Friday, April 14, 2006

American Inventor: Jury Nullification Night


So in the first hour of American Inventor, the finalists were told to put aside their inventions and talk about their passion. In the second hour, they were told to put aside their inventions and tearfully talk about their passion.

Apparently, there is a direct tears-to-ingenuity ratio. I guess Thomas Edison was one big crybaby.

So the woman with the potentially million-dollar idea for baking kits was sent home, becase she talked business instead of shedding crocodile tears. Yeah, that makes sense.

No one is denying that the bald woman has suffered. But her peeling off her wig every time she pitches is cheesy, cheap and exploitative. Plus, no offense, but what exactly did Lex Canther invent? She put a panty liner in a wig. That's not "inventing." What is she going to do with $50,000? Put a maxi-pad in the Grand Canyon?

And what about that doll that speaks Swahili? Gimme a break. It's the first doll, we're told, that speaks Swahili, Spanish, and English. It took her 22 years to come up with it. Okay, I just came up with a doll that is the first doll that speaks Swahili, English, Spanish, Pig Latin, Yiddish, Esperanto, Japanese, and Snoop Dogg. It took me twenty seconds. May I have my million dollars, please?

And I can't even remember if the guy who came up with the alarm clock that bounces off the table across the floor made it to the final 12 or not. I can't remember because I'm busy remembering the dozens of identical products I've seen online over the years.

At least they finally cut loose that old cobweb with the paper bedsheets. I can't imagine how she had the nerve to bring in a piece of paper and call it an invention. And to say it's good for the environment? While wearing a fur coat, no less. But how could they have put her through in the first place? No matter what you thought of Bullet-Ball, that Nok-Hockey game, it was better than sleeping on a big diaper!

With the exception of Peter Jones, the judging has been extravagantly inconsistent. And the producers of the program, which I ordinarily enjoy, should be ashamed of last night's shows. What good does it do to show the deliberations without showing who they're talking about? That has no entertainment value whatsoever.

America's Next Top Model manages every week to show deliberations while still concealing the result enough to build suspense. It's not hard to do. As I say, even ANTM does it, and that's not exactly the best-produced show on the air.

For example: When they had that passionate argument at the end, and whats-his-name, the bald know-it-all, staked his reputation on one invention and the others all disagreed. They argued and argued and finally he convinced them. And we had no idea what they were talking about, and it had no entertainment value at all.

Now imagine instead we knew it was, say, the toilet seat. And we watched them argue, we watched him try to make his case, we watched them resist, but we never saw the outcome. That way we would still have the suspense... and when we see the toilet seat make it through, we can enjoy not just the triumph for the inventors, but the satisfaction and triumph of the judge who we know put it all on the line for them.

That's what good television producers do. Last night was a bummer.

Look, IMHO, if it can be proven real-world-safe, you can end the contest right now and give it to the guy with the child safety seat. As far as the other inventions, the bathroom door clip, the sandbag filler, the un-brella, and the toilet seat filter are ingenious, and are the very embodiment of brilliant solutions to everyday problems. They're what I thought the show would be about.

But the car seat is in a whole other league.


norm said...

Yes , Yes and God, yes.

I am completely baffled by this show. It came on like gangbusters and really got me going with a nice mix of truly inventive people and zany crackpots.

Then to up the ante, they pick some people and say, "Do what you did last time."
Then they get rid of some people, apparently at random, and ask the remaining few to say the stuff they said twice before. If people liked their story once, they'll really love it the third time through...right?

Then to top it off, they make another wild, irrational set of cuts.
The guy in the wheelchair seemed to have a good idea.
In fact they liked it so much they even forgave his freezing up mid-sales pitch.
But then, suddenly in the third round, his idea, "just wasn't good enough"
I wonder why...
Maybe if we could have understood what the heck they were talking about in those dramatic deliberation scenes, we'd have a clue.

And if that one lady on the panel has an expression other than "weepy"
I'd love to see it.
They should've gotten Ideo in Palo Alto to do this show, and do it more like Project Runway, not American Idol.

norm said...

And why did they have that jury of fellow inventors?
Did they vote?
Jump into the ring tag team style in case someone needed help?

I guess they were just there for the added pressure of presenting to a big crowd.

Michael Markowitz said...

Well, that's the genius of Project Runway (and Project Greenlight, from the same producers)... they understand that the deliberations have to be transparent, or you have no show.

Last night was as horribly produced and tedious as the others were brisk and entertaining. There was no new information, no new entertainment. No explanation of where Evan and/or Jaron went. I'm no closer to understanding EXACTLY how Word Ace is played, or why he's there other than that he's a really nice guy.

The flosser is a flosser. So what? I feel bad for the guy... but.... You're right, he did no worse in the last round than he did in the round before.

The other inventors, I guarantee, were there just for "production value"... otherwise it's precisely the same as the other episodes: the inventors presenting to the four judges.

That woman judge, Mary Lou, is an example of the total Oprah-fication of America. I have been doing a lot of research for the "Boob Job" project, and I will tell you that the woman who created the bra for women with breast implants would make a FORTUNE if it's for real. But her blue=nosed sensibilities kicked in, and she refused to listen. Similarly, I'll bet even that one-knot lingerie would make more money than the fakokta maxi-pad-in-a-wig that Sinead is pitching.

As I say I like the ad guy, but he lets himself be Mary Lou's bitch... and I really like Peter Jones, because he has integrity (c.f. the paper bedsheets) and he seems not to let the others forget he's the executive producer.

Having said all that, I'd buy the bathroom door lock tomorrow if it were available

norm said...

Just a couple more things,
Am I the only one who thinks that kid with the bicycle has invented a lawsuit generating machine?
It just looks like trouble to me.

But, thank God the teddy bear lady is gone.

And I have to admit I kind of saw this episode coming, but I thought they were going to pull something out of their hats to avoid the anti-climax of running these inventions through more and more rounds with nothing new to say.
I thought they'd bring in some marketing people or industry representitives to go over the shortcomings of the inventions and see who could apply the criticism and move toward that next level.
I guess that would unfairly penalize the inventions that are already fully realized, but they needed something.

Anonymous said...

The very imbodiment of a good inventor is someone who is ingenious and creative. Someone who can take very little and make it into something special. A good inventor is not someone who end up damaging his life, his job, his family, and losing his house to waste money for an invetion. I am appalled at the way they require inventors to cry and demean themselves. The ones smart enough not to suffer (other than the car seat guy) did not get through. It transparantly maudlin and manipulative and that's why people are stopping watching the show.


Michael Markowitz said...

That bicycle does look inherently unsafe, but I suppose that's what it will cost him $50,000 to find out. I greatly fear the baby carseat inventor will find out the same thing, though I hope not.

On the other hand, who knows? You could never pitch a skateboard today. That's a lawsuit waiting to happen, too... but it's grandfathered in. Just as it's often said that sugar and caffeine would never get FDA approval if they were invented today.

As for the embodiment of a good inventor, and the ingenuity of same, I thought I understood all that, but I seem to be the only one I know who thinks the bathroom door clip is brilliant. Everyone I tell about it just shrugs. I think it's genius!

Anyway, I see where they're going to stretch this week with still more of the failed inventions. Smart, in that that's the most interesting part. Dumb, in that it's an acknowledgement that the show has no forward momentum. As Anon points out, these people are not inventors. They are people waiting to have their lifelong dreams shattered by engineers and marketers.

And yes, Norm, I couldn't agree more. Nothing in this world looks like less fun than that value-stuffing teddy bear.