What we really want from reality TV

I almost auditioned to be on Nashville Star this year. I almost applied to be on I’m From Rolling Stone, too. In the end, I’m more relieved I didn’t try for the Rolling Stone internship gig than the Music City singing contest. More on that later. When pressed, I think the reason I didn’t attempt either is because, like Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show, I'm most comfortable up in the balcony, finding reasons to laugh.

It's strange to be hurling more sour grapes toward the magazine because I think I would’ve hated the Rolling Stone position more. I hate rock music. I never read Rolling Stone. Just the name, though, lends so much cache that you’d be a fool to not try. (And I’ve never denied that I’m a fool).

Both shows debuted recently, and both were jaw-dropping let-downs.

I’m from Rolling Stone is produced in partnership with MTV, so there’s necessarily an element of style over substance that will invade perhaps every decision, hence my relief now that I'd not shown any interest. What the producers are likely most surprised about now is that there are so many people, like me, who expected a treatment more along the lines of Project Runway than The Real World.

If you care anything about the premise of the show, by now you’ve read about the participants and, honestly, I’m too tired myself of reading about them, so I’ll surely not bore you with my take on these bios. While it admittedly may have been difficult pulling drama out of a continual writing exercise, somebody somewhere should have figured out a way to make the premise work without sacrificing the intelligence of the audience. It's a task that should’ve been tackled long before “casting” began.

Nashville Star, on the other hand, went in exactly the opposite direction. Instead of plying youthful “personalities” upon us, it chose participants who fit so far outside of both Nashville’s Music Row paradigm AND the expectations of a reality television show that I’m already looking forward to not hearing any of these people on the radio when this is all over.

We only need list the Music Row “reps” appearing on the show to demonstrate how much the industry doesn’t care about this franchise anymore: Jewel, Cowboy Troy, Randy Owen (from the 1980-90s group, Alabama). Even its biggest star, Blake Shelton, only boasts a handful of hits in his five-year-long career. As for Anastasia, you can tell she's being honest and that she's pulling no punches. She never strains to get a laugh or sugar-coats bad news: that's cool.

But what the execs at Nashville Star could’ve done was recruit the most anti-Nashville Star radio programmer they could find and, week after week, have him (or her) tell the contestants exactly why he (or she) won’t play their music if they win:

They were anointed by a TV show.

Or maybe bring in someone from the eventual winner’s new record label and have him (or her) explain how difficult it will be to promote a performer when a chunk of the profits—assuming there are any—will most likely land in the pocket of the television production company. In fact (note to producers:) if this were to all happen on episode one, that would make for an interesting TV show.

With most reality-based television, half the fun from the viewer’s standpoint is to try to figure out where reality ends and the job of building a television show begins. It’s perplexing then to comprehend just what’s going on at Nashville Star. In years past, it seemed obvious they were searching for new cookie dough to fit the cutter that’s long been in place (ie., Miranda Lambert) and then, at the last minute, chose something a tiny little bit surprising (ie., Buddy Jewell) when the resident hat-act (ie., insert male hat-act name here) who maybe should’ve won didn’t.

The most surprising “casting” element to come from the debut episode of Nashville Star, then, is that of its first loser, Tim LaRoche, a handsome if shaggy stay-at-home dad who clearly plays guitar better than he sings. His performance was, maybe, 70% pickin’ and 30% singin'. And this—it apparently bears repeating—is a singing contest. That, of course, was the main reason he was ousted.

In instances like this, viewers suspect the contestant has, generally speaking, been abused by the system behind the scenes. There was a girl, Katherine, who was kicked off this past season’s Project Runway because, from what I can tell, it came down to her and one of the eventual stars of the show and…well, because she was of a “lesser” personality, there was no question. She had to go. Despite the fact that, based on all we'd seen, she really wasn't the one who deserved to go.

For that to have happened in this instance, a producer would had to have told the contestant LaRoche to play the hell out of the guitar and, despite logic, he would have internally reasoned it made more sense than singing well.

Either that, or this season there really isn’t a bumper crop of talent. I know people who’ve applied for American Idol and, let me tell you, for the first couple auditions you don’t even see Paula, Randy or Simon. So those people who get on the show who really, really, really suck—the William (“She Bangs”) Hungs of reality talent shows—are either led to believe they genuinely have some talent, because they made it that far, or like Hung, they know its all part of "the show."

If that’s the case for this year’s Nashville Star, then how did we end up with ten hum-drum, so-so vocalists and, literally, no standouts?

Most disappointing is that I’m going to watch every single episode just to prove that I’m right and, perhaps out of pity, I might just break down and buy the winner’s album.

There's a couple songs on that Erika Jo album that ain’t half bad, you know. 

NASHVILLE STAR: Thursdays at 9 p.m., Central time, on USA Network.

I'M FROM ROLLING STONE: Sundays at 9 p.m., Central time, on MTV.

WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less