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Friday, March 17, 2006

VJ Search Update: With Bonus Hasidic Reggae Commentary
Frank finally got tossed this week. Probably should have been dispatched a couple episodes ago, but the producers had to keep him around for the easy conflict. Dude drank on the job, nearly got into a fistfight with one contestant and then falsely accused that contestant of dropping the n-bomb. Only when he openly declared that his entire purpose on the show now was to cause trouble did they figure they could no longer justify his continued existence.

1. This week's challenge involved designing a t-shirt for Theory of a Deadman and then selling it at one of their concerts. I know what you're thinking: What on earth does this have to do with being a VJ? Well, I have no idea. Best I can figure this was an attempt to prepare the runners-up for their post-VJ Search careers.

2. It's sort of brilliant watching the producers paint themselves further into a corner every week. At this point, there isn't a single remaining contestant who hasn't been shown to be some kind of incompetent tool. And it's increasingly hard to imagine how Much is going to be able to present the 'winner' with a straight face - 'Boys and girls, your new MuchMusic VJ, the lesser of ten idiots!' Expect this to start to turn next week. The producers will identify a couple options and start spinning - glossing over the faults of the preferred VJs and tearing into the other contestants.

3. The show's biggest problem: Simon Cowell Syndrome. At this point, American Idol is probably the most successful reality show on television. And a lot of people assume this is because of its dominant personality - Cowell, the smarmy Brit who savages contestants each week. AI fuels this perception by dedicating its first 37 episodes to humiliating the dozens of lonely, no-talent 20-somethings who show up for the open casting calls. But that's not why somewhere in the neighbourhood of 750 million people watch AI each week. People watch AI because it lends itself to rooting for a favourite wannabe. Cowell's there for a reality check, but everything else about the show is dedicated to making the contestants into heroes - smalltown kids from Anytown, U.S.A., the sons and daughters of toothless sharecroppers, boys and girls who are just so gosh darn happy to be there because they can't believe little old them would ever be here being called 'dog' by Randy Jackson. The crowd cheers them on, the producers hit you with soft focus montage after soft focus montage and whenever someone gets voted off they're treated to an encore performance and feted like recently deceased American film stars. The minds behind VJ Search don't seem to understand this. Their only goal seems to be conflict and what they're left with is a bitchy, rather pointless program. The judges are all trying to out-Cowell each other and the contestants seem altogether clueless as to what they're supposed to be doing. In a word, this show is angry. Again, chances are the producers will start trying to reverse course next week. Or the show will proceed into an unprecedented trainwreck. To be honest, I'm kind of pulling for the latter.

4. From the press release previewing next week's episode: "All five remaining finalists fly to Los Angeles to interview CoverGirl model and actress Molly Sims. Just before their one-on-ones, the hopefuls meet former MuchMusic VJ and Sons & Daughters star Amanda Walsh for a pep talk. Then it's off to meet up with Sims. With only 20 minutes allotted for their assignment and instructions to incorporate CoverGirl into the interview, tension runs high." (emphasis mine, obviously) I know this isn't surprising in the least. I know you're terribly naive if you think a generous share of entertainment journalism functions much differently. I just want this noted in history as the moment Much finally surrendered whatever claim it ever held to be anything more than an expensive infomercial. And, with this noted, I want to be able to nod knowingly next time I flip on Much and they're airing another of those media literacy ads that asks viewers to think critically about what they're watching. That's all.

5. On a somewhat related note, can someone explain to me the motivation for a network like Much to air a series like Video on Trial (in which a rotating group of unemployed comedians humourlessly dissect various music videos, inevitably reaching the conclusion that each video sucks)? This seems completely counter-intuitive - a network that principally peddles music videos spending considerable time and effort telling its viewers that said music videos are poorly produced, generally unintelligent and ultimately not worth watching. Can you imagine Ford advertising how ridiculously unsafe its vehicles were? Microsoft touting the inability of its computers to fight viruses? This would almost never happen. Yet, between Ed the Sock (whose basic message seems to be: everything sucks), Video on Trial and, wait for it, Stars on Trial, Much seems to be building at least a good portion of its franchise around mocking the rest of its programming. I suppose this could be read as an attempt to counteract its CoverGirl cow-towing. But I have to believe that sooner or later the youth of Canada are going to ask themselves some pretty obvious question, such as: 'Why am I watching this crap? And is Much calling me an idiot for liking Usher?' Maybe Video on Trial speaks to a more worldly generation, able to laugh at itself and its interests. Maybe this has something to do with this whole 'irony' thing that seems to be catching on. Or maybe this has something to do with a new phenomenon called anti-programming that Malcolm Gladwell will soon explain to me in a best-selling book. Whatever the case, I am, as usual, completely confused.

6. On a completely unrelated note, if Matisyahu is troublesome, does that make the Milk ads borderline obscene?

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