MTV VMA 2016: Minimal Effort for the Millennials (Editorial)

Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj

Perhaps the only thing more annoying than the faux fanboy “influencers” comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele was the minimal  effort expended to entertain the millennial audience.  The show itself seemed to be an extreme answer to the lack of diversity displayed by the academy at the Oscars.

Hip-Hip ruled the night. Amid lackadaisical performances and the overreaction of the tweens in the audience this years video music awards was nearly unwatchable. The older performers were uneasy with their interactions with the younger stars.

Nicki Minaj looked almost hostilely bored during her number with Ariana Grande. Rihanna, who opened the show in a long dance number,  either could not be bothered to lip-sync most of her songs, or forgot.

Beyonce, the big winner of the evening, gave the performance of the evening. A monument to eclectic dance moves and lip-synced lyrics.  The microphone covering the mouth is a dead giveaway by the way.

The MTV Video Music Awards felt geared to a generation who did not cut their teeth on Michael Jackson and may even be tiring of Justin Bieber. This was aimed at the demographic who joined YouTube after  its heyday.  The kids who look blankly when MySpace is mentioned.

It was painfully obvious that the days of truly gifted and spectacular performers like Tina Turner are over.  Beyonce is a personal favorite, but hearing Tina belt out “Nutbush City Limits” was a special treat and not one performance by any female artist on the VMA’s came near that level of power last night.

The show was all about dry ice, flashing lights and a huge amount of dancers supporting the artists.  Perhaps the main problem was that all the music had a sameness to it.  There was no variety.

(On a sidenote, there could have been a lot more of Jay Pharoah)

This year felt sophomoric and apathetic compared to years past.  Miley Cyrus, who made the VMA her plaything was replaced by two comics posing as Twitter poseurs. And just to set the record straight:   Whoever thought  having Kim Kardashian-North present Britney Spears was a good idea?

Spears, the queen of lip-sync (cop the mic over the mouth) performed with G-Eazy who did the lion’s share of the work. The performance, like the show itself, was underwhelming.

The multiple hosts  this year were incredibly annoying: DJ Khaled and Nicole Byer, along with Peele and Key,  put the VMA at a level of irritation never before seen.

More interesting than the actual awards program were the camera shots of the rich and famous in the audience, arguably the best of any MTV VMA.  Kim getting a close of up of Kanye smiling with her smart phone.  West sidled up to Jayden Smith, and that wild hair cut. The clear excitement of the Olympic guests, who later presented an award,  and who all looked around 12 years old.

Jimmy Fallon came out to present the video of the year award and died.  Perhaps the average audience member is not allowed to stay up that late.  (Beyonce won this one, no real surprise there as this was her night.)

Beyonce won a total of six awards by the end of the evening.  Making her the woman of the “hour.” Rihanna kept upping her game and her final performance was her best. Less about the dancers and more about the singing, RiRi killed it.

Rihanna took the Michael Jackson Vanguard Video award after a long winded and slightly rambling intro from Drake. It was here that he declared his love for the singer.

All in all, the evening was pretty blasé.  A sort of masturbatory experience for a privileged few, we are talking about you Kanye and Kim, and  a total yawn fest  without the antics of Miley Cyrus.  When the highlight of the event is Drake declaring his love for Rhianna perhaps it is time to rethink the formula.

Bring back the spectacle guys and dolls, this was a major disappointment.

Scream MTV: When a Stranger Calls – Almost Meta (Review)

Emma (Willa Fitzgerald)

Scream on MTV aired its season two finale on Tuesday.  “When a Stranger Calls” unmasks the killer, sort of, and is almost meta enough to make up for what was so hated about the first season. Sadly this poor imitation of Wes Craven’s brilliant legacy of the Scream franchise falls well short of the mark set by the late director.

This final episode revealed that Kieren (Amadeus Serafini) was the killer. (Although later “ghostface” – played by  Mike Vaughn – calls the small screen Billy Loomis and asks him who told the killer he could wear his mask.)  It also had more references to the big screen “Scream.” Some of these were a stretch, like the cop car crash sequence for instance, but still the episode tried to  be referential. 

Still missing was the sly poke at the genre, the black humor and the clear “guidelines” in every slasher film ever made. Although to be fair Emma, like Sidney, has reluctant sex,  and both these young ladies survive.

Also missing was the iconic voice of Roger Jackson, the man who did every Scream film in the franchise. Vaughn does a passible job as “ghostface” but he sounds more like the villain on Scary Movie than Jackson’s truly terrifying killer.

(It was also insulting  to fans of Wes’ films that Jackson was never even approached by the makers of this small screen shadow of Scream.) Roger’s ghostface reveled  in his evilness with a dark sort of demented glee unmatched by Vaughn’s version.

Emma was the Sidney Prescott in this MTV version and showing just how far the small screen Scream deviates from Craven’s films the makers have Duval arrested. She is set up by the real killer and the cops fall for it. Emma is taken in, something that would never happen to Sidney.

In some ways the finale did surpass the entirety of both seasons by having the last stand, initially, in the movie theatre.  Later the final confrontation takes place in an old church where, unlike her big screen counterpart, Emma lets Kieren survive.  Fair enough, in the this verse, Emma’s  boyfriend did not kill her mother.

Overall “When a Stranger Calls” (a nice nod to another “classic” horror film although with all the texting that occurs on Scream: The TV Series  it could have been  titled “When a Stranger Texts.” ) comes closer to Wes’ verse even it if does lack  the clever wit.

The knife attacks were plentiful, Brooke (Carlson Young) is skewered as is Eli (Sean Grandillo) although she survives and he, apparently, does not.  Of course the lad is actually dispatched with Emma’s gun.

(Eli provides a what many see as a homage to screen four with the door scene. To be fair it feels a bit more “The Faculty” than Scre4m.) 

There is a sequence where Emma has to decide who is telling the truth, another big screen reference to the original.  Duval even picks the wrong “killer” to shoot, thus ending, presumably, Eli’s role in future seasons.

Speaking of shooting…

Emma’s magical gun was something else. Without going back and counting all the rounds shot out of the single magazine pistol, it seems that at least 12 bullets were squeezed off at either Kieren or Eli.  (Interesting to note that she missed Kieren every single time and punched Eli’s ticket almost without aiming.)

It was nice to see the small screen version of Randy, Noah (John Karna) survive, although Randy makes it at least to Scream 2 before being terminated by the killer.  The fact that Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klausalso makes out alive is a plus. Both these characters were sort of personal favorites. Noah, despite not being as funny as Randy (remember the MTV gang removed any sign of humor from their adaptation of the verse) he was meta enough to be entertaining.

Fans of the Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson versions of Scream seem to believe that the psychiatrist on the MTV series is the new version of Gale Weathers. The shrink is seen writing her theory about “two girl syndrome” (or whatever rubbish she paraded  out for the sheriff) but writing a book does not Gale Weathers make. Once again the small screen character lacks something. (Most likely Kevin Williamson…)

The show’s makers have left the door open for a season three, or at least a build up to their  Halloween special, judging by the phone call from another ghostface.  Perhaps the show will be renewed and if so we have one tiny request to make.

Bring back the humor; the sly poke at the genre that made the late Wes Craven’s versions so special.  MTV Scream may have come very close to cracking a more successful formula with their finale. This shows that they can do it if they try.

Thus far it seems that the biggest fans of the series either never watched the four Scream films or never really “got them” MTV could allow the creators of Scream: The TV Series to be more referential.  (And just an idea chaps, scrap that massively irritating after show.)

They could, in season three, really “bring it.” To paraphrase Gale Weathers  in Scream 4 “How meta would that be?”

Scream MTV Small Screen Slasher More Annoying Less Fun

First victim in Scream MTV
In 1996 Wes Craven started the Scream franchise, which to be fair came later, and, giving a great big cheeky nod to Alfred Hitchcock, killed off the film’s star in the first five minutes. The film was Craven’s homage with a tongue-in-cheek delivery to all things “slasher film” since the genre took off in the 1970s. The first film, like the rest, featured a strong female protagonist (or two counting Courtney Cox’s character) an endearing, and bumbling cop and some pretty spot on nods and winks to the genre and a lot of humor. It also featured Roger Jackson, who “appeared” (more accurately he was heard) in every Scream film as “Ghostface.”

The idea of taking the “scream-verse” to the small screen sounds like a great idea on paper, at least it must have to get MTV to get involved, but Scream lacks so much and the small screen slasher is more annoying and less fun than its inspiration. Certainly watching the first four episodes (“for free, then just sign into your MTV app and…”) there are things that work, albeit, barely.

There is a fairly good backstory, but it does feel like a Halloween borrow, giving the mask way more significance than Wes Craven or Kevin Williamson ever did. Certainly the creators of Scream “TV” have taken the idea of cell phone culture to heart. Using the young’s propensity to text rather than call on their cell, it almost negates the use of a “ghostface” voice changer, aka Roger Jackson (who, incidentally was never approached by the makers to work on the new series). Perhaps the most annoying thing about the show is the cheap trick by the program makers of having someone do a pretty underwhelming impression of Jackson on the phone and not having the “real deal.”

Certainly the unwillingness of the program’s makers to payout for the “real” Ghostface spells out all that is wrong with this show. Other problems deal with their use of the Internet, which Craven and Williamson opened the door on in Scream 4. Podcasts, the use of the net to promote instant “fame” (“How do you think people become famous any more? You don’t have to achieve anything. You just gotta have f***ed up-sh*t happen to you.” Jill tells Sidney this, before attempting to take over as hero of the Woodsboro story. Of course the proviso is that one has to film it, upload the footage and reap the rewards.)

Presumably the twist of the last Scream opened the door for this small screen version. The end result is one of overall disappointment. Where is the humor? Gone, like Roger Jackson and Kevin Williamson. The wry, sly, delivery that oversaw all the larger-than-life murders, buckets of blood, quips, plot twists and the likable main protagonists are all missing.

Emma Fitzgerald appears to be the small screen version of Sidney Prescott. She even comes from a broken home, single mom, versus Sid’s single dad scenario. Although mom is a coroner and dad is not dead, at least so far, he just does not live locally anymore. There is no Dewy and Gale Weathers appears to be taken over by a podcast crime aficionado Piper Shay, who lacks the career killer instinct that Weathers had in spades.

Noah Foster, played by John Karna, is a sort of Randy replacement, without the majestic geekiness that Jamie Kennedy infused the character with, although he is a crime buff and not a film one. He is also, a gamer.

The main problem with the small screen Scream is that this tries to be all things to all groups. There is a gay character, who was once bestie’s with Emma, who has yet to really prove to be anywhere near the equal of Sidney, but then who can really compete with Neve Campbell?

Answer?

Not many.

The acting is okay. There are things that stand out. John Karna’s broadcaster style delivery works and his (short-term) girl Riley Marra, played by Brianne Tju, had brilliant chemistry onscreen with Karna and Tju had the best death scene ever. Riley, who stupidly leaves the relative safety of the police station, gets stabbed repeatedly. She climbs to the roof and after slapping one bloody palm on the skylight to get the janitor’s attention, speaks to Noah, via FaceTime. Noah asks where she is, “What can you see,” he asks. As she dies, Riley rolls over to lay on her back facing the night sky. “Your stars,” she whispers and expires.

Not bad.

Unfortunately that two word descriptive fits the show all too well. Rather interestingly, the series seems to be fairly popular. Perhaps these fans are younger audience members who do not get what Craven and Williamson were doing with the big screen original franchise. Thus far the TV version lacks originality, which if would do as it is based upon a successful and beloved film franchise, and it has no humor. It takes itself far too seriously, going for the scare and leaving the humor out of the formula.

Although having said that, Noah does come close to being comic relief, but the working word here is “close.” Oddly, the best thing about the MTV show is the music. It sets scenes beautifully and supports the action very well. This makes sense, it is, after MTV. (Obligatory “Duh” entered here.) Sadly, great music and a kick-ass soundtrack do not a great series make.

One can forgive the lack of a Ghostface voice, since the plot does pretty much rely upon the text function of today’s smart phones, but to then use another actor Mike Vaughn to do a Roger Jackson style delivery is insulting. Not only to Jackson but to fans of the original who so desperately wanted to love this small screen Scream. Granted, it is not really clear if Vaughn is the voice on the phone, he is listed as “killer” rather than phone voice or “ghostface” wannabe. Just one more annoying thing about this show that is much less than the film franchise that inspired it.

Scream airs Tuesdays on MTV. Watch it and “catch up” if you are behind and see what you think. Prepare to be a little underwhelmed, this is a lot less fun than Craven’s films. Fans of horror with humor may want to hold out for Scream Queens on FOX.

Paris Hilton Punk’d in Poor Taste (Op/Ed)

Paris Hilton looking different
Ashton Kutcher and his MTV prank show Punk’d may not have started the whole, let’s pick on a celebrity craze, but he can be blamed in part for it. The show was wildly popular and it became a bit of a status symbol to get targeted by the new Mr. Kunis. Other countries have adopted the format and now Paris Hilton has been “punk’d” by Egyptian telly presenter Ramez Wakel el-Gaw. The 34 year-old celebrity and “actress” was caught out on a recent Dubai trip and the whole “punk’d” experience looks to be in very poor taste.

The segment of the show, which can be seen in the YouTube video below, is not actually very funny; for a number of reasons. For a start, there are too many “uncomfortable” things going on, close seating, a “foul” smell caused by an aerosol can being sprayed behind Hilton’s seat, and when the plane goes into crash mode, everyone starts screaming. On top of that, two members of what look like aircrew, open the back of the plane and after one jumps out, start attempting to hand out parachutes.

“I don’t want to jump,” wails Paris as the woman immediately behind her appears to start throwing up. Hilton apparently has a fear of dying in a plane crash, perfectly understandable considering the amount of air travel she must do on an annual basis. While this may not be common knowledge someone must have known and this makes the entire “prank” a cheap shot and not funny at all.

Not being a huge fan of Hilton, I will confess to cheering when her character’s head was skewered by a pole in the 2005 House of Wax remake, not just because the woman cannot act, but because of her dubious claim to fame. Several websites have pondered whether or not Paris was in on the gag or not. As at least one pointed out, “She is not that good an actress.”

Point taken.

By the end of this questionable stunt the presenter professes his “love” for Paris and she replies, “I’m going to kill you.” According to other publications she has gotten over her “shock” and has tweeted about the incident relating little “anecdotes” about her terrifying experience. No surprise there, this is the woman who turned what could have been a soul destroying sex tape leak into almost instant success.

While Paris hits Twitter, there may be a couple of Egyptian show hosts and presenters who might have to watch their collective backs for a while, not for a Hilton hitman, or woman, to snuff them out, but for a lawyer armed with a bit of “punk’d” paperwork for them. Turn about, as they say, is fair play chaps.

On a side note: is that plane a Sherpa? Anyone who knows; answers on a postcard please or in the comment section. Cheers.

All Reality Television Scripted Not Just Married at First Sight

Marriage at First Site screenshot
It is amazing that in this day and age there are people who believe that reality television is not scripted, the recent “outrage” about Married at First Sight using actors or at least “aspiring actors” is the perfect case in point. This is not, however, the first time that fans of a “real” series have been shocked to learn that the participants are, in fact, actors who follow a script.

Read entire article at Viral Global News…

31 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith