As reality television shows gain popularity, more and more TV networks are turning out carbon copies of previously successful shows. A prime example of this is, of course, Fox's American Idol. Since the popularity of Idol, countless reproductions have been generated, all following the same formula: nationwide talent search + panel of three expert judges + viewer interaction = successful and profitable television show. Here we break down the process of these talent search shows and explain whether or not these shows are beneficial to the contestants and the viewers.
Editor/Writer: Katharine Heitman
Proofreader/Writer: Cheryl Kandel
Web Page Designer/Writer: Heather Johnston
Writers: Erica Hertzfeld, Jamie Hodge, Justin Hughes,
Aubree Jeffrey & Joe Kaiser
Basic Pros and Cons of Reality Talent Shows
Attitudes of Talent Show Judges
Judging the Judges
Where Are They Now?
And the Next American Idol is . . .
By: Aubree Jeffery and Jamie Hodge
As you take a look at all the reality talent shows on television, it is possible to pinpoint a lot of positive things about them. When dealing with all the singing- oriented shows, it is safe to say that the shows are definitely based on talent. They find people who can actually sing and then make sure they can prove it more than once. It is refreshing to see people singing live when recently many artists are accused of lip syncing. Also incorporated into these shows is the American television audience who has the final say in the winner. This could have a positive and negative affect on the show because each person who votes has a different reason for the way they voted, which does not necessarily mean the best contestant will be chosen. The American people listen to the music produced by professional artists and are responsible for all artists who make it big in the music industry. Therefore, they should be the best judges of what the public wants, and that is what makes the decision to involve American people in voting a positive one.
When America does make their final decision at the end of these series, such as American Idol, Nashville Star, Making the Band, and Pop Star, the winners are often rewarded with a record contract. This is positive because they are handed an opportunity that most music artists today did not get right away. In fact it took some of our famous artists today years, or in some cases, a decade or more to obtain. The same thing applies to the show Tough Enough, in which, the winner gets to be a professional wrestler. Even though these shows seem to have very positive outcomes, there is a lot of negative feedback that comes with them. One reoccurring characteristic that is very popular in showbiz is “image.” In many of these shows, image comes before talent. You have to have the right body, clothes, and face that fit into the professional world. This is the type of thing that could make or break a contestant and that is not fair to the ones who don’t quite cut it or fit into these categories. It has also been said that the judges of the singing talent shows are to harsh when it comes to critiquing those who audition and that they are down right mean. Although this only happens on one show in particular, it still has a negative impact on people.
Another con to these reality shows is the possibility that the creators or producers of the show are misleading the TV public into thinking that everything appearing on the show is what actually goes on when trying to break into the business of singing or acting. One thing to remember is that not all professional singers and actors entered the business this way, and that having the title of winner does not really guarantee success or longevity.
With the development of these reality talent shows, many people around the United States have been able to observe what someone looking to become “the next big thing” goes through to earn it. The viewers even have some say in that person’s success in such shows as American Idol, Star Search and Nashville Star via the internet or telephone. The instant reality television hit known as American Idol is a talent search opened nation-wide with 50,000 brave souls who were daring enough to face the wrath of judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. Out of those who auditioned, 234 made it to Hollywood and then out of those, 32 were chosen. In the end only 12 remain to be judged by the most critical crowd: the American people (Dave Mason, 2003). Eventually the group will be dwindled down to one: The American Idol.
The next show that compares in popularity but has seniority over American Idol is the classic talent show Star Search. This show made its début in 1983 with host Ed McMann invading the entertainment world with the future stars of America (Fred Shuster, 2003). Such stars that arose from being on Star Search were Christina Auguilara, Justin Timberlake, Alanis Moresette, Usher, etc. Today, Arsenio Hall has taken over the host position and has given Star Search a new approach, similar to American Idol and yet, still different by having many different categories to accommodate other areas of talent. Not only are there adult and junior singers, but comics, dancers and models are featured as well. The contestants are judged on a point system and the highest score advances. In the end, there is no contract, just the satisfaction of having the opportunity to showcase your talent. Unlike American Idol, a fast track to stardom, Star Search lets you feel some of that spot light but does not make you a star. They let you know that you have to do that part on your own.
Shortly after the first season of American Idol, Nashville Star was developed. This is a talent show featuring contestants singing in the genre country. There are three judges, like American Idol, who pick one person from each of the top five cities and then seven more are picked to finish out the twelve. Again, just like the others, they are judged by the TV audience, and the winner gets a record deal (TV Rules.net). Many questions evolve from these shows, “What makes the judges qualified?” “Are the producers focused more on talent or more on entertaining the audience with repetitive clips of the failures?” “Should America be able to vote? And if so, are they voting in the right manner? Picking the contestant most talented?” But most of all “Are these shows actually real?” In the following essays, we will go more in-depth to show where the contestants who appeared on these talent shows are today and how far they got in showbiz. As it was mentioned previously, the qualifications of the judges will be touched upon, as well as a comparison of all the talent shows and how they are different. These shows have impacted the American population, and it is important to understand why.
By: Erica Hertzfeld and Joseph Kaiser
One of the many factors that bring intrigue to a talent show on television is the demeanor of the people who judge the talent. While some viewers enjoy watching the psyches of the contestants get destroyed with verbal daggers, others prefer the art of constructive criticism, which will help the contestant further pursue his or her dream. The shows that garner the most attention—as well as ratings—are usually the ones that find a balance between these two extremes. Though the type of talent varies from show to show (from singing, to pro wrestling, to comedy and modeling), the style of judging on these shows is generally consistent with each other.
American Idol appears to be the most popular show in the talent category. The premise of the show is to sign the winner (who is voted upon in the finals by America at large) to a recording contract. It features a combination of judging styles. Simon Cowell, the show’s star, is a British record producer who told the New York Times in an article dated last month that he considers his methods to be “honest.” If there is a contestant who does not perform well, he wastes no time and spares no feelings in letting that person know how poorly he/she did. Paula Abdul is the second judge on the show; she is a former singer, dancer, and choreographer. She looks to be the most sympathetic person of the show’s judging trio. When someone’s singing or dancing is not up to par, she offers words of encouragement, rather than verbal assaults. Randy Jackson is the final judge, and is usually the most objective of all the judges. He manages to keep his personal opinions out of his decision most of the time, and focuses on the aspects of a contestant’s presentation. This show is currently in the midst of finishing its second season.
MTV’s Tough Enough blends judging techniques in a different manner. The object of this show is to find two people who are worthy of being offered a contract from World Wresting Entertainment (WWE), and the judges are veterans from the WWE roster. The lead judge, Al Snow, takes his occupation very seriously. He, as well as the other judges, cannot stand those who want to appear on the show as a gag, thinking professional wrestling is nothing but fun and games. With fellow WWE superstars Ivory and Hardcore Holly, as well as the occasional guest, Snow instructs a group of fifteen people in the beginning of the series on the techniques and skills involved with being a professional wrestler. At times, he is not afraid to yell and scream. His primary objective, however, is to teach those who are willing the tools of his trade. The group of contestants is whittled down one by one each week until, in the final week, America again votes which two contestants deserve a shot at fame. The show has gone through three complete seasons now, and nearly all of the winners from each season are now on the WWE’s weekly television broadcasts.
Star Search is produced by CBS, and offers a softer approach. It is a recreation of the old show hosted by Ed McMahon, only with a few tweaks this time around. The country’s general population is once again used to help select the winners. The host is Arsenio Hall, but the panel of judges differs from week to week. Previous judges have included Naomi Judd and LeAnn Rimes. Judging on this show almost never leaves the realm of constructive criticism. This is partly done to try to draw away those viewers of American Idol who do not appreciate the antics and harsh criticism of Simon Cowell. Star Search has completed one season and will soon be producing its second.
Similarly, NBC has launched a new program to find America’s Most Talented Kid. Copying the idea of American Idol, this program is geared towards kids trying to start early on their path to superstardom. Unlike some talent television shows, most of the judges featured on this program are seasoned veterans of show business that started out at a young age. Judges range from new pop sensations such as *NSYNC’s Lance Bass to 80’s phenomenon Tiffany. Other judges also include Maureen McCormick, Sisqo, Jermaine Jackson, Daisy Fuentes, Jamie Lynn Spears, Vivica A. Fox, and Lisa Ling. Because most of these judges are singers themselves, they can provide the kids competing with encouraging, constructive comments. This show is aimed at talent show lovers, but lacks the harsh criticisms that some viewers crave. Basically, the judges are trying more to encourage these kids into a career and less to embarrass contestants on live television.
Yet another spin off of American Idol is USA’s Nashville Star. Hosted by Nancy O’Dell, Nashville Star provides a talent search for country music fans. Maybe due to the laid back ways of country music or perhaps simple politeness, Nashville Star is both entertaining and constructive at the same time. While judges do try to incorporate a toned down version of American Idol’s wit, they also do it with some consideration for the contestant’s mental image. Judges on this show prove that talent TV can be entertaining without being derogatory or demeaning. Judges include Tracy Gershon, Charlie Robison, and Robert Oermann, all country music veterans. The judges find the ideal blend of humor to entertain the audience, as well as constructive criticism to help contestants.
While some talent shows require the contestants to actually demonstrate some kind of talent, TV shows searching for “beautiful” people also fall into the talent category. These shows include Are You Hot? as well as several shows to be aired within the next few months like Model Behavior and America’s Next Top Model. While no real talent is involved besides sex appeal, these contestants are still subject to the sometimes cruel criticism of judges. Are You Hot? has one of the toughest judges on talent TV. Judge Lorenzo Lamas uses a laser pointer to visibly point out flaws on contestant’s bodies. Lamas also uses witty, and usually harsh, comments and comparisons to describe contestants. While other judges do a better job of steering clear of these derogatory remarks, Are You Hot? maintains the reputation similar to that of American Idol.
Overall, viewers of talent television shows can find judge’s criticism on either end of the spectrum. Viewers tuning in to have a few laughs at the contestants’ expense are better off sticking to American Idol, while those looking to actually watch contestants improve or hear what people in the music industry think about them can find such entertainment in watching shows like Star Search. Viewers can also find a few shows that mix insulting humor as well as constructive criticism. Shows such as Tough Enough and Nashville Star combine both insults as well as support for contestants. No matter what your tastes, almost all viewers can find a talent TV show suitable for them. This is a major part of America’s draw to televised talent shows.
By: Heather Johnston and Cheryl Kandel
As reality television shows gain popularity, more and more television networks are turning out carbon copies of previously successful shows. One of the genres targeted is the talent search show. Since the popularity of American Idol, countless reproductions have been generated, all following the same formula: nationwide talent search + panel of three expert judges + viewer interaction = successful and profitable television show. But what exactly makes these judges “experts”? Here we examine three popular talent shows and analyze the credentials of their judges to find out who is truly an “expert.”
Let’s start with the show that began this phenomenon, American Idol. Idol’s three judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, each have a list of credentials a mile long. Cowell has a 20-year career in the music industry and even has his own record label through BMG called S Records. A more recognizable name in music, Abdul is an award-winning musician who knows a thing or two about what the industry and the fans want. She has two number one albums, six number one singles, a Grammy Award, two Emmy Awards and many more. Jackson, like Cowell, is also a 20-year music industry veteran, holding the Vice-President of A&R position at both Columbia Records and MCA Records. Not only did he have office jobs, but he has also recorded, toured and performed with musicians like Madonna, Destiny’s Child, Elton John and more (FOX). The judges that form the panel for American Idol have many years of experience in the music industry and appear to have the qualifications to judge such a contest.
Often referred to as the country version of American Idol, USA Network’s new series, Nashville Star searched America to find country music’s newest sensation. Following the talent show formula, Nashville Star employs three judges as well; Charlie Robison, Robert Oermann and Tracy Gershon. Robison, a country performer himself, grew up singing country songs and is set to release his third album this spring. Known to his colleagues as “The Dean of Nashville’s music writers,” Oermann is the one to call for Nashville know-how. He has written for Country Music magazine, written seven country music books, and has served as writer/producer for various country music television programs. With experience in both record label and publishing industries, Gershon is the epitome of the “expert” judge. She started her own management company and was hired as a song-plugger by EMI Music in 1988. She soon became Vice-President of A&R at Imprint Records and later became partner in the High Seas Music Publishing Company (USA).
ABC’s newest show, All American Girl searches nationwide for the one girl who represents the clichéd “all American girl.” Finalists must display athletic ability, mental agility, ability to perform, beauty, intelligence and more. In this there the three judges are exchanged for coaches, each with a special area to train the contestants. To help with performing ability is Suzanne de Passe and Geri Halliwell. De Passe is considered one of the most successful women in entertainment. She is an Academy Award nominee for co-writing a screenplay and has been executive producer on a number of hit television series. As a former Spice Girl, Halliwell knows a bit about the performing arts. Not only is she a performer herself, but she has also penned a best selling autobiography and is a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador. John Salley’s incredible athletic ability and entertainment ties have made him a great choice for the third coach. Salley played for the NBA for 12 years and now is a sports analyst and commentator. When not dealing with sports, Salley not only appears in movies and makes TV guest spots, but also takes on the role of executive producer for films and television programs (ABC).
Contrary to the beliefs of some, who think the judges on such talent shows as American Idol are not qualified and have no right to say whether or not young people will make it in the business, the majority of these judges are qualified to be doing their jobs. By researching the credentials of judges on American Idol, Nashville Star, and All American Girl, we have found that not only have they all had experience in the entertainment business, but they have all had successful careers. This is not to say that all the judges on every TV talent show are qualified, but for the most part, they are the “experts” they claim to be.
By: Katharine Heitman and Justin Hughes
Today’s talent shows promise to make rising stars. The winners are basically promised overnight success. They win a $1000 reward along with a singing contract with a major record company. But how long does that fame last? Do the winners actually come out on top or do the losers become the winners in the end?
Popular talent shows today, like American Idol and Star Search try to make everyday, ordinary people overnight successes. The first really popular talent show, Star Search, first debuted in 1983 with host Ed McMahon (CBS). In the late 80s and early 90s, some of today’s popular artists were contests on the show. In 1992, twelve-year-old Marty Thomas beat his then competitor, eleven-year-old Britney Spears. Thomas went on to have a singing career on television, then continuing to Radio City Music Hall. Spears on the other hand, became a Mouseketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club and then a multimillion-dollar, platinum selling phenomena (CBS).
Other stars like Drew Carey, Ray Romano and Rosie O’Donnell lost on the show. One of the more popular stars, Justin Randall, better known as Justin Timberlake, was a contestant on the show. He faced ten-year-old Anna Nardona, who beat him. Nardona is now a preschool daycare teacher in Connecticut. Timberlake was primarily a country singer, but went on to the Mickey Mouse Club with Spears, Christina Aguilera, Keri Russell and J.C. Chasez. Other stars such as LeAnn Rhymes, Alanis Morrisette, and Tatiana Ali lost on Star Search, but went on to make millions in the recording industry.
The smash hit talent show that everyone is talking about currently is American Idol. American Idol is a singing talent show that went across America searching for an unknown talent. Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and recording producer, Simon Cowell, judge the contestants first. The contestants are then narrowed down to ten, and America votes off one contestant each week. At the end of the first season of American Idol, the two remaining contestants, Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson, had a sing-off to decide the winner. America chose Kelly Clarkson. Kelly was awarded a recording contract and had the top hit single, “A Moment Like This.” The song was the highest single jumper in years.
Since September, Kelly has not released any new songs. She is expecting to release her first full album in April of 2003. If this album takes off, Clarkson would be the first successful talent show winner that has not become a one hit wonder. Typically, the losers of talent shows hit it big. They go on to be in commercials, television, and possibly all the way to becoming double platinum-selling artists. The winners are usually never heard from again, as Star Search showed. Perhaps American Idol will change that. More and more talent shows are springing up. These include Nashville Star and Most Talented Kid in America. Winning these shows is the whole point of trying out. But if history repeats itself, the winner may just end up on the VH1 series, Where are They Now?
By: Erica Hertzfeld
Who cares? As long as the viewers are entertained with brutalizing humor from the judges, contestants with some sort of talent, and a little sex appeal, ratings will skyrocket. The key to Talent Television Shows is not necessarily the talent of the contestants. It has been proven time and time again that winning it all on these shows does not make you a star over night, more than likely, it will place you among many other One Hit Wonders. Viewers seem to be more interested in the humor of the judges than who has the most talent. Though judges are fully qualified to pick the next star, sometimes the criticism gets lost amongst the wit. This isn’t to say that judges of these shows forget the constructive criticism completely. Actually, it is quite the opposite. As these shows narrow down the contestants, the judges focus a little more on the contestants’ talent. While the brutal remarks do not stop completely, most contestants do get remarks that will help them succeed.
While these shows have captured a spot in America’s heart, they have their downfalls as well as their glamour. Sometimes the viewers forget the fact that the contestants are real people trying to break into the business. Contestants have to withstand huge amounts of pressure by performing in front of judges on national television. Though the winner of a talent show may seem like the luckiest person in the world, they still have a long road to stardom. While these shows may be exceedingly fun to watch, viewers have to take these talent contests for what they are worth. Despite the beliefs of the starry eyed contestants, they have a harder road than anyone might suspect. Talent Television Shows provide a chance for all those superstar hopefuls out there and, at the very least, a show that viewers can’t get enough of.
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