It's a tried-and-true, patented TV formula that was honed to perfection this past season on Britain's Got Talent
: A contestant comes on and is painted out to be some sort of pathetic outcast or misfit. The vicious live audience gets ready to heckle. The judges roll their eyes and prematurely position their hands over their respective red-X buzzers. But then
the auditioner opens his/her mouth and proves he/she really does, um, got talent. The crowd subsequently explodes out of a combination of both guilt and joy, and the back-pedaling judges fawn all over the poor misunderstood contestant, who has instantly morphed from punchline to media-darling frontrunner.
The most obvious example of this phenomenon is Britain's Got Talent's Susan Boyle, who elicited pitying chuckles when she first tried out on that show and talked about "never being kissed" and living, spinster-like, in a small Scottish town with her cat Pebbles. But of course, Susan had the last laugh once she finally sang. Her now-historical performance even inspired Simon Cowell to apologize for doubting her.
And now it seems the producers of Simon's Stateside version of the televised talent competition, America's Got Talent
, are hoping to create similar underdog magic with Kentucky chicken farmer Kevin Skinner, who auditioned at the end of AGT
last night. Sharon Osbourne tittered at the 35-year-old hick's thick, straight-outta-Deliverance
accent; city-slicker Londoner Piers Morgan looked haughty and disdainful; and the audience laughed at (not with) Kevin as he made cornball cliché comments about "not being good at math." But then the mood in the auditorium changed when Kevin finally performed:
Yes, Kevin was better than would be expected under normal circumstances...but given how his audition was set up (it was pimped all throughout the episode with between-commercial "coming up" teasers), and knowing the Boyle-esque formula behind shows like this, I wasn't personally surprised that Kevin actually had some talent as a country troubadour. I saw right through this reality-TV shtick, and I suspect so did many other viewers. There was no real surprise here.
To be honest, I think the judges laid the praise on WAY too thick in their attempt to create a feelgood "moment." Yes, Kevin did a solid job, but the way David Hasselhoff was raving, you would have thought he'd just witnessed the resurrection of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams combined. Come on, Kevin wasn't THAT amazing. And it was a little too soon to start predicting he'll win this entire competition.
However, Kevin Skinner did seem like a nice guy with a dream, and his teary-eyed reaction upon making it through to the Vegas round was indeed a nice moment (nicer than his performance, actually). So I just hope AGT
's powers-that-be won't manipulate Kevin too much as they set out to presumably manufacture another Boyle-style, triumph-of-the-spirit sensation. Because we all know how that backfired for Susan in the end.
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