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The Best Thing on TV

A look at The White Rapper Show

There's been a lot of really good stuff on TV lately: 24, 30 Rock, Big Day, Rome, the new cruelty-enhanced season of American Idol. People are finally fighting on Heroes. This season's Real World cast is pretty much completely insane. Lost is coming back soon. I like all those shows, but there's only one show on right now that makes me do the thing where I look at the clock on the side of the TV and get all panicked when the show is about to end, and that's The White Rapper Show. I expected to like it, but that's because I expected it to be a cheap-but-entertaining joke, an excuse to throw a bunch of human cartoons on TV so we could all point at them and laugh. Almost despite itself, though, Ego Trips' The White Rapper Show has somehow become the most engrossing thing on TV.

At the beginning, it looked like the show was going to be a shrill freak show, a parade of deluded attention-seekers with no idea of how ridiculous they all looked. I can't imagine too many people think they'll ever manage to use a jokey reality show to launch an actual rap career, so all the contestants looked like clueless chumps. But over the last couple of episodes, most of the characters have evolved into actual people.

In one episode Sullee, my favorite guy on the show, bitched that it started out as a straight-up MC contest but that it had turned into a demeaning joke. The show was always a demeaning joke, and I think Sullee probably knew that from the day he walked into casting and saw the parade of goofs with whom he'd be sharing screen time. The really great thing about the show is that all the contestants seem to realize that it's all a big joke, but they all still really want to succeed.

Most of the really irritating contestants have been weeded out, and the people left can actually sort of rap. (I really hope Jus Rhyme, the earnest political guy, is the next to go; he bugs the shit out of me.) It's hard to watch people endure all these indignities without getting to like them at least a little bit. The embarrassing setups are mostly genuinely funny, and the show is jammed full of rap-nerd touchstones. But the real appeal is in watching a group of people, some of whom are actually talented, surviving all the trials that the Ego Trip production people can think to throw at them.

All the people on The White Rapper Show actually want to be taken seriously on some level. They don't stand a chance, but they're still trying anyway, and there's something heroic about that.

 
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