Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rising Star

Unlike a lot of Americans, I have not been one to embrace the concept known as "reality TV".  The closest I've come to watching something akin to "reality TV" has been "Meerkat Manor" and "Too Cute" on the Animal Planet channel

Shows that put people in a fish bowl to see what happens like MTV's The Real World and Bravo's The Real Housewives of __________ series have absolutely zero appeal for me. Series that apply this social experimentation to a competition model such as CBS's Survivor and Big Brother just don't interest me. 

I did watch American Idol a few times when North Carolina natives Clay Aiken and Chris Daughtry made their runs on the show. And I watched an audition show once when the American Idol crew came to Greensboro NC where Ryan Seacrest described our fair city as "sleepy" and "bucolic". Trust me, I would've called up the Fox network to voice my complaints about that but it was past my bedtime. 

But damn, what a bunch of messed up people paraded past on the show. My prior exposure to Idol was near the end of a season when the last remaining contestants had at least some small measurable amount of talent. The delusional dreamers who wandered in off the street for that audition show was just, well, sad. There was one young man whose mother described as taking singing lessons all his life to make his dream come true. After the audition, momma was probably checking on exactly what sonny boy had been spending her money on because it clearly wasn't singing lessons. 

And there was the black woman with too much attitude and too little skirt who kept yelling insults from the street after Simon and company made the very wise observation that this woman's only talent was being bat-shit crazy.  

So my experiences with reality TV were limited and thankfully so. What little I saw did nothing to convince me to give these shows another look. 

So how the hell did I wind up watching Rising Star?  

In case you've missed it (and the ratings so far suggest that you have), Rising Star is a singing competition show on ABC based on a show from Israeli television.  Contestants sing behind a giant wall and the viewing audience votes via a special app during the performance. If the singer gets to a certain percentage point, the wall rises and the singer gets to move on.

As is the case with these kinds of shows, Rising Star has celebrity judges. For the American version, those judges are rapper Ludacris, singer Kesha and country music star Brad Paisley. Leading this motley bunch is the show's host, Josh Groban

My wife, daughter and I were visiting my mom. My mom is in her 70's and being up past 8:15 is past her bedtime so she turned in for the night and I started randomly surfing channels when I landed on ABC and an episode of Wipeout

NOW there's a reality show I can get behind. People doing stupid stunts on a stupid obstacle course while sustaining stupid injuries, mostly in the groin area.  Quality stuff! 

Anyway, my daughter saw the incessant promos for Rising Star's series premier for later that night and she really wanted to watch this. I guess the allure for teenager using social media to influence the course of a TV show was a bit hard to resist.  

So my wife and I elected to watch with her.  

God, what a train wreck!

OK, Josh Groban can sing the hell...er, heck out of O Holy Night at Christmas but he looked very ill at ease as the host. The show was a whirlwind blur of contestant after contestant. All of them had a story to tell, the sadder the better. One singer is missing one of her hands. Another has a child that survived brain cancer but has left her mentally disabled. Another contestant lives in a shoe. OK, a really small apartment with 17 people. I think. Not to make light of anyone's tragedy (and some of these stories were truly compelling) but it all seemed so out of "reality TV show 101". 

And the talent wasn't always there to back up the stories. I wonder if some of these contestant made the cut for the opening episodes so viewers at home would have an easier time of recognizing what suckitude really sounds like. 

From the outset, however, there was one truly outstanding performer: this guy! 

20 year old Jesse Kinch with a killer 1970's rocker hairstyle and voice that sounds like a hound from hell barely kept on a leash. Speaking of "hounds from hell", this past Sunday Jesse freakin' tore up the White Stripes, "Seven Nation Army". To be blunt, the contestants on Rising Star can be divided into two groups: a bunch of wannabe singers and Jesse Kinch. 

I have to admit watching the dynamics of the show's celebrities is a bit interesting. To be fair, Josh Groban has loosened up a bit and has developed a bit of a city boy/country boy rivalry with Brad Paisley who has a charming wit about him. Ludacris takes this gig very seriously and usually I find myself agreeing with his assessments.  

The real wild card up there is Kesha. Kesha with her too short baby doll dresses and her kaleidoscope hair who almost never votes "no", no matter how bad the performer is. There was one act, a would be boy band who had made a living working as strippers.  After a performance that should've gotten them eaten alive by meerkats, Kesha gave them a "yes" vote but only because she wanted to see if they would take off their shirts. 

Kesha is invariably professing her love for every contestant, male AND female. I think she took this gig with a side motive of auditioning sex partners. After Jesse Kinch's performance this past Sunday, Kesha was slumped in her chair in desperate need of a cigarette.  

So after years of swearing off reality shows, I seem to be following THIS one. Granted this may not be a long term investment. Trying to find write ups and recaps on the internet is not easy and Rising Star's ratings keep going down week after week. So the chances of Rising Star coming back for a second season don't look good which is a shame because ABC put a lot of money into that damn wall and Kesha is still short a few more people for her full on dream orgy.  

But for the time being, I'm following Rising Star to see where the hell this thing is going next.  

For a review of the Sunday August 3rd episode, click this link.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You 

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