America… (Alleged) Land of Talent

I make no secret of the fact that I despise reality television. Perhaps more than the standard “50 people in a house for roughly the same reason” shows, I reserve an extra dab of disgust for talent shows. Whether it’s Nashville Star, American Idol or Flavor of Love (come on, that’s a talent show… pretending to actually LIKE Flava Flav for more than 20 minutes to remain on camera is, arguably, the greatest talent imaginable), I find the very premise of these shows to be both obnoxious and insulting. Take for example the recent nationwide pandemonium that enveloped that beatboxing guy from American Idol. As white-boy beatboxing overtook golf courses and shopping malls, one thing became very clear… most Americans had never actually heard beatboxing.

Seriously, the fervor that whipped water coolers into a frenzy every post-Idol morning made it rather obvious that mainstream America had missed a rather large fad entirely, a rather large fad from 1986. Judging on that success, I can only imagine that next year’s American Idol will be Michael Winslow. I hear that Vegas is taking bets right now.

Having said that, you can imagine my surprise when a certain reality television/talent show completely overtook my life last season…

If you’ve somehow missed this cultural milestone, America’s Got Talent is a weekly glimpse into the lives of the clinically insane and their desire to gain notoriety by spinning plates over their head, bouncing on a giant rubber ball or playing the national anthem (hambone style) on their knees. Once in a while, legitimately talented people will find their way onto the stage, only to be lauded by judges as the greatest revolution in talent history. Of course, once you’ve seen an elderly woman and her trained dogs jumping through hoops of fire to the tune of Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, watching a young starlet that can actually carry a tune has to be one of the most refreshing moments of your life.

Note: That last line forced me to immediately Youtube the video for Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, and although that isn’t it, the sheer strangeness of watching what appears to be a drag queen pantomime of the Starship classic warrants inclusion… and just for fun, I’ll throw in this one.

If modern reality television has taught us one thing, it’s that we’re completely incapable of discerning whether or not we have talent without the advice of a relatively mediocre crop of judges. Whether it’s Paula Abdul’s advice on how to have a long, successful music career or Brett Michaels’ musings on the wonders of country music, reality television spares no expense when it comes to finding experts in any given field. So, it should come as no surprise that AGT (which will be my new, hip abbreviation for America’s Got Talent) would showcase a similar gallery of our nation’s brightest and most prominent stars, even if two of them happen to be British.

The formula is simple. We need three judges: a likable but stern guy, an overly kind middle aged woman and an obnoxious Brit. A man with more time than I have could probably tap in to the very soul of America by examining that formula. In brief, Americans want mom and dad deciding their fate… and we think that most British folk are obnoxious blowhards. Unfortunately, most legitimate stars are busy, well, being legitimate stars. This leads television producers into the murky depths of celebrity… far into a place where even Paris Hilton is considered to be entirely too talented to sit on the panel. So, we’re left with these guys:

Piers Morgan

A saucy Brit, sharp tongued and in no way a poor man’s Simon Cowell. When Simon Cowell took America by storm, most of my fellow countrymen and I found ourselves asking, “Who the hell is Simon Cowell?” Of course, after finding out that he had been involved in a string of hit records, we allowed his opinion to be heard, as he must know something… and he’s smart too, he has to be, he’s British. On the same note, as we first heard of Piers Morgan we waited with baited breath to hear of his astounding exploits across the pond. Only to find out that he was responsible for a string of the worst type of journalism ever created. Thanks to Mr. Morgan, we’ve been treated to appealing and classy journalism, like this:

Nothing says “talent” quite like a front page image of another man being urinated upon. Because, as we all know, talented journalists across the world rely on such images to sell papers every day. Why, just the other day I saw Andrew Rosenthal lurking around the most posh Hollywood hot-spots, trying to snap a picture of Britney Spears’ vagina.

Of course, pointing out the shortcomings of Piers Morgan is just the tip of the iceberg. AGT’s producers stopped at nothing to bring us a level of talent the likes of which we’ve never seen. With that in mind, it’s only natural that we’d be given…

Sharon Osbourne

Sharon Osbourne, a woman that became wildly famous for being married to Ozzy Osbourne. Now, perhaps being married to the Ozzman is in itself quite a talent (see Flava Flav in the first paragraph), but outside of that Ms. Osbourne is most widely known for, well, managing Ozzy Osbourne. Although Ozzy has somehow continued to make platinum records well after any sane person would have deemed his career to be over, Sharon’s leadership is responsible for Ozzy’s physical appearance in the 1980’s, which rules her out as any sort of tastemaker. Even taking into account the existence of both Shane McGowan and Tom Petty, The 80’s era Ozzman remains in the top-tier of “shockingly unattractive rock stars of the last 25 years.”

Note to self: Top 25 most shockingly unattractive rock stars of the past 25 years would make for a stellar blog entry… look out Ronnie James Dio, I’m coming for you.

As far as Sharon goes, her star-stock rose dramatically with the arrival of MTV’s pop-culture phenomenon, The Osbournes. The less-than-subtle train wreck that was Ozzy’s home life became the stuff of international spectacle, leaving all of us in a stunned sense of “how?” when we heard that both Kelly and Jack had checked themselves into rehab. If it could happen to them, it could happen to our kids. So, Sharon Osbourne, manager and mother extraordinaire was undoubtedly a perfect choice to decide the fate of others. Besides, if she’s good enough to endorse, then surely she’s good enough for us.

Now, with 2/3 of the panel being from overseas, who could we find to represent our homeland? What incredible talent could we offer television audiences that best represents the American entertainment industry? We need a hero! Well, America, you have one.

David Hasselhoff

To be very honest, the entire purpose of this piece has been to lead up to this very moment. Over the last few years, The Hoff has become a bit of an internet celebrity. Although, “a bit” may be quite an understatement. I’d wager that David Hasselhoff’s current internet fame could rather easily rival his heyday on 1980’s television. Although he’s truly one of America’s strangest and most incomprehensible pop creations, it’s important to take note of the fact that this man, in all of his absurdity, was a genuine superstar at one point.

It has become so commonplace to snicker at all things Hasselhoff, that we sometimes forget that these things actually did exist. They weren’t created just for kicks online, he really did pose for these posters, he really did sing these songs, he really did star in that show with that talking car and then subsequently pose for that photo with Gary Coleman. Not only did he do all of those things, but the very fact that he was asked to do more of them proves that people actually bought them. People actually went to a store, in a shopping mall, and asked for the new David Hasselhoff record, teenage girls actually hung those posters in their bedroom. In fact, there may be no greater example of what the 1-2 punch of cable television and cocaine can do to a population than the existence of this photo.

Now, clearly I’m not breaking new ground here. Making jokes about David Hasselhoff is roughly akin to stepping into a fight with a group of toddlers after the biggest one has already been knocked unconscious. But, take a minute to really think about this man’s career, and how it inexplicably has rolled on longer than should have been even remotely possible. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the debut of Knight Rider. Think for a second how many “next big things” in the world of sports, film, music or any other form of entertainment have risen to greatness and fizzled into obscurity in that time. Now, realize that we are currently having a rather lengthy discussion about David Hasselhoff.

It is with that knowledge on board that I am pronouncing David Hasselhoff to be the most relevant member of the AGT panel, or for that matter the most relevant member of any network television talent show panel. If any of these so-called starmakers can remain, somehow, in the public eye for that length of time, they may then take their place at the table with Mr. Hasselhoff.

Also, let me take a moment to reflect on what may the most stunning event in all of pop culture history… David Hasselhoff’s role in bringing down The Berlin Wall. All joking aside, there’s a legitimate case to be made for The Hoff’s relevance in what may be the most significant event of my lifetime. Whether or not he’s directly responsible for the reunification of East and West Berlin, signaling the end of the Cold War, it’s impossible to argue that his song, Looking For Freedom, provided the soundtrack for the moment. Think about this, with all of the great freedom songs in the history of the world, somehow David Hasselhoff found himself belting out an obscure power ballad as the German people reunited for a New Year’s Eve celebration for the first time in decades.

Had this moment featured Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen or Bono we would still be talking about it, half misty eyed and insisting that it was proof that music could change the world. However, since it’s David Hasselhoff dressed in a flashing leather jacket and piano key scarf, it’s relegated to the “absolutely absurd” file. I’m not going to say that it shouldn’t be, I’m just saying that it deserves some serious thought.

So, there you have it. America may or may not have talent, it’s up to those three individuals to decide. Whether or not you agree with their verdict, it’s nearly impossible not to watch. Each week the freakshow parade rolls before us, complete with snappy observations from people that really have little business making such observations. At least, that was my thesis when this began. However, as I poured through Google and Youtube, I quickly realized that one member of the panel may actually have a valid and unique perspective on exactly what it means to be an American celebrity. For all of Piers’ sniping and Sharon’s mothering, I think I’ll be voting with The Hoff. After all, it’s not about talent, it’s about fame and the likelihood that a contestant may actually achieve it… and David Hasselhoff has certainly managed to contnue achieving fame (on one level or another) for over 25 years.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to install a blinking light bar on the front of my car.

One Last Note: Shortly after I located the Youtube clip for We Built This City, I found myself hitting the play button again… then again. I’m even knee-deep in the hoopla right now. One thing that I’ve learned, through what amounts to a Clockwork Orange styled experiment, is this: If you open that clip in one window, allowing the sounds of Starship to fill your room, while simultaneously gazing upon the image of David Hasselhoff and Gary Coleman posed in front of KITT in another window, the greatest secrets of the universe will be revealed. I do not recommend this experiment to those of you that may currently be under the influence of any mind-altering substance.


5 Responses to “America… (Alleged) Land of Talent”

  1. Brinton Says:

    Man I listened to Knee Deep in the Hoopla over and over again when I was a kid. I wore that tape out. It was frickin’ awesome.

    Do you think that maybe the whole release of the videotape of the drunk Hoff was arranged by his PR guy? We got to see a different side of him that no one expected. I mean, I’ve heard you say you suspect he’s frequently drunk for the show, but that just seems so at odds with his Baywatch persona. If anything I think the video made him relevant again.

  2. corygraham Says:

    It’s impossible to explain exactly what specific incidents have led to the triumphant return of The Hoff. The man is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma.

    The more that I learn about the evolutionary process that turned Jefferson Airplane into Starship, the more confusing this tangled web of pop culture becomes. As usual, Homer Simpson offers the sage advice that we need in times of tumult, explaining in great detail the evolution of Starship, and soft-rock in general.

    Homer: Grand Funk Railroad paved the way for Jefferson Airplane wich cleared the way for Jefferson Starship. The stage was now set for the Alan Parson’s Project, which i believe was some sort of hovercraft

  3. Darkjedi Says:

    Hoff drunk on the floor was an example of his Seemingly Subpar Intelligence superpower. Now, more than ever, he relates to guys like us, having sometimes been drunk on the floor ourselves. He shoveled some more coal into the firebox, to keep the Hoff train a movin’.

  4. Kevin Says:

    And let us also not forget the power of Norm MacDonald on SNL’s Weekend Update when he would boldly remind us that Germans loved David Hasselhoff…

    Also, I would rather watch America’s Got Talent (or even a hour-long documentary detailing “We Built This City”) than last week’s Studio 60.

  5. Darkjedi Says:

    Why do germans love David Hasselhoff? I can explain it very simply. What if Corey Feldman were present and sung a tune at the signing of the Confederacy’s resignation? What if Bea Arthur climbed the rubble on 9/11 and sung “America the Beautiful”? What if the aforementioned Michael Winslow was nearby with a mic when Castro took a fall? They would all be legends to their peoples. Well, Hasselhoff WAS THERE. Thousands or millions of years of evolution all culminated on that one day, when the stars aligned and angels carried the Hoff to the top of the Wall.

    He was there. He did what only he could do. And for that, David will always be Mein Kommandant

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