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Scott D. Pierce: It's no 'Work of Art': But it's a decent — if overly familiar — competition show

Published: Tuesday, June 8 2010 3:37 p.m. MDT

Erik, left, Jaclyn, seated, Amanda, Nao, Ryan, Judith, Abdi, Nicole, Miles, Mark, Jamie Lynn, Peregrine, John and Trong compete in Bravo's "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist."

Andrew Eccles, Bravo

PASADENA, Calif. — We've had contests for dancers. And singers. And dress designers. And chefs. And interior designers. And chubbies. And models. And ultimate fighters. And boxers. And drag queens. And dogs. And aspiring Broadway stars. And comedians. And bachelors/bachelorettes.

So why not a reality/competition show for artists?

The format of "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" (Wednesday/early Thursday, midnight, Bravo; with repeats throughout the week) is absolutely nothing we haven't seen before. It's pretty much exactly the same as a slew of shows that have gone before.

The 14 contestants/artists — of widely different talents and levels of experience — are assigned a task each week. They've got their own Tim Gunn, although "mentor"/art auctioneer Simon de Pury has neither the charm nor the TV presence of Gunn, who's become a pop-culture icon on "Project Runway."

"Art enthusiast" China Chow is the chilly host and one of the judges. The judging panel includes gallery owners Bill Powers and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and art critic Jerry Saltz. They eliminate the contestants one-by-one.

The winner gets $100,000 and a solo show at the "world-renowned" Brooklyn Museum of Art.

As with all such shows, the sticking point here is that all this is a matter of taste.

"Yes, it's very subjective," Powers said. "And people operate in a lot of different mediums, whether it's photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, performance art.

"I would equate it with 'Top Chef' and you're deciding — does that steak taste better than that dessert? How do you judge two different things? I mean, it's a matter of opinion."

At least we can actually see the art pieces in this show, as opposed to taking the judges' word on what they're tasting in shows like "Top Chef."

("Work of Art" comes to us from the producers of "Top Chef" and "Project Runway." And Sarah Jessica Parker — who makes a gratuitous appearance in the premiere — is also an executive producer.)

At least "Work of Art" isn't another "Real Housewives." Because we clearly don't need another one of those.

ANOTHER "HOUSEWIFE" SHOW: And yet, we're about to get another show about another "Real Housewife." Which means another show about a phony, manufactured celebrity who's famous for nothing other than being famous.

They're not on TV because they're famous; they're famous because they're on TV.

Bravo, of course, can't afford to do shows about real celebrities. So it had to manufacture its own.

The original "Real Housewives of Orange County" was Bravo's answer to "Desperate Housewives." Only lots cheaper to produce.

The formula is simple — bring together a bunch of affluent women who are frenemies. The "entertainment" comes when they cat fight.

It glorifies bad behavior.

And now one of the "Real Housewives of New York," Bethenny Frankel — a veteran cat fighter — has her own show.

Her new show is titled "Bethenny Getting Married?" (Thursday, 11 p.m., Bravo; repeats throughout the week). Why there's a question mark is a question, given that she did indeed get married — with plenty of tabloid coverage — back in March.

Bethenny is definitely someone who's famous for being famous. She's a failed actress (a couple of bit parts 15 years ago) who appeared on "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" before "Real Housewives."

Bethenny isn't dumb. She was a natural foods chef pre-TV, and she's parlayed her TV appearances into successful cookbooks, an exercise DVD, a food company — and now her own show.

And she seems like a relatively nice person. But she's also crude and abrasive.

She's six months pregnant, living with her fiancé and frantic.

Why we're supposed to care is unclear. Except that she's famous now.

"The thing is, I love my success," she says. "It's everything I ever wanted, and it means being in the public eye. But the flip side is I'm, like, 'Who am I?' And how did I get here?' "

Who cares?

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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