Thursday, January 9, 2003

When Stars Fall From Sight... This Is Where They Crash (Sometimes As Many As Fifteen Years Later).

While I'm taking a break from taste-testing microwave popcorn, searching through my closet for my hallowed "television pants" (a dubious invention that, by some definitions, isn't even considered pants) and de-lousing my couch all in preparation for tonight's premiere of The Surreal Life on the WB, I thought I'd take a second and share some thoughts about it.

You see, VH1 and E! and other clever networks of the sort have done something truly incredible: they've actually trained us to be interested in starts before or after they're even stars. It strikes me as miraculous that anyone anywhere ever convinced anyone to be interested in another person--the whole notion of celebrity completely mystifies me. That said, I can at least appreciate interest (my own interest included) in "celebrities" during their tenure on my television screen, or in my CD player, or in my books (ha! books!), but I'm totally absolutely blown-out-of-the-water confused that I'm been taught to be fascinated with the lives of ex- or pre-famous people. What the fuck?!

    Ex-Famous People shows I like:
    Star Date - I watched the Kim Fields one and I loved the hell out of her.
    Behind the Music - Constantly begging the question, Behind the Music tends to succeed more often at showing us all what's next to the music, or on top of the music. That said, have I ever missed one? Of course. Am I proud of that? Of course not.
    True Hollywood Story - True Hollywood Stories sometimes make me nostalgic for when I was super rich and spoiled and irresponsible.
    The Surreal Life - TiVo is all set up.

    Pre-Famous People shows I like:
    Survivor - I don't care what anyone says; I'm a Survivor nut. Anyone who tells you differently either doesn't know me or is lying to you.
    Joe Millionaire - This show was every bit as awesome as I hoped it would be. I think there needs to be more bickering. More bickering and more explanations about how a "construction worker" only makes $19,000 per year.
    Sorority Life - I hated college. And I'm happy to watch someone else hate it. After all, what else would I watch--music videos?
    American Idol - I didn't think Kelly was going to win, but I was really glad that she did. Way to go, Kelly!

        (I remember hearing once, and I'll never remember who said it, that having so much choice is essentially like having no choice at all. For example, I have hundred of channels to choose from. I've got all this "choice" but what does it translate to? I've in essence lost the freedom to choose not to watch. This show was a lot like that for me: "Wow! I've got all these people to choose from to be my American Idol? How will I ever decide?" And I never even had a choice as to whether I thought I needed an American Idol or not.)

I guess what makes me sad is that, I like to watch the ex-celebrity shows and convince myself that these people are happy not being famous. These shows like to paint ex-celebs as being poor and hungry and desperate for any attention they can get. And I, like all Americans, enjoy that picture; I like believing that these people who were once mega-famous and had everything in the world are now just groping for any attention I might be able to spare them. Of course, I usually tend to believe that it's just a creative and fun fiction, and that in reality these people are well-adjusted and back to being normal people.

Then Danica McKellar shows up on The West Wing.

Then Hulk Hogan starts pitching 10-10- numbers.

Then a show like the Surreal Life comes out, and it becomes less and less a "creative and fun fiction" and more and more real, and therefore, more and more sad.

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