Signs of the apocalypse, stateside trip edition:
- The success of the For Dummies series, which now have entire sections of their own in bookstores. Do readers really think are dummies? Do they really want to own these ugly, condescending books? I am particularly frightened by House Flipping for Dummies, but cheered to think that at least in the current climate nobody is likely to publish Explosives for Dummies.
- Armed & Famous, a TV show that merges the Cops reality-law enforcement genre with the genre of shows about celebrities doing things outside their limited competence. I look forward to seeing Celebrity Rocket Scientist, Celebrity Border Guard, Embedded Celebrity Troops and Celebrity in Congress next year. Bill Maher, who used to run Celebrity Political Pundit, must take some of the blame for this.
- An Idols-meets-Apprentice reality show in which the viewing audience votes to decide who will star in a new Broadway musical. Whatever happened to artistic vision? Must we decide everything by televised plebiscite? Next thing we’ll be electing the President by … Oh. Wait.
Mind you, theater is already audience driven to an extent most audiences are probably not aware of. Last fall on the department’s study trip to the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford we were used as a focus group for several plays, and we also learned that there are staff who attend performances specifically to listen to the audience and pass overheard feedback to the directors and actors – who do make changes based on it.