So I was all set to talk about the magic of Glee (the Britney/Brittany episode 99% of the Northern Hemisphere tuned in for) when along comes a petit “scandal”. I sincerely hope (and there’s always an 85% chance) that I’m totally missing something here, but I’m flummoxed by this Michael Bolton/Bruno Tonioli debacle on Dancing With The Stars. If you’re not familiar with the sitch, judge Tonioli remarked that Michael Bolton had done “the worst jive” in the ballroom dancing show’s history. (Bolton was also eliminated, BTW). For his part, Bolton called Bruno’s comments “inappropriate and disrespectful.” Okay. Let’s put the car in rewind here. A cursory Google check to this “event” revealed that no less than 367 news outlets picked this story up, thus finding it somehow newsworthy. And they actually go on to talk about the show’s producers needing to utilize “spin control”. Really. Really? Now in the past I’ve suggested that perhaps if we were to leave those in the spotlight who are battling various demons alone, at the very least we’d feel a little bit better about things. Maybe demonstrating a teensy bit of compassion for those caught up in an already toxic environment wouldn’t kill us. Plus, my biggest gripe with American Idol is the way in which “ordinary” folks wind up leveraging their homes, worldly assets and spawn — only to endure what I see as some of the roughest beratement imaginable at the hands of the keenest, sharpest bully of them all: Simon Cowell. This seems especially pernicious because in the end he is a creature of Hollywood… and the rest of us? Not so much. He’s playing ball in an entirely different league. Most importantly, he knows that every drop of venom spewing forth from his lips is a delicious little dollar sign, from which more and more dollars are just waiting to mint themselves as millions of delighted viewers hang on his every nasty word. The guy’s a genius, and there will always be zillions of genius-free types who suffer tremendously at his hands. But again, this is entertainment and if we (as a culture) didn’t welcome this kind of programming, we wouldn’t watch it, and it would go away. But we do, we so so do, so it stays and now it’s a way of life. No one ever tried to develop a reality show that wasn’t fundamentally a competition and nowadays the most exciting competitions are those that are hardest fought (and therefore hardest won). So here’s my (roundabout, longwinded) point. In fact, it’s not even a point – it’s a pointed question: Why on earth should Dancing With The Stars be any different? Why should one of the most popular programs on TV be targeted because someone was doing his job who knew that audiences everywhere would love it if he stuck it to someone? (Particularly if that person might actually have sucked). Why is this even considered newsworthy and picked up by respectable tabloids and legitimate time-wasting periodicals? If Simon Cowell had said something disparaging about Michael Bolton’s singing in a competition, would anyone even have batted an eye? Of course not. So why now are we busy scampering onto the high moral ground because a ballroom dancing competition judge – known for his florid language and generally effusive personality – may have inarticulately articulated something that may even have been true? It’s shocking – and now commonplace — to have situations with frequently down-on-their luck people getting the short end of the stick on reality TV. We think it’s humorous when they get ejected from the race. We look upon them with scorn because from the comfort of our deepest darkest living rooms a) we know they deserved it and furthermore b)we probably could have done it better ourselves anyway –only no one asked. Yet, when someone goes after a Grammy-winning multimillionaire with seven hundred platinum albums who’s hardly hoping to transition into a dance career anyway, we get all indignant. This is insane. We try to censor a judge for saying what everyone else was probably thinking. Oh, and what about the fact that it’s his job? Now, when they start airing Dancing Politely and Maintaining Etiquette With The Stars (which premieres this summer) then we can get all bent out of shape about Bruno Tonioli. But until that time, maybe we should just stash those Double Standard Playing Cards right back into the Trapper Keepers where they belong and leave that guy alone. For all I know Bruno’s an utterly reprehensible creature who’s set ballroom dancing back a thousand years. Still, he’s entitled to earn his keep.
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