Want to hear something really scary?
I've talked on here many times about The Slammer, the CBBC talent show set in a mock prison. I have to say "mock" because anytime I describe this show, to anyone, they think it's real and start talking about how disgusting the British penal system must be for such a show to be produced. In contrast, whenever I describe the movie Afghan Star, a very real documentary looking at the most popular TV talent show in Afghanistan, the same people say "This is a mockumentary, right?"
I'm sorry, but what does that say? What kind of world must we live in when the idea of British prisoners being released via a talent show is more plausible than Afghanistan having a talent show at all? Are reality TV talent shows that horrific? Well...yes, just watch Platinum Hit.
The first thing you should know: Platinum Hit is a songwriting competition, not a singing competition. The second thing you should know: Platinum Hit doesn't follow the American Idol model of live broadcasts from a studio and viewers voting; rather, the show follows the Project Runway (for example) model of contestants completing challenges in different locations and the judges having the sole say in who wins.
Got that? So in the first episode, twelve aspiring songwriters with incredibly high opinions of themselves meet up somewhere in Los Angeles with host Jewel, who gives them each thirty minutes to write the chorus of a song about the city of Los Angeles.
After a brief segment of everyone working on this, Jewel brings everyone back together and introduces them to the judges: head judge Kara DioGuardi, regular judge Trevor Jerideau, and guest judge Jermaine Dupri. These judges declare four of the resulting compositions better than the other eight, and each of those four "challenge winners" gets to pick two other contestants to work with on turning that chorus into a whole song within eight hours (edited down, of course, to maybe twenty minutes).
At the end of the show, the songs are performed, and the judges declare one of them worse than the other three, meaning the three contestants who worked on that song are in danger of elimination. After some discussion with the contestants and each other, the judges pick someone to go home. That's episode one. If you must know, the winner after weeks of this will apparently receive $100,000 and some sort of contract.
So what? Well...like I said, these contestants have really, really, high opinions of themselves. One appears to think he is the reincarnation of Elvis Presley; another states that now that Michael Jackson is dead, he is the current King Of Pop and no one else can come close. Indeed, probably the only thing that can top the egos of these contestants is...well the harshness of these judges, though I suppose they have to be (and no, no one is really talented either). Making this even more "entertaining": the contestants appear to not be able to stand each other. Frankly, I'm guessing they were chosen as much for their ability to create good drama as for their ability to create good songs...and either way, the producers failed.
I realize that I am being just as harsh on the show as these judges are on the contestants, but what am I supposed to do? There are game shows I adore that are built around idiotic premises, but at least they're silly and fun to watch. Even a show like American Idol, which I know I should hate, manages to be hypnotically entertaining. A show like Platinum Hit, on the other hand, makes me wonder what reality TV is really doing to us.
I really should just stick with game shows...but when The X Factor comes along...