OPINION — We all have our guilty little pleasures, weaknesses that are a bit embarrassing but, nonetheless, harmless.
One of mine is that, well, as much as I hate reality TV, I’ve been known to watch lame talent shows like “America’s Got Talent” and “American Idol.”
I don’t really expect to see anything of real substance because these are, for the most part, untrained, inexperienced entertainers with usually minimal amounts of talent looking for that golden ticket to stardom. Sort of like Willy Wonka meets Ted Mack’s amateur hour.
Almost without exception, once they punch that ticket, they get their 15 minutes of fame then, just as quickly, fade into obscurity. I mean seriously, whatever happened to Ruben Stoddard?
I’ve seen the jugglers and the clowns do their tricks for us, the acrobats, the comedians, the dancers and the singers, all reaching for the stars and a $1 million payday.
The only two who have really cashed in, and cashed in on a major financial level, are Terry Fator, the ventriloquist who came to stardom through “AGT,” and “Idol” alum Carrie Underwood. Some, like Kelly Clarkson, have achieved moderate success. And some, like Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert, purposely trashed their final performances so they wouldn’t be stuck in a contract that allows the suits at some record label to control every professional step and breath they take, using instead their exposure on the show to launch what have become modest careers.
One of my favorite games to play while watching these shows is to try to figure out how some of my favorite performers would fare.
I mean, could you imagine what the judges would tell Bob Dylan, Tom Petty or Neil Young if they appeared on “Idol?” What about Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart or Mick Jagger?
They’d all be bounced faster than you can say “Harry Connick Jr.-Keith Urban-Jennifer Lopez,” guaranteed.
The rappers, hip-hoppers, metal heads and alt-indie musicians?
See ya later.
Even the self-proclaimed genius Kanye West would, deservedly, end up with a bus ticket home.
With his forever-young boyish charm and a voice that has held up for more than a half-century, Paul McCartney would probably do well. A young Elvis Presley would also probably fare well. I say “probably” because, well, you never know how those who vote for the winners on these shows will react.
I mean, while it’s clear that America’s got talent, the American TV watchers really don’t, which is why a guy who swallows stuff then regurgitates it made it to the finals on “AGT” this year, which supports the notion that you’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence and taste of the American public.
Art is one of those things that is highly debatable and one of those topics, alongside politics and religion, that is sure to cause an argument in polite company, which we really haven’t seen in quite some time now, anyway.
Good art, however, is somewhere out on the edge.
It can be disturbing, it can be shocking, it can be confusing because good art doesn’t come all wrapped up in nice little boxes that are tied up with pretty ribbons and bows.
It’s often gritty and unpolished, which is why Rascal Flats would kill Willie Nelson in one of these shows. Willie is just too raw, too real, too deep. Those other guys? Too polished, too manufactured, too superficial.
Safe, clean, not too edgy and with a modicum of talent, the talent show winners prove that mainstream Americans rarely push the envelope.
Yes, it’s true that Bob Dylan has sold a lot of records over the years. So has Tom Petty, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Ozzy Osbourne and even Kanye West.
But, when you look at the numbers in proportion to the American population, very few have taken more than a modest slice out of the record-buying public pie. When push comes to shove, Americans tend to play it safe.
That’s why there’s a very good chance that in about a year, we are very likely to see a presidential final between Jeb Bush and Joe Biden.
They’re both very polished, they both speak well and, almost as importantly, they both look presidential, a factor that weighed heavier in the minds of voters who cast ballots for Mitt Romney than anything he said from the podium.
Candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders can resonate well with voters over the short run, but as the clock ticks down and we’re forced to make a decision, they will probably not get the nod because they are just too out there for most people.
But, what would happen if at the end of each so-called debate, viewers were told to call 1-800-VOTE-DON, 1-800-VOTE-HIL, 1-800-VOTE-JEB or 1-800-VOTE-JOE to determine who would go on to the next round?
I’m not sure who I would pick as the celebrity judges, other than offering Simon Cowell the moon just to hear his critiques.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear him tell Trump, “This wasn’t your best performance because it lacked depth and the issue was too complicated for you to grasp,” or to advise Bernie Sanders that “I just don’t get it and I don’t know if America will, either.”
I’m not sure who I would suggest as host, although I would probably opt for a co-host team with representatives from each side — perhaps Bill Maher and Bill O’Reilly — ready to hand a check for a million bucks and the keys to the White House to the winner as confetti and balloons drop from the ceiling while the band plays on.
Oh, wait, that’s pretty much what happens at the conventions.
Still, it might be slightly more entertaining than watching 12 trained monkeys dance the mambo on the Radio City Music Hall stage.
But, considering what these candidates would sling at each other in the process, a lot messier to clean up.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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