Wow. I mean, wow. "The Ashlee Simpson Show" is something to behold. A star vehicle at it's most self-indulgent. A network pimping out a product at its most transparent. You watch it with your jaw dropped, strangely unable to change the channel in disbelief, because it is like watching a snake digest a rat and you are paralyzed. "Ashlee" is a reality, documentary following the day-to-day life Ashlee Simpson as she practices with her band, goes on tour, does promotional interviews and hangs out with her family and dead-beat boyfriend (and he is a dead-beat) - all the things that a young pop/punk princess with famous family ties, the ear of a cable network and the resulting record deal would do.
Given that I'm not an 11 year old girl, I - like most people - had no idea who Ashlee Simpson even was prior to this show. Simpson had been coasting safely under the radar among a thousand other like-sounding pop/punk princesses until her publicly embarrassing performances on "Saturday Night Live" and then again at the 2004 Sugar Bowl. As we pick up with the series, the 2nd season becomes one of damage control trying to squeal the bad press from both these events. It becomes an apologist's forum (and arguably authentic at that) for the Simpson family, MTV and Ashlee's fans as they scramble to prove that their self-made star has any shred of legitimacy. "The Ashlee Simpson Show" probably didn't last more than 2 seasons, not because people didn't watch, but because MTV was getting exhausting with trying to chase around covering for her every mis-step.
Most TV networks are out for power and control, and if we're lucky ratings and money. MTV, I am much more suspicious of because they appear to want an active roll in shaping behavior - of viewers, consumers, their youthful audience. The network formerly known as Music Television has reinvented itself to be a manufacturing assembly line for pseudo-celebrities. If someone goes on TV and someone else says they are a celebrity - bam - it becomes true. In fact, TV at large has a dark side that goes in this direction. I would make the same point if I where giving the time of day to NBC's "I Want to Be a Hilton". Certain networks are whoring themselves out to elevate certain families to celebrity status in the eye of the public. The thing is, nobody cares who Cathy Hilton is, just like they don't care what Paris Hilton does, just like they don't really care if Ashlee Simpson lip-syncs or not.
Oh, Simpson has fans. As she tells us time and again, she does (and ignores) everything "for her fans". Little girls actually think these people are cool enough to watch their show and buy their products. So Simpson blows off her criticism by basking in her "win" at the Billboard Music Awards and MTV has helped to breed a consuming public that embraces mediocrity and doesn't know they are settling.
There is a larger issue here. This manufacturing of high profile families into celebrities is an odd phenomenon with 2 interesting elements. First, I know it is a common argument to say that these people exist now because nobody is talented anymore, but I don't believe this is the case. From a network standpoint, talent is demanding. People like Ashlee Simpson are easier to control. Secondly, the networks are getting away with this stuff because the public does openly embrace some celebrities families. Why? Because the frantic and isolated pace of life has reached a point in this country where we know more about The Simpsons and The Hiltons then we do our own neighbors - and Hollywood knows this. We decide to see or not see movies or TV shows based on our opinions of the stars personal live - which is ridiculous. People don't watch "The Apprentice" because they don't like Donald Trump. We care more about the latest celebrity breakup then a recently divorced family across the street. Our friends are on TV.
As the producing force behind both this and "Newlyweds", Joe Simpson also deserves a heavy helping of the blame. In that regard, it is probably for the best. Where it not for MTV, Simpson would probably be pimping his daughters on a street corner. The production of this show is hackneyed beyond common sense with an abundant use of slow motion close-ups on Ashlee that only a father - or your local unregistered sex offender - could love.
You can't just build a show around who somebody is. Reality shows are based on the false belief that real people are inherently interesting anyway, but "Ashlee" is also based on the false belief that Ashlee Simpson is interesting because she's Ashlee Simpson. "The Osbournes" worked not because Ozzy Osbourne is Ozzy Osbourne, but because he is interesting and there is something inherently funny about him. Ashlee Simpson has so unbelievably little to say. Her mind is shallow, young and lacks any wit or insight about anything - which at her age is exactly what you'd expect. The flaw here was with MTV (officially dead in the creative department) and Joe Simpson, who gave her the podium and thought anyone would want to here what she has to say. You don't watch this type of show, you gag on it.
0 stars / 4
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