Barbara Walters’ “Fascinating” People, Not So Fascinating

Ratings grabbers? Perhaps. Tabloid fodder? Absolutely. Fascinating? That’s debatable.

Perhaps a more suitable name for Barbara Walters’ annual primetime special would be “10 So-So People Likely to Score a Better Rating Than Most Who Actually Did Something Fascinating.” Instead, the “10 Most Fascinating People” moniker remains, and the list included a pop star, a family of socialites who are famous for nothing other than their ability to exploit themselves, two ex-Republican presidential candidates (one disgraced, one just crazy), and a television talent-show judge known for being mean.

Of course, the 83-year-old Walters – a respected journalist turned ringmaster of various television circus acts like this list and her dysfunctional daytime talk show The View – did choose a worthy name to top the list. Steve Jobs, who, ironically, by virtue of Walters’ personal rule of only showcasing living people should not have made the list, is one of the few people who deserved their spot.  Due to the Apple co-founder’s passing earlier this year, the amazing story of his life, work and legacy was thrust into the mainstream and captured the imaginations of many who likely knew little about him before.

As well, the inclusion of Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop, was another good choice, being that this past season he became one of the youngest players in baseball history (and the first Yankee) to reach one of the game’s most difficult milestones: 3,000 hits. Jeter also remains an athlete of relatively clean and admirable standing in an increasingly controversy-ravaged sport.

The most “fascinating” thing about the rest of the list is how some of these people remain on the cultural radar while possessing little talent, or common sense, or scruples, or a combination of the above. The idea seemed to be more about showcasing people who held the public’s attention, as opposed to perhaps people who aren’t named Kardashian but are truly fascinating and deserve to be spotlighted.

Rounding out the list, in no particular order, were:

–       Katy Perry: singer of many a hit pop song, though known as much for her curves as for her music.

–       The Kardashian family: the lesson here is look good, get rich, get raunchy, do it all in public and you too can make the list

–       Herman Cain: his rise from pizza magnate to ex-Republican presidential candidate is somewhat fascinating, mostly because of how the public bought his act. His alleged sexual assault claims also sour us on him.

–       Donald Trump: another ex-Republican presidential candidate, real-estate tycoon, reality television star, architect of right-wing ramblings.

–       Simon Cowell: music producer, reality television czar, prototype of the “mean judge” that every other talent reality show attempts to emulate.

–       Amanda Knox: student, acquitted murder suspect, cable news gold

–       Derek Jeter: beloved New York Yankee shortstop, one of the greatest baseball players of his generation, first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits.

–       Pippa Middleton: sister of Catherine Middleton, now part of extended Royal family, came into the public consciousness by nearly upstaging her sister at her own wedding and subsequently revealed to be somewhat of a wild child (at least when compared to the royals).

–       Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson: the two portray a gay couple on the hit television-comedy Modern Family. Ferguson himself is gay in real life.

So there you have it. No Nobel Prize laureates. No intrepid explorers. No groundbreaking scientists or investigative journalists or selfless philanthropists or missionaries of peace. Aside from Jobs and Jeter, it’s essentially a top eight list of people you’ll likely find gracing the cover of your favourite tabloid at the supermarket checkout. Let’s hope that 2012 is a little more “fascinating” than 2011 apparently was.

-Mike Crisolago