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The Dansville Online
  • Stay Tuned: Instant gratification but little else on ‘Rising Star’

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  • By Melissa Crawley
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    I can’t imagine it’s easy to emcee a live show and Josh Groban works hard to keep things moving on ABC’s new reality singing competition “Rising Star.” If only he’d stop telling me how “revolutionary” the concept of the show’s instantaneous voting is.
    The deal is that viewers use an app to decide a singer’s fate in real time. Competitors stand behind a wall and perform a song for a minute and a half. The audience and expert judges - Ludacris, Brad Paisley and Kesha - see them. In the early rounds, all they see is a black screen with tiny lights imitating a starry sky.
    Viewers download an app, check in before a contestant performs and then swipe right or left to indicate a yes or no vote. A graph on the right side of the screen charts the percentage of votes as they happen. If the singer earns seventy-percent of the checked-in viewers’ votes, the wall rises and they move to the next round. As the count takes place, profile pictures of people who voted appear on the wall. It’s either motivation or a real time reminder that America is just not that into you.
    “Rising Star” isn’t revolutionary or innovative. It’s more like a few people thought: How can we fool the audience into thinking our singing show is changing the face of TV? I know. Make them feel like they’re in charge. Right. Now. Power to the people!
    Here’s the thing. The people already have the power of the vote in singing competition shows (and dance shows and talent shows). Did I miss the meeting where we all decided that waiting a day for a results show was an outrage? If I take the time to vote for a singer on a TV show, I’m guessing I can wait more than 90 seconds to find out the results. My vote doesn’t become more exciting because I can see its impact happening in front of my eyes. It just becomes a gimmick — an app game that I play one week and grow tired of the next.
    The chemistry of a judging panel on a reality show is as important as the opinions they give and “Rising Star’s” experts have next to none. Paisley’s jokes, some at Kesha’s expense, are awkward and sort of sleazy. Ludacris often jumps out of his chair and urges the studio audience to vote no when he does while Kesha rarely changes her expression.
    I can’t really work out the point of them. Their vote carries the weight of 7 percent, so it could determine a contestant’s fate. But if the judges’ vote pushes someone through, aren’t they circumventing the will of the people? And if all the experts vote no and the people vote yes, why do they need to be there? They only offer an opinion after a singer’s fate has been sealed which is kind of like a doctor giving you the diagnosis after you’ve decided to have the operation.
    Page 2 of 2 - Sorry, Josh Groban. This revolution should not be televised.
    “Rising Star” is on Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on ABC.
    Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at staytuned@outlook.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.
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