comedic performer, and Simon hated him on sight. The other three were amused, and he made it to Hollywood. He’s remained true to himself (or his alter ego, anyway), and I love him for it. He’s a decent singer, but that’s not the draw of him. It’s that he’s funny, fresh, and being committed to his bit. He’s memorable, which is more than I can say for the rest of the contestants who all blend into each other.
Don’t @ me with your complaints. I know the show is about finding a marketable singer for the gen pop, which is one reason I stopped watching it. I never liked the ones who made it to the finals, and all the damn songs sounded the same.
This is the last episode I’m probably going to watch (and not just because I can’t find the next episode) because the live shows are so blah. I may go back to watching best and worst auditions, or I may just move on with my life.
A note on the judging: Simon Cowell is my favorite, hands down, across all the shows (with David Williams a close second. Oh my god. Watch this video of David totally shoving a contestant in Simon’s face and the glee with which he does it. The contestant was horrible, but hilarious, and David completely went with it before giving her his Golden Buzzer:)
SO bad, and yet, so wonderful. Who doesn’t love a good crumble?
Even when I was semi-regularly watching Idol, Simon was my favorite judge because he doesn’t push the hype. He cuts through the shit, and he’s blunt to the point of rude. Is he rude? Oh, fuck, yeah. But, it’s entertaining, and he’s usually saying what I’m thinking. He has his biases including being too soft on pretty and sexy girls, but I like that he says exactly what he thinks.
I liked Cara during the auditions, but she’s annoying on the live shows with her carping on who’s a package or marketable or not. For a few of the girls, she said they were young girls and she wanted them to do something girly. It was irritating, and it only emphasizes that the biases of the judges are very much at play on these shows as well. You don’t just have to be good–you have to capture the attention of the particular judges in front of you.
I would love to have my own talent show reality show. It would be lit and off the hook. Yes, I have my own biases, including I don’t like overdone, theatrical bullshit as much as I love musicals, so I’d be more apt to approve the low-key acts. Oh! Another thing I’ve learned about these shows, especially Idol. If the judges talk a lot before giving you the verdict, it’s a yes. They do this whole, “This is really hard, and we have to make tough choices” just to get the biggest reaction they can from the contestants. If it’s a no, they keep it to a simple sentence. This is in the later shows. In the beginning, it’s pretty clear if it’s a yes or no (usually). Oh, also, I’m well aware that the shows are edited in a way to make certain contestants look crazy, and it certainly worked with Tatiana. From the moment I heard her (and set eyes on her, but it was really hearing her that set my teeth on edge), I wanted to throat-punch her. It never got better, and she kept squeaking through each goddamn round. In the live show, she said she wasn’t really that way, and I’m sure they played it up, but oh my god I hated her so much.
It’s been interesting to look into the meat grinder that is making a star, but it’s made me lose my appetite for sausage.