Sunday, July 05, 2009

America has talent?

In anticipation of moosebutter appearing on AGT, I have been skimming the shows with Tim after they air (I can't bear to watch them with Ads!). Now I remember why I don't watch stuff like that.

I have several issues with America's Got Talent, and I thought I'd get them written up before moosebutter has a chance to appear on the show, just so you know this isn't a response to how and if moosebutter is portrayed.

Here is my first beef with the show: The judges. David Hasselhoff is openly a lecherous drunk. More lecherous than drunk. I am seriously offended by his response to women. If you've seen the show, you know what I mean. It's beyond tolerable. Beyond "men love beautiful women." When he says, "Now that's what I'm talking about!" because a beautiful girl walked on stage in a bikini--and didn't even do anything else--it's too much. And that's when he's being nice. The man drools on the air. It's disgusting. And offensive. The other male judge, who isn't Hasselhoff, says at least once an episode (sometimes twice or more) that the act he just saw is "the best thing I've ever seen!" They can't ALL be the best. It's linguistically impossible. But he has nothing else to say about the acts--either they're the best ever or they're terrible. No in betweens. What kind of judge is that? And tell me, please, what ANY of them have as qualifications that make judge talent? Having a talent doesn't makes you qualified to judge that talent. Wouldn't it be more legitimate to have producers, agents, critics, or directors judge? Or people who mount shows in Vegas, if that's what the prize is?

Here's my second problem: People have talents, and people think they have talents, and it is NOT our business to mock them. And the show exists to mock people--sometimes people who legitimately have dreams and aspirations, not just people who are on the show to intentionally be outlandish. It's more than "gee that's mean." I think it's WRONG and unhealthy for a society to get pleasure from destroying other people, even if the other people "asked for it", "invited it", or "knew what they were getting into."

Another issue: I don't think it's okay to put kids on a show like that. Kids aren't emotionally mature enough to handle it, the prizes are inappropriate for children (a show in Vegas? Seriously?), and whether they are praised or criticized, it's not good for them. Very few children come out of show business happy they got in. On top of all that, the children are not judged by the same standards as the adults, which isn't fair to anyone. If we could make a parallel--American Kids' Got Talent--and modify the show to not destroy children (either by inflating their egos or by crushing them when they should be coddled), it would be fun to watch all the kids do their things. It's not that I'm opposed to children performing. It's that I'm opposed to children being used for ratings and put into adult situations. That's not right.

And finally, the prizes. The show really pushes the "Million Dollars and a chance to perform in Vegas". They say it half a dozen times per show. What they don't mention is that the prize listed in the paperwork is a million dollars distributed over 40 YEARS (in other words, not a livable wage by any stretch, even for a solo act--you do the math). No mention of a show in Vegas. Why? Because it's not a Show in Vegas you get. It's a chance to perform in Vegas. And I'd wager the finals are going to be filmed here, in Vegas, like they were last year. THAT is your chance to perform in Vegas.

Not a showcase in front of producers. Not a headline act at even a small theater or casino. Not a 3-year, 3-million-dollar contract that Terry Fator's agent worked out for him--AFTER America's Got Talent released him from his contract with them because they couldn't get that good of a deal for him. Not even a solo performance. Not even a solo performance as a piece of another Vegas show.

They present this all like they are "making the career" of someone with a million dollars all at once and a headline show in Vegas, and that's not what they're offering. And, in fact, that's not what they're looking for, either. I'd say 70% of the acts they put through to the semi-finals (and, in fact, were in the finals in previous years) are not even shows that would be mounted in Vegas. Ever. How many cute kiddie bands are there performing here? NONE. Most of the shows are in venues the kids couldn't even get into! Nobody comes to Vegas to see a family bluegrass group (they do go to Branson for that...but Branson is swamped with that). Or a classical trio. Or an opera singer (although Il Divo is here for a performance. Not a run. Just a performance). Nobody comes here to see an 11 year old with a big voice. They just don't. Vegas exists to entertain David Hasselhoffs--lecherous drunks who want to get rich quick gambling and use women as objects instead of people. BUT that kind of act doesn't make good TV--and 11 year olds with big voices do.

And here's what I wish people would understand:

1. Anyone who makes $25,000 a year will have a million dollars in 40 years. TEACHERS do that. Better than that, in fact. People who get that kind of yearly salary are on Medicaid and food stamps. Despite what most contestants seem to think (and the show's producers push) the "million dollar prize" won't change most people's lives or even allow them to quit their day jobs to pursue their passions--especially after the government gets ahold of their portion in taxes!

2. ANYONE can perform in Vegas. Just walk into town and sign up. There are dozens of open mics available every single week. Some begging for people to fill the time. Some even provide an accompanist. Seriously. If you want to perform in Vegas, make a few phone calls and JUST DO IT. And producers are hanging around in town looking for new acts. Careers are made here. But NOT from appearing on a TV show. Especially with an act that isn't appropriate for Vegas audiences (no matter how cute the little girls playing the electric bass are).

3. You don't have to be "discovered" to have a career in entertaining. You don't even have to be that good, although you can't be terrible. You just have to do your time, get the education, and work your way up. Just like in any other career, except the entry level pay is worse (close to $5,000 a year) and it takes 10-15 years of hard work to get to livable pay. But a career in entertainment ISN'T fortune, fame, and the 'easy life'. It's insecurity, no health insurance, hard work, bad hours and worse food, a disconnect from community, and rough on families. It's lonely, frustrating, unstable, hard work. And, despite what you see on stage, most musicians are still treated like second-class citizens. Even by their families and friends, who are always waiting for them to "grow up" and "get a real job" (flipping burgers?). It's a career of being unemployed, making other people happy at the expense of your own stability (and often happiness). It's not a career I would wish on most of the people who are trying to "make it big" through America's Got Talent.

Fortunately, one last thing (which most people don't realize when they watch the show)--most of the people you see are NOT backwoods hopefuls. Many (dare I say most?) are actually struggling professionals who have already played Vegas and are using the show as a stepping stone. Why? Because word around town lately is that you can't get a long-term contract here without national TV exposure, and America's Got Talent is one of the easiest ways to get that--and it's legitimate even if you lose.

1 comment:

Becca Jones said...

Tim tells me I got my facts wrong: Fator landed a 10 year, $100 million contract.