April 26th, 2011
In principle, The Voice is about something grand and meaningful. By having the show’s judges be unable to see the singers they are judging, the show purports to finally have a singing competition in which physical attractiveness and age are no longer a driving factor. In a music competition space in which Steven Tyler objectifies young female contestants and Paula Abdul’s most lasting impression on the pop cultural space is the predication of every American Idol comment with “You look beautiful,” The Voice seeks to focus solely on the eponymous instrument.
However, The Voice is not “important.” Showing that a pretty girl with a solid voice would get noticed even when she can’t be seen, or showing that even an American Idol reject with a controversial past can still get attention, does absolutely nothing to impact society’s obsession with looks or their opinion of people who choose to sell their bodies; The Voice is not going to change America in any way shape or form, and that part of the show is somewhat cloying at the end of the day.
And yet, lest you consider me cynical, I actually found The Voice quite refreshing in that it managed this sentimentality while maintaining a sense of fun. This is not a show that will change America, but it is a show that demonstrates the value of chemistry between “judges” and which in its central conceit creates an endless stream of “television moments” that channel the series’ central altruism in ways I found charming if not as life-changing as NBC would like us to believe.
Trials and Transformations: Reflections on Watching The Biggest Loser
June 1st, 2010
I don’t entirely know why I started watching The Biggest Loser this season.
It’s not like I was particularly interested in one of the show’s gimmicks, or that I heard some positive things about the series; in fact, my one clear memory of my first experiences with the show is that I wanted to be able to offer my own perspective on the series to see if it matched with James Poniewozik’s distaste for it. I wasn’t watching because I was interested in the show itself, but rather I was interested in how it was structured, and how it was balancing its various generic elements within its two-hour running time.
However, at a certain point in the process this sort of forensic viewing pattern would have revealed all that I really needed to know: every episode of The Biggest Loser is structured the same way, so if I was only in it to discover how this reality series compared with others I could have stopped watching after a couple of weeks. That I was compelled to keep watching indicates the ways in which the series, perhaps more than any other, pushes you to keep watching until the end in order to witness the transformations, to be able to say that you saw these indiviiduals’ weight loss journeys from beginning to end.
And yet, as much as this may be what kept me watching (beyond the fact that it was recording on the DVR and made for a lazy way to start my Wednesday), it’s also a quality which is largely buried in the mess which is the rest of the show. The decision to extend the series to two hours full-time is smart in that people keep watching and NBC keeps making money, but the decision to draw out each of its moments points out the contradictions inherent to the show’s premise and forces viewers simply interested in the contestants’ progress to sit through a lot of material they have no interest in.
Accordingly, I do know why I won’t be watching The Biggest Loser next season, and why tonight’s premiere of spinoff Losing it with Jillian (10pm on NBC) will be summarily ignored based on its relationship with its big brother.
“We’re Not Working with Anybody, Ever, Anymore!”
November 22nd, 2009
When we get this close to the end of The Amazing Race, the show’s interest in its characters begins to shift. At certain points, the show allows the racers to appear as comrades, laughing together and competing against the race itself more against each other. However, by the time you get to the final four teams, the show wants every chance to pit the teams against one another in a fight to get to the end, trying to breed the sort of competitive fire that you want to see at this stage in the game.
And while most of the google hits from last week’s post seemed to indicate that the biggest piece of news from the leg was crotch censorship, the real story was the way the producers turned Dan and Flight Time’s altercation into a sign that, from this point forward, things are personal. In reality, the clip was only really edited this way (Big Easy clarified, as they did at the start of this leg, that they had no personal vendetta), but what it does signal is that all bets are officially off.
And this week, as the teams head to the Czech Republic, we realize that this season these teams are perfectly built in order to enter into this competitive stage. There is no team in this race that is what one would call a “feel good” team, and the result is that we’re effectively watching to see how well these teams are able to embrace this competitive spirit. And while this might not fit into a narrative of personal achievement or self-realization, it does fit into what makes these final legs of the race suspenseful: all of these teams are both ultimately capable of being competitive (athletic and strong-minded), but they also tend to create an enormous amount of drama in the process.
As someone who likes this competitive side of the race, I’m pleased by this, but I can see how someone looking for more of a fan favourite finish to the race may be disappointed.