Seeing as how the first one of these went over pretty well, I wanted to do another one. This one will focus on a different aspect of lazy entertainment: the cyclical life span of music and reality TV. Do not get me wrong, I love some reality shows. In fact, my life would not be complete without Cupcake Wars.
Delicious confections aside, most of reality TV is the fast food of entertainment. Permit me to explain: fast food is cheap and fast to make, and it gives basically no nutritional value. Reality TV is just this. It is extremely cheap to make, has a very quick turnaround time, and gives practically nothing back to the culture of America. The main reason that reality TV keeps getting made is that, compared to scripted TV, reality shows cost only about 60% as much money to make. You do not have to pay for writers or their ilk, so there is some saving there, too. Also, most of the people who are featured on the show make very little compared to real actors. Well, until they become famous for bad behavior. Case in point, Jersey Shore. When this piece of mind-numbing trash first hit the airways, the “cast” was paid five grand per episode. That is not great, but it’s decent just to get filmed being a mostly-classless douche. Consider now that during the third season, the cast was each paid $30,000 an episode. Let that sink in. $30,000 an episode at fourteen episodes comes to just shy of four million dollars. That is insane. However, considering the rabid popularity of the show, that is peanuts compared to the ad revenue, so the producers of the show are basically rolling in cash thanks to millions of vapid viewers.
I do not mean to hate on people I do not know personally, but I feel very strongly about hero-worship of people who represent the base of humanity. Pillars of adoration should be reserved for people who have done great things for the betterment of mankind: Ghandi, Curie, and Gates are people who are worthy of such rabid appreciation.
Another lazy trick that reality TV employs is changing the venue so that suddenly it is a new show! This actually works with some competition shows. Survivor would be lame if it were in the same place season after season. The difference between Survivor and, say, Real Housewives of Who Gives a Shit is that Housewives shows all of their different episodes concurrently. They promote that it is a completely different show, even though it basically boils down to “rich ladies who dislike each other. ”
The other trend that I cannot believe has not died yet is the singing competition show. I mean this not because they are necessarily bad, but because they are everywhere. The Voice, American Idol, and America’s Got Talent are just on the network bands. If you want country, there is a show for that; if you want a hip-hop group, there is a show for that; and, if you want yodeling, well I am sure Bavaria’s Next Yodel Star will be brought into syndication just as soon as it finishes its run. Basically, it is so prevalent that I am sure the market would have been saturated by now, but I underestimate the love that people–myself included–have for watching aspiring stars.
This leads me to the laziness of the music industry. Shows like The Voice and American Idol are gold mines to the record companies–not only the companies that get the winner but to the other companies that snatch up the finalists. The finalists have an established fan base thanks to the show, so the companies rush to get a bunch of fairly generic songs on an album and shove it out in the months after the finale airs. It is a shame, because some of the people who come out of those shows are real talents and they have a bit of an albatross around their neck if they ever want to do something on their own.
It also seems that the music industry works on cycles. In the 90’s, you could not escape the sweet sounds of the boy bands. N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, and 98° were dominating the airwaves. They were full of different archetypes of characters to round out the group. The different types of boys were important to the idea of the boy band. It was set up so that the squealing fan girls could choose the type of boy they wanted. Did they want the tough one like AJ of the Backstreet Boys, the crooning front man like Nick of 98°, or the fat one like Joey from N’Sync…wait…his last name was just Fatone. Nevermind. Anyway, they cultivated different personalities to get girls to choose. It was the 90’s version of the team phenomena that the Twilight book spawned.
Now the boy band is back. The Wanted have had some major hits that I even enjoyed–despite knowing they were a boy band. The newest boy band is One Direction. They are a group that was put together on The X-Factor, a singing talent show like the ones I talked about earlier. They all auditioned separately, but were put together like some British Isles Justice League. The idea of British (and Irish, I know Niall is from Ireland…and he is super dreamy) boy bands got me thinking of the British invasion of the 60’s. Most of the bands that emerged from that time were all males that had the same fan base: teenaged girls. Then I thought about the fact that they cultivated the same archetypes that current boy bands do. John was the edgy artistic one, Paul was sincere and tender, and George…well George was just a badass. There was even a boy band created for TV. The Monkees were basically a fake music group that came from a TV show. Sound a little like One Direction? Basically, as things change more and more, they really just stay the same.
To wrap up, I want to give praise to some of the wonderfully scripted TV out there. NBC has some serious gems in Community and Parks and Rec. These shows demonstrate how good TV can be when you put thought and time behind them. It may cost more and be more labor-intensive, but they give so much back to the audience. NBC, keep doing it right; and, for the love of all things holy, KILL WHITNEY!!