Dancing With the American Idols

Ok, so I get it and I don’t get it.  I understand that American Idol and Dancing With the Stars are the current cornerstones of American pop culture.  I understand that 36 million people can’t be wrong.  What I don’t understand is how these song-and-dance shows became so popular in an era where the attention span of the average viewer is on par with a goldfish’s memory.  In the Golden Age of radio and the infancy of television, 95% of all programs were just song-and-dance numbers.  It was the emergence of vaudeville in electronic form.  It was the primary form of entertainment until the advent of sitcoms in the late 1940’s.  If you wanted to be famous as an entertainer, you were either a singer, a dancer, or preferably both.

But we moved on from that, didn’t we?  We had sitcoms, hour-long dramas, made-for-TV movies, Top 40, and shock-jock morning shows.  The basic form of entertainment became the fact that there was no basic form.  You could find your niche and have an audience.  This was only magnified by the arrival of the Internet.  With the internet, everybody suddenly had access.  To find an audience, one no longer has to plunk down $75 for an hour of cable-access, you can just upload your stuff to YouTube.  Case in point:

Shameless, I know.

So with all these options thrown at us competing for our spare time, how did we come back around to where it all began?  I credit (or blame, depending on how you see it) the bottom-feeding scourge of the entertainment industry, reality TV.  The first reality shows were actually entertaining.  I actually watched one full season of The Real World.  I was never a Survivor fan, but I got why people liked it.  However, once Hollywood saw that these shows got ratings while being dirt-cheap to produce, the bottom fell out.  What followed were the 3-5 worst years in the history of television.  Hundreds of “reality shows” were all thrown at us at once, most of them being nothing more than parodies of themselves.  You’re asking me to believe that a a group of young ladies would fall all over themselves to land Flavor Flav?  Really??  Don’t get me started on “Rock of Love” either.  Memo to Bret Michaels:  You’re bald under that bandana and cowboy hat and we all know it.  Three seasons of that show and he still hasn’t picked a girl, yet he’s “in it for the long haul”…please.

Then along came American Idol, and the happy median was struck.  A show that appealed to our newly cultivated voyeuristic nature as well as provided us with the time-tested form of entertainment in music.  Dancing With the Stars does the same thing.  The “stars” aren’t what drives the show, it’s the dancing.  Now I don’t watch either of these shows because I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be watching.  Do we watch these shows hoping for the people to do well, or are we secretly hoping for the spectacular failure?  The train that derails draws a bigger crowd than the one that pulls into the station.  All I know of these shows are what I overhear other people saying about them, and I hear far more stories of how people screwed up than how they did well.  I’ve never seen an entire episode of American Idol, but I know who Sanjaya Malakar is.  So am I supposed to watch for the tone-deaf wonder, or the eventual winner who inevitably fades into the pop music background within two years?

Like I said, I get it, but I don’t get it.



One Response to “Dancing With the American Idols”

  1. excellent writing, shaw! you actully do have something to say and say it very well.

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