Fame: Beyond Thunderdome
For those of you missing my television recaps, I’ve done a wonderful thing: suffered through an hour of summer “original programming.” Unfortunately, NBC’s reality version of Fame chucks originality and plunges headlong into the bizarre.
The charming hosts are Debbie “Please take ‘In The House’ OFF my resume” Allen and Joey “I was in Rent! Please forget N’Sync” Fatone. The “celebrity experts” include producer Johnny “BritneySpearsPDiddyNameDrop” Wright, Carnie “Stomach Stapling” Wilson, and JoJo Stupidhair, a DJ I had never heard of and never want to hear from again.
Not only is this a very weird show, it’s also very cruel. All of the kids are lined up on the stage, and told one by one if they’re advancing. If you advance, you have to perform then and there, so two kids every week prepare a whole performance just to be sent home.
First performer to advance: Allyson Arena. Allyson has curly red hair, and whenever she straightens it I forget who she is entirely. She has a high, twangy, vibrato-laden voice, that’s great for Broadway but doesn’t make a damn bit of sense on this show. And I was a big Clay Aiken fan. Allyson showcases her talent by picking the worst songs possible. Last week? “Material Girl” This week? “We Are Family”, which sounds positively idiotic when you’re up on the stage by yourself. “I’ve got all my sisters with me,” my ass. Allyson wears the first fur vest Mad Max getup of the evening. The funniest part of the performance is when they show her friends…all three of them. I guarantee that if my friends had the chance to be on national TV, they’d come running. And at least one of them would show up in just underwear to guarantee more camera time (my guesses are Heath, J.B. or Mike W.). Debbie cackles and swings her boobs onto the stage (they visibly swing when she walks), Joey says it was a fantastic performance, a celebrity judge blows sunshine, and Allyson thanks God. All of them do that every time. I should really hope that God has better things to do than call in votes on a bargain-basement, low rated reality program.
The next performer to move forward is Justin Jacoby, and Joey announces that he is “going to perform an original rap.” Justin is an obnoxious teenager who can’t sing, can’t dance, and can’t even rap to a beat. His raps include original lines like, “If all dogs go to heaven, when’s my chance to bark?” What? Seriously. Out of curiousity, and due to my abiding hatred of America, I voted for Justin at the end of the show. His personal message is a rap, including an attempt to rhyme “dope” and “vote.”
Next up is Serena Henry, who settles into a chair and performs the talent-show staple “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Serena is one of those singers that has to perform vocal loop-the-loops, whether they fit the song or not. “Look at me! I’m talented! No, really!” She also shakes her chin around and chicken-flaps her elbows so America knows how talented she really is. The judges eat it all up, because they’re imbeciles.
After Serena performs, all the kids do a group performance of “America” in honor of the Fourth, with cane-dancing lifted directly from Nickelodeon’s Roundhouse. Everyone wears red-white-and-blue skimpy outfits, which I’m sure does our Founding Fathers proud. Some of the performers are less coordinated than others, so several smack into each other or hit their neighbor with a cane. After the performance, Debbie tells the audience they’ll be right back, so “Get your chicken wing.” Debbie says these things all the time, and I don’t know whether she’s trying to be chatty, or if she’s sending coded messages to the Trilateral Commission.
After the break, Alex Boyd is told he made the cut. Alex Boyd is blandly cute, over-gelled, and from McLean, Virginia: Where Real Estate Value is King. Alex wears the second Mad Max vest of the evening, which is totally wrong for performing Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”. Alex, as a NOVA native, can’t enunciate worth a damn and even stumbles over the spoken jazz musician shout-outs. So he recovers by giving McLean a shout-out in his interview segment. He also says that his performance “is all for God.” God snorts, shuffles a bit on his cloud, and hurls down a lightning bolt. Not really, but that would have been awesome.
The next contestant to advance is single-name Moy. She’s got a blond pixie cut, tats, a gap in her teeth, and perennially high heels. Because I’m a reality ho, I know who she is straight off: I’ve seen her on both Popstars and American Idol. She’s made a career of being a reality show runner-up. Her real name is Petagay, which is the funniest name ever. Right now, in your offices, I want all of you to yell “Petagay” and see how many people stare at you or laugh. Moy sings “Let’s Stay Together”, and it isn’t good, it isn’t bad, it isn’t even interesting. The judges practically hump her leg when she’s done, however.
Harlemm Lee is up next, and he’s just awesome. Sure, he can sing, but the best part is just looking at him. He’s tiny, he’s bald, he’s 37, and his eyebrows move independently of one another. He’s not human. Harlemm sings “Greatest Love of All”, because he had to out-pageant Serena Henry. There’s lots of dramatic lighting and arm-tossing so we know he's Really Singing.
Once it’s down to the final four, the kids are split into pairs. One is told they’re advancing, the other gets an Assboot. First pair: Shannon Bex advances, Raymond Lee (who really, really couldn’t sing anyway) get the boot. Shannon is a leggy blond “virgin until marriage” (which is none of my business anyway) who wears the third Mad Max vest of the night. She sings some Christina Aguilera tune that even I haven’t heard of, flops about, and shakes what her mama gave her. I get eerie flashbacks of Britney Spears pole-dancing at the VMAs. Afterwards, Shannon thanks God, then thanks the troops. Meanwhile, all the other contestants smack themselves on the forehead and say, “Dammit! Why was I thanking God when I could have thanked the troops? Bitch!”
The next pair: Brandon O’Neal, a skinny cornrowed teenager, advances. Jamisen Tiangko, who erroneously sexed up every song from “Black Cat” to “God Bless the Child,” gets the boot. Brandon performs “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone,” and it’s good, and I really don’t care because I tune in for the awful and the surreal.
Fortunately, Debbie Allen serves up the surreal by introducing Tyse something-or-other, the “spoiler” contestant. Tyse was chosen by NBC to “shake up” the show, as in “maybe NOW someone besides that sarcastic bitch in DC will watch.” Tyse really dishes up the surreal. He runs down the line of contestants like he’s on The Price is Right, and bounces up and down between Joey and Debbie. He yells something about a shout-out to Brooklyn, twitches uncontrollably, sweats, yells about Brooklyn again, says he’s ready to compete, and sweats again. The other contestants glare at him in mute horror. Debbie reminds all of us to vote, then tells us that Tyse will perform next week. I can’t wait.