Monday, June 19, 2006

"Reality" Watch: The Pride of Britain

If the Fox TV network were your only contact with the outside world, you could easily be forgiven if you were to come to the conclusion that all British men are obnoxious jackasses. This may not be the case in real life, but on the network's so-called "reality" shows it most certainly is true.
The prototype is, of course, American Idol's Simon Cowell. A large part of Idol's appeal comes from watching Simon lay waste to the dreams and aspirations of naive hopeful young singers. Perhaps his popularity speaks to some essential mean-spirited in the American people...or perhaps not. Such conclusions are better left to sociologists rather than media critics.
The nicest of the bunch is So You Think You Can Dance's Nigel. He can dish out the venom just as well as Simon, but it seems his heart really isn't in it. It's almost as if he tosses out the occassional put down simply because he feels it is expected of him as Dance's answer to Simon. Perhaps a quota of insults per episode is in his contract.
Hell's Kitchen chef Gordon Ramsay, on the other hand, positively revels in his obnoxiousness. He knows he's a jackass and he likes it that way. Unfortunately, he is missing the one element that makes Simon bearable: a sense of humor, both about himself and his show.
These three make me nostalgic for aTV show that featured a kinder, gentler, and far more likable example of British manhood: Fawlty Towers.

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