Piquin’ Your Interest 

Reality TV killed the Rock Star

If television is an opiate then reality television is crack cocaine.

You resist. You scoff. You watch one episode because you want to understand what everyone in your office is talking about. And then you watch another just because you watched the week before and you kind of want to see what happens and since you’re not doing anything anyway there’s no harm done.

Before long, you’re hooked, canceling plans so you can stay home and cheer for the guy with the tattoos to stand on a stump the longest. You binge on one of those particularly painful final episodes wherein about six minutes of plot is dragged into a two-hour epic of the most intense gravity complete with reoccurring crane shots and more close-ups of eyes than a laser surgery training session.

"Never again," you mutter at the end of it, wishing you’d just done something more useful with your time like debating the prowess of Captains Kirk versus Picard in an online chat room or lint-rolling the cat.

For a while you stick to your guns. But it’s just a matter of time until another equally awful reality program comes along and you once again light up the virtual crack pipe.

So addictive is reality television that it has infiltrated pretty much every facet of North American existence. Everything from tattooing to restauranting to bounty hunting to ride pimping to interior design has a corresponding reality show of some sort or another.

With money to be made and fame to be (re)kindled, the music industry and reality television are a match made in heaven. Pretty much every genre has dipped its toes in the reality TV pool, including rock, which got off on an odd foot with the Ozzy-at-home series The Osbournes and continues on through the flavour of the week – Rock Star INXS – wherein remaining members of the Aussie super group are narrowing down their search to replace late front man Michael Hutchence. Hutchence, as you may or may not know, perished in a hotel room in 1997 and while it’s never been confirmed, circumstances more than suggest he was engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation at the time.

Concurrently running with the INXS show is another reality rock series wherein Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee has gone back to college and joined the school marching band. How positively kooky.

And therein lies the kicker. Rock stars are not supposed to be kooky. They are supposed to be formidable presences. Larger than life, not ordinary guys.

I admit I welcomed the chance to see the bizarro world of Ozzy Osbourne puttering around his abode. Legends of the man’s exploits terrified me as a suburban grade-schooler, images of biting off the head of a bat inspiring me to sleep with a nightlight. I was intrigued to think he might have a normal domestic existence.

But once you look, you can’t close Pandora’s box. These days, Ozzy’s no longer a wild-eyed demon but a doddering eccentric engaged in a constant struggle to keep a legion of poodles from peeing on his leg. Ozzy the metal icon will never inspire the same icy fear now that reality TV has stripped him of his mystique.

As funny as it is to consider that rock stars might be just like us, that David Lee Roth could one day move in next door and have you over for a barbecue, the fact is, they can’t be. As soon as a rock star becomes a regular guy who puts his leather pants on one leg at a time, they’re not rock stars anymore. The mystique is a crucial element. Rock stars that perish at the height of their mystique will always fascinate us. Those who fade away quietly get to keep their past mystique and their dignity. Those who stick around yelling "look at me" are simply embarrassing.

The six remaining contestants posturing their asses off to be chosen as the next Michael Hutchence are doing themselves and the band no favours. While undeniably talented (especially that Suzie girl – Go Canada Go!) you cannot truly become a rock star by winning a reality television program. From day one there is no mystique. You are a product without a story. You are Ruben Studdard with a nose-ring.

But money talks. If the cash is there rock stars will continue to marry themselves to reality TV until one day it will just seem like it was always that way.

If video killed the radio star, reality TV will one day kill the rock star. I hope I’m not around to watch.


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