Saturday, June 19, 2010

Work of Art

Our reality tv world is filled with the most fascinating of stories - fauxlebrities with large buttocks, jilted brides seeking revenge through plastic surgery, industrious midgets who make chocolates (Little Chocolatiers!), and of course, individuals mildly talented in specific fields with a penchant for wanting to win while having little interest in making friends.

Over the years there have been a number of competitive reality shows that have reached varying degrees of success, the most popular still probably being Survivor, America's Next Top Model, and Project Runway. The first is a good old fashioned Lord of the Flies inspired show that drags middle Americans out of their suburban malaise in order to gain a segregated and impoverished foreign experience (I am immediately reminded of a quote by Jamaica Kincaid: "…you make a leap from being that nice blob just sitting like a boob in your amniotic sac of the modern experience to being a person visiting heaps of death and ruin and feeling alive and inspired at the sight of it."). The second, as we are well aware, features the unstoppable borderline dyslexic force known as Tyra Banks (TyTy Baby) and her army of undiscovered teens in need of a makeover. The third, well, come on. Tim Gunn. There is no need for further elaboration.

Then there are the less successful lot of career-specific shows. The Sarah Jessica Parker production, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, premiered 2 weeks ago on Bravo and it is, as expected, painful, grossly inaccurate, and cheezy. The contestants all appear to have undergraduate degrees (even though most practicing artists now hold MFAs), and the vast majority are technically deficient painters. Except that kooky Miles kid, who they are portraying as a bit of a cocky weirdo. The show is completely absurd on so many levels it is in fact PUNISHING to sit through a 44 minute episode. SJP, what were you thinking? It is official. You've got Madonna arms and you've gone crackers.

This raises the question: is it awful because of my personal closeness to the subject matter? Is it no longer a form of entertainment if these individuals are MESSING WITH MY SCENE? This dreadful show is  remarkably similar to another single season snoozer - Shear Genius, the reality show for hairstylists.

Were stylists across the country up in arms when contestants had to cut hair with gardening tools? Probably not. But for an individual who contributes to an international industry yet is repeatedly asked to defend the value of her work, Work of Art is difficult to accept. It does very little to promote the education and proliferation of art, and it actually reduces it to such simplified terms that it make us seem pretentious and non-inclusive for doing otherwise. Granted, if the show seemed more engaging or entertaining (or even remotely sensational), I would be willing to forego most of this argument because sometimes a good show is a good show, regardless of accuracy (I'm looking at you Friday Night Lights, with your dreamy Tim Riggins and your strange temporal confusion).

Oh, and Bill Powers is a blithering idiot. Onto Episode 3!