June 07, 2005

TV: catching up with reality

The summer reality onslaught continues...

NBC's Hit Me Baby One More Time was surely among the year's most depressing hours of TV. An assortment of pop music has-beens -- in the first episode, we got CeCe Peniston, Loverboy, A Flock of Seagulls, Arrested Development, and Tiffany -- are trotted out to sing one of their hits and a cover version of a more recent hit. (In most of these cases, "one of their hits" is inaccurate, implying as it does that they have several from which to choose.) The audience votes on a favorite, and that act's favorite charity gets some money.

Why was it so sad to watch? Partly because whatever talent these folks had when younger has almost entirely disappeared, partly because so many of them have let themselves fall to pieces physically. I'm quite sure, for instance, that when Loverboy was popular, the band's lead singer had only one chin. But mainly because they're all so damned desperate to be popular again that they're willing to stoop to something this pathetic and degrading.

This may be a minority view of the show, apparently, as it drew quite a large audience; I'm hoping that everyone else was as horrified by the spectacle as I was, and that the ratings this week will collapse.

Over at ABC, we find The Scholar, in which ten high school seniors compete for a full-ride 4-year college scholarship. It's a feel-good show, designed to appeal to the audience that loves Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and it is nice to see a show with the goal of doing good. But the competitions are a bit too dry to be interesting, and the show's a bit on the bland side.

And finally (for this roundup, at least), the Food Network gives us its search for The Next Food Network Star, in which eight contestants compete for their own show. Well, nine contestants, actually; gay couple Steve and Dan sent in an entry tape as a team, and are competing as one of the eight finalists.

Right from the start, the contest is clearly designed to find a TV host; the challenges test not only food knowledge and skills, but TV skills as well -- the ability to work on-camera, to deal with unexpected problems, to project an interesting personality. If you're not already a Food Network fan, you probably don't have any reason to watch this, but if you are, it's reasonably entertaining.

Still to arrive this week: CBS's Fire Me, Please and The Cut, which Tommy Hilfiger tells us is not a ripoff of Project Runway. Really. This show about designers competing for the chance to produce their own line is completely different from that show, which was about designers competing for the chance to produce their own line. How could we have gotten them confused?

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