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Once upon a time, in a land where three rivers meet, there was a group called the Grand River Singers. They were a lively band of performers who traveled the Tri-State area far and wide, laughing, singing, occasionally remembering their choreography. One day their Fairy God-producer came in contact with the group and asked them a question.
“Would you like your own reality show?” the Fairy God-Producer asked them.
“Oh yes,” they explained. “Oh yes we would!”
“Before it happens, I have three questions for you. Can you be hilariously inadequate at the most basic things required to be a singing group?”
“Oh, of course!” they said in unison.
“Can you ramp yourself into an emotional frenzy on cue?”
“We do it all the time!” they replied. “Two of us are crying right now.”
“And can you wear a lot of scarves? I mean like a lot. Like Debra Messing, season one of ‘Smash’ level of scarves.”
“We bought a bunch from the ‘Smash’ going-out-of-business yard sale over at NBC so we’re good!” they said.
“Well then here is your reality show,” the Fairy God-Producer. “Remember, you only get fifteen minutes of fame.”
“What happens after that?” they asked.
“You go back to your regular lives,” the Fairy God-Producer said. “Or worse, you become one of those commenters on TruTV shows.”
A chill ran down GRS’s collective spine. “Well, we’ll make the most of it.”
“I’m sure you will,” said the Fairy God-Producer as he disappeared into the VH-1 ether, his voice echoing. “I’m sure you will.”
And with that, lights, camera, JAZZ HANDS!
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When it comes to the premiere episode of “Off Pitch,” it was all about the T and A: tears and auditions. The first episode revolved around the
ridiculously overblown earnest drama around auditioning for the Grand River Singers, La Crosse’s very own adult show choir. And can we just say how many times when explaining to people who GRS is, the looks of disappointment on their faces when people realize by “adult show choir” we mean the members are adults and not “adult show choir” as in banging while belting tunes.
Anyway, we kick off the episode with a flurry of rehearsal footage and an uncomfortably high number of blurred out faces as GRS co-founders Rob and Tim, Trim from here on out, give us background about the Grand River Singers being a “Glee”-inspired adult show choir.
This interview quickly transitions into rehearsal footage of the group practicing Cher’s “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque” so you pretty much have a very firm indication of the taste level of all the creative minds involved in this.
GRS member Kayla, over footage of the group inexplicably traipsing through a forest, let’s us know that GRS is a family. You know, like Partridge. Or Addams. Or Manson.
Side-note: Can we talk about how disappointing that a show all about people performing doesn’t have a proper theme song? That just seems like an egregious oversight so we here have decided on a few songs that GRS could sing for the opening credits of their show:
The Beatles, “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
It’s perfect right?! “What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?” Apparently you won’t, you’ll give them a reality show instead.
ABBA, “Thank You For the Music.”
Vocally, GRS could not do anything worse to the ABBA catalogue that Pierce Brosnan didn’t already do in “Mamma Mia.”
Fame, “I Sing the Body Electric.”
It’s mainly because we hope that Trim shows up to one of the rehearsals with a cane, Debbie Allen style.
It’s audition day! We’re greeted with footage of members of Grand River Singers as well as other
attention whores eager hopefuls lining up to audition for the chance to be on a reality show part of the illustrious Grand River Singers. The camera whips around to show a bevy of folks standing in some back alley doing warm ups. This is not unsurprising given how many of our own best performances in La Crosse have taken place in back alleys. And this is probably the part where our Mother has stopped reading this recap.
Anyway Rob tells the crowd, “We are not looking for the best singers or the best dancers. It helps. We’re looking for big personalities.” It makes total sense because why would a group DEVOTED TO SINGING AND DANCING want the best singers and dancers. That is some crazy talk.
We’re then introduced to Grand River Singers stage manager Scott and, more importantly, his immaculate facial hair.
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Someone is obviously angling for some sort of Scruff endorsement deal, and we cannot knock that hustle.
We are treated to a host of quick snippets of people auditioning as well as a little thing we’re going to call:
Trim on GRS member Marcia- “She’s a good singer. Not a fabulous singer. A good singer. Terrible dancer.”
Trim on GRS member Greg- Tim: “He’s got the voice of an angel.” Rob: “And he’s the most fucking annoying person you’ll ever listen to you in your lifetime.” We like to call that a boomerang insult because once you toss it out, it’ll come hurling right back at you.
We end the auditions sequence with an appearance from GRS member Josh Bell. He decides to sing “Happy Birthday” as his piece because we assume “The Hokey Pokey” didn’t properly show off his vocal prowess. Was Josh Bell proud of his choice? You better believe it.
“I did kick the shit out of Marilyn Monroe,” he tells the camera while donned in one of his ten thousand bandanas. “That’s the year 2012 ‘Happy Birthday’ brotherfuckers.”
It’s that level of eloquence that makes us want Bell aka Honey Bon Jovi to someday end up in the same room as Olympic swimmer/fellow reality star Ryan Lochte just to see if the world could handle that much himbo interaction.
And we leave the world of auditions and promptly go to a brush-up rehearsal for the current GRS crew. Or as we like to call it:
Marcia ends up having a breakdown over not being able to dance well. Greg has a crying jag after Rob says they are going to push him to lose weight. We swear, if that story arc doesn’t end with Greg hooked on pills, wearing a fur coat, banging on the rehearsal door of GRS like Patty Duke in “Valley of the Dolls,” we will lose all faith in the reality show genre as a whole.
Josh, through his pretty tears, lets everybody know how sad he is about all the tension and how they aren’t being GRS. You all are being uncoordinated and hyper-emotional which, according to the past 11 minutes of your own show, seems fairly in keeping with what being GRS is.
The group comes together for a group hug.
And then they join hands and sing, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)." Just kidding, but you completely believed us didn't you? Of course you did.
Performance Day! GRS gather at Riverside to perform their little hearts out for
wildly unreceptive completely enthusiastic and engaged crowd while wondering if they are still going to be in the group. They perform “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” and we can officially say that not even Cher tried to make this song happen as much as GRS.
And then we start the reveal! As members get added, Josh slowly but surely starts losing his shit. We suspect this is why he keeps his luscious hair so long, so he can wipe away tears at a moment's notice. Josh starts counting the number of guys and figures that he is out of the group. Rob decides to milk this moment for all he can; we sort of adore
the producers Rob's enthusiasm when it comes to fucking with people in fragile emotional states in public places. To the surprise of pretty much only Josh, he makes it into the group again.
Marcia and Kayla cling onto each other, with Marcia telling to not cry if she doesn’t make into the group. This is underscored by a Muzak version of “Don’t Cry for me Argentina.” Somewhere Patti Lupone weeps.
Kayla makes it into the group and leaves Marcia standing there on the stage. The air is thick with tension. Naw, just kidding. There are episodes of The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo that had more suspense. Of course, Marcia gets into the group.
There are tears and hugs and it starts raining glitter and sequins from the sky. Okay, so the last part isn't true but you KNOW Trim would've been all about that if they had had a bigger budget.
We end the episode with sage words from Josh:
“We keep it honest and frank, right on the table. Here's the table, here's what I say. Take it or leave it. You don’t have to it eat. It’s gonna be good. It's gonna be good.”
Josh Bell, the Shakespeare of show choir performers.
And with that we close out this first recap of “Off Pitch.” Join us next week as we dish the dirt, sing the songs, and dry all of those tears. Will GRS get out of La Crosse? Will someone suffer a jazz hand related injury? Will we ever hear more than thirty seconds of a GRS performance? Stay tuned and find out.