The “Fix” Factor or just the “Hate” Factor?

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

                  So here I am at home on a Sunday night after a busy weekend of work and a lunch meeting in Covent Garden today. I’ve allowed myself to get mildly interested in “Strictly Come Dancing,” which in America is known as “Dancing With The Stars.” “Strictly” has been getting beaten up in ratings the last few years when running directly opposite “X Factor,” which will be coming to US next year. So this year, even though they both run on Saturdays, with a “results” show on Sunday, they’ve staggered the air times and “Strictly” has been doing better. Tonight I watched the results of both shows, and the surprises were much greater in who was voted off than who stayed on.

                     On “Strictly Come Dancing,” 63-year-old Ann Widdecombe, a Conservative Party member of Parliament from 1987 until her retirement in May of this year, has chosen to put herself up for humiliation each week, as the judges have a field day tearing her apart. This is a woman who conducted herself with dignity in Parliament, being a devout Catholic and admitted virgin, but because her moves on the dance floor are similar to those of a beached whale, suddenly those 24 years of public service become trivialised. This week, one of the judges gave her a 1 out of a possible 10, and her cumulative score from all four judges was a whopping 13! Yet it’s the viewing public that makes the final decision, or so we’re led to believe, and this time veteran actress Felicity Kendal, one year older than Widdecombe, but truly working overtime to produce some kind of magic, was sadly voted off the show.

                       No better is the US counterpart, “Dancing With The Stars,” and the embarrassment is Bristol Palin, the daughter of former Alaska Governor and probable 2012 presidential candidate Sarah Palin. This is the daughter who had to announce that she was pregnant out of wedlock while her mother was campaigning for Vice-President espousing extensively a “family values” ethic. She is equally as inept a dancer as Widdecombe, but it’s been more than hinted that “Tea Partiers,” who worship at the altar of anything with Palin’s name on it, are finding ways to vote multiple times, thus keeping Bristol on each week. Probably didn’t hurt that Sarah made an appearance on one episode.

                          On “X Factor,” it’s Wagner Carilho, a 54-year-old Brazilian, who, no matter how much he immerses himself in big production numbers surrounded by a bevy of suggestive dancers, can’t disguise the fact that he is virtually tone-deaf. The judges become lost for words in trying to find something nice to say each week when he vocally butchers a classic tune. This week he annihilated three Beatles’ songs in one fell swoop. His mentor, Louis Walsh, has to keep running through a cornucopia of synonyms for “fun” when he tries to praise his pathetic contestant. Yet each week, Wagner (and he makes a point of correcting the judges to pronounce it “Vog-ner”) not only survives, but has never gotten a low enough number of votes to be in the bottom two, thus he hasn’t been forced into a sing-off. If/when he does, he’s gone, for it would be up to the judges, and common sense would finally prevail.

                          I’ve refused to watch “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” just for the vitriolic reaction it seems to bring from its audience. Most of the “celebrities” are has-beens looking for one more go-round, and there’s always one that immediately incurs the viewers’ wrath. This year, it’s Gillian McKeith, a self-proclaimed health expert. On her show “You Are What You Eat,” she’d humiliate chronically obese people for their eating habits, having them give her a sample of their shit for her to analyse on national television. She went public about her aversions, mostly of anything having six legs, and it seems as though every fat person in Britain is seeking revenge. On every episode, since the viewers decide who must go through the so called “bushtucker” trial, it’s McKeith who’s having to eat worms or koala penis on a near-daily basis to earn meals for the rest of her group.  

                       There’s plenty of columnists who deride these shows as something akin to throwing the Christians to the lions, but what may even be worse is, as displayed in the above shows, the public’s apparent desire for that sort of humiliation. The more annoying the contestant, the more the public seems to want to see them on each week. Widdecombe, Bristol, Wagner, and Gillian stay on their respective shows despite massive criticism from the voices of reason. But is it the public that’s making this decision? Every week that Wagner is announced as “safe,” large pockets of the studio audience boo. The hosts purportedly read the results, but the paper they’re reading from could just as easily be results from the race track.

                           It’s hard to make the firm accusation, but the TV programmers aren’t that stupid. No way are any of the above contestants going to win their respective competitions. That would look too obvious a fix. But to keep them in just long enough until the joke stops being funny is in a way, a stroke of genius. Most important is determining when it’s stopped being funny. However, it would be funny to see what Simon Cowell would do if saddled with Wagner. No lemonade out of THAT lemon!          

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