American Schadenfreude

I hate "reality shows". It's a position I've made quite clear to any of my friends that will listen, and even a few strangers on the bus who happened to be sitting near me when I read about the latest dumb ass "reality show" idea in the morning newspaper. For years I refused to watch any of them when I first heard of the concept. But I figured if I was going to hate the concept I had to at least watch an episode. So I watched a few episodes of "The Real World" (the first season I think, in New York City) but got real tired, real fast of a bunch of self-absorbed brats playing house. "Survivor", I decided, was an abomination to all mankind and an insult to every kid sitting in the Sudan with flies on his belly and legs the size of pipe cleaners. From what I know of "The Amazing Race", it serves no purpose and has no point (so, let me get this straight: they race. Around the world. For... what?). And all the rest of those cobbled-together, half-assed, half-baked ideas for "reality shows" (Yeah, the world needed more Flava Flav...)? One word: Why? I mean, it's like they're just making up shit now ("Put Phylls Diller and Tone Loc in a bathysphere for six weeks?... Great! Run with it!").

We all know why they do it. It's cheap. It's easy. It's the Anna Nicole Smith. (ba-DUM-bum). Other than the team of chimpanzees that paw at a typewriter for six months to come up with those concepts, you really don't have to lay out any big bucks to get it on the air. The regular people are willing to do it for free just to get their 15 minutes. Maybe down the line they get a five line role on some crappy sitcom. The washed up D-list actors are just happy to be back on television to extend their own 15 minutes. And for the networks, it's just a way to pick up some extra ad revenue money and fill a program schedule.

And then there's the first two episodes of American Idol.

This is my guilty pleasure, my dipping of the toe into the cesspool of popular culture and wading in up to my waist. It's a glorious, hilarious, amazing fucking train wreck of humanity. I don't care about the ones who succeed and get that piece of paper that says they're going to Hollywood. Woop-de-fucking-do. I'll never listen to any of them again anyway, never buy one of their crappy CDs with their wrentched-soul, I've-lived-and-loved-and-lost-and-I'm-only-16 songs. Who cares?

But those first few episodes? The auditions? High-larious. To think that there are that many horrible, abominable wanna-be singers who don't have a clue that they sound like two Tasmanian Devils having sex...

I know a lot of them are trying to go the William Hung route and aquire fame by default. Be purposely bad enough to to score some Regis Philbin points, maybe get a cameo on David Letterman. But you can see right through them. Go do your little performance art somewhere else, Gaston.

No, it's the rest of them, the ones that actually BELIEVE that they have the goods, the ones who sit in their little bedrooms and sing along with their Clay Aiken CDs or style their hair like Kelly Clarkson, the ones who work and practice and chase their little brothers out of the room so they can rehearse and really hit that high note. The ones whose hearts are smashed like piƱatas when they're told to hit the bricks...

Those are the ones that make me laugh and make those few episodes of "American Idol" worthwhile.

But is it cruel to laugh at someone who's hopes and dreams are ripped from their chest ninja-style on national television? Is it wrong to find pleasure and humor in watching the life drain from the faces of farmboys, head cheerleaders, ghetto-fabulous city girls and guys who are one high-heel away from stepping out of the closet when they're told by Simon, Paula or Randy that they have absolutely NO BUSINESS trying to form musical tones with their vocal chords?

Yup, but who gives a fuck? Hey, you lay your dick in the lion's mouth, there's a good chance it'll get bit off. No one forced them to come there. Don't wanna be judged by America, stick to the church choir.

Sure, in the real world of compassion and empathy, I would feel sorry for them, probably give them a pat on the back, maybe put an arm around their shoulder. Tell them a little lie like, "You weren't THAT bad, you know? Stick with it, forget what they say? What do they know?"

But when you're sitting at home after a rough day at work, having had to fight your way on the bus to get there and on the bus to get away from there, coming home to open a mailbox full of bills and having just enough money in your pocket for the cheapest frozen pizza in the market for dinner, but not enough for even a 40oz and you're wondering if they could sell just a single can?...hell, yeah, I'm laughing at SOMEBODY.

And once again, American Idol didn't disappoint. I can't decided who was the most pathetic: the teenage wanna-be rocker kid who finally broke down into tears after being told that his pre-pubescent Metallica voice was ridiculous? The short, plump girl with the green tie who forgot the words to Prince's "Kiss" and sang "...women, not girls, rule my world" over and over for what seemed like 15 minutes? The kid who worked the juggling sticks through his audition, mumble-mouthed his way through a song and fell into his mother's arms sobbing when he was sent from the room without his yellow piece of paper? Was it the slightly-effeminate, sinewy black guy dressed like Apollo Creed who sang some Italian opera? Or was it the very first contestant on the show, a cute, fresh-faced Midwestern girl who described herself as the "No. 1 Jewel fan in the world", only to be told by Jewel, the singer herself (who was a special judge on the show), that she sucked?

Ah, the fun never ends...

Am I wrong for my bouts of schadenfreude? Probably. But I blame their family, their friends and anyone who may have passed them on the street and heard them practicing their warbling and didn't tell them, "No, no, uh-uh, stop, stop right now... no, no, I said stop. Look, it's not happening. No, no, I said STOP. Here, take this list of courses available at the local community college and pick one."

In the meantime, I'll continue to watch the destruction of individual dreams for entertainment purposes. It's the only real "reality" on television.

1 comment:

Michael said...

LOL! You are a cruel, cruel man! For my money the most pathetic was the fat Kansas girl with vocals like the Cowardly Lion who actually was dismayed that the judges thought there was no market in the recording scene for such a "talent".