Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Defense of: Rock Star and ANTM

Okay, I’d like to think I’m a pretty intelligent and cultured woman who generally has pretty good taste. And I suppose, as a writer, I should be opposed to the reality TV genre in principle, because of the whole putting-TV-writers-out-of-business thing. But…

I love reality TV.

When the genre came out, I scoffed, “I will never watch crap like that!” But somehow, I got hooked.

In building my defense (sorry, its defense), I will focus on two shows. And to make this challenging, the two that sounded the cheesiest to me when I first heard their concepts: ROCK STAR and AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL.

In the 1980’s I loved INXS. I heard them long before many North Americans, because my cousin lived in Australia at the time and brought back a tape. Thanks Pat. Also, Toronto had an amazing radio station in the late 70’s early 80’s, CFNY, that’s a shadow of it’s former self now, but that’s another topic.

Back to INXS
Big fan.
Have all their albums dating back to the early 80’s.
Very sad when Michael Hutchence died.

When I heard the band was choosing a new lead singer via reality TV, I took it as a major sign of the apocalypse. But one night, bored, surprised the moon hadn’t turned red yet, I was surfing channels and as luck would have it, cruised by ROCK STAR just as JD Fortune, the ultimate winner, was performing his encore the night after he’d sung “California Dreaming”.

I was blown away. Not only was this guy hot. He did an amazing, unexpected, hard-edged version of a 1960’s folky pop tune that should have been boring. He was riveting. Couldn’t take my eyes off him. (Didn’t hurt that he was from Toronto, either.)

From that night forward, I saw almost every episode—even the “reality” nights where they pick the songs—and have watched it this season, too, in spite of not being a metal fan, at all. (Well, I grew up in the 70’s so it was hard to avoid hard rock… but Metalica? Guns & Roses? Motley Crue? I’ve heard of these bands, but couldn’t tell you one song any of them have done. I’d graduated to punk and new wave by the time they came on the scene.)

On ROCK STAR, the contestants are professional, talented musicians–not nervous amateurs like on the other TV talent shows (not that it’s not entertaining to watch amateur’s be nervous, too). The songs performed each night are classics for me (remember that whole growing up in the 70’s thing?) and the stakes are huge—an actual job fronting a real band almost guaranteed to do extremely well—even if it’s just for a short while. How could that not be entertaining? (And it’s fun that another Torontonian is a front runner this year—although I’d rather see Dilana or Storm get the job—and Ryan’s growing on me, too.)

Okay, so I tackled the easy one first.

Now, I’m faced with defending ANTM and its Canadian equivalent CNTM. For the record, one of the silliest concepts for a show I’ve ever heard.
Living together in a house?
Competing against each other?
How painful would that be to watch!

I didn’t see the first season of ANTM at all. Sometime after the second season had aired, I stumbled upon a rerun of it on some obscure digital cable channel. It was late. My defences were down. I stopped clicking. Some weeks later after tuning in again and again… I discovered I wasn’t sorry—except that I was hooked on another show. Damn. It took another year or so to confess I was watching it to any of my friends. ;-)

From the hype and the concept, I’d expected nothing but shallow, skinny girls spitting catty insults and scratching each other’s eyes out—in between puking up what little food they ate, of course.

Okay. It is a bit like that. But what I didn’t expect was the arty aspect of this show. Yes, you heard me right. Arty. I love the photo shoots and seeing the resulting photos. I’m just amazed at the creativity of the make up, the costumes, the sets, the lighting, the photography and occasionally of some of the contestants. I also find it fascinating that the girls who look pretty, aren’t necessarily the ones who photograph well.

I suppose I might sound like some letch who claims he reads Playboy for the articles… but seriously, I love the photo shoots and am willing to put up with some cattiness—and Tyra Banks’ irritating tendency to over dramatize and over enunciate—to see the shoots and their results.

Are these shows—among others: Survivor, Amazing Race and don’t even get me started on So You Think You Can Dance—a guilty pleasure?

Sure, but I maintain they are compelling TV. Maybe they aren’t written per se, but there are some very talented editors/producers on the best reality shows, piecing together hours of footage to tell compelling stories. And storytelling is what entertaining people it’s all about.


Sara Hantz said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE reality TV. Especially Idol - to prove my point, one year I went away during the US version and got a friend to record it. I watched 8 hours non-stop on my return!

And all the show you mention I watch. I particularly love Americas Next Top Model and Amazing Race. And don't you just love the wife swap ones (do you get those?).

I don't care what other people say I just can't help but watch them all. The INXS one was great.

Marcail said...

I love what I love and don't apologize. Dance ergo all dance related programming. Travel-- So Amazing Race brings back memories of these spots. Odd human behaviour-- most reality shows.

Sinead M said...

I so agree with Maureen, I love both those shows as well.

Rock star I sort of expected to love, but a show about mannequins, well that caught me by surprise. But it's riveting..

Molly O'Keefe said...

Can't say I got into the top model show -- but Rock Star has got me. I too am beginning to see some appeal in Ryan. These guys are all so much better than last years contestents. Doesn't hurt that I have a little girl crush on Storm.

But I think your point about editing creating the story is a good one. It only validates our theory that most storytelling actually happens during editing.

Margaret Moore said...

I don't watch the Rock Star one, but my daughter got me hooked on Next Top Model (or Moodel, as we call it). We watch reality shows for the drama. The conflict. The comedy. The relationships. Kinda the same reason I write romance. *G*

But the best is The Amazing Race (well, we shall draw a veil over the fiasco that was the Family version and the AWFUL Jonathan).

We also watch Survivor. We watched the first Joe Millionaire because we loved the butler. Heck, we even watched Joe Schmoe.

But there for awhile, there was more riveting drama on reality shows than on most TV dramas and we were getting more laughs than we did from any sitcom.

Wylie Kinson said...

Me too, me too!! I'm totally hooked on Rockstar.
I loved JD from last year, and Sweet Suzie MacNeil - still waiting for her to hit it big. Patrice kinda reminds me of her.
Love Storm and Ryan but seriously - only Dilana or Lucas could win this one. They're the only two outrageous and talented enough to front that megawatt band.
However ... can't stomach Tyra.

Margaret Moore said...

Speaking of The Amazing Race, CBS posted the teams for the new season on their website today. Not that I'm obsessed or anything...

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