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Now considering I never had cable, and briefly had Netflix back in college, I was not an avid fan of reality competition TV shows to begin with. But I’ve had a few I’d loyally watch: Big Brother, Price is Right, Survivor, Amazing Race (travel of course), and any cooking competition/food in general show that would come on. However, as time passed, I began to feel the “fakeness” of some shows and began to uncover the not-so-surprising truth that backstage there was some shenanigans going on.

By that I mean either not everything you see on TV is legit, or that the producers of the show already have a winner in mind and will alter things to give that person the spotlight (if not the victory); aka rigging the show. It was a disappointment to hear this, as there was/are some shows that I wanted to be on one day. I don’t remember the exact moment or show, but one of the main ones – Big Brother – turned me off early on from it. I came across clips like this one here that shows former contestant Helen allegedly being pushed or signaled to fall off.

Scouring online forums, including Reddit, goes into further details about backstage interference. In this video’s case, former fellow houseguests in that competition acknowledged that producers gave them incentive to jump off early to let another contestant win. Former contestants also unanimously said that production tells them what to say in the diary room clips, and how to act when they say it as well. I get once you’re inside the house, you’re no longer free, but this is truly loss of freedom with the constant micromanaging to their will.

When they were in my town for local auditions, late last year, I did think about applying but I decided not to because I felt they already had people in line and were just seeing if any “unique” people could pop up here. That’s another thing about reality competitions: many of them were reached out to, and not fans applying to the show. Many could be models, actors, or someone scouts found on the streets. Not only was that true for Big Brother, but for Survivor as well. I learned several secret things about that show were not what we thought they appeared on TV. Past contestants even suggested the camera crews assist in helping them find immunity idols to ensure they are safe for the next tribal vote. Even though this show also has some shenanigans going on, I think I’d still apply for this one for it being one of the more realistic ones where people still have to survive the island and find their own food. Plus, it meets my outdoorsy needs and I still get a stipend for being on the show.

So what led to all this talk about finally being done with reality TV shows? Because a poet won America’s Got Talent last night. *Gasps* But Steven, you write poetry as well, shouldn’t you be thrilled? Like myself, many other poets – along with most of America – are calling shenanigans that a poet won over many other talented singers and performers. Most AGT fans on online comments, from Twitter to Youtube to Instagram, all believed that the fix was in this season of the weird 2020 year. Fans suspected, including me, that Cristina Rae and Daneliya Tuleshova would be the final two to stand up on stage. But instead we had a poet and two country singers who were eliminated earlier in the competition but brought back by a wild card rule.

AGT has already been suspected of tinkering with things, as shown by people who were in the audience, along with former contestants. One infamous moment took place a few seasons ago when Simon Cowell steals the golden buzzer from Howie Mandel to pass a Star Wars dance group – that he was obsessed with – that didn’t perform as well as others last night. Despite all the hate Simon got, he carried himself in a way that said “it’s my show and I can do whatever I want.” Even Simon’s son got to perform with the group in a later performance. From then on, I knew that fairness was not something apparent on this show. Don’t believe me? Check out the views and like/dislike ratios for the videos on Youtube. AGT‘s page is known to also not post videos of certain contestants to sway voting and thoughts. However, if you look at the view counts for any of Cristina’s and Daneliya’s performances, they received way more views than any other contestant in the top 10.

They went on stage later in the show, which is generally when the favorites go on, and had amazing performances. Last night, when Terry Crews called contestants up front to determine who would move on to the top 5 round, 9 of the contestants looked either nervous or shocked. Only one looked happy and oddly confident they would go on: the poet Brandon. His poems that he spoke throughout the competition were good, but I remember something (I believe) Howie said that caught my eye a few weeks ago. He quickly mentioned that a year or two ago, when Brandon applied to audition, that he was turned down before even auditioning. Yet suddenly in 2020, the first year a poet ever makes it on stage to audition, they not only advanced to the next round but also wins the whole thing? Something feels amiss.

And the people’s reactions are amazing to see as it’s two-sided. Many act like the words spoken were the greatest things they’ve ever heard, as if they’ve never heard a poem before or been to a poetry slam. There’s thousands of other poets in the world who have just as good words to say, and can convey emotion (if not better) than what was seen on TV. Dead Poets Society anyone? And there are others suggesting it was okay, but that this is no way a Vegas-worthy act. Poetry slams, in general, don’t cost much (if at all) to attend and it’s sort of expected that not many people would be willing to pay $30-$75 to see someone read poems in Las Vegas; especially in these COVID times.

Many will throw politics and current events as reasons why Brandon won, to which that is you’re decision to determine if that played a part in it. I’m doing my best to avoid that, because I’m looking at purely talent. This is supposed to be a “talent” show that’s worthy of a Vegas show. His first poem was great, as it had a bit of current event in it, but focused mostly on himself, his story and his life experiences. The rest were just so-so from a poet’s perspective. Art is subjective, and other dancers and singers wowed that you can say “I’d definitely pay whatever to see that!”. The sad thing is that going forward, many poets (and fake one’s mocking it) will try to get on the show with poems as their talent and see if they can repeat success. I can guarantee that next season will have one person at most on, otherwise we won’t see a poet on stage for a while.

Comedians are similar to poets, in that they go on stage and talk to evoke emotions from the audience; usually laughter. But their potential reaches further than poets, as they can go on to have their own Netflix special, have an acting career, be on Saturday Night Live and more. Plays also evoke emotions beyond laughter, that include sadness, anger, love and more. But unlike poetry, there’s usually a cast and decor to tell a story. There might be musical numbers, big stage effects and others that captivate the audience’s eyes. Singers tell you words that may or may not rhyme, and sell out places. Poetry, though doesn’t always have to rhyme, is like a song without music but is still able to turn a phrase. But no matter how much we look at it, or how much I enjoy writing it, it’s not going to be a sold out event. It won’t draw views like a singer or daredevil performer. Which is why a poet winning, in the first year ever making it, just doesn’t feel right. As if it were staged.

Many contestants on the show end up doing okay despite not winning. Just look at Lindsey Stirling as a prime example of success post-AGT. But to take away someone else’s dream, or rightful place as first, whether it’s AGT, Big Brother or other reality competition shows is wrong. There’s no advertisement money at stake or marketability to be gained. This is just who producers or creators backstage choose to win, which isn’t fair. While I still might watch Survivor and several cooking shows – I love food and Chef Ramsey – I think I might be done with others including AGT. I hardly watch television to begin with, and if I want drama and controversy then I have my drama shows like A Million Little Things. I don’t need to see that on reality shows that involve shenanigans affecting lives and chances. But I still do admit, I could see myself applying to be on Survivor, any traveling competition show and The Price is Right to be one of the more crazy, memorable contestants. Even if my favorite game – Plinko – was rigged one time as well. . .

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