h1

Manufactured Moment

June 15, 2007

Call me Little Johny Raincloud, but I’ve had another day or two to think about that cell phone salesman who can sing like Pavarotti. I find myself thinking a lot about the manipulative power of television, and about how this is ultimately one of the reason I don’t watch anymore.

The TV show sort of invites you to believe that this guy is just some lovable loser phone salesman who sings in the shower but never had the nerve to let anyone else hear him. (“Confidence,” he confides to the camera, “has always been sort of like a difficult thing for me.”) We’re also invited to believe that nobody knew what was going to happen when he opened his mouth. (“So you work at Carphone Warehouse, and you did that. I wasn’t expecting that, Paul” says a judge.)

But think about it. What are the odds that someone who can sing like that has never sung publicly? Don’t you imagine that he studied music in college, or at least has a long history of appearing in community musicals or something? This guy has been heard by people, even if he’s not a professional singer. If we assume I’m right, isn’t it manipulative that the show very studiously omits this part of his background?

And what are the odds that nobody knew he could sing? After all, he had to try out for the show, right? The producers knew exactly what was going to transpire. It’s not that big of a leap to wonder if the judges may have known, too.

Look, the guy can really sing. And it’s amazing that he isn’t a professional. But the presentation is very carefully constructed to create this moment, to create this emotional peak. And it’s artificial. This is, I suspect, the dirty little secret of all “reality” TV: it’s not real.

What do you think?

Advertisements

No comments yet

  1. I agree . . . in part. No question, most of “reality” TV is manipulative. Whether it’s through careful selection, specific set ups, and crafty editing, any viewer can be made to believe any number of things about the people who appear on the shows. You’d hear this about MTV’s The Real World all the time. I don’t watch most. Unless they do involve showcasing some kind of actual talent. The chef shows are one, and anything with music. Often you do come across rare and real talent.

    As for whether this guy HAD to have studied or performed . . . not necessarily. First, he was very good. But I wouldn’t go comparing him to Pavarotti quite. And, it happens. I know of a number of people who have better than average talent of some sort and . . . just because, and for various reason, haven’t made the big time. Also, in some cases, the talent is natural. WHich is often better than someone who has studied for many years.

    But, you’re right. There’s every reason to doubt the sincerity of it all. Even the guy himself . . . could be a huge act, so to speak, to fool us. But, who cares? We’re still entertained.


  2. I was happy to believe it and be uplifted about it for those 4 minutes.


  3. I agree. When I was watching it, I kept thinking that it was staged—too many key camera shots and comments. And obviously the guy has had substantial voice training. Too slick to be true.


  4. He had some formal training years ago, but he then ran out of money:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11107944
    I don’t think there’s any deceit in his story.


  5. It’s storytelling. You imbellish some details, you omit others. You craft something that is emotionally moving and inspiring to people. Who wants to hear about the nitty gritty?

    Take a look at the real story behind Rudy Ruedigger from the movie “Rudy” if you really want to be let down and decieved. See if you can find the article that says that he was an ego-maniac that saw his own movie over 20 times.


  6. It’s storytelling. You imbellish some details, you omit others. You craft something that is emotionally moving and inspiring to people. Who wants to hear about the nitty gritty?

    Take a look at the real story behind Rudy Ruedigger from the movie “Rudy” if you really want to be let down and decieved. See if you can find the article that says that he was an ego-maniac that saw his own movie over 20 times.


  7. Wow. I’m getting way OT here, but this discussion reminded me of this and I had to find the article.

    http://espn.go.com/page2/s/merron/021202.html

    Of course, I didn’t see the part about him going to see the movie over 20 times, maybe that was just hearsay or I made it up in my head. Either way, his name is actually “Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger”


  8. Yeah, I think they’re miling this for all it’s worth. I saw on some YouTube comments that the guys studied and was professionally trained. But for whatever reason, he has found himself selling cell phones rather than singing for a living. If you had a voice like that, would you want to sell phones for a living?

    Maybe the show will be enough to get him into signing full-time. SO, in that respect I think it’s still “legit”, even if they are leaving out some background information about him.

    As for reality TV overall, I watch little to none of it. One show I really like is The Biggest Loser because those people actually have to improve themselves in order to win it. They cast the show very well, with good down-to-earth people.

    But 99% of reality television is actually occupied by wannabe actors and models. Did anyone ever wonder why so many of them work as bartenders and servers full-time? It’s because they’re all looking for that big break. Reality TV gives them some exposure.


  9. I enjoy some of the talent shows, mostly the singing shows because they involve a genuine talent unlike a show where the one that can eat the most dead animal parts without puking wins or whoever is the biggest double dealing snake wins.
    I saw some of one episode of ‘Survivor’ from the first season and it seamed like survivor by a governmental red-tape committee, so contrived, formulaic and pointless yet it was both awful and lame. Really I could hurl insults at it some other “Reality” shows that I have seen for many paragraphs but I will spare whoever reads this.

    David really nailed it on the comment about wannabe actors populating a lot of the “reality” shows, that is an old tradition going back to at least the 60’s on shows like ‘The Dating Game’ and ‘The Price is Right’ and other game shows. Whenever you see one of those shows about stars before they were famous they show some old clips of them as a contestant trying to win something but it was fame they really wanted to win, to be “discovered” by some producer or agent who either watched television or trolled the studios for fresh faces.

    Singing shows like American Idol not only have a lot of real talent but I think that the best thing about them is that they end up showcasing some people who would not even get a foot into most (all?) music producers offices due to physical appearance like crooked or chipped teeth like Elliott Yamin(A.I. season5) and the opera fellow in this clip or for being “too fat” “too nerdy” “unattractive” “unpolished” cross eyed and all those other things I could not care less about when I am listening to them on my CD or iPod for F$% sake. Melinda Doolittle and LaKisha Jones (my favorites from season6) would not get the chance to helm their own albums without a break like American Idol. Melinda would continue to sing backup for other people who “have the right look” and LaKisha would never be heard at all outside of her local church. Every season there have been “nobody” performers who prove to be better than a lot of well known pop performers who I can’t bear to listen to.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: