Thursday, August 10, 2006

Spleen Venting - America's Got Talent

No one seems to be writing much about America's Got Talent. Okay I understand that - the show is fun in a corny Major Bowes sort of way, and they have actually found some talented people who either don't do the sort of acts that fit the formats of shows like American Idol, Last Comic Standing or So You Think You Can Dance, or are too young or otherwise prevented from appearing on those types of shows. Still I guess it's not the sort of show people want to write about. In fact I wouldn't be writing this right now except there was something that happened on Wednesday night's show that really has me ticked.

Wednesday was the show's "wild card" episode. The concept was simple - the four acts that finished second in the viewer vote portion appeared, and each judge had the ability to choose two acts that he or she wanted to see again. Brandy chose two singers, Jessica Sanchez a young girl who wasn't shown on the audition shows but made it to the semifinals only to not be one of the ten picked that week, and Alexis Jordan. Hasselhoff chose the young woman who sang and played the Irish Harp, and Leonid the Magnificent. Piers picked Bobby Badfingers (the guy who snaps his fingers - it sounds far less entertaining than it was) and N'Versity, a girl trio who had a disappointing semifinal performance.

The controversy came with one of the audience vote performances, the quick change artists David & Dania. They performed the exact same basic act that they did in the audition round and in the semifinals. In fact about the only parts of the act that they changed were a couple of dresses, the scarf that David wore when he made his change from a black Tux to a white Tux, and Dania's wig. Piers, naturally enough called them on it and in typical Piers fashion asked "Are you deaf? Are you dumb?" (a nice use of the language; although the phrase "deaf and dumb" isn't used at all in North America because of the perjorative context it's quite common in Britain; Piers was using "dumb" in it's North American definition). Dania ran off crying while David resented being called dumb and told Piers that they had a one of a kind act, that all a singer did was get up and sing a song. Hasselhoff and Brandy leaped to the defense of....David & Dania.

Here's the thing - Piers was RIGHT! They've shown the viewers a spectacular two minutes but it's been the same two minutes, right down to the expression on her face every damned time. I've seen each of their appearances and I was at the point where I could say "Here's where she gets into that one with the polka dots, and here's where he hands her the short green dress and she'll look slightly shocked, and there's the shiny confetti for the bit where she changes into that mid length gown." And that's a problem.

There's a truism in magic circles (which I learned from watching a documentary on the making of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which says "Never do the same trick the same way for the same audience twice." It's why comedians hate doing things like The Tonight Show too often; they can't repeat too much of the same material because the audience isn't just the people in the studio but also the people watching at home. The logic is the same - if you do the trick the same way a second time the audience isn't going to be fooled by the same distractions as they were the first time; in comedy they'll both anticipate the order of the jokes and won't laugh as hard because they've already heard the joke before. David is right, a singer comes out an sings a song but the big difference is that if a singer appears on a show three times over the space of three months, they don't sing the same song each and every time. They have a repetoire, and when their acts were criticised they worked to improve. What Piers was trying to tell David & Dania - and what wasn't penetrating - was that doing the same two minutes every time indicated that they didn't have a repetoire that they were a "one trick pony" sort of act, and that's the sort of thing that doesn't win a million bucks. They haven't shown any evidence that he's wrong.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to vent, no go vote in the poll.

Update at 11:30 p.m. Thursday: Apparently crying works - I didn't see the results show and all I have is (oddly enough) a report on Wikipedia, but the viewers' choice for the act to go through to the finals was Quick Change artists David & Dania. Disgusting, but that's just my view.

No comments: