Now it's hard to muster outrage over anything to do with any production of "Grease." And I actually find myself not worried one bit over the integrity of the American theatre, since who really cares who stars in yet another plastic B'way revival. The people who shell out the bucks for that will deserve what they get, which is to see two famous-for-15-minute nonentities attempt a two-hour singing 'n' dancing stunt.
What is outrageous, though, is how lame a tv show this is.
This is where I should disclose my guilty pleasure enjoyment of "American Idol." What can I say, deluded people proudly exhibiting their flaws to stunned-silent response never fails to crack me up. But watching a cheap imitation like this show makes you realize how good the Fox people really are at this stuff. "Idol" is brilliantly paced, immersing you in the audition room for sometimes long stretches, immediately getting you up close with both judges and contestants. Plus, they make sure you see only the very best, and very worst contestants. In "You're the One" they race through 10 really mediocre auditions, and then break for commercial leaving you in suspense over what will happen to "your favorites." Favorites??? I'm still trying to tell pompador #1 guy from #2.
Also, the desperate stretch of using "You're The One That We Want" as a catchphrase (as in "is that your final answer...") is just puzzlingly ungrammatical. That British mastermind "producer" and faux-Simon David Ian loves to go deadpan and pause for eternity while staring down each candidate so we can all hang on the words after "You're....". You see, either he says "You're the one we want to go to the next round" or "You're not it." But when after the 10th "you're the one" isn't this just weird?
Okay, I'm sure no one else cares about that one.
Actually, what he really says is "You're the one going to Grease Academy." Yes, "Grease Academy" is the next round. Or as I like to call it, Sha-Na-RADA.
Finally, for a theatre lover, it's impossible not to think about what must be going on behind Kathleen Marshall's calm and perky exterior. Not one of the people selected in Episode 1 would make it past the first minute of a real Broadway cattle call. Yet she has to play ball and make nice about their few attributes. Seriously, the talent on display was somewhere between community theatre, karaoke, and prisoner rehabilitation.
Think about this: the American Idol champ gets a prize and record contract, and can then be conviently forgotten once the novelty wears off and we wake up from the show's hangover. With these two winners, America will get to turn off the tv after the big vote. But Marshall will have to live with them for 4-6 weeks, plus the run of the show. Plus, the audience will have to suffer their performances night after night. We're not talking Fantasia or Clay Aiken, folks. There are real consequences here!
Of course, the dirty little secret may be...the ringers. As Campbell Robertson explained in the recent Times article, the rules are not excluding fully pro Equity folks from competing side by side with the "enthusiasts."
Unlike “Idol,” “You’re the One” is not supposed to be exclusively an amateur night. The rules of “Idol” require that contestants not have any current contracts or talent representation; “You’re the One,” on the other hand, is simply an open casting call, for novices as well as active Broadway performers. A prospective Danny in the first episode, for example, has several national tours under his belt.
But that is part of the show’s tricky balancing act. Reality television producers and viewers still love the nobody from nowhere who wins it all; the first episode puts heavy (and at times, teary) emphasis on the contestants’ personal stories. But the winners also have to hold up a $10 million musical eight times a week for at least a year, a demanding feat for a total greenhorn.
“We absolutely would love for a carpenter from Idaho to be Danny,” said Al Edgington, the executive producer of the television show. “But the reality is, they have to be able to perform. If the carpenter from Idaho does end up being Danny, Kathleen may be in trouble.”
Of course, the most unsettling thing of all is this guy. Billy Bush. And, yes, he is a Bush Bush. If you thought there was no blander cipher than Ryan Seacrest... you were wrong. Plus, the W resemblance (especially in his "cheerleader days") is the scariest thing about the whole show.