Last Sunday night, at a time when the grim and devastating news of the Colorado shootings was still emerging, the final, two-hour episode of “The Bachelorette” aired, and won the night’s ratings for ABC. (Emily chose Jef, the semi-Mormon, as her future “husband”-- wonder what that means for Mitt?)
Given all that, it occurred to me that though the formats of these shows are getting really old and tired, reality TV will never die. We desperately need it in order to get away from reality.
And then there’s all the buzz that goes along with reality TV. Earlier this week, the news that Mariah Carey was hired to be the new judge on the steadily sinking “American Idol” was greeted with a royal-wedding level of attention. The diva of all divas (she wore stilettos to work out on her Stairmaster during a famous tour of her apartment on “Cribs”) will reportedly be earning in the neighborhood of $18 million to join her manager, Randy Jackson, at the table. That will make her the highest paid judge on any competition show.
As such, Carey steps into the role of the flashy-but-kind, sometimes weepy, sometimes sedated, nurturing female judge, as played by Paula Abdul and this year by Jennifer Lopez.
As a newly divorced mother of twins, Lopez used the position to shore up her own career -- a strategy that worked like a charm. She shot from number 50 last year on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list to the tippy top, number one, ahead of Gaga. Now she’s off on a musical tour.
In taking the post, Carey -- a larger-than-life kind of latter-day Mae West, also the mother of baby twins who had a public breakdown after the making of “Glitter” and apparently named one kid after her living room (in the aforementioned “Cribs” tour, she showed off her “Moroccan” room) -- no doubt has something similar in mind for her own singing career. After saying how excited she was to be part of the show in her statement, she still managed to promote “Triumphant,” the (modestly titled) single off her upcoming album.
Still, it’s not like it’s a crazy hire. She does bring her legendary pipes and the wisdom from all of her years in the recording industry to the contestants. That’s in obvious contrast to Ellen DeGeneres’ short stint as a judge, when she was bland, tentative and clearly out of her element. Nor is hiring Carey a cruel stunt, like contracting Paul McCartney’s ex, Heather Mills, to fill the freaky slot on “Dancing With the Stars.” That was obviously in the hope that her leg would pop off during a fast Paso Doble.
Still, it’s the unintentional train wreck element of Carey’s personality that will get attention. And though it makes for great copy, it really is no solution for the show.
If the vibe from last year’s Jenny Craig commercials is any indication, “AI” is a sinking ship. The weight loss company obviously paid a fortune to get Mimi as an endorser, in a sadly misguided effort to appeal to a younger crowd. (Although she’s now 42.)
The opening announcement showed Mariah in a Gaga-like sack, breaking out of a chrysalis like a butterfly (one of her themes), one really skinny limb at a time. The camera also panned over her taut midriff, and what looked like a surgically repositioned belly button.
Now if there is anything that will turn a struggling dieter off, it’s the prospect of looking at someone’s tight as a drum, surgically aided, stomach.
The next set of spots show Mariah in a casual white outfit and harem pants, gettin’ down with her fellow ladies, trying to look concerned. In what has become an overused trope to try to make commercials and show biz interviews seems “authentic,” the camera pulls back to show the lights and trappings of the overall shoot: you are behind the scenes, too! It seems that they’ve recreated Mimi’s aforementioned living room, complete with low sofas and pillows and Moroccan furnishings.
Mariah sits open-legged on the rug in the conversation pit. The other women tell stories about their weight loss “journeys” and she nods gravely. Except it seems like it was too painful to sustain more than three seconds of any one interaction between Mariah and a mere mortal; the spot keeps cutting to scenes of the star standing and whipping her hair around during a super-glam film shoot, wearing a glittery mini dress.
The campaign failed to attract a younger demo, and just pissed off all the actual and potential members. Her own diet “journey” was never mentioned, although it’s obvious that she was helped by cooks, nutritionists, trainers, and/or plastic surgeons. The cheese curls hardly made a difference. It was the latter-day equivalent of “Let them eat cake.” And to people who have to do it the hard way, it was infuriating.
When viewers tune in next season, will Mimi be drinking Coca-Cola out of a bejeweled Louboutin slipper? It really doesn’t matter. There’s an explosion of similar shows, and the whole process of star selection on “Idol” is tired. No single judge, even a train wreck, will help that. But she’ll get her own singing career back on track. And so it goes.