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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Friday, March 12, 2004

Breaking Down The "Dream"

Alright, I've given it some thought, and now it's time for me to explain why "Dream Job" just isn't working (even as I continue to watch the show).

In order to do this, I'm going to work from the assumption that "Dream Job" was more or less patterned after "American Idol." I think this is a fair assumption. "American Idol" was one of the first of the recent wave of successful reality shows, it's one of the few that continues to sustain its viewership, and it has set the bar for talent competitions, as opposed to other reality shows like "Survivor" which don't really draw out talent.

Also, the main point of comparison is that both "Idol" and Jobby Job offer contracts as the grand prize. The "Idol" winner gets a recording deal; the "Dream Job" winner gets a one-year deal as a SportsCenter anchor. So I think this is a fair place to start this analysis.

Here's the fundamental difference between "American Idol" and "Dream Job:" "Idol" is, at its core, a search for an entertainer. "Job" is a search for a newscaster (and it just happens to be sports news).

That is the essence of why "Dream Job," while good in theory, just isn't working. Think about it: The job of SportsCenter anchor is a dream job for many, just like being a pop singer is a dream for others. Where the difference lies is that people will listen to a singer if they think he or she is entertaining. Since SportsCenter is, first and foremost, a news show, people watch to be informed about sports.

Many of the anchors on ESPN are entertaining, and that's a big reason ESPN has become such a tremendously popular station. Think of the catchphrases that ESPN has introduced into the nation's collective lexicon: Dan Patrick's "En fuego," Stu Scott's "Booya," and Chris Berman's "Back-back-back-back-gone," to name a few.

Even with the catchphrases, the show is still about highlights. Bottom line, nobody would tune in to watch catchphrases. The show isn't about the anchor. On the other hand, a CD is about the music.

See where I'm going here? If you like music but you don't like the "American Idol" winner, then you have the option not to buy Ruben Studdard's CD. On the other hand, if you like sports, you're going to watch SportsCenter - for the highlights, remember - regardless of who the anchor is. You don't watch SportsCenter because Kenny Mayne is hosting the show on a given day. Actually, the reverse might happen - you might turn off the show if the anchor sucks.

Or, to frame it another way, you wouldn't want a competition to select the next ABC News anchor. This is no different, other than that we're selecting a sports news anchor.

Here's another issue I have with "Dream Job," while I'm busy comparing it to "American Idol." Some of the most successful "Idol" episodes are the first few episodes of the season, when they show the auditions in each city and then show the process of how the judges pared down the contestants into the final groups. In fact, "Idol" has been on for about two months now and we've only just reached the final 12. Along the way, the viewers have gotten to know some of the contestants already, and some of the rejects (notably William Hung) have even found a kind of bizarre celebrity.

On the other hand, "Dream Job" jumped right to the final 12. In the first episode, there was all of 10 minutes dedicated to the selection process. Come on, I know footage was shot at the auditions. There's no excuse for not showing how the final 12 contestants were chosen. Who did they beat out?

To be honest, I'd really like to see how they were chosen, because at least half of them aren't that impressive. Are you telling me that out of the tens of thousands of prospective anchors, none was better than these guys?

I don't buy it. I want to see how the producers arrived at the final 12. "American Idol" has already brought back their worst auditions for at least two shows this season alone. Why can't "Dream Job" do the same? If people were really worse than Quigs, then show us that. I find it hard to believe he was one of the best 12 applicants.

Years from now, when I'm running things at the Worldwide Leader, you better believe I'll have things running smoother than Dick Vitale's head. If I had a say in "Dream Job," maybe it wouldn't be getting ripped on...as much.

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