Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Little Big Shots

Whenever I go to a foreign country where I don’t speak the language (which is practically every foreign country), I love to turn on the TV in the hotel and find some bizarre local game or reality show. They always have a neon rainbow-colored set with a super manic host, insane bobblehead contestants, and a studio audience absolutely orgasmic – laughing, howling, cheering, whistling – going bonkers over every little thing that is said and done on stage. What are they guffawing at? Why are they applauding like crazy people?  I walk out of the hotel and everyone on the street seems calm and normal but on TV they’re all Jerry Lewis.

Yes, I watch as a goof. It’s Pee Wee’s Playhouse with a studio audience of Mountain Dew addicts. But for all my dear foreign readers, please allow me to return the favor. For sheer frenetic idiocy, I invite you to come to the United States, check into a Holiday Inn, and watch LITTLE BIG SHOTS.

This is a new show on NBC that airs on Sunday nights and is quickly becoming a breakout hit. I weep for America.

Child prodigies come out, are interviewed by Steve Harvey, and then perform their “talent.” All the while the studio audience is convulsing in laughter over every interview question and answer, and cheering every second during the performances. Most studio audiences in TV studios have applause signs. This one must have a “Come unglued and have a complete mental breakdown” sign. Again, what are they laughing at? Why are they applauding? At least the international shows speak foreign languages. But here it’s in English and I’m still completely befuddled.

Talking to kids is not a new concept. Art Linkletter hosted KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS for years. Bill Cosby, when he wasn’t committing felonies, did the same thing. Both hosts were terrific at it. Steve Harvey is so impressed with himself that interacting with the kids is an intrusion. All he’s interested in is getting laughs – for himself. Linkletter and Cosby understood that they were straight men for the kids. When Harvey isn’t delivering a lame one-liner he’s mugging shamelessly, stealing every Richard Pryor expression he can remember. LITTLE BIG EGO.

And the adorable cherubs are so precocious you want to hurl. These are truly every smug, stuck-up, teacher’s darling kid you ever loathed in elementary school. Yes, I know I’m a jaded old curmudgeon and the show’s a big hit so I’m clearly out-of-step, and who cares what I think anyway? I expect I’ll get some flack in the comments section. But Jesus! A little girl who yodels? A six-year-old who dances? A nine-year old torch singer? Am I the only one who finds the success of this utterly absurd? Remember when Arsenio hosted STAR SEARCH? It’s the same thing!!! No, it was better. No one watched that show. That’s what they get for not showcasing yodeling.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The six-year-old dancer was on because a YouTube video of her hoofing with her pregnant tattooed mother went viral and 36,000,000 people watched it. But that’s America. On any one night you can watch LITTLE BIG SHOTS and then THE GOOD WIFE. I don’t have to tell you which got the higher ratings.

Yodelayyyheeehooooooo.”

37 comments:

Rob Hoffmann said...

It's a good concept. Like you said, it would work with a host who gave a damn about the concept and not putting himself over.

But that's most TV these days. Good concept, poor execution.

B.A. said...

NBC fills the week with this junk because they got NOTHING. The potential audience is binging on Netflix shows, not missing network TV at all.

Peter said...

Steve Harvey, the creationist who said evolution isn't real because he doesn't believe the universe "spun out of a gastrous ball".

Sounds like his show is by idiots FOR idiots. Much like everything else he's done in his miserable, no-talent career.

Peter said...

By the way, I saw a trailer last night on TV here in the UK for a comedy show called Angie Tribeca starring the lovely Rashida Jones. I'd never heard of it but it looks hilarious and will tune in when it airs. Have you watched it, Ken, or any fellow readers?

ODJennings said...

Nothing beats Hogan's Heroes on German TV in the afternoon.

What makes it great is that whoever did the dubbing into German seems to have done it almost completely at random. Hogan will speak in German and Sgt. Schultz will answer (in heavily accented) English, and then in the next scene Schultz will be speaking German and Hogan will be speaking English. If there's an internal logic to it I've never been able to decipher just what it is. All I know is that it's 10X funnier that way.

Markus said...

For what it's worth, the seemingly typical American urge to push your kids to the max and involve them in all sorts of terribly important contests and competitions (because, for sure, the children like it and want it themselves...), particularly when it comes to power-dads and sports or high-strung moms with beauty pageants for ages 2 to 8 or so, is something that frequently invokes raised eyebrows and shaking heads outside the US. I imagine this is something similar.

Stephen Marks said...

"Little Big Ego", lol, ouch! We have the same type of show up here in Canada called "Tiny Talent Time", just a locally produced program so not as manic as the one Ken described. There are about 12 parents in the audience giving polite golf claps after every tap dance routine and a host who is stiffer then Ed Sullivan encased in cement introducing a plate spinner. Damn things been running for 20 years drawing from a talent pool about as deep as a thimble.

A. L. Crivaro said...

I'm so glad you made a post about this. For some time I've been sitting back and, subconsciously, growing more and more repulsed by the Monster that has become Steve Harvey. Which is odd, because I used to LIKE Steve Harvey, back when he stayed to his little corner of television that was Family Feud. It was funny. HE was funny. And it was an inoffensive way to spend 15 minutes to a half hour in the break room at work. NOW? Good grief. First, I think, he started doing some afternoon, pseudo serious talk show in which, from the few-second glimpses of it I could stand before turning away, I gathered he was trying to position himself as some sort of new Oprah. THEN came his big mess up at the Miss Whatever pageant--which, granted, I believe was an honest mistake. NOT SO, however, was the IMMEDIATE capitalization of that mistake (or, in other words, WORST MOMENT IN THAT WOMAN'S LIFE) which was him appearing in some commercial for some product PARODYING what had happened at the pageant! And now... lord help us... comes this shameful display. Yet another incarnation of Kids Say the Darnedest Things, only this time, they're using child prodigies--most of whom, I'd wager, are the subjects of parental abuse. Yeah, lets all yuk it up... Give Harvey another round of applause (AND more money)... him and his shiny new horse teeth...

Roseann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tudor Queen said...

You won't get flak from me for not liking "Little Big Shots" - I like it well enough that if my husband, who loves it, is watching, I'll sit with him for a few minutes. But 'liking' something is so completely subjective that I never argue with someone who's actually given something a try and decided it wasn't their thing.

I did want to say, however, that I like Steve Harvey quite a bit. I've seen several of his shows and always find him entertaining. I think he hosts "Family Feud" very well, and I've enjoyed his talk show when I've seen it.

norm said...

Well, it's LITTLE Big Shots or reruns of MASH, Cheers, Taxi, Everybody Loves Raymond ---- notice not any current shows in that mix. I'm just sayin'!

Pat Reeder said...

The phrase "nine-year-old torch singer" pretty much sums up everything that's wrong with the current pop music world.

I've never seen this show, thank God, but it sounds like nothing new. Hal Roach created Our Gang (aka The Little Rascals) after suffering through one too many cutesy "professional kid" auditions, then looking out his office window at some regular kids in a vacant lot, having a very entertaining argument over which one of them was the rightful owner of a stick. One of the best of the shorts has Spanky and the Gang signing up for a radio talent show with their amateur band and suffering hilariously through a long parade of painted-up, over-rehearsed stage kids.

This has been going on so long, I can't help wondering if Sophocles had to deal with a throng of stage mothers, insisting that their child was such a brilliant talent and loved his mom so much that he'd be perfect for the role of young Oedipus.

Griff said...

You absolutely nailed this, Ken. A trainwreck of a show that Newton Minow could not have imagined...

Andrew said...

I don't care for his more recent incarnations, but when he was doing comedy years ago (as in The Original Kings of Comedy) he was hilarious.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Peter said...
By the way, I saw a trailer last night on TV here in the UK for a comedy show called Angie Tribeca starring the lovely Rashida Jones. I'd never heard of it but it looks hilarious and will tune in when it airs. Have you watched it, Ken, or any fellow readers?


Hi Peter. The show premiered here in the US a few months ago and we binged watched all the episodes (I think there were 10 or 12).

It's very funny. If you've seen "POLICE SQUAD" TV show (or the Naked Gun movies) then this is basically a copy of them. In fact, I believe you'd recognize a borrowed few jokes and gags.

Basic stupid humor that works.
We look forward to season 2 sometime this summer.

J Lee said...

The audience is probably in a maniacal frenzy in anticipation of Steve Harvey announcing the wrong winner at the end of the show.

H Johnson said...

I couldn't agree more. These kids aren't prodigies, most of them are exactly as you describe, precocious, irritating, future assholes. When they brought up the five year old mayor of some backwater town and the kid asked the audience to be quiet, that was the end for me. I'd already watched what seemed like minutes of the show and it was a lifetime's worth.

Steve Harvey? I'd much rather watch Kenan Thompson doing Steve Harvey. Way funnier.

Aloha

ELS said...

And I have to wonder... does Steve Harvey know that he's not Richard Pryor? I mean, seriously. I guess "The Steve Harvey Show" in syndication is Steve doing Oprah, but that's not quite so cloying and irritating to me.

But knowing who the real star of the show is shouldn't be that hard to figure out. Sorry, Steve... you make yourself a star by recognizing your role in the show.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I don't feel the passion of your argument, but I appreciate the writing. Nice work.

David G. Whitham said...

I must be doing something right, because I haven't heard of this show until I read this post.

Mike said...

Anonymous@11:25AM: That's an after-sex quote: "I didn't feel the passion, but I appreciated the technique."

John Hammes said...

>> Stephen Marks said...
>> a host who is stiffer than Ed Sullivan encased
>> in cement introducing a plate spinner.

So apparently Ed did not die after CBS cancelled his show: he just moved to Canada.

Then again, Jack Carter referred to Ed's series as "... the only live show with a dead host...", so maybe Sullivan did both.

Peter said...

Bumble Bee

Thanks. Looking forward to it.

thirteen said...

I was sitting in the waiting room of my local auto dealer, waiting for them to finish whatever they were doing to my poor car, when the TV lit up with somebody called Wendy Williams. I'd never seen the show before. The audience did nothing but scream from beginning to end. It was literally non-stop. I still wonder if they had to mop the floor afterward.

SharoneRosen said...

I've seen the promos. I gagged a little

blinky said...

Was Mr Harvey the original inspiration for Mr Potato Head...or the other way around. Seriously the similarity is striking.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Finally, I know how to spell a yodel. If only I had a kid whose birth certificate I could put it on.

Myles Warden said...

Geesh so much hate for Steve Harvey. Lol. It's not a genius concept but in a world where people watch youtube videos all day why not take some adorable youtube kids and let them say a few adorable (and sometimes rude yet funny in an awkwardly shocking way) lines and laugh. Plus we talk so much about how kids these days don't do anything so watching talented youth dance, sing, play 5 instruments, etc is a little refreshing and provides some hope. And it's an Ellen coproduction so for those who aren't fans let's place some blame on her too. Lol. It's basically taking directly from what she does on her show with random Internet kids and provides a whole hour for them instead of the 10 minutes she gives them on her show.

Jim said...

I guess I'm leading a sheltered life. I'd never heard of this show before I read this post. Just as well. I'd never watch it, anyway. I've never been a sucker for cute, adorable moppets. From the Little Rascals to Shirley Temple to every pre-adolescent who ever bogged down a sitcom with snappy, wise-cracking one-liners they don't even appear to understand, they're all useless to me. I had a co-worker who was bad to send YouTube clips of performing children she always thought were just way too cute not to be shared. Usually along the lines of some four-year-old girl screaming her way through "Over the Rainbow," with a flood of comments about how precious the little darling is. If I want to hear somebody sing "Over the Rainbow," I'll play a Linda Eder CD, thank you very much. I have no interest in listening to your tone-deaf brat screech her way through it. Finally broke my co-worker of that habit, and none too soon. She doesn't share those clips with me anymore.

Dylan Walton said...

Hey Ken, love your work. Friday question here.

After your effusive praise for Doris Roberts yesterday, I wondered that if, in a perfect world, you were given the opportunity to cast a sitcom with your own dream team, who would you choose? Who are the first half-dozen picks in your "sitcom draft"? (Still alive, or all-time living or dead. Your choice.)

sanford said...

As Mencken said no one has ever gone broke under estimating the gullibility of the American Public. And Harvey is probably laughing all the way to the bank.

Buttermilk Sky said...

ALL studio audiences are encouraged to scream and howl, possibly by men with cattle prods. It's why I stopped watching the late-night boys.

LITTLE BIG SHOTS, California "Psychics," Donald Trump...anybody seeing a pattern here?



RCP said...

My Mom recommended "Little Big Shots" to me but I didn't feel compelled to tune in so can't comment on the show itself. I will say that I find some child prodigies remarkable and endearing but others insufferable. I like Jackie Evancho but was tickled when she sang Puccini's 'O Mio Babbino Caro' (I'm hardly an opera buff but love this particular piece of music) at age 11 or 12 as it involves a woman who is begging her father to let her marry the man she loves or she'll jump off a bridge. There's a YouTube video of a pre-teen Dutch girl who also sings it on Holland Has Talent (or whatever the show is called). Your comment about the nine-year-old torch singer brought this to mind.

Myles Warden said...

I 2nd this question even though I feel like it's been somewhat answered in another form before.

Barry Traylor said...

When my daughter was in Middle School she loved to watch THE GONG SHOW (who remembers that gem of low brown entertainment) I was appalled at this show so I guess this is in the same vein.

Greg Ehrbar said...

I've always liked Ellen and enjoyed her show for several years. It's nice when a person truly finds a perfect niche and thrives in it. But the screaming, WOOOOing audience really becomes piercing, perhaps because it's too frequent and lacks variance. It has become a problem on a lot of shows, where the intent is to "keep the energy level up" but the result is so forced it's not much different than a laugh track. (Remember when the "audience" would applaud at the end of each "Dennis the Menace?" They loved it.)

Listen to the audio on Frasier. You have what amounts to a symphony of voices, just as well cast for their vocal talents as their on-camera ones. The audience responds naturally, with varied tones. I don't know if there was any sweetening, but if there was, it was masterful, as was the series itself.

So enough with the screaming and WOOOOO-ing. And this is coming from someone who owns every album by Alvin and the Chipmunks.
http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/alvin-the-chipmunks-presidential-campaign-record/

Jahn Ghalt said...

NBC had a game that I watched recently during which they promoted this show. The promo was fair warning, but thanks Ken, for another.