TV Review: Bravo’s ‘Platinum Hit’

[This review’s gonna be a short one, but otherwise HitFix won’t have any coverage of the premiere of “Platinum Hit.” And that would be a true tragedy.]
Bravo and I, we have an understanding. Bravo makes shows that work within the various tiers of the Bravo formula and I politely ignore Bravo shows if they don’t involve the hasty preparation of food. I skip anything involving housewives from across the country or elaborately contrived docu-drama showcases for people in professions utilized only by the wealthy, but I at least sample the network’s various interchangeable competition shows built around the formula that the Magical Elves production team brought to “Top Chef.”
For all of my love for “Top Chef,” I couldn’t watch “Work of Art.” Something about the subjectivity of judging art and, more specifically, the subjectivity of making judgments on art based on five minutes of cursory inspection, never felt right to me. I watched a couple episodes for the amusingly pretentious contestants and the even more amusingly pretentious judges and then tuned it out. I know the way that art does or doesn’t work for me as an individual and I know that “Work of Art” has no connection to my experience of culture. I know that some viewers really got a kick out of “Work of Art.”
“Platinum Hit” isn’t as good as “Work of Art” and yet it rubs me the wrong way for similar reasons. Based on the one episode the network sent to critics, the formula is by-the-numbers Bravo, even without the production involvement of Magical Elves. A group of 12 self-important musicians are brought together to compete to be the next hit songwriter. And what better way to find the next Bob Dylan, Elton John or Diane Warren than to give them Quickfire-type challenges like “Write a great hook about Los Angeles in 30 minutes.” Not only am I skeptical that this is the way quality songwriting goes — especially when several members of the Top 12 have no connection with LA — but I’m even more skeptical about having to listen to the results and judge them much less watch a weekly TV show based around slapdash musicality.
Series stars Jewel and Kara DioGuardi have no such compunctions. They walk in dressed for a cocktail party and level charges about lack of depth and derivativeness as if the show’s structure is designed to reward nuance or musical richness. DioGuardi, so frequently prone to banalities or silence sitting next to Simon Cowell on “Idol,” obviously feels like she has something to prove here and she’s a harsh hatchet-woman, even if the degree of her criticisms feel out of proportion with the venue. [I wonder if Jewel and Kara were chatting with the show’s costumers and just begging to show more cleavage, or if they had a producer insisting this was what would get them taken more seriously.]
And if you didn’t like those initial hooks, the show only gets worse, because after the Hook Quickfire, the main challenge is, in groups, to expand those hooks into full-blown songs. In an afternoon. Then everybody meets again for more judgment, now featuring Trevor Jerideau and Jermaine Dupri.
If you like your music to be driven by hastily generated hooks, you may find “Platinum Hit” tolerable, but it doesn’t have much else going for it. Food preparation or the creation of art have a visual dynamic that enhances the accelerated portrait of how the sausage is made. The body of “Platinum Hit” is dedicated to people lounging on couches shouting out discordant melodies, cliched lyrics and unnecessary diva flourishes. I’m hoping subsequent episodes will throw in aesthetically motivated twists. Write a song about dolphins, but write it underwater! Come up with a fun song for a child’s party, but do it dressed like clowns! Otherwise, it’s wannabes noodling on a keyboard and balling up notebook pages.
With the contestants resigned to arguing in cramped studio space, you have to like or hate said contestants to have any reason to watch. You may hate cocky Nick, with his insistence that he’s the next Michael Jackson, but the kid appears to have talent. You’ll definite hate Nevin, who says things like “I sing for the widow, I sing for the orphan” and “I’m the leader of men,” but appears to be useless as a songwriter. Perhaps you’ll remember brash, annoying Jackie Tohn from “American Idol,” but don’t expect to hear anybody acknowledge her past on TV’s most popular show, much less Kara DioGuardi’s past, much less that Tohn and DioGuardi crossed paths on “Idol” and thus have a prior relationship that might seem like a conflict of interest with $100,000 on the line, but disingenuousness, thy name is “Platinum Hit.” 
Otherwise, the contestants are pretty bland. You’ll remember Blessing, who went blind as a child, has a friendly dog and seems to have decided that the only solution to his ocular plight was to become a low-rent Stevie Wonder. You’ll remember Sonyae, who goes back and forth between impressively gifted and head-poundingly awful several times in the premiere. You’ll probably try to forget Karen, who introduces herself to people as “The Southern Girl” and Jes, who takes pride in calling herself “an uber-quirky songwriter.” Uber-ugh.
Mostly, I came away thinking that “Platinum Hit” is a pretty lame way to find a talented songwriter and that my chances of liking any of the music produced on the show are low.  I won’t be returning. 
“Platinum Hit” premieres on Monday (May 30) at 10 p.m. on Bravo.