Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Reality Sucks ...

Last night I watched a dreadful TV show called “Last Comic Standing.” The claim – appealing to afficionados of standup like me – is that new comic faces vie in the show to be recognized as the best comedian among a large batch of hopefuls. I would love to see dueling standup comedians delivering their routines, trading witty insults, one-liners and quips, but the fact is that most new comedians have less than ten minutes of material, and few of them can think on their feet like Robin Williams.

I did get to watch three people deliver three-minute routines, but I'm afraid Last Comic a Reality Show, so mostly I watched people agonizing over whom to kick out, and heard many maudlin asides and expressions of hope from the feeble cast.

Finally it hit me: Reality TV is NOT Amateur Talent TV. Television had a bunch of amateur talent shows in the past (and I hope they will never come back). Reality shows are different; they are not about people doing things really well, rather about people having a hard time with other people.

At one moment in the show I was greatly embarrassed, and I hope you will not laugh too hard at me when I explain: the three comics delivered their jokes to a theater audience of hundreds. At the end, the MC needed to find out which comedian they preferred. I expected him to ask everyone to clap in turn for each contestant, with an applause meter showing who got the loudest claps. Well that's the way they used to do it on TV, in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's ... . Instead the theater was wired, every seat having a voting box with three buttons. Every audience member pressed a button for their preferred comic, and the results of this secret ballot were instantly tabulated. Of course!

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