Famous in 12: A Thesis on Fame in 2014

Famous in 12 (Logo: CW)
Famous in 12 (Logo: CW)

Famous in 12 is the latest in “social media experiments,” this time seeing if Harvey Levin can transform the Artiaga family into the next Kardashian brood nobody asked for.

Show

Famous in 12, Tuesdays at 9pm on the CW.

Premise

Harvey Levin (TMZThe People’s Court) believes he is the Henry Higgins of fame and wants to see if he can, in twelve weeks or less, turn a no-name family (the Artiagas) into the next Kardashians. There’s the “momager”1 Annie, the step-dad DJ Mike, and the three daughters: Jameelah, 22, the model; Maariyah, 23, the dancer; and Taliah, 27, the singer.2 The show is more-or-less in real time—each episode recaps the previous week—and is a “social media experiment” because that’s the law now. Social media commentary, or lack thereof, over the next 12 weeks will determine whether or not any of the participants has achieved the Levin standard of fame.

Pedigree

I think this is technically a spinoff of Harvey Levin’s TMZ show, as many of the segments are punctuated by the bullpen meetings with the website’s staff. Also, the CW knows vapid reality (come back soon America’s Next Top Model).

Who is Famous in 12 For?

If the CW didn’t pick this up, it would fit perfectly on the E! network. The show is basically Who Wants to Be America’s Next Big Brother Kardashian?

What Works

I am not part of the audience for this show—I don’t care about keeping up with any of the Kardashians and I’m not even ironically interested in what Paris Hilton is up to these days. However, in the intro to the first episode Harvey Levin explains his thesis on fame, particularly how the concept and acquisition of the commodity has changed drastically since 2004. I find this fascinating, as this could be interpreted as a summer lecture course on American popular culture. In his initial meeting with the Artiaga family, Levin explains raw talent won’t get you very far and that if you aren’t working, you need to be “scheming.” I think that may be some reality TV cookery, but he does emphasize the need for a plan, which I buy.

What Doesn’t Work

The fundamental concept of the show makes me so sad. All three daughters position themselves as sexual objects in their intro packages, which, gross. This continues to be reinforced throughout the first episode, particularly an encounter with Ray J. I don’t care if the encounter was staged or not—this reeked of After School Special.

The staginess of the show made each segment read like a prompt from an intro to improv class:

  • “Bikini Babes Celebrity Bake Sale”
  • Soulja Boy’s +1 at the Clizzub
  • Crash a Red Carpet Event
  • Fashion Photographer Delivers Harsh Truths

Granted, Levin needs something for these people to do so he can offer critique at the end of the episode, but it makes the concept of “fame” seem like Pokémon. Jameelah especially was focused on getting selfies with famous people, thinking that acquiring lots of photos will make her famous. I guess that works for the guy in the Elmo costume in Times Square?

Verdict

If the goal is to become a socialite (read: famous for being famous), it’s important to note that Kim, Paris, and Zsa Zsa at least did something to become a known entity. If the show is going to be 12 weeks of stupid pranks and fish out of water screeching “wanna take a selfie with me?” it will not work. While I am very interested to hear what Harvey Levin has to say on the subject of fame, I’m not interested in sitting through the filler to get there.

  1. Barf.  
  2. There’s four other people in the family, but I’m guessing they’re minors and we don’t want CPS involved.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv