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A Study in Character - March 24

I bowl a couple of nights a week at my alley in New Jersey. We have all sorts of personalities there. You could probably guess the types if I start mentioning them – the ultra-competitive one, the league joker, the booze hound, the spoilsport who takes the game a little too seriously, etc. Regardless of the types, they are all likeable people who you wouldn’t mind hanging out with when they aren’t at the alley. Heck, you could probably even root for them if you were watching them on television.

And those same personalities are what makes – or breaks – a television show. We talk about these things all the time, but it’s painfully true – any game or reality show is only as good as the people who play them. For example - Jason Block (eager game show fanboy) who only got to $125,000 on Millionaire, got millions of more viewers to show up than John Carpenter, who was the first person to get to a million - and most people even knew that he was going to get there - but didn’t get the ratings because Carpenter had the personality of a wet mop. Sure Ken Jennings wasn’t Mr. Personality, but he had that clean-cut wholesome family happy image that people related to on Jeopardy. Part of the reason why The Price is Right is the juggernaut that it is because the producers consistently do an excellent job of picking the leapers and the screamers to come on down.

Now let’s look at the Primetime Programming. During the first week of Deal or No Deal, I called the producers out on bringing out the contestant’s family only during the time of their big decision and exploiting them on the moment. Thankfully, they have changed their tune and have made it much more of a ‘This is Your Life’ homage, as the contestant’s family and lives are unraveled piece by piece while the contestant goes through the game. It’s no longer a case of someone playing the game – it’s now a case of putting the contestant’s essence in front of us. The disassembling of Texas Cowboy Brett Sloan, from The ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ theme to them bringing down his wife on an airplane and seeing Brett hug her was classic television creation at it’s finest and is one of the reasons why Deal Or No Deal has moved from competitive television programming to Time Slot Powerhouse.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we don’t talk about the show that makes this into an art form – American Idol. You know the 12 finalists right off the bat, and each one has a story to tell. What amazes me the most about the show is that all 58 finalists for the past 5 incarnations of Idol have all had reasons why you would want to vote for them (yes, even Scott Savol), and the ratings confirm that you are not voting for the person as well as the voice.

That brings us to why 2 specific shows either did not work or will not work. The first one is King of Vegas, which I actually wanted to see succeed. I was miserably disappointed when I realized after 3 shows that this wasn’t going to be a contest where we got to see the strategies of people gambling. This was more of a situation where we saw people making betting moves that would be laughed at at most casinos but getting lucky while turning the essence of the show into a shouting match between 4-5 people. Unfortunately, we saw those same 4-5 people get all the way to the end, which made pining to listening to 675 hours of people singing Wayne Newton songs in a William Hung style preferable to watching the final episode.

Then there’s Unan1mous. I am actually intrigued not only by the concept, but by the fact that JD Roth is the man behind the production of the show. Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ended for me, as I saw nine conniving, unlikable people vie for $1.5 million. We know that these people will do anything to win, including lie about testicular cancer and do activities that in the real world would be considered harassment. And when there’s no one to root for, that’s when you stop caring, and when you stop caring, that’s when you change the channel to Flavor of Love (shudder) of anything else that happens to be on at Wednesday at 9:30 pm, because I’d rather watch that than 9 people who I wouldn’t mind seeing trapped in the bunker until the next presidential election.

Though Survivor is also of the cut-throat ilk, at least there are people that you can root for, and the best seasons have come thanks to a variety of colorful characters. It’s also about the gameplay, as there is a ‘game’ to be played, and it’s more than just lie, cheat, steal and be deceptive. Unfortunately, that’s all we get in Unan1mous, and that may be all we will get, which in itself is a shame. Yes, the gameplay is important, but the people that carry said gameplay are equally as important, because that (and the editing that defines them) is what separates something like Survivor from something like Unan1mous. And as much as I hate to say this, even wanting to watch Kellie over anyone else in Unan1mous just solidifies the point completely.

As we are the only site to correctly select Kevin Covais home, will we be getting any props?

Probably not. Oh well.

Let’s see if we can make it 3 straight weeks that we can get the right bootee.

But first, a genre run-down –

Let’s quickly look at who is where, genre-wise –

R&B – Mandisa, Lisa, Paris
Country – Kellie. Bucky, Taylor
Rock – Chris
Male Pop – Elliott, Ace
Female Pop – Katharine

We start with…

It’s weird to say this, but your best move would have been to put on a ghastly performance. I don’t know if telegraphing to your fans that you were in danger would have been enough though – everything that you didn’t want to see happen last week did, and it resulted in your exodus from the show. You get kudos for making it as far as you did, but with all of the talent that this season has, the 11th spot seems like a right fit for you.

Now let’s see who else has a nice fit…

All I have to say is that there is really only one safe person this week, and it’s you. With Kevin (a pop person) disappearing, that means more votes that you can steal and a bigger cushion for you. Like I told Chris last week, this could be a very good time for you to get out of your comfort zone and try something daring – especially because the juggernaut Chris now has some chinks in his armor.

I don’t know who to blame for the lack of giving Live credit for the version of the song you performed. If it’s you, then that was a very bone-headed move, but if it was the editing, then they deserve to be smacked around, as alienating that audience is going to cause you to take a hit. If the past is any indication on the media weakening the Idols chances, I don’t think it’s going to be huge, but it is something that you should be concerned enough to address on Tuesday if the Idol producers don’t do it for you. Also – ALWAYS credit whomever style you are using – it not only absolves you of messes like this, but you reciting your knowledge could help you score more votes down the line.

I would usually put you in the safe category, but once again, there are too many R&B singers. One more good performance from you will probably send Lisa home and then you can relax for the next month – but be prepared to deliver, because it’s too dangerous for you to play it safe now.

Like Mandisa in the R&B section, you are probably the leading vote getter in the country section. I would stick you up as safe also…except that like R&B, there are 3 singers in the genre (Bucky and Kellie being the other 2) and that should make you a little uneasy. What should also make you uneasy is that you did not impress this past week. Another limp effort could propel Kellie over you, and since Bucky’s fans know that they have to vote for him…or else…that would put you at the bottom of the pecking order, and that’s not a good place to be.

You won the battle between you and Lisa last week with flying colors. One more solid effort should eliminate her, but you can’t take Tuesday off. There’s a famous phrase that I like which is, "When you’re in a competition and you can put your opponent away, don’t play with your food, because if you’re not too careful, you then become the food." A good performance and you can stick the fork in Lisa. A performance that Lisa outsings you at could wind up with you being adorned with garnish.

The ‘Shucks’ act is wearing thin on the East Coast, but like it or not, I don’t see you in the Bottom Three because of that. You’re also on a roll and this week for you is critical. A great performance can edge you in front of Taylor and can eliminate Bucky. A lousy effort can have Bucky (who’s fans are on alert) jump over you and put your existence on the show in peril.

See those comments to Paris and Kellie? They apply to you too, but unlike them, you have a sterling opportunity to move into the top pop spot and derail Chris. That being said, you are in a dangerous spot. You’re not in the front-runner group, and you don’t have the dire need to get votes, as Ace has gotten. A safe effort could be disastrous for you this week as I am reserving a spot in the bottom three between you and…

You and Elliott are jockeying for second place in the male pop division behind Chris. You need to sing extraordinarily well for the next 2 weeks. Why 2? Well, you need it this week to stay out of the bottom three, but you’ll need it even more should Elliott fall in the bottom three and make it out, because the backlash of his fans coming out will directly be coming from your voting stash. Of course, if you want to make your life really easy, you blow him out of the water this week, pray for a surprise elimination (as Lisa and Bucky’s contingency know that they have to vote for their idols, which could make this a prime upset week for Elliott) and then be safe for at least 2 more weeks, which could buy you enough time to get a momentum swing on Chris. But it starts this week, because at least one of the grouping of you, Elliott or Paris will be occupying one of those bottom three spots.

This week for you becomes a week of survival. You must outsing Lisa and you probably need to do enough to siphon some of Kellie’s votes. Last week was awful and one more awful effort means bye-bye, Bucky. I think you do get saved because you’re fans will be out to vote for you and I think you will get some of the vote from the departing Kevin – but not if you did on Tuesday what you did last week.

You have 2 major problems here. The first one is that you are only good in a field of great R&B singers. The second one is that your fans last week KNEW that you were in trouble and the best you could do was third to the bottom. Now people can bounce out of the bottom from time to time, heck Fantasia did it a few times and still wound up winning the thing. No one, however, has come back after being in the Bottom three in CONSECUTIVE shows, and I don’t see how you are going to get votes from Mandisa or Paris (who clearly outsang you) or from the departing Kevin, as his genre is completely different than yours. Your only hope is to go back to a ballad and sing the tar out of it, and hope that either Bucky, Paris, or one of the pop boys do badly enough that you can skate over one of them and buy yourself another week.

So my bottom three this week is Lisa, Bucky and the loser between Elliott/Ace/Paris. The edge is for Ace to be in the bottom and for Lisa to be leaving the show. We’ll see if we continue the perfect record in a matter of days.

Gordon Pepper wonders what would happen if you put Mr. T and Chuck Norris in an underground bunker. E-mail him at


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