Project X Tries To <em>Reason</em> With Fuse TV

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As part of Idolator’s continuing effort to geekily analyze every music chart known to man, we present a new edition of Project X, in which Idolator Critics’ Poll editor Michaelangelo Matos breaks down rankings from every genre imaginable. In this installment, he tries to sort the factual errors from the intentional comedy from the plan ol’ batshit as he subjects himself to the Fuse show 10 Great Reasons, where a zoologist, a cheereader, a TV chef, and Carnie Wilson all have plenty to say about girl/boy bands. Even if little of it is coherent.

Even if you’ve written concert or movie reviews, taking notes on TV watching can be exhausting, even if you’ve got DV-R and can pause to your heart’s content. It’s got to do with set and setting. Jotting things down on the fly while in a dark, crowded bar, or while seated in a darkened movie theater, somehow feels less unnatural than doing the same thing in a brightly lit living room, looking at something manufactured for the most passive audience conceivable.

Still, you can learn something from it. The obvious reason I started watching cable network Fuse’s program 10 Great Reasons was that I write a column about Top 10 lists. I kept watching because the show was so irresistibly ridiculous–as ad hoc and seat-of-pants as anything I’ve come across lately, willing to try anything as much out of obvious necessity as carefree spirit. “The show that takes scientific fact, classic literature, and human psychology to let you know it’s OK to learn those crazy dance routines,” went a line from the episode detailed here, which about sums it up. Watching, you start wondering which producers knew which author, astrologist, publicist, and/or ex-minor celebrity tapped to appear as a talking head; which ones they were college roommates with, or which ones dated their siblings or cousins, or what the precise nature of the favors one owed the other might be. (Gambling was involved, I’m almost certain.) Slow things down a bit during a randomly chosen episode and you might start wondering some other things, too.

10 Great Reasons You Love Girl/Boy Bands”

1. You love a breakout star 2. Everybody wants to rule the world 3. Hotties always come first 4. They dance better than you walk 5. They’re your high school crush 6. You want mass volume arm candy 7. Cheese never tasted so good 8. Harmony isn’t just a great stripper name 9. You love those annoyingly catchy names 10. You like a nice package

By itself, this is a fairly opaque list; it’s there to be fleshed out by a multitude of video clips, talking heads, and stock footage. This episode begins with this voiceover: “Centuries of suffrage came to an end with the Equal Rights Amendment–but that doesn’t stop us from separating the sexes when it comes to boy and girl bands.” That’s certainly news to anyone aware that the Nineteenth Amendment, which in 1920 gave women the vote in the U.S., is distinct from the Equal Rights Amendment, which was never ratified and stopped being eligible in 1979. This sets the tone, as it were.

Soon enough, we get some of those talking heads discussing No. 10, which refers to the attractiveness of group dynamics: an Us Weekly photo editor; a publicist; a former member of 98 Degrees; a neuroscientist; a psychotherapist; and, somehow inevitably, Carnie Wilson. “In Wilson Phillips, I think that Chynna was the hot, pretty one, the lead singer,” she says. “Wendy was the mysterious, sexy one. I was more of the rock.” She frowns, then smiles: “The meat.” Before we have a chance for any embarrassment to sink in, we cut immediately to Daisy Martinez, who hosts PBS’s Daisy Cooks! and says, “When you prepare a menu, you have to have balance. You have to juggle texture, color, smell–you have to be able to juggle all of those elements to come up with a finished symphony.” Visuals: faded stills of diner food that lead, at “a finished symphony,” to a bright promo shot of . . . the Village People, who are precisely what I think of whenever I consider menu planning. Specifically, I think of the “Sex Over the Phone” video, but then I think of that video every minute of my life, whether or not I’m planning a menu.

And today’s special is whoppers. No. 9 is accompanied by Peter Grossman, the aforementioned Us staffer, saying, “People can take credit and pride in the fact that they know that, actually, it’s the N, then the apostrophe, then the S-Y-N-C.” Actually, it’s spelled ‘NSync, or *NSync, give or take entire-word capitalization. This must be why he’s the photo editor. Less factually disputable but equally dubious is financial columnist Laura Rowley’s statement that Wall Street condensations of corporation names are, apparently like boy-band names, “fun to say”–which, if you’re not being fucked over by those corporations on a daily basis, they probably are.

By the time we reach No. 8–which brings in commentary from a vocal coach, an ornithologist, and a political writer who argues sweetly but unconvincingly that “if you’ve ever been to a political rally and everyone’s singing the same song, it can be really powerful”–I had stopped attempting to keep track of the stock footage. It’s used entertainingly, for the most part, giving the show a kind of Behind the Music-meets-Night Flight feel.

But No. 6 was where things got interesting again. Not just because “mass volume arm candy” denotes the musical group as stand-in for group sex fantasies–complete with words from the attractive sexologist and “Personal Pleasure Coach” Dr. Sadie Allison–but because this is where we are introduced to Michelle Moran, who is identified onscreen as a “historian.” Funny, because Moran’s own website introduces her as a historical fiction author, which the last time I checked wasn’t remotely the same thing. Later, discussing the self-explanatory No. 4 alongside the Knicks City Dancers, zoologist/TV host Jarod Miller, author/actor Malachy McCourt, and Fordham cheerleader Casey McCurdy, Moran quickly traces the history of social dancing from circle dancing to square dancing to lap dancing. Yeah, that about covers it.

Down to No. 2, about chart domination, Fuse host Steven Smith notes, “The goal is to be the herpes of the music world.” That’s certainly one way of putting it. But no one is more eloquent on the matter of boy/girl bands’ importance than the aforementioned publicist, Jenn Nuccio of Susan Blond Inc. “The Pussycat Dolls are really hot,” she says about No. 1. “There’s going to be a point where one of them is going to get offered a movie role . . . She should totally go for it.” Please note that Nuccio doesn’t specify which kind of movie one of the Pussycat Dolls is going to be offered a role in.