What’d you miss out on this week? A little debriefing …
All By Her Second-Glee-Solo Self
Those who tuned in to last week’s episode of Glee were surprised to see the return of Charice Pempengco’s character Sunshine Corazon. In ”A Night Of Neglect,” the foreign exchange student sang a solid rendition of her favorite singer Celine Dion’s “All by Myself.” It’s a night of neglect for those who missed out. The Filipina’s latest single, “Before It Explodes,” just released on iTunes.
Love it or hate it, but one thing is left undisputed. Americans love reality television and Jersey Shore was one of the most talked about hits to break out into the airwaves last season. As the upcoming reality television show K-Town, dubbed as the “Asian American Jersey Shore” is currently in production, rumors and gossip are swarming the filming process. From America’s favorite paparazzi site TMZ and journalism powerhouse The New York Times, to cynically critical Asian American bloggers chiming in on K-Town, curiosity over the show is increasing by the minute. To curb my own prying nosiness, I held one of the three producers of the show, Eugene Choi, hostage on the other end of the phone. He addressed some of the swarming rumors, but hesitates to give away too much of what’s to come.
Q: There are so many videos and clips of K-Town circulating online. What’s real and what’s not?
Eugene Choi: That’s the crazy part of all the attention that we’ve been getting over the show — most of the things that are circulating online were not released by the producers or the official production team. Given how connected everyone is through the internet, it’s become so easy to snoop and scoop. We [the production team and cast members] have password protected a lot of the footage to get edited internally, yet somehow it got out of hand real quickly. Now, we’re receiving emails with links from acquaintances with production footage even before it’s edited.
Q: So are the photos and videos not accurate representations of the show?
EC: They are not the finalized version. Many of the videos on Youtube are also uploaded by fans and critics outside of the actual production team so it’s not our official material. All this attention is good for publicity, but it’s also misleading since we are still in the filming process and we’ve only shot the pilot episode.
Q: Tell me more of the parody of Ke$ha’s Tik Tok on TMZ starring the cast of K-Town. It says that it’s not an official trailer/teaser, but somehow managed to reach the American public through TMZ of all places!
EC: The quality of the video that was released through TMZ is no way near what you should expect from the upcoming show. The video and the lyrics were actually part of Jasmine Chang’s (one of the cast members) audition process and we were just talking about how it was cute and funny and decided to put the rest of the casts’ auditions into it. About 95 percent of the video is footage cut from the cast members’ audition videos and not actual footage from the show.
As a matter of fact, we ended up selecting the cast members partially based on their audition videos. They were very impressive high quality videos where it was shot and edited by professional videographers.
Q: Are the cast members going to be 2.0 Asian American versions of the Jersey Shore cast?
EC: We are using K-Town as the setting and drawing from what really goes on in Koreatown. The similarity is that both shows will feature a selected group of young adults going through a rite of passage in their [respective] settings. In this case, it’ll be K-town where it’s truly unique with a character of its own.
Q: How do you think that the show will be able to distinguish itself into its own and away from the Jersey Shore?
EC: Well, it’s the very first reality show of its kind with an all Asian American cast, so that’s the selling point and challenge when pitching it to the networks.
Q: Well, the mainstream American media that have reported on it so far have all called it the Jersey Shore — but with Asians. How do you think that’s going to play with the major networks?
EC: The main goal from the beginning was to get the show picked up and aired through a major network and that’s also the real challenge. Networks are in the business to pick up what’s profitable. Last year, Viacom’s biggest moneymaker was MTV, much credit to the popularity of the Jersey Shore. So when approaching the network executives, it’s a selling point to be able to address that, “Look, we have something here that can be successful. The risk you have to take is that the cast will be all Asian American instead of Italian-Americans,” and they’re more willing to listen. The hype and media attention that we are receiving now is an indicator that America is ready and interested enough to watch a reality show with an Asian American cast about their particular subculture within America. The content’s going to be different from the Jersey Shore because the people [cast] are different and the producers are different.
Q: So all this attention, even though it’s negative, is essentially good publicity.
EC: It was shocking to receive so much attention from the very beginning. Even from the very first Criagslist ads to the audition process, we’ve been getting a lot of attention and negative criticism. There’s been so much negativity from the beginning from the Asian American community trying to tear us down, but it hasn’t affected us from moving forward with this project. Surprisingly, the public American media, whether it’s Chelsea Lately, CNN or TMZ have not been negative.
Q: What made you guys place a Craigslist ad looking for Asian American Jersey Shore-types?
EC: I was studying the Jersey Shore and how it’s a simple depiction of a subculture in America, following young people through their rite of passage and thought, “why not in K-town?” Koreatown has so much going on as an enclave for Asian Americans to soak up its own unique lifestyle and nightlife. Some people are complaining over the cast members’ nationalities — on how not every cast member is a Korean American. I think it goes to show that Koreatown, in addition to its namesake that harbors Korean businesses, has been naturalized as a Asian American hang-out spot. The production team is not entirely Korean either, but we [the producers] all want to do what many other Asian Americans in the entertainment industry are working to do, which is to breakdown the stereotype that we [Asian Americans] are not all nerdy or that we can’t be mainstream.
Q: Is the goal to break the stereotypes and to have a successful reality TV show?
EC: The goal is not to show the rosy picture, but to show that Asian Americans are more multidimensional through the individuals that they’ll meet through the show.
Q: Multidimensional through drunken debauchery in Koreatown?
EC: Well, reality TV is about drama.
Q: I have to agree. Looking at other popular reality TV shows like the Real Housewives or the Real World, it’s all about people and their hot, messy drama. I shall expect to see Asian Americans and their hot, messy drama then.
EC: Speaking of the Real World, there was an interesting Facebook page that points out how there have been zero Asian American males cast on the show, with only three Asian American female cast members in its long-running history. That says a lot about American television and what this K-Town reality show is trying to do. We have interesting characters and the only difference is that they’re Asian Americans.
Q: Then don’t you think that the critics and haters are almost giving you too much credit with the show? After all, it is only a reality TV show.
EC: I guess I haven’t looked at it that way. But we want to create a good show that is entertaining and to put a different perspective of Asian Americans.
What I gathered after our thank-you-and-good-bye was that the producers are in the business of making good reality television as opposed to creating a new set of Asian American role models. It’s reality television — not reality as it is.