These days, it’s hard not to think of television programming as a pell-mell race to the bottom. Staring at the idiot box, we ask ourselves: How much lower can our common denominator go? For the time being, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and basically everything truTV airs appear to be in a three-way tie for the Bellwether of Civilization’s End award. Now comes truTV’s latest salvo in the “so awful it’s awful” wars, and it may be enough to make the other contenders step off.
“Killer Karaoke” is a show so high-concept it nearly achieves a Zen-like state of no-concept. Imagine a lousy singing competition like “The Sing-Off” combined with a gross-out stunt show like “Fear Factor.” Now stop. You’ve already imagined a show 10 times better than “Killer Karaoke.”
“Killer Karaoke” is hosted by notorious MTV “Jackass” Steve-O, who appears to have landed the gig between drug-fueled arrests. If this series is any indication, he’s a lot less funny sober. The skateboarding self-abuser adds close to no personality in a role better suited to someone of Howie Mandel-like proportions. Generic puns about karaoke do not seem to be the man’s forte. Adding to the mediocrity of it all is the fact that former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider is the show’s celebrity announcer. (Oh, how the unmighty have fallen.) If I hadn’t told you, you’d never have noticed. The cherry on top of the show’s lack-of-excitement sundae is the effort-free set, which appears to be a warehouse lined with cheap rope lights. I’m pretty sure it turns into a rave club after cameras stop rolling.
Some of this might be surmountable if “Killer Karaoke” plied viewers with some entertaining action. It does not. Basically, contestants are asked to sing a song while assorted semi-crazy crap happens. Belt out a tune while having your chest waxed or being dunked in a tank of snakes or navigating a garden full of cacti. In theory, hijinks will ensue. In practice, you get people screaming at baby alligators while occasionally repeating the chorus to an old pop tune. And how’s the singing? You could find worse, but you’d have to be at a bowling alley bar on a Tuesday night.
Creatively speaking, the various stunts barely rise above the level of “Super Sloppy Double Dare.” Also, for no discernible reason, they’re given Japanese names—possibly to trick us into thinking we’re watching a more interesting show than we really are. And you’d better enjoy the few stunts we’re offered, because they’re going to be repeated over and over again. The dog shock collar stunt alone is enough to supply an entire season’s worth of “That was a shocking performance!” quips.
Finally, the “rules” of the show are elusive to nonexistent. Winners are chosen by the studio audience based on whatever the hell they feel like. In the end, one contestant walks away with “up to $10,000.” On the pilot, for example, the winner is handed $5,500. Why? Nobody bothers to explain.
Do yourself a favor—hell, do popular culture a favor—and start ignoring this tone-deaf game show right away.