Talent, Texting and the TV

On Wednesday nights, my brother Eric and I often watch American Idol together.  It does not matter that he lives in western Massachusetts and I live in New Hampshire.  We watch from our own living rooms and send text messages to each other, opining about the singers’ range, timbre and choice of song.  We spend the evening punching cell phone buttons in rapid repartee, chiding each other about our appraisals, our preferences, and our obvious lack of expertise.  The cell texting is a relatively new activity.  The teasing is not.  It is our way of communicating.  We cannot help it.  We were born under a star of biting sarcasm. 

Sarcasm and talent shows seem to go together, and I am a stranger to neither.  As a child, I watched Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour in fascination of the marginally talented trying to claim their fifteen minutes of fame.  My sister Robin and I would giggle until we cried, as we watched sequined tap dancers and baton twirlers vie for the gold pot at the end of the Geritol rainbow.   On Sunday mornings, we kids watched the local version of this program, Community Auditions, which pitted barrel bellied baritones against six-year-old acrobatic dancers who bent their stick figure bodies like paper clips.   We sang along with the opening jingle, shoving each other for a better view of the black and white screen.

“Star of the day, who will it be? 

Your vote may hold the key.

It’s up to you. Tell us who

Will be star of the day.”

Amateur Hour and Community Auditions faded, making way for a different breed of talent show, often with celebrity judges.  The first of these was The Gong Show, a program that truly showcased the crème de la crème of America’s untalented.  Star Search dominated the eighties and nineties, and then the new millennium spawned a whole generation of reality shows-American Idol, America’s Got Talent, America’s Top Model and other forms of American genius. 

I fully confess that I am a talent show junkie, although I’m not sure if it is because I recognize potential stardom or that I am drawn by the same magnetism that pulls my eyes to the scene of a train wreck.  I would love to say it is the former, but my moral fiber and Catholic back ground compel me to admit it is often the latter.  I do know that talent shows have been the springboard for many hours of family laughter.

The summer Gabriel was born, I lived with my sister Martha-Jean.  She had adopted a newborn baby-Ryan, only a few weeks before Gabriel joined the family.  We spent a summer meeting in the living room for three AM feedings, making the hour more palatable by watching reruns of Community Auditions on television.   Soon the babies would be sound asleep, their bellies fat, their burps coaxed out by rhythmic pats, while Martha-Jean and I drank coffee and snickered at Irish step dancers and trained poodles wearing pink tutus and clown hats.   No doubt, Gabriel’s aptitude for razor-sharp sarcasm was formed during those early morning trysts, and I will forever cherish the memories of those sleepy hours in front of the TV with my sister and our babies. 

There are no more mid night rendezvous for me.  If I waken at three AM, I roll over and go back to sleep, grateful for two more hours before my alarm beckons me from the Land of Nod.  Ted Mack is no longer living.  The host of Community Auditions is now the spokesman for an assisted living community.  No longer do I share a home with my siblings.  But sarcasm abounds and so do television talent auditions.  At eight o’clock on Wednesday evening, I’ll be watching American Idol.  Text me.

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