Reality Bites: Killer Karaoke
I should probably stay out of the progonostication game, because I honestly never thought karaoke would stick around as long as it has. Sure, I'm happy to trot out my heavily Shatner-ized take on "Like A Virgin" if the occasion warrants, but when it first hit our shores back in the '90s, karaoke seemed destined to go the way of disco and a healthy space program.
20+ years later, we have karaoke leagues, dedicated karaoke clubs, and American Idol. Clearly it's not going away anytime soon. Still, as entertaining as it is to watch a crowd of drunk administrative assistants butcher Reba McIntire's "Fancy," I can see how your average crowd might be getting bored with the whole thing.
Enter TruTV's Killer Karaoke, which introduces some new ideas to the concept of standing in front of a bunch of strangers and mumbling off-key renditions of your old favorites. Namely, scorpions.
I always liked Steve-O. Of all the Jackass, er, jackasses, he seemed the least mean-spirited and was easily the most willing to go the extra mile for a laugh, making him responsible for some of the best gags on the show (the ass cheek piercing and dune buggy tattoo were two of my personal favorites). Yeah, it was a bummer to find out he was zonked to the gills on coke, PCP, and ketamine, but also strangely unsurprising. But it's a clean and sober Steve-O who now hosts Killer Karaoke, a show which finally brings to life what we've been wanting to visit upon karaoke singers for years.
I kid. The format appears fairly static, in that the "challenges" appear to be repeated throughout the shows. The first round takes the winner from three pairs of contestants (determined by audience vote) and puts all three in a final showdown. The contestants are competing for $10,000. Wait, only $10K? didn't we have a $100,000 Pyramid in 1991? I guess networks have gotten chintzy in recent years. Thanks, Obama.
The first contestant is a cop from Glendora, CA named Jason, who's outfitted with five shock collars ("Shock Therapy") and attempts to serve Steve-O dessert while singing "Blue Suede Shoes" while being zapped with ever increasing voltage. He's a decent singer, which makes the subsequent painful spasms that much more hilarious. Next up is Sharon from Detroit, who gamely croons "Heat Wave" even as she's dunked in a tank full of snakes and (one assumes) muzzled alligators. Sharon wins the preliminary, probably because she made the most interesting faces.
I do have to say, Steve-O seems gratified to be watching someone else get tortured, even if his banter is, to put it mildly, forced. Dee "Twisted Sister" Snider does better in the Don Pardo role, even though it doesn't appear he's even on set. I'd probably sound more relaxed recording my dialogue from my bong room as well. In any event, the show could definitely use more profanity and bodily fluids.
Pardon me while I wax poetic.
As the contestants keep coming ("Unique" from Ohio is manipulated by a puppet master who flogs her with an eel - *snicker* - while Mario must wear a balloon suit and navigate a cactus obstacle course in "drunk goggles" and barefoot) it starts to dawn on me: there's no real danger here. With Jackass (or even Wildboys), there was always the chance of grievous bodily trauma. Here, you never really fear for the contestants' lives. The closest we get is when Lucas, a karaoke bar employee, has some difficulty completing "Ring of Fire" while dogs attack him. He's wearing a protective suit, of course, and I'd be willing to bet money they were trained not to go for anything but arms and legs. Meanwhile a woman named Elizabeth has to perform while sticking her head in tanks full of scorpions and, finally, a skunk. This is all for mere visual shock value, because there isn't a network legal department on this planet that would allow actual stinger-enabled scorpions anywhere near someone's eyeballs.
Is it bad that I wanted more sadism? Once you realize nobody's going to get a face full of skunk oil or break a collarbone, things get boring quick. The final competition requires the contestants to sing on a rotating wheel for 90 seconds without falling off. There aren't evem any cobras or anything. I'm glad Mr "O" has found a source of income that doesn't involve diving into raw sewage, but Killer Karaoke is disappointingly tame. I guess we'll have to wait a few more years for Swim the Crocodiles.