Thursday, April 06, 2006

Unanimous Dissent

It strikes me as somewhat ironic that the thing that draws many viewers, at least at first, to American Idol is the idea of seeing Simon Cowell being mean to the contestants, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and basically everyone and anyone. It's ironic because, Simon notwithstanding, Idol is one of the very few so-called "reality" shows that doesn't revel in bringing out the worst in its participants. Idol is a celebration of talent and music and the joy of performance and of acheiving your dreams and other good crap like that rather than a celebration of greed, deceit, treachery, jealosy, manipulation and other of the worst traits of the human animal.
Yes, I finally decided to, as Jack Bertram put in a comment last week, "take one for the team...and watch that show" last night. If you read my post of last Thursday, you know that I went in to watching Unanimous with certain preconceived notions. You know, it's always nice when your prejudices are confirmed; it makes the world seem to make sense, if only for a little while. Just as I suspected, the whole thing is, in fact, another pointless exercise in manufactured "conflict" designed to bring out the worst in the contestants and appeal to the worst of the viewer. I mentioned Big Brother, a show I actually like, on Thursday and there certainly are similarities. You could say that Unanimous is BB on steroids. The "participants," as they are referred to, are completely isolated from the world in an underground bunker and must chose, by a unanimous vote, thus the name, which one of them walks off with the prize money.
That's the basic idea, but there are other "twists" that are revealed each time they vote and fail to agree. I sort of suspect the rules are being made up on the fly by the nerdy looking guy on the screen who gives the participants their instructions and counts the votes. (A note to the producers: No amount of reverb is ever going to make this guy's annoying voice sound ominous.)
The main problem with this show is the so-called "participants." They are the worst group of unlikeable, unsympathetic losers, liars, lunatics, and total jerks ever assembled for a "reality" show. On Big Brother, there are usually a few likeable people among the jackasses who I can actually root for to win the cash, although they almost never do. Here, however, there is not one single person to root for. None of these idiots deserves the money, or the 15 minutes of fame they're getting from this show, or my continued viewing of them and this degenerate spectacle.
In a comment on Thursday's post here and on his own blog, the author of Two Minute Trek suggests that the "game" is a ruse and that everyone but Steve is an actor, and not a very good one at that. Sure, that has been done before. I don't remember the name of the show, but it was on Spike-TV a couple of years back, though, in that case, the viewers were let in on the gag, which is not the case if Unanimous is as Two Minute Trek suggests. But I don't think it is.
First off, I think if they were going to use professional actors, they would have hired good ones. Now, while the participants on Unanimous may not be professionals, they are acting. There's some scientific truism that states that the act of observing something changes the nature of that being observed. I believe it's called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. I'm not sure of that, because I'm a cartoonist not a scientist, but whatever its called, it is a real thing. No where is this more true than on the so-called "reality" shows. People just act differently when they know they're being watched and even more differently when they are being watched by cameras. Its jsut human nature. By now, everyone who participates in a "reality" show has seen all the others, from Big Brother to Survivor, and knows how the genre works. Thus, the participants on Unanimous are acting, even Steve. They are acting the way that they believe people on these shows are expected to act and casting themselves in roles within the game in keeping with the rules of the genre. If they overact, if their performances seem a bit over the top it is precisely because they are not actors.
Anyway, next week I'm turning off the tube after the Idol results show. I shall not be watching this dreck any more and, as Mrs. Slocombe of Are You Being Served? would say, I am Unanimous in this.


Jack Bertram said...

Thanks Ray for taking one for the team. You've satisfied my curiosity and kept me from having to watch it myself. You have performed a great duty and a public service.

I agree with you and that Heisenburg theory thing. People are acting on reality shows.

twominutetrek said...

Great post. I also believe most people act differently when their being observed--I mean, it's rare the person who doesn't.

I still think they're actors, but that also leaves me with your point of why wouldn't they hire good actors. But on the other hand, they didn't use the most appealing host--on top of being nerdy, he's just a bit overdramatic.

Completely agree on the show being another degenerate spectacle. The most popular types of shows right now seem to be "reality" shows (bit of a misnomer) that require dramatic and hurtful conflict to be effective and crime shows. What happened to the days of the Cosby Show or Family Ties for evening TV? Course occasionally PBS does well--I like Are You Being Served.

I'm not a he though--I'm a she :-)