Thursday, 24 February 2011

Gay for pay

If you can't get enough of vacuous, vain and self-indulgent media whores playing up to the camera, there's some good news. Gay TV channel LOGO is currently recruiting cast-members for season 2 of its hit show The A-List New York.

In case you missed it, The A-List followed the misadventures of a group of photogenic but "vapid and materialistic" gay men in the Big Apple. Tackling such hard-hitting social issues as finding a model agent, commenting on a friend's packet, and how to brief a party planner for a Gay pride bash, the show managed to prove once and for all that true equality means being just as objectionable as your heterosexual counterparts.

The show was clearly modelled on the runaway success of the 'Real Housewives' franchise, which poked cameras through the stylish drapes of women in Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Beverly Hills and Miami. Think of it like the CSI brand, but with more augmented breasts and fewer scenes of forensic investigation. It'll be interesting to see whether The A-List follows a similar model, recruiting camera-hungry homos in a variety of towns across the US. Personally, I can't wait for The A-List: Tuskegee.

Like other shows in the burgeoning fly-on-the-interior-designed-wall documentary genre, the word 'reality' is subjective at best, since the characters, scenarios and hair-dos are about as believable as Will.I.Am's live vocals. Interestingly, plans for expanding the cast of the second season of The A-List illustrate just how contrived these shows are.

Rather than scouting venues and locations for interesting characters around whom the show could be woven, the new approach reads more like a conventional casting, with characters (and their motivations) already clearly mapped out. If you're a "hot young single guy who navigates the NY gay social scene with ease and might be considered a troublemaker by some people..." you might want to fill out an application.

Even better - if you're an on-the-shelf fag hag, who missed out on your chance to score a wealthy husband by never venturing outside of the West Village, there could be a role for you too. The producers are also on the lookout for a "DIVA! You're a young, fun, stylish, successful woman. That's right...we said WOMAN - as in female. Kimora, Beyonce, Mariah? could definitely give them a run for their money." That's right... they said MONEY.
Critics have long argued that the phenomenal success of this new breed of reality TV has sounded the death knell for traditional creative skillsets in the industry. They're concerned that shows like 'Real Housewives', 'Jersey Shore' and 'The A-List' have replaced talented writers, story editors and actors, with low-cost camera fodder. 

But as the shows' performers become stars in their own right, their cost-per-episode increases exponentially. Likewise, the fact that producers are clearly mapping out story-arcs and planning new characters, it's clear that creativity isn't dead after all. The dialogue might not be Brechtian, and the plots less sophisticated than a lazy episode of Saved By The Bell, but at least there's light at the end of the tunnel. 

Suddenly, this cheap and cheerful genre becomes something of a false economy. And that means that we might yet see a resurgence of quality drama on our screens. 

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