By Jon Gallagher
According to television commercials hyping this series, The New York Times calls it the “greatest show in the history of television.” To me, that means The New York Times reviewer is either kidding or has not been a reviewer very long and has only been exposed so far to episodes of Honey Boo-Boo and whatever show Snooki is on.
Killer Karaoke is an awful show and a complete waste of everyone’s time, whether you’re a viewer or participant.
Steve O, one of the guys from the Jackass series where masochistic friends try to do damage to themselves in the form of practical jokes and stunts, is the host. He brings the painful elements from that show to blend with bad auditions from American Idol. Basically, contestants have to sing a song they’ve learned while performing tasks that are going to be painful. Steve O tells them, “Whatever you do, don’t stop singing.”
Two contestants square off against each other in a preliminary round. The audience is allowed to vote on which did the better job. Each show has six contestants with three being chosen for the final round. Those three then face off at a chance to win up to $10,000.
Note that I said, “UP TO” in between “win” and “$10,000.” That’s because of the last challenge that pits the three finalists against each other, which I’ll explain in a little bit.
Even if the winner did get to pocket ten grand, it ain’t nearly enough for what these poor schleps have to go through.
For example, a young lady is lashed onto a swing. She has to sing while the swing is lifted high in the air, then swung over a tank filled with cold water. Of course, she gets dunked as she tries to concentrate on the lyrics, but that’s just the start. She’s lifted out and they dump a big bucket full of (very bad word) SNAKES into the tank, then she is dunked again. She’s pulled out, more snakes are added, and down she goes again.
Snakes, being cold blooded, are attracted to warm things, especially when exposed to cold, and what better to wrap up next to than a human being who’s radiating almost 100 degrees of heat?
Other contestants get equally dangerous and/or humiliating assignments. One has to wear five shock collars (one on each appendage and another around their neck) while trying to serve a meal to the host. Another has on a balloon suit while trying to negotiate a path of cacti while wearing goggles that make him see things as a drunk would. Another wears thick padding to deliver “mail” while five dogs of increasing size are unleashed to attack. Still another has body hair (including one eyebrow) waxed.
Others have been made to reach blindly into boxes that contain things like striker snakes (what is it with these people and SNAKES?), scorpions, or an occasional teddy bear (which for some reason freaks out people more than the snakes). They’re also made to push their heads into boxes that contain skunks, or mice or pigeons where a $50 or $100 bill hangs. Grabbing the money in their teeth gives them a little bonus.
Several have had to walk a runway with five or six covered pits. They’re required to put both feet into the pit for a few seconds. Pits contain things like thousands of maggots, live snakes, ice water, crawfish, and even baby alligators.
I’m not sure if the contestants are told ahead of time what they’re going to have to do or not. I’m not sure how much of their reaction is acting and how much is genuine. I’m not even sure that the whole thing isn’t just another one of TruTV’s scripted shows.
What I do know is this: You expose me to any sort of (very bad word) SNAKE, especially without my prior knowledge, and someone is getting laid out with some industrial-sized dents in their face.
The end of the show features the three finalists on a spinning platform that tilts upward as a stopwatch ticks away in the background. If they stay on the platform for 90 seconds, then they win the $10,000. If not, they win whatever amount is on the stopwatch (it’s about $111 per second). In the few shows that I’ve seen, no one has won more than $5000.
Most of the contestants have been good-natured about their fate, but a couple have looked as if they were ready to do battle with whoever talked them into this.
Hopefully the show won’t be around long. I’d hate to think that there are enough idiots out to provide the numbers necessary to keep it on the air. Then again, the show is aimed primarily at young people and rednecks, so you never know.
Which makes me wonder… Court TV changed their name to TruTV. Given all the towing shows, swamp people shows, pawnshop shows, and other scripted crap, I wonder if the next incarnation of the network will be RedneckTV.
The grade on this one? I dunno. Is there anything less than a zero?
Steve Herte Weighs In
Besides being a perceptive food and film critic, Steve Herte is also one hell of a singer. He loves the art form of karaoke and can usually be found in a restaurant that features a “Karaoke Night.”
Holy cow, yet another black eye for the world of karaoke! It's not enough that karaoke's reputation with the general public is of some seriously drunken Japanese businessmen singing Sinatra badly and incoherently. Now someone has the imperially low taste to ridicule the innocent pastime (not to mention the singers) by mixing it with a dangerous form of Wipeout. I can't imagine the base opinion the creators of this tacky show have of karaoke. Further, it scares me that somebody else would get their jollies out of watching these poor misfortunate fools who allow themselves to be exploited in this way. This is carrying Schadenfreude to new depths.
Karaoke should be about having fun, not about necessarily being good at it. Yes, I do joke about people who couldn't hold a tune in a Glad stretch bag, but never at a karaoke session. The whole idea is encouragement and fun. People who always dreamed of getting up before an audience to sing get their chance to try it outside the safety of their shower curtain. That's an incredibly big step for some and whether they succeed or go down in flames, they still deserve applause for getting up there. That's what we do.
Granted, some need more "liquid encouragement" than others and some do credit to the general opinion, but there are a lot more singers who are good not only at reproducing the original vocals of a song but stylizing it as well. New York City has so many out-of-work singers that they are heard at karaoke bars regularly while they strive for their "big chance." Believe me, in my 20-plus years of singing karaoke I've witnessed some spectacular voices that made me think, "What's keeping them back?" These are people I wouldn't consider competing against because I know I couldn't win. And they surely don't need to be told, "You can't make it in the big time so you sing karaoke."
Still karaoke is about the average Joe or Jill who loves a particular song and, with a little help from their friends (and particularly the host), has that one moment of joy when they actually perform it and are appreciated by their peers. They don't need "Killer Karaoke" disparagement or downplaying by some irresponsible host (and several hosts have lost their gigs by being that way).
My hope is that the network airing this debasing show has the good sense to realize that it flies in the face of decency or that the viewing public wises up to the fact that people embarrassing themselves or hurting themselves (or being deliberately injured by others) is NOT funny.