Tuesday, January 07, 2014

X-Factor Israel is fixed

I suppose it's obvious that I enjoy watching music-themed reality TV shows.  I play armchair judge, criticize song choices, and theorize about who is marketable and who isn't.  I like having music on my TV in general.  And I know that no reality show is 100% unscripted.  There are always producers trying to manipulate people behind the scenes, or inventing rules and tasks that are intended to favour certain competitors or create controversy all in the name of ratings.  But there's a "realness" to the outcomes of these shows that is almost never crossed.  If someone on American idol has a bad week, the producers might schedule him or her to close the show the following week and stick out more strongly in the eyes (and ears) of the voters, rather than getting lost in the shuffle of a 1-2 hour show.  They might even instruct the judges to go a little easy on them, to ensure they won't be in danger of getting voted off the show.  In other words, the voters at home decide what happens, while the judges and producers are complicit in manipulating the voters to give them the outcomes they want.  It's straight up politics -- the methods are sometimes dirty, but the outcome is "fair".

X-Factor Israel right now is a promotional vehicle to push the judges' pet projects.  Its connection to "reality" gets more and more tenuous with each episode.  It's a shame because it has all the elements to be a long term hit show -- compelling storylines, a wide variety of different performers, smart and insightful judges, the most elaborate staging and musical arrangements I've seen on a music reality show, and Bar Rafaeli. 

Based on the voting results thus far (what little we know anyway) and the well established opinions of the judges, there is no conceivable way that Fusion should still be on the show.  Last week, where Moshe Peretz inexplicably declared Avishachar Jackson (who he adored) "ready to perform on stage outside of the show" and chose to save Fusion (who he never liked from the beginning), was a travesty the likes of which I've never seen on so-called "reality" TV.  The conveniently timed commercial break right before his final decision -- to give the producers and judges time to scramble around, put together a solution, and coach the judges on what they should say -- was so transparent in its intent that they should have just hung a billboard over the stage.  After the Karakukli Sisters' unexpected dismissal by the home viewers the previous week, they were not about to allow another group to leave the show and didn't care to what lengths they had to break the rules in order to achieve that result. 

In this week's show, Fusion were handed every possible bell and whistle to get over with the audience -- the opening slot of the show, the most elaborately staged performance of the season with personalized concert videos, professional actresses, specially designed props -- and it still didn't take.   The judges gushed over their performance, doing a complete about face from the harsh criticism of the previous week, and did everything short of rushing the stage to carry them off on their shoulder and yet Fusion STILL had to be rescued from going home thanks to a last minute judges' decision.  Sure, it's technically within the rules of the show and is supposed to be a lifeboat to prevent deserving contestants from going home (like the judges' save on "American Idol", but used every episode).  But the obvious horsetrading that is going on, with judges repeatedly acting out of character whenever there's an important decision to be made, is ruining any sense that we're watching an actual talent competition.  The results of the vote are supposed to decide the plot of the show, but the producers of X-Factor are treating them as a nuisance and hurriedly rescripting their show to deal with the nuisance during the commercial breaks.

That said, Fusion are awesome and for the life of me I can't figure out why they're not connecting with Israeli voters.  They have a unique backstory, they can sing their asses off, their performances are on a different level than the rest when it comes to professionalism, and they absolutely have what it takes to make waves on the international scene.  Instead, we've had to suffer the bland and colourless performances of Eden Ben Zaken and Tamar Friedman (who probably would have lasted at least another episode if the judges hadn't sacrificed her to save Fusion this week), and the Taylor Hicks of the competition, Rose Fostantes, who is a hell of a singer and a great story who makes for great TV but doesn't have a hope in hell of having a successful career (certainly not in Israel) with her poor woman's Shirley Bassey act.  Inbal Bibi has a unique look, at least in the sense that nobody has ripped off Tiffany quite to this extent in a long time, but isn't much of a singer.  Ori Shakiv is incredible and would be a deserving winner.  But still ... LAHAKAT FUSION, PEOPLE!  They're great.  Listen to Ivri Lieder when he speaks to you.


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