Culture > Television

Hopelessly promoted

Television | New reality show is wall-to-wall Grease, for better or worse

Issue: "Hope or hype?," Jan. 20, 2007

Anybody who's done a lot of karaoke can tell you, if you want to get the party started, just bring up 20 of your closest friends for an electrifyingly off-key interpretation of Grease's "Summer Nights." By the time you're knee-deep in the "Tell me more, tell me more!" chorus, you'll have the entire room on its feet, either singing along or heading to the car. That's what Grease does for people. They love it or hate it.

Same goes for the new reality show that's looking to cast the leads in a Broadway revival of Grease, called Grease: You're the One That I Want (NBC, Sundays, 8:00 EST).

David Ian, a powerhouse theatrical producer from London, is looking for a new "Danny" and "Sandy" for the show, and he's accompanied by Tony Award-winning director Kathleen Marshall and Jim Jacobs, the co-writer of the original Grease musical.

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Grease: You're the One That I Want has all the constituent parts required of any mediocre talent-slash-reality show: contestants, judges, a great big prize. And it tells a story we love to hear: a young man and young woman, plucked from the rabble by providence and transformed into superstars. There's just one problem with this show, and it's a great big problem. Everybody's singing songs from Grease. Over. And over. And over. In the opening 90-minute episode alone, we heard "Hopelessly Devoted" enough to make viewers break out in Travolta-like body tremors.

But this isn't the only lyric that gets repeated. When producer Ian accepts a contestant into "Grease Academy" (the third round of competition), he says, "You're . . . the one that we want to go to Grease Academy." This, too, is said over, and over, and over. Well, he's the one that we want to come up with something new to say. And some new songs for his contestants to sing.

The people who will watch this show are the same people who don't mind singing "Summer Nights" at the top of their lungs. The rest of us are hopelessly devoted to turning the channel.

Harrison Scott Key
Harrison Scott Key

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