So, apparently America's Got Talent is in season. I don't watch television and I'm not really one to keep up with trends, but I know the show is on because YouTube is once again flooded with everyone and their dog's favorite clips, nevermind that NBC has a YouTube channel in addition to streaming available through NBC.com and Hulu. I've always found this very annoying, and for a time I thought it was simply because it leads to my roommate tapping me on the shoulder every few minutes to get me to look at something. However, I've come to realize this time around that my problem with the whole affair isn't so much with people reposting clips, effectively wasting bandwidth with redundant data, but with the show's format. Reality television, in general, is well-known for hardly living up to its name; between casting and editing, the producers of the show are showing the audience exactly what they are intended to see, regardless of the entrants' actual talents. It's almost a perfect echo of the old MTV criticism of having to look good without necessarily sounding good. Finding talent and creating an entertaining television show are not always one in the same goal. Bad acts get to go on to further performances for their audacity and good acts get the ax for their banality.
*Prince Poppycock is a very good opera singer (in fact, he's probably my favorite act), but I can't help but feel like he wouldn't have even gotten past the cattle calls (the auditions that take place before they get to perform for the celebrity judges) without his flamboyancy.
*At times, it feels like the judges want the contestants to beg for their own audition. Q: Why should we give you a place? A: (through tears) This means everything to us.
*The show sidelines its own contestants by occasionally cutting to their host in the wings. Showing the other contestants at least offers something of interest. Either way, it's upstaging, whether the contestants-in-the-wings are the type or not.
*I know these performers aren't necessarily actors, but between their pre-show interviews and backstage chatter, I'm convinced they couldn't sound more rehearsed if they had a dialogue coach who specialized in "Ham."
Conclusion: Cruelty. The entire show is a grand, epic-scale lesson, study, experiment, and meditation on cruelty. I don't want to elaborate on what exactly I mean by cruelty, except to say that I feel like a lofty and pretentious wastrel for every critical thought that passes through my mind as I watch these people be manipulated for the vague promise of fame that is just as likely to backfire as it is to bear no fruit. I really and truly hope each and every one of those contestants thinks it is all worth it, because I don't think I would.