Sunday, July 19, 2009

So you think you can wipeout on a Japanese dance talent show?

I decided to spend a rare night off last week catching up on network television.


Since when did the summer become an absolute toxic waste dump for cheesy reality shows?

Flipping around from one to the other, this is what I found:

I SURVIVED A JAPANESE GAME SHOW – Two teams of American idiots compete against each other on a Japanese game show similar to DOUBLE DARE but without the elegance. Rome Kanda is the Japanese host. Picture Crazy Eddie from his stereo stores or Sean Penn in MYSTIC RIVER. This maniac just shouts – EVERYTHING!! Even Sam Kinison backed off for a sentence or two.

The stunts are zany and wacky and we’re told on their website “hilarious”. In the episode I saw contestants had to kick soccer balls while wearing vision impairing goggles. Seriously, how uproarious is that? And then they hit beach balls off of teammates heads with golf clubs onto a grossly sticky surface while the other team had to remove the balls. And the kicker: the team retrieving the balls would get stuck and couldn’t move easily! Only a comic genius could have conceived a stunt so incredibly inspired. Contestants are slipping. The host is screaming. Tacky Japanese graphics in day-glow colors are flashing on the screen. A Japanese studio audience is doubled over with laughter at the dumb Americans, probably thinking “And we couldn’t beat these guys in a war?”

The winning team got to eat beef; the losing team went on a fishing boat trolling for seaweed. I had to turn it off at this point. My sides were splitting.

That was on ABC. Its lead-in was WIPE OUT. Twenty-four morons compete in giant Rube Goldberg-like obstacle courses, invariably falling into mud. Obstacles include such fan favorites as “Big Balls” and “Plank in the Face”. Are tears running down your face from laughter?

The only thing surprising about this show is that it’s co-hosted by John Henson of TALK SOUP. Isn’t this just the kind of thing he spoofs so savagely? It’s sad to see this brilliant satirist doing play-by-play on fat people socked in the chops by automated boxing gloves.

FOX countered with SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE hosted by British hottie, Cat Deeley. One of the judges is Nigel Lythgoe, whose claim to fame is being one of the producers of AMERICAN IDOL. How this qualifies him to judge dancing I do not know. When a group of men did an African routine he said, “Africa is a continent that puts up with so much crap but when they get together, they can really dance.”

The other regular judge is someone I’ve never heard of – Mary Murphy. Her bio on the show’s website claims she’s an “in-demand film and television star”. Oh. Okay. And it further states that she does “crowd pleasing work”. Talk about an impressive resume!

The contestants were all fine dancers, at least to me. But then I don’t have the trained eye of someone who is “crowd pleasing”. The hoofers all flew around the stage, spinning and leaping. What do I know? The women wore skimpy outfits and looked hot; the men were all ripped. No chance the zaftig girl from HAIRSPRAY would ever get past week one on this show.

During commercial breaks, the local LA Fox affiliate did their nightly news tease – showing footage of Michael Jackson with his hair on fire. It seemed to compliment the evening perfectly.

NBC aired AMERICA’S GOT TALENT, the U.S. version of the British hit show that introduced the world to Susan Boyle and destroyed her life. Like its fellow reality shows, the host was somebody I had never heard of. Nick Cannon. His bio boasts that People magazine cited him as “one of the top ten most successful young people in Hollywood”.

Huh?? For what?

The bio goes on to explain he’s “a multi-faceted entertainer: film star, comedian, musician, writer and executive producer of his own hit TV shows.”

Huh?? What TV shows???

His big contribution to the program was standing just off stage telling each contestant to “Go get ‘em, y’all!”

The judges are…

Piers Morgan (who?), the obligatory pompous British guy who apparently just won the CELEBRITY APPRENTICE show, so who better to judge talent? Prior to that he was a newspaper editor, the ideal training ground for any entertainer.

Sharon Osbourne – a complete joke, and then…

David Hasselhoff from BAYWATCH. That’s like letting Kellie Pickler determine Nobel Prize winners.

Acts I saw were a 74 year withered fungo bat dressed like Elvis doing a disco number, three Spice Girls wannabes, an AMERICAN IDOL reject, a double-jointed dancer, and a magician in a blue Phantom of the Opera mask. In other words – a freak show. AMERICA’S GOT WEIRDOS.

Meanwhile, the studio audience was not just enthusiastic, they were absolutely orgasmic over this WAITING FOR GUFFMAN level talent.

Jesus, I long for the days when networks would fill their summer hours with failed pilots, endless reruns, and Captain & Tenille specials. Has the world gone nuts? Seaweed fishing in prime time. Sharon Osbourne. Geriatric disco dancers. I should be given a $50,000 first prize check. I performed the most difficult task of all. I SURVIVED A NIGHT OF AMERICAN REALITY SHOWS.


Rory L. Aronsky said...

The only thing surprising about this show is that it’s co-hosted by John Henson of TALK SOUP.

When you have a chance, and I see it's been a while, flip over to E! and bask in the smug comedic stylings of Joel McHale. He's the host now. It's also called, simply, "The Soup." ;)

The Milner Coupe said...


Your post would be hilarious if it wasn't so fucking sad... and true. God help us all. It's really not funny how far down the gene pool we've sunk. But I'm stuck running a construction company. You're the one with the Hollywood chops. Do something for God's sake. Even if it's just shoot somebody. Thin out the herd. How many people are there that put these shows on? A box of ammo, a tank a gas, and you could save Hollywood! What's ten to twenty when it means I could start watching network television again? Quit being so selfish already.


Rory L. Aronsky said...

Also, Ken, you dodged a real bullet by missing "Great American Road Trip" on NBC. Even with headphones on in front of the computer in the living room (which is sadly next to the TV), I got Hulk-angry at this shit which was readily put on television. Two families, one from Alabama, and one from the Bronx, put on the road to go to the shrine of Yakov Smirnoff, or wherever the hell they were. Either way, he judged the "talent show" they were assigned to put on and it made me wish for those years I've heard about when networks would air failed pilots during this season. I would take any one of those, hell, I would even prefer Supertrain to be re-aired instead of that hateful diatribe against good television.

Anonymous said...

Nick Cannon is the guy Mariah Carey lets touch her vagina. He's a Nickelodeon kid, who did that Drumline movie. You know when people trying to break into the entertainment industry wonder why they can't catch a break, but they constantly see talentless jackasses make it? They're talking about Nick Cannon.

Joe said...

Piers Morgan is something of a "known quantity" in the UK. Another semi-famous-over-here Brit, Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear actually slugged him for being insufferable (and if Jeremy Clarkson finds you insufferable, that's saying a lot).

Cat Deeley is a hottie.


My WVW is -- really! -- "hostsan."

Anonymous said...

Since when did the summer become an absolute toxic waste dump for cheesy reality shows?

Haven't you been watching the other three seasons of the year? All of the shows are a shitty toxic waste dump!

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Haven't you been watching the other three seasons of the year? All of the shows are a shitty toxic waste dump!

"Pushing Daisies" wasn't. "The Big Bang Theory" isn't.

Damn. That's all I can come up with.

D. McEwan said...

"One of the judges is Nigel Lythgoe, whose claim to fame is being one of the producers of AMERICAN IDOL. How this qualifies him to judge dancing I do not know."

Nigel began his career as a professional dancer in films and stage shows. He actually knows his stuff about dancing. And he quit his position on AMERICAN IDOL to focus on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE.

Mary Murphy was also a professional dancer. Her endless ear-piercing shrieking is hyper-annoying, but she actually knows her stuff about dancing.

The third judge is different each week, but is ALWAYS a professional choreographer.

In other words, unlike AMERICAN IDOL, which SYTYCD is VASTLY superior to, these judges actually know what they're talking about, and their assessments are often quite detailed, specific, cogent, and presented in complete sentences. Okay, Debbie Allen sometimes makes weird assessments, but she's nto a regular, and she DOES know dancing. They are MILES above the idiots judging AI. Never is a dancer told "For me for you for me, you did your thing, dawg."

I really like SYTYCD. They take their dancing seriously, and as you noted, those kids can REALLY dance. You're right that the plump and the out-of-shape don't get past "Vegas Week," because you HAVE to really be able to cut the mustard to get on the show. The dancing on this show is so very, very much better than on the more popular but awful DANCING WITH THE HAS-BEENS. (Okay, dancer Brandon is my future ex-husband, and if he is unable to serve, Ade is my back-up.)

Oh, and dancer Evan (who is a Broadway, Gene Kelly-type dancer, and delightful) is not ripped, as he showed to humorous effect in that STUNNING African dance number. He can, however, tap dance like nobody's business.

All those other shows are every bit as horrible as you described, and you omitted (generously) BIG BROTHER, which I am stuck watching as I recap it for HuffPo, and which is a collection of misfits, train wrecks, and sociopaths. Man does it roast the eyeballs.

They had a competition last week that was retrieving giant Scrabble tiles from giant fake zits (Honestly!) filled with faux-pus (I am NOT making this up!) on a giant face, to then spell words - longest correctly spelt word wins - which revealed new depths of illiteracy. Only two of them actually managed to spell real words: "shotgun" (the winner) and "last." Meanwhile we had a misspelling of "continuously," and "Tectronics," which you'll note is not actually a word. The contestant explained that he was trying to spell "technotronics," which is also not a real word. (He had mentioned in an earlier show that he doesn't read books. I believe him.) The other contestants were actually unable to spell any words with their tiles at all, despite all having tiles that could spell any number of words. These are people whose score at Scrabble would be 0.

But SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, despite Nigel's occasional weird joke and odd statement (like the strange Africa comment you quoted) and Mary's horrific screaming, is actually a really good show that shames AMERICAN IDOL, and celebrates really excellent dancing.

D. McEwan said...

Oh, and for some GREAT summer viewing, this week BBC America runs the five-part 3rd season of TORCHWOOD on 5 consecutive nights, and all the reviews, plus the testimony of friends of mine who saw it in England a couple weeks ago, agree is FANTASTIC.

Unknown said...

The only path to salvation for our culture, and I use that term loosely, is a revival of My Mother the Car.

Roger Owen Green said...

The peculiar thing about summer is that ABC's burning off the shows they built up then dropped, first Pushing Daisies, then Eli stone, and now Dirty sexy Money. And not only in the summer, but on Saturday night in the summer. Talk about a final resting place.

Meanwhile, when/how/why did Saturday night BECOME a wasteland. Once the home of All in the Family, Carol Burnett, MTM. Or even Diff'rent Strokes, Love Boat and Fantasy Island, which is MUCH better trash than is out there now.

Pat said...

Ken, you're absolutely right about "America's Got Talent" being a freak show. And it's because that's all it's meant to be.

My wife is a professional singer, and in my objective opinion, a fabulous babe with a fantastic voice, perfect pitch, and some really clever original material. When "AGT" came to our city for auditions, she received a personal invitation to audition the day after open, stand-in-line auditions. I saw the other names on the email list and spotted several friends of ours who are among the most talented, award-winning musicians and theater talents in the Southwest.

Well, she went to the audition, they seemed to love her, but we never heard back. Then we watched the show and discovered they had accepted someone she met, who had auditioned just after her. Turned out he was a complete, tonedeaf joke who was brought on solely so they could ridicule him. Neither my wife nor any of our extremely talented friends on the invitation list were accepted. It was a farce.

I talked to a producer friend in Vegas who had the exact same experience: she flew an act she repped halfway across the country at her own expense for a requested audition. They performed brilliantly, then were rejected in favor of some pathetic losers. "Freak show" was the exact term she used to describe it. She now warns every performer she knows to avoid this show like typhoid.

But then, what can you expect from a show that lets Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and David Hassellhoff decide who has talent? They're all living arguments that talent has nothing to do with show business success.

bevo said...

"Nick Cannon is the guy Mariah Carey lets touch her vagina."

Um, no. Nick Cannon is Mr. Mariah Carey, which could require some talent. However, until we have proof, this marriage is more likely fraud than real.

Unknown said...

My nine year old LOVES wipeout.

Not refuting the post, just pointing out that it does appeal to someone.

benson said...

Question for you alls in the biz...
How much of this toxic waste dump is due to the bad economy, and how much is due to the continuing de-evolution of the entertainment industry and society in general?

WizarDru said...

Just a point of law: the 'I Survived a Japanese Game Show' ISN'T ACTUALLY A JAPANESE GAME SHOW. It's an American production company desperately TRYING to be a Japanese game show and getting it wrong.

"Majide (which is Japanese vernacular for "For real?!"), the show-within-the-show, is not an actual Japanese game show, but is intended to resemble what a stereotypical Japanese game show is like."

Yeah, they fly them to Japan...but even the host is based out of the US and it's all done for appearance's sake. It does resemble a Japanese game show in cosmetic ways, but seems to have been inspired more by 20 year-old shows...and the tone is completely different.

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rinaldo said...

I agree with everything D. McEwan said about So You Think You Can Dance (including acknowledgement of the annoying habits of the two regular judges, who are nevertheless very knowledgeable in this field). Unlike A.I. and other such competitions, these kids arrive at the top 20 with a substantial skill level.

In addition, Cat Deeley is not only a "hottie" (I guess), but a really excellent host. I would (somewhat to my own surprise) put her on the Phil Keoghan level as having all the skills needed for this sort of thing (no sneers intended; many are abysmal at it): bright without pushiness, tactful and supportive, humorously self-deprecating. SYTYCD has been one of the few items that make summer TV bearable (in its way it does provide a throwback to the old song-and-dance summer shows), and I'm rather sorry they're moving to a fall schedule.

John said...

Fifty years ago, Warner Bros. had Daffy Duck being beaten up by an old lady and run over by a motorcycle trying to win big TV game show prizes. Cartoon parody a half-century ago; reality today. Too bad the new stuff isn't as entertaining.

Dylan said...

John Henson hasn't been brilliant at anything for like 8 years. Since Talk Soup he's had a failed movie and a 2 episode run on My Name is Earl.

So, yeah... not surprising that he'll take what he can get at this point.

Anonymous said...

I too agree "So You Think You Can Dance" is head's above all the others. Mary Murphy is annoying as hell, but she does have a CV that at least gives her some legitimacy.

Most importand about this show is Cat Deeley. I'd be willing to watch her comment on a game of rock-paper-scissors. She's got a quick mind, has unique taste in clothes (she claims to no longer use a stylist), and ha squite attractive.

Mike Bell said...

The wife of a friend of mine tried out for "Wipe Out."
she said the insurance release was the size of a small telephone directory.

Emily Blake said...

So You Think You Can Dance is the real deal and Nigel Lithgoe is too. I don't think it should be included in the same category as I Survived a Japanese Game Show.

danrydell said...

I actually enjoy watching Wipeout. It's a guilty pleasure, an hour of slapstick silliness. And Henderson and Anderson are pretty good at the quips.

Not everything has to be Deadwood.

Tom Quigley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Quigley said...

bevo said:

"Nick Cannon is the guy Mariah Carey lets touch her vagina."

Um, no. Nick Cannon is Mr. Mariah Carey, which could require some talent. However, until we have proof, this marriage is more likely fraud than real.

Actually, I think the arrangement is that Nick Cannon lets Mariah Carey touch HIS vagina... It was in their wedding vows...

Ben Scripps said...

Next time you find yourself with a night off during the summer and long for the "good old days" of rerun/failed pilot/specials seasons gone by, remember this:

"The Brady Bunch Variety Hour" and "Pink Lady and Jeff" are both available from Netflix.

Brian Phillips said...

We can all lament the sad state of television, which has ALWAYS had it's share of foolishness and paucity of original thought. A peek at a 1958 Fall Preview issue revealed over ten westerns debuting that year, plus a game show in which people sat in chairs not unlike the Mad Hatter's Tea Party ride at Disneyland. We haven't sunk, we just haven't raised. There is always good TV, you just have to look for it.

For late summer entertainment years ago, I found stuff like the following link MUCH sadder:

And lest you think that this is confined to San Diego, wiki "Sister Boom Boom"

Cap'n Bob said...

I'd love to see those ten westerns rerun.

Anonymous said...

TV is competing with cats on YouTube. Not cats with any special talent like playing the piano, just home videos of cats, or a kids pretending a golf club is a light sabre, or driving home from the dentist, or whatever. So its not surprising that TV is becoming YouTubed in response. When I was a kid, TV was knocked for dumbing down America, and now the internet is dumbing down TV. If MASH, Cheers, or West Wing were pitched today, they'd have to go to Cable.

Jim said...

If you want to see Nigel Lythgoe dancing back in the days, then watch this clip. He gets a close-up about 1 minute in. And that's the sort of stuff that was showing on prime time, Saturday night in the UK, thirty years ago.

Vermonter17032 said...

As someone who has been in advertising and marketing for three decades I've got to ask one question: WHAT F*@KING IDIOT WOULD WANT TO ASSOCIATE HIS PRODUCT WITH THIS CRAP? Seriously! How do they get advertisers? Can it be the TIME-LIFE box set of Peter Lemongello's greatest hits?

Kirk said...

I liked it when they used to show failed pilots in the summer. I could pretend I was a network executive, and decide which ones I'd give the green light, and which ones I'd give the red.

I really know how to make the most of my free time, huh?

Anonymous said...

They should be showing the failed pilots and let America Vote! Don't they do that on some other show???
The pilots have already been paid for, they might as well let us decide which one we like.

Unknown said...

Don't hate me for saying it goes on all year round. And how did A Charlie Brown Christmas get to be an hour?

underfus -- new line of insult underwear

D. McEwan said...

"Rinaldo said...
Cat Deeley is not only a 'hottie' (I guess), but a really excellent host."

My SYTYCD comment was already so long, that I omitted and mention of how excellent a hostess Cat Deeley is. She's roughly 100 IQ points above Ryan Seachrest. Normally there's no one that bores me more than a TV presenter who's only claim to being on TV is being pretty or being married to a network exec (Chenbot, I'm looking at YOU), just there to be vacuous eye-candy, but although Cat is gorgeous, she is not vacuous, nor even annoying, but is in fact smart, classy, and is known to give the judges occasional bits of stick that are far more fun than Ryan's tiresome trading of gay-innuendoes with Simon Cowell.

In short, Cat Deeley is terrific.

Glad to see that I'm not alone in my SYTYCD love.

And I am not disappointed that they're going to do a fall season. (they're doing the fall auditions now, in between broadcasts of the current shows) More is more. And it deserves a fall spot. And it doesn't mean there won't be a summer edition next year.

James said...

summer's a great time to pick up one of the "classic" novels you've always been wanting to read, read it, and then pretend to all your friends that you liked it.

Matt said...

Nick Cannon is the guy Mariah Carey lets touch her vagina.

You know if that were a show, I might watch that.

Michael Zand said...

I'm glad some of your rose to defend SYTYCD. It truly is great TV show. The fusion of the different schools of dance along with the new and amazing choreographers they have every season is advancing the art form in a way it never has before. The dancers also are more amazing every year. The grace, athleticism and creativity on display ever week make this show the real deal.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

"Not everything has to be Deadwood."

No, but everything, at least this subgenre of television, could at least try to be remotely good. All the praise so far for SYTYCD is spot-on.

"summer's a great time to pick up one of the "classic" novels you've always been wanting to read, read it, and then pretend to all your friends that you liked it."

Reading? What? What does that entail? ;)

Roger Owen Green said...

Kirk Jusko said..."I liked it when they used to show failed pilots in the summer. I could pretend I was a network executive, and decide which ones I'd give the green light, and which ones I'd give the red."

Yikes, so did I. And occasionally I'd say, "That was better than what the networks DID pick up last fall!"

Anonymous said...

The first time I saw a promo for "Wipeout," my reaction was, "Oh, it's 'Most Exteme Elimination Challenge' (later simply 'MXC') with American contestants. Pass."

Currently, my appointment shows are "True Blood" and "Weeds," with "Hung" coming up fast and "Entourage" hanging in there. "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" is taking me two tries per episode to get through this year, and I can't put my finger on why.


Z said...

I'm surprised you hadn't heard of Nick Cannon, Ken, and not for his tabloid relationships.

He did the LA stand-up scene as a teen (Improv, Comedy Store, Laugh Factory) and snagged a role on Nickelodeon's version of SNL, All That, before getting his own spin-off show. He's starred in a handful of movies, of which Drumline and the Can't Buy me Love remake I'd think you would have been familiar with. He hosted a MTV improv show, Wild 'n Out which wasn't completely terrible.

Before his meltdown, Dave Chappelle had a great recurring bit where Nick Cannon kept getting all his work -- and the love/respect of his kids.

He was actually pretty great in an against-type supporting role in Bobby a few years ago.

Jan said...

It seemed to compliment the evening perfectly...

Surely you meant complement.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

"He was actually pretty great in an against-type supporting role in Bobby a few years ago."

It helps when he doesn't have to think for himself.

Diane said...

When I've had a rough day at work I sometimes watch Wipeout on It makes me laugh. And sometimes when I'm folding laundry I get sick of watching Nova. Sad, but true.