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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What's the real prize?

A few Thanksgivings ago, I found myself bored out of my mind at my parents' house. I didn't bring anything down to read, so I watched a lot of TV, moreover, MTV. On one particular day was a marathon of Making the Band, a "reality" show which followed the development of a boy band called O-Town. Since I couldn't find anything else on TV, I decided to give a few episodes a try. To be blunt, this show was as funny as This is Spinal Tap, but the sad thing was, it wasn't made up.

If O-Town doesn't ring a bell, they briefly caught some waves as the boy band tidal wave between '98-'00 was fading away. They were rather embarrassing with their faux-pop/R&B and super-contrived, watered-down image (the same formula that sold millions of records for other groups) and they disappeared after the release of their second album. O-Town was a little too late for Backstreet Boys-like notoriety, but they did manage to have a couple of high-charting singles and big tours.

Making the Band focused on the group coming together, making an album, making videos, going on tour and living together in the same house. Sounds interesting, but when it's surrounding a boy band, you might want to change your mind. Seeing five young guys try to make their dreams of singing and dancing come true by bending over backwards is supposed to be interesting, right? Seeing these guys not get along and wonder why they don't have any credibility is engaging entertainment, right? Well, it's amusing at first, but it becomes very painful after awhile. The really sad thing is, these guys were playing the fool and they are all trying to find places in the real world (and I don't mean the show).

Now, former O-Town-ie Ashley Parker Angel has a show on MTV called There & Back. The premise is that cameras follow Ashley as he tries to make a legitimate singer-songwriter career. While I didn't watch the whole show last night, I caught a video wrap-up online and read Reality Blurred's wrap-up this morning. Judging by what I saw and read about last night's episode, I wonder what the real prize of being on a "reality" show is.

Maybe it's out of sheer boredom or sheer escapism, but people apparently still enjoy watching these kinds of shows. I watched (and enjoyed) quite a bit of The Real World and Road Rules back in the day, but I got burned out by it. Somehow the show (and subsequent shows like Newlyweds) hit paydirt when there was a notion of acting outrageous and/or dumb catapulted cast members into apparent fame. Sure, the person is famous, but is it the kind of fame that one really wants? Fame maybe fame, but if you're forever thought of as a one-trick joke, how could one say this was a good thing?

Reality Blurred takes a look at the reality behind "reality" shows. Reports of staged scenes, things taken out of context and personal background checks are way more interesting to me than a bunch of quick cuts and "Oh my God!" shots. "Reality" show ideas often tend to lose steam after a few seasons, but when a new one comes along that people notice, more keep coming. This isn't entertainment for me. People may think it's funny, serious and/or entertaining, but I'm not convinced.

As RB points out, MTV may very well have a hit on their hands with There & Back. Whether it is or not, I find it rather ironic that Mr. Angel has chosen to do another "reality" show. Didn't Making the Band do enough damage to him? Maybe what I believe is "damage" is supposed to be a good thing for someone. All I can say is that it isn't for me.

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