When I first saw Cat Deely hosting Fox’s breakout dance program, So You Think You Can Dance, I noticed she was not from around here. Her natural beauty and unnaturally white teeth were pleasant, but her thick cockney drawl left a lot to be desired. I was confused by a lot of what she said, and I wondered why the producers of the show would travel to the far corners of the earth, to the home of Fish and Chips, to find a hostess. Was this just a coincidence, a byproduct of globalization in the 21st century, or had America finally reached the bottom of the hosting barrel?
With so many reality shows on TV, it’s easy to see why producers might need to expand their search parameters to include candidates from abroad. We’ve already seen some surprising picks when it comes to hosting; Jodi Sweetin? Joey Fatone? And Bob Barker must have rolled over in his tanning bed when he got the news that Drew Carey was taking over at The Price is Right. But until recently, regardless of how random or surprising host selections might have seemed in the past, you could always count on them to speak clear and comprehensive American English.
I had my first Down Under encounter was when I realized that one of the reporters from a local, Columbus news station spoke with an Aussie twang. Thankfully she was much easier to understand than Cat, and even easier on the eyes. But still, I had to wonder what was going overseas? What catalyst was this? Bringing English supermodels and on-air outbackers to America faster than you could say Crocodile Dundee.
Although I’d been following the decline of the American host for quite some time, I didn’t feel the need to worry about it until now. I recently started watching the inaugural season of Fox’s The Next Great American Band, and low and behold, those crazy producers went back to the Southern Hemisphere, the same one where the water spins the other way when you flush it, to find a host for their new primetime show.
You might recognize New Zealander Dominic Bowden from programs like Squirt and Celebrity Treasure Island: Series 1, although his biggest claim to fame is as host of the international sensation New Zealand Idol. The 30-year-old cousin of Phil Bostwick even looks a little bit like Ryan Seacrest, but he sounds like Steve Irwin with peanut butter in his mouth. The trip from New Zealand is a long one, but perhaps he shared a plane ride with his American Band mate, Ian Dickson, a panelist from Australia.
The inclusion of Dickson on the show makes a lot of sense because in accordance with the time-tested, reality show formula, even more important than the woman and the token American, is the witty and sharply dressed, centrifugal judge from overseas. On top of that Dickson speaks perfect English and is easy to understand. He makes clever remarks, most of them I agree with, and is a far cry from Bowden’s slurred gibberish.
I’m really not trying to pick on anyone, but I don’t want to have to have one of those international translator devices to watch my favorite shows, especially shows in America with the word American in the title. I feel like I need to use Google translator every time Bowden says something like “Op nixt, we’ve got a grite new bend from Neshville, Tennessee. Please welcome the Clak Brothers to the stige.” What did he just say?
As a producer, I feel like it would be high on my list of priorities to find a host that could pronounce things well. It should be easy to find an attractive person, teach them how to smile, slap on some distressed jeans, a graphic T-shirt and throw on a jacket blazer and you’ve got yourself a host. Just make sure they can talk like a normal person.
I think it’s great that people want to come to America and be on my TV, and I’m in favor of globalization. I really like English Muffins and Oasis, I’d give up my sister to meet Elizabeth Hurley, and I secretly wish I was English sometimes, especially when I watch British television on the public access channel. I think boomerangs are a fantastic idea and I was recently introduced to the exciting world of Netball. Sharing cultures and traditions is fun and it’s one of the best parts about living in the age of technology. But we should be a little more selective about sharing television show hosts.
I’m not opposed to having hosts from abroad. I just want to understand what they’re saying. They can’t all be Tom Bergeron, but hopefully, we can count on them to introduce our favorite performers and seamlessly take us to a commercial break. Sure, accents can be sexy, but there’s nothing sexy about an unintelligible host.