Our family really enjoys watching Dancing with The Stars together each week. (As with most shows, we DVR it and usually watch it the next day so we can zap through the commercials.) In loving the show, we obviously have a lot of company. Dancing is the number one rated entertainment show on television this fall, surpassed only by the meteoric ratings for prime time NFL football.
While we were watching the show this week, my wife Lauren turned to me and said “Stephen, this show IS The Old Hollywood!” and I realized immediately how right she was.
Dancing combines the glamour, artistry, drama, fun, and sheer spectacle of the great Old Hollywood musicals that were so immensely popular in The Old Hollywood; moreover, the show is great family viewing: no sex, no violence, and no F-bombs.
The formula for the show is really brilliant in that it pairs professional dancers with amateurs, so we get to see the best of the best teaching and inspiring their celebrity counterparts.
My only issue with the show is that its definition of “celebrity” is used in a very, very broad context.
This year, for example, has featured legitimate celebrities such as Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), and Florence Henderson (Brady Bunch). Last year, for instance, featured legitimate celebrities such as Donny Osmond (who actually won), but it also showcased Kate Gosselin. As I say in Bringing Back The Old Hollywood:
Paging Howard Beale: Triviality Trumps Substance
Remember the times when achieving something artistically actually had to happen before someone was considered a celebrity? Andy Warhol was more prescient than he could have imagined when he said that everyone in the world would eventually have his or her own fifteen minutes of fame.
Would that it was only fifteen minutes.
Whereas the fan magazines of yesteryear glorified movie and television actors and actresses, the new twenty-four cable stations have created a celebrity culture where truly anyone can lay claim to being a celebrity by simply seeking that celebrity.
No talent whatsoever is required.
Even for legitimate celebrities, the magic and mystique are gone because they are so overexposed so constantly and also because the word “celebrity” has been so denigrated.
Case in point: Kate Gosselin, whose primary “ability” seems to be her willingness to exploit her own children, and whose claim to being a celebrity is rooted only in her desire to be considered as such. Gosselin is, nevertheless, actually referred to as a celebrity by much of the so-called mainstream media.
Gosselin even recently was reportedly paid five hundred thousand dollars to appear on Dancing With The Stars.
Meryl Streep is a star. Kate Gosselin? Not so much.
In the classic 1976 film satire Network, Howard Beale, a network news anchor, gets so morose over his poor ratings that he threatens to commit suicide on his next broadcast.
Instead, however, the next night he urges all his viewers to go to their windows and scream out to the world:
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Of course, his ratings go through the roof.
At that point, the entertainment division of the network takes over the nightly news and turns it into a sideshow that, of course, becomes an ever-bigger success.
Today, the excesses of the celebrity culture have fallen so far into the realm of absurdity that they make the satire of Network look quaint by comparison.
Still and all, Dancing With The Stars really is The Old Hollywood!