Thursday, October 4, 2012
5 worst things about reality television
We've become obsessed with musical fluff.
Has reality TV run its course? A Pegasus News writer lists her five worst things about music-related reality television shows like The Voice, American Idol, The X Factor, and America’s Got Talent.
Just for fun, a writer who loves reality TV countered those arguments. It can’t be all bad, can it?
No. 1: Winners of reality shows get famous and quickly lose their allure.
Out of hundreds of contestants on American Idol, how many people can you name who have competed? Did you buy any of their music? Probably not.
Remember season two winner Ruben Studdard? I don’t either. Since he won American Idol back in 2003, he has been signed to four different labels and released five albums. The only record to garner any serious attention was his debut album after he won. The others went unnoticed.
Know Lee DeWyze? Apparently he was the season nine winner. He has four albums, two of which were released post-Idol, though his last one didn’t even manage to chart. Ouch.
America, you either stink at picking superstars or are terrible at supporting the people you voted for after they win.
On the flip side: According to the Billboard charts, many American Idol winners and/or runners up have record sales in the millions (including Studdard). Through July of 2012, Carrie Underwood has sold nearly 12.5 million records and Kelly Clarkson has sold more than 11 million. Studdard fell behind with 2.5 million records to date but has still reached multi-platinum status. Thirteen of the “Top 24 American Idols of All-Time” (according to Billboard.com) sold over a million records. I’d say that’s success, especially for those singers that came from nothing. Oh, and how could we forget the Oscar that Jennifer Hudson took home in 2007 for her supportive acting and singing roles in Dreamgirls? She probably would not have had a chance at that audition without American Idol.
We can’t leave out the X Factor’s British pop sensation, One Direction. Their debut album has sold 1.1 million copies this year, according to the Billboard charts, which is currently 2012’s second-biggest selling album in the U.S. One more example for good measure: Susan Boyle’s debut album sold 701,000 copies in its first week according to Nielsen SoundScan. In 2009, it was the largest-ever sales debut for a female artist.
No. 2: Judges don’t add value.
When Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell judged American Idol, it was a good thing. Fine. You had a record producer/manager, a veteran choreographer/singer, and a music executive/manager helping America decide who was worthy of a record contract. Each judge had incredible insight to a fickle industry that could love you one day and leave you high and dry the next. However, when the trio called it quits and other reality singing competitions came into the picture, that’s when judges were picked on ratings instead of the value they added to the show.
There are a few truly talented judges out there – CeeLo Green on The Voice is a good example – but who are the others? Sharon Osbourne, for instance, while fun to watch, isn’t a musician. And though Christina Aguilera on The Voice is in fact talented, seeing her boobs all over TV is enough to turn us off to that show. Any advice Jennifer Lopez shells out can be easily ignored. She hasn’t had a No. 1 hit in years.
On the flip side: We’ll start with Lopez: She has kept her career while giving birth to twins in 2008, filing for divorce in April, and launching a world tour in June. She also released the single “On the Floor” featuring Pitbull in 2011. It was No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, which was her highest peaking song in eight years. She kicked off a headlining tour in June and is currently co-headlining a tour with Enrique Iglesias. We said this about their August 26 show in Dallas: “Lopez ran a tightly produced concert. A veteran performer who recently made headlines for leaving her judge's seat on American Idol, Lopez gave a polished performance appropriate for her superstar status.”
Don’t forget Cowell is now running the show on X Factor. His biting remarks and critical ear are still adding controversy to the primetime world, giving audience members even more reasons to hate him.
No. 3: Contestants who do not win have talent.
The day American Idol made its debut was the day the music died. It became all about becoming a pop star as opposed to doing it for the music. Gone are the days of bands who work their way to the top; instead, they just get their lead singer to try out for a reality music competition. Musicians like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Rolling Stones didn’t need America to vote for them, they did it the old-fashioned way by writing their own songs and constantly touring. They didn’t sell out to the masses, they sold out of records, and it took years to achieve the greatness that they reached.
Those musicians have longevity that no reality singing competition contestant will ever have.
On the flip side: Sure, the hard work of past rock ‘n’ rollers can’t be compared to that of reality television stars, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have talent. The Huffington Post says AI’s 2012 winner Phillip Phillips plays his own instrument and writes his own music. Clarkson has always been hands-on with her material – the Washington Post made note of her headline-grabbing veer from the typical mainstream hit-making processes by adding her darker, edgier words on a majority of tracks on her 2007 album My December.
AI’s 2006 runner-up Katherine McPhee knows a thing or two about working her way up. With only 465,000 records sold to date, it seems she has been patiently waiting for that breakout performance to come her way, and last season’s series premiere of NBC’s Smash was just that. The Broadway-themed TV show gives McPhee all the time in the world to showcase her robust chords, as well as her surprisingly good acting skills.
No. 4: Judges make the show more about themselves than the contestants.
Since Cowell and Abdul left American Idol, the show can’t find the right combination that has the staying power that the first eight seasons of AI had. The lineup now includes Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, Randy Jackson, and Mariah Carey. Do we really care about Carey?
The main offenders of making the show more about themselves than the contestants has got to be The Voice. Instead of just letting the contestants perform on their own, judges occasionally perform with them. It’s got to be difficult to stand out while sharing the stage with a vocal powerhouse (and attention grabber) like Aguilera.
As for X Factor, the show should really be called “Things Britney Does Now That She’s Not Crazy Anymore.”
On the flip side: Some judges really do seem to care about their protégés. Blake Shelton from The Voice brought Dia Frampton, his top contestant from season one of The Voice, along as his opening act on his nationwide tour. The winner of season one, Javier Colon, released his debut single with Adam Levine titled “Raise Your Hand.” He also toured with Maroon 5 in August 2012.
America’s Got Talent could easily boast of having the least amount of drama for a room full of star judges; the outspoken, yet oddly caring Osbourne, TV veteran Howie Mandel, and crass radio personality Howard Stern have had no drama to date (unless you count when Mandel reportedly got his feelings hurt or became jealous when Stern was picked up to replace Piers Morgan).
Unfortunately, the American Idol judges sit high above the rest in the diva category: Every day, we see new headlines about who is being added to the show or who is leaving and why. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better, either. What drama will Minaj and Carey stir up by sitting at the same table for weeks on end?
No. 5: The allure of reality television in general is over.
Let’s face it: we are done with reality television like Katie Holmes is done with Tom Cruise. It is tired, it is played out, and the talent pool that America has to offer is getting smaller and smaller. Pretty soon, Honey Boo Boo is going to make an appearance on X Factor and the world will realize just how unnecessary reality singing competitions really are. Sure it’s entertainment, but it’s cheap and getting worse as each season goes by.
On the flip side: The Nielsen TV ratings show that American Idol was the No. 2 highest watched primetime TV show (including non-reality shows) with 19.8 million viewers. It was only behind the almighty Sunday Night Football timeslot, so let’s go ahead and consider them No. 1. The Voice came in at No. 9, X Factor was No. 19, and America’s Got Talent trailed with the No. 40 spot. If this doesn’t show that reality TV isn’t dying, what does?