Friday, April 07, 2006

Or what are we, as a society, doing wrong to deserve a television show like Wilmer Valderrama's Yo Momma?

"Hi, my name is Wilmer and I like hair gel."

Showgirls, Baywatch, Maxim magazine. Add Yo Momma to the list of history's cultural low-points. Except Wilmer Valderrama's newest show for MTV will never have the same societal impact as the other do. Hopefully, it will be cancelled in a few weeks. "Yo Momma" is as asinine and juvenile as a "yo momma" joke. And not in a good way. In fact, the new show is insulting to creative people worldwide and while the former music channel's standards are admittedly not high, there has to be a cap for offensive stupidity.

The premise is very simple: Valderrama, famous for both his role as Fez on the sitcom That 70's Show and for dating misbehaved minors, scours California for local trash-talkers to eventually pit the two finalists against each other for a rooftop show-down. Then the "spontaneous" and mostly average jokes are flung in the air like blunted verbal daggers followed by over-the-top crowd reactions (you can almost feel the intern holding up the cue card reading "LAUGH NOW!"). It doesn't take much to inspire Valderrama himself to run euphoric circles around the roof in response to an obviously bland zinger; in fact, this is when the talentless hack conjures up the best acting of his career.

But it's not the concept behind the show that's so truly offensive--that being said, airing a half-hour of two random people with no previous shared history to simply insult each other is pretty vitriolic--but rather, it's the concept of power being given to the fleet of no-talent personalities. Valderrama was probably given cart-blanche for the show because his name is a draw, like Jessica Simpson, who has been on the cover of more magazines for essentially doing nothing more than getting divorced. But why recognize the Miami native with his own non-substantive show? Is it because he has a strong dating track record including Ashlee Simpson, Lindsey Lohan, and Mandy Moore? Or maybe he's featured on a regular basis in weekly tabloids, as well, consistently appearing on the pop culture radar? Or perhaps his best-friend Ashton Kutcher's clout (which is really clout borrowed from his wife Demi Moore) is more powerful at MTV than we think? Nevertheless, we celebrate Valderrama's existence because the recklessness of his private life feeds our thirst for celebrity gossip. And if the following two examples don't prove my point, I'm not sure if anything will; Nicole Ritchie has written a book. Paris Hilton is recording an album.

In a profile from the April 3rd The New York Times Valderrama said, "I'm really focusing on the next chapter of my life. I've got to keep growing as an entertainer, keep challenging myself."

It's unfortunate that Valderrama sees Yo Momma as "challenging himself." I just hope he's not banking on that Oscar nomination for his role in the upcoming movie version of CHiPs.


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