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WHAT YOU'RE NOT WATCHING: Competition TV's Revolving Door (or: Goodbye, Sharon)

Mrs. Osbourne makes a dramatic exit from America's Got Talent. Let's talk about it. Also, this week's Netflix Instant Pick.

Oh, Sharon. Sharon, Sharon, Sharon.

The illustrious Mrs. Osbourne made headlines this week with a passive-aggressive tweet about leaving America's Got Talent. No timeline was given, but it looks like it's somehow Howard Stern's fault.

This sort of plays off the news from a few weeks back that Jennifer Lopez and Stephen Tyler are not returning to American Idol, with Mariah Carey taking Lopez's place. I mean, really, if you just look quickly, can anyone tell the difference between her and Tyler? Go ahead. Try it. Dude looks like a lady.

I don't watch either of these shows regularly. In fact, I'm only really paying attention to AGT because it's filming in Newark this summer, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. And I really want to know: why do you tune into this stuff?

Does a sustained group of judges really matter? Do you like these personalities and want them to stay? I remember the furor when Idol replaced three judges a few seasons ago. How long can we watch Simon, Paula, and Randy behind the same desk before it gets stale?

These shakeups are necessary; I'm just fascinated by how much effort goes into talking about the whys and wherefores of these people transitioning in and out.

Is it about Sharon and Howard Stern hating each other? Does that drive ratings? Is that why we're watching? Or do we really like Sharon? She's been something of a constant force of positivity in a weird Reality TV world for a decade-and-a-half now, on everything from straight-up reality shows to talk tv and now this.

Does it matter if she's a judge? Is this show about the contestants, or the personalities, or both? What do you think happened here?

I want to know. I also want to know if you watch AGT, and why, because I'm very confused.

This week's Netflix Instant Pick: This is something new I'll be doing at the end of every week: sharing something cool and maybe a little off-the-beaten-path in the world of Netflix Instant Watch.

This week, check out the excellent and eye-opening Seven Up series. This British television show is then grandfather of ALL reality TV.

Beginning in 1964, 14 young people from different social groups are interviewed every seven years, from seven years old on. We see them at 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, and most recently 49. Where some of them end up is sort of shocking. It's an amazing and thought-provoking look at the documentary roots of a lot of reality television, and worth a watch if only to consider how far we've strayed.

That's it for this week, friends. Leave your thoughts in the comments below. See you in seven!

Jonathan Elliott is a writer, arts futurist, pop omnivore, journalist, marketer, and troublemaker. He’s worked in arts marketing and management for the past twelve years, for organizations including Grounds for Sculpture, Princeton Summer Theater at Princeton University, Washington National Opera, The Contemporary American Theater Festival, Sycamore Rouge, McCarter Theatre Center, and ArtPride NJ.

Jonathan writes pop culture and TV pieces for Cinema Blend and Pop Break. His play, Forward Motion, is published via Playscripts, Inc., and he is the co-creator of the made-for-web series NeverLanding.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Matt Skoufalos July 26, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Like most things in pop culture, The Simpsons lampooned the Seven Up series, which is fascinating in its own right, with its episode, "Springfield Up," which guest stars Eric Idle as the documentary producer who's followed the town's residents since childhood (http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Springfield_Up). The only competitive reality TV I think I've enjoyed in a long time was a make-up artistry show on Sci-Fi (or SyFy) called Face-Off (http://www.syfy.com/faceoff/). It was really neat to see how the SFX people make movie-grade make-up. My wife was also a fan of the Spike tattooing show Ink Master (http://www.spike.com/shows/ink-master), which astounded me, mostly at the thought that people would subject themselves to tattoo art under a deadline. Plus Dave Navarro was one of the judges, and he's a human train wreck.
Dan Reynolds July 26, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I loved that the Simpsons did that Seven Up knock off. Man, I hate modern TV... Well, at least the "Reality" shows.. very few shows actually teach people anything.*.. They just feed our strange need to see how other people live/act. *a few exceptions exist, mainly on History and Discovery..
Dan Reynolds July 26, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Edit - and the "reality" shows about who can sing or dance better are just a waste of power and air. Who.. BUYS into that? Who really falls in love with the players?
julie warner August 17, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I am sad to admit that I watch AGT during the try out period. I like to see what crazy things people come up with. Who the judges are doesn't influence my watching of the show but Sharron's positivity was refreshing in a world that is overly critical of everything. However I refuse to watch all other reality TV. I'm a sitcom and drama kinda girl. My two favorite shows are 2 Broke Girls and White Collar, one keeps me laughing and the keeps me interested (and drooling).

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