Generally speaking, I don’t like to criticize the work of fellow entertainment writers; first off, it depletes the karmic piggybank, and secondly, I’ve spent so much time defending my love of Fergie, American Idol, and Being Bobby Brown (among other things), that really, who am I to judge? That said, The New York Times‘ TV critic Alessandra Stanley published a piece today (click here to read it) that really annoyed me, and I couldn’t keep it to myself.
Like me, you’ll probably have to read Stanley’s piece two or three times to figure out what it’s about. (My favorite sentence is this doozy: “It’s that reality television aims for younger viewers, 18 to 34, while subliminally underscoring and cementing their fealty to the relaxed-fit generation.”) But I think her point is this: Reality TV is cruel because Baby Boomers are using it to abuse younger generations. (Exhibit A: Grease: You’re the One That I Want, pictured, in which young people audition before AARP-aged judges for roles in an old musical that mines multiple strata of nostalgia.) Or maybe she means that Baby Boomers have hijacked reality TV and are feeding their pop-culture crumbs to youngsters. Or maybe, as she puts it, “Whether it is a firing by Donald Trump or a personal attack by Mr. Cowell, each rejection is a symbolic re-enactment of an inter-era struggle in which the bullies always come out on top.” Oh boy!
Worse still, Stanley contradicts her own theory by saying that “younger viewers identify with the supplicants begging to be tapped, not with the authority figures who determine their fate,” then pointing out that on the new season of The Apprentice, Donald Trump has hired his two non-Boomer children to serve as co-judges. Before she finishes, Stanley tries to tie it all in to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, High School Musical, and the corporatization of YouTube.
If I ever got 30 seconds to bend Stanley’s ear, I’d tell her this: Sometimes, TV is just TV… or occasionally, it’s HBO. And that’s not going to change — no matter how much highfalutin’ philosophizing people do about it. So please, for the love of Paula Abdul, stop trying to beat the fun out of my favorite programs, especially Idol. Thank you. That’s all.