You're on The Voice - try and understand that!

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 09:56 08/07/2014

Let me be quite clear on this - I have never watched more than a minute or two of The Voice or any of the similar versions of singing/talent shows that clog our screens. It's been that way since the first seasons of Australian Idol and NZ Idol which I watched out of a morbid curiosity, a thin crust of obligation, feeling like it was - in some way - related to the industry I worked in. Realising, by watching them through, that it wasn't.

I have no issue with Reality TV - you either enjoy it as absurd escapism, bask in it or you let it be, switch off the box. The real way to watch TV these days is through your computer, making the choices yourself. But if you want mindless, aimless, ambling tomfoolery - and, let's face it, some nights you probably do - you can, after all, watch whatever you like. And often that includes what you hate. Just last week I found myself pining for one of Reality TV's ugliest, most wonderful antecedents, The Jerry Springer Show. I had to watch several "I'm really a man" clips to satisfy that strange pang of nostalgia, the tiny kick I still get from having a life nowhere near as absurd as the one constructed for the TV camera and yet in its own way every bit as sad for needing that appeasement.

A ghastly show like Catfish is just wonderful to me - in tiny doses, now and then - more a case of now than then. I wouldn't spend more than an hour watching any type of Reality TV a month and can go many months without watching it at all. This is healthy. Would it be healthier to dispense with it - and TV - altogether? Of course. But do I look like someone hugely concerned with what's healthy?

Anyway, all of that is to say that, for me, Reality TV exists whether I need it or not - and just as the bubble looked like it might burst a few years back after that decade-long glut of shows we're swamped now with too many singing and cooking contests, home renovation shows and dating-grotesquery daisy-wheels; it's easy money, there will always be victims/contestants and they don't cost as much as the stars of yesterday. They'll take fame and/or infamy and a viral hit, even the hope of one, is their feel-good moment. Mia

At times I'm more removed from the Reality TV circus and circumlocutions than I might be leading you to believe here but still I manage to sneak a peek, now and then, at related news - that's "news" of course. We tend to "specialise" in "news" here.

So, some people are alarmed that a 12-year-old girl was humiliated as part of the kiddie version of The Voice; she wasn't selected to go forward - and there's apparently some people left in the world still struggling to understand that TV producers wanted to show the moment where a defeated girl started crying and the celebrity judges who, moments ago, did not choose her as a finalist, rushed to console her. The fact that there are people alive and watching this (though, quite likely, dead behind the eyes), the fact that there are people alive disappointed in the editing choice here - well that guarantees the broken-mirror curse of at least another seven years of terrible Reality TV shows - and moments within the shows such as this.

The culture we're part of - whether we like it or not, seemingly - is a disgusting one. It's one where the parents of a 12-year-old girl can hype her up with all of the you'll-never-have-to-actually-work-a-day faux-promises that instant TV fame could apparently offer yet present no warning that humiliation has to happen too; that is the push/pull here - someone goes up, someone comes down. It's just as important - more important, ultimately - for the always-rolling cameras to capture the down part. You can't have the up without the down. The down is what sells it.

And we have a new generation convinced that being a musician is some version of being a pop-star. And that you obtain that by entering - and hopefully winning - a televised contest. There is no other way.

Criticism of kids might seem harsh - but it's necessary. They have to learn that they might only ever be the best in the eye of their folks. They can sing along to, say, The Beatles in the car - or Pearl Jam for that matter and you can be proud as punch. But to anyone else it's rubbish.

It's the school holidays - so I found myself in Porirua yesterday watching a free Peppa Pig stage show. It was free, it was for toddlers, it's running three times a day all week. And my god it was awful. I would say that I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemies but after yesterday that would mean the two people in the show would have to sit down and watch a version of the show you're in - and that could only mean one thing:  a new Reality TV show to find their replacements. That's one sick meta-purge going on right there. Peppa

One young woman dressed in yellow and red - fine choices, as her next job should likely involve that exact same colour-scheme - and someone bungled into a giant Peppa Pig costume. No other characters. Just some retarded dance-steps, poor singing and hackneyed references to the popular kiddie cartoon. That was the "show".  They got the words wrong to a tune that's called "The Bing Bong Song". That should be a clue as to how bad it was for any non-Peppa watchers still reading.

A few minutes into this nearly-interminable torture I heard someone say, very loudly, very clearly, "F**k this is s**t!" I laughed, but thought that just a little rough - if accurate. I looked around for the parent brave enough - and rude enough - to just let that out straight away. Turns out it was a kid no older than four. I reckon he should be offered a judging role if we get this ghastly Kids Voice show in NZ.

Oh, and how did my boy enjoy the silly mall entertainment? He wanted to leave half-way through. What can I say: genetics. 

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