‘Killer Karaoke,’ pain for ears and eyes
TruTV reality series puts contestants through various tortures
November 19, 2012
Though television in general has gotten noisier over the past few decades, some types of shows are particularly annoying when someone in the next room is watching them — for example, tween comedies, pro wrestling and stunt-oriented game shows.
Not coincidentally, they're also annoying when you're watching them yourself.
TruTV's new game show "Killer Karaoke" is deliberately cacophonous, and the entertainment value doesn't make up for the noise pollution. What's more, although we've been desensitized by years of painful stunts on reality TV, most viewers will feel twinges of guilt for laughing at the pain and humiliation the contestants are put through. Despite the occasional chuckles, the show is basically a guilty displeasure.
Premiering this Friday, Nov. 23, at 9 p.m., "Killer Karaoke" is hosted by Steve-O, a star of MTV's don't-try-this-at-home series "Jackass." In each show, six contestants try to sing karaoke favorites while being subjected to various "Jackass"-style tribulations meant to hurt, frighten or disgust them.
For example, the first contestant, a young woman named Melissa who is identified as a preacher's daughter from Texas, tries to sing A-ha's "Take On Me" while being dipped into a pool of frigid water into which stagehands dump buckets of snakes and small alligators.
Before she starts, Steve-O utters the show's catch phrase: "No matter what happens, do not stop singing." She does her best, but the line "I'll be gone" comes out as "I'll be so gone — oh, my God!"
Each contestant is initially paired off with another. Melissa competes against a young man from Georgia named Michael, who is forced to sing the Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man" while pretending to be a waiter in a Mexican restaurant serving Steve a meal. To make this hard, he is hooked to electrodes that gives shocks that, according to Steve, "range from mild to very spicy."
Most viewers will laugh along as Michael lurches back and forth to Steve's table, dropping platters of tortillas and trays of drinks. But sometimes the pain seems too real to be funny.
Fortunately, the contestants are so animated and glib that one starts to suspect they're would-be actors or singers who would do anything for some airtime and thus probably deserve what they're getting.
After each pair-off, the audiences pick a winner, and then the process is repeated with four other contestants. The final challenge is prosaic: The three finalists get on a giant spinning turntable and sing Blondie's "One Way or Another."
The last one thrown off can win up to $10,000, depending on how long he remains on the turntable. In this case, the winner gets only $5500.
Although such reality competitions as "Survivor," "Fear Factor" and "The Chair" have put contestants through mental or physical anguish, the payoff is usually a lot higher. Having stepped into a pile of maggots or had their chest waxed, some contestants still go home with nothing.
Steve-O is a good choice as host. He tells one contestant, "I would never do anything to you that's worse than the things I've done to myself." As he stares in amazement at the contestants' plight, he seems driven more by curiosity than by cruelty.
After each segment, Steve delivers a recap. Since these bits are obviously recorded after the live taping, they should be cleverer.
At an hour, the show is simply too long. The producers already seem to be running out of ideas for new forms of torment: Alligators and scorpions each appear in two different segments; snakes appear in three.
A little "Killer Karaoke" should be enough for most viewers. More than an hour would be torture.
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