Kingsport Times News Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Entertainment

Reality show 'celebrities' ignite real controversy

November 1st, 2011 5:31 am by Associated Press

I have watched only one full episode of "Dancing with the Stars" in its 13 seasons, but I picked the right episode to watch.

If I hadn't watched it, I might have questioned my initial reaction to the dance show, which was that it was misnamed. I wondered aloud about calling it "Dancing with the Stars," and suggested renaming it "Dancing with the Vaguely Familiar."

I stayed away for about 12 seasons, but accidentally watched last week's episode. There must have been a baseball rain-out.

Apparently, I have incredible instincts for controversy because last week's episode was rife with controversy.

Even if you don't watch this lame show, you probably have heard about the professional dancer who openly criticized the oldest judge on the panel.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy, a name that rolls off the tongue like Brad Pitt, rudely ripped judge Len Goodman after the latter chided the dancer for his choreography. Chmerkovskiy is partnered with American soccer goalie Hope "Two Great Hands But Two Left Feet" Solo.

The professional dancer took exception to Goodman's criticism, suggesting that the judge retire after nearly 50 years in the business, and then whined about being judged by the judges (you heard me). In a backstage interview, he made matters worse by boasting that he (Maksim) should be treated better by the judges because he is the star of the show and solely responsible for its success. I should mention that he came on the show in its second season, and has never won the competition. Last year, he was paired with Kirstie Alley.

His self-serving statement was met with shock and dismay by the judges and other people associated with the show. To his credit, Maksim wouldn't back down on his criticism of the judge, although his agent/manager/publicist/hairdresser/plumber got him to back off a bit on his "king of the world" speech. The Ukrainian dancer said he was misunderstood, and didn't mean to imply that he was the sole star of the show.

I don't believe him. I believe that we heard exactly what he thinks of his part in making the show a success.

But I don't blame him. I blame you. And I blame me. We are both responsible for creating this Frankenstein monster

We were responsible the day we — the public and the entertainment media — allowed somebody at the network to call this TV show "Dancing with the Stars."

Somebody should have stood up and said, "There are no stars on this show," but that would have flown in the face of our obsession with all things celebrity. We are so desperate for anything labeled "celebrity" that we are willing to invent celebrities when none are to be found.

Call me old-fashioned, but I remember a time when a celebrity was someone who did something to become famous. They may have been a bad actor or a bad singer or a bad baseball player, but at least they were a legitimate member of the celebrity community.

Reality television is responsible for much of this elevation of pseudo-celebrities to full-celebrity status, but it's a chicken-and-egg situation. Can we blame reality television for inventing Kim Kardashian, or was Kim Kardashian invented because we needed to fill those time slots?

Long before the Kardashaians or Chmerkovskiys came along, celebrities have enjoyed a certain sense of entitlement granted by an adoring public.

That is understandable since we don't have a royal family of our own. We naturally bestow royal status on special members of our society. No, not teachers, nurses and soldiers, but rather singers, actors and astronauts. We can't help ourselves.

But as the celebrity-based media expanded, its celebrity base needed to expand, and in a relatively short amount of time, we have more celebrities than ever. There are no longer clear distinctions between classes of celebrities — Snooki and "The Situation" occupy the same rarified space as Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. Fourth-place finishers on "American Idol" elicit the same reactions from fans as Bruce Springsteen and Tony Bennett. Kendra Wilkinson probably has more followers than Hugh Hefner.

In this TV-hyped battle between Maksim and Len on "Dancing with the Stars," we have a microcosm of everything that is wrong with our celebrity obsession.

On one side, we have the egomaniacal performer, who thinks he is more than the sum of his parts. Then again, who can fault him because he is mobbed by fans wherever he goes, and the media clamors to hear every word he utters.

On the flip side is the dance judge, who I assume worked in obscurity for decades until everything went topsy-turvy, and judges on television grew to be as familiar as judges on the U.S. Supreme Court. Thank you, Simon Cowell, for that.

There isn't much I can do about this phenomenon, except to continue to show no interest in the pseudo-celebrities being spawned on these shows.

We'll talk again in another 13 seasons.

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