January 08, 2005

TV: Wickedly Perfect and The Will

More mediocre reality shows from CBS.

Wickedly Perfect and The Will sum up all of the things that people hate about reality TV. The competitions are contrived, and in the case of The Will, borderline offensive; the people are all chosen solely for "entertainment" value, which is to say obnoxiousness.

Wickedly Perfect gives us a dozen would-be Martha Stewarts competing to be the "next great stylemaker." All of them are bitchy and unpleasant, and from the little we've seen of their crafts in the first episode, none of them are particularly creative or talented. The show itself isn't bad enough to get upset about, but it's never terribly interesting, either.

The Will is worse. Here, we get a 71-year-old rancher who can't decide which of his family members should inherit his estate, and so is putting them through a competition; one person is "cut from the will" each week, and the surviving contestant wins it all. (Unless, of course, Bill decides to change his will at some point; can't imagine how the show could prevent him from doing so.) The show, apparently unable to round up enough actual family members, has as part of its "family" Bill's best friend, one of his wife's employees, and his stepson's ex-girlfriend.

Each show has, to its credit, come up with a relatively novel way of determining who's eliminated each week. Wickedly Perfect requires its players to compete in team challenges while also completing individual projects; the judges -- stylist David Evangelista, chef Bobby Flay, and author Candace Bushnell -- choose the winning team entry, then choose the two worst individual projects from the losing team; those two are the people who are subject to elimination by their team. The Will has an "inheritance chain;" the potential heir who wins each show's challenge chooses the person he wants to save, then that person chooses someone, and so on, and the last person chosen is the one "written out of the will."

The problem with shows like these (and from earlier in the week, Who's Your Daddy?, which was a ratings flop -- Hooray!) is that people look at them and use them as an excuse to condemn all reality TV as exploitative trash; it's like condemning all novels because Danielle Steel is a hack.

The best reality TV -- Survivor, The Amazing Race, Bravo's new Project Runway, or non-competition shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy -- is carefully made entertainment, and every bit as worthwhile as the best scripted TV.

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