Ah, the results show. Where else can we experience the joy of wading through 60 minutes of mindless filler, just for the privilege of witnessing something we had already guessed anyway. Who didn’t see the American Inventor result coming? Would it have killed them to announce at the beginning, if only so we could avoid the spectacle of The Black Cougar coming back, or the Top Ten Crazies, or the montage of great ideas that didn’t get chosen? Feh.
Spoilers ahead, but you know that.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Greg Chavez’s Guardian Angel wins the whole shebang. It’s the sort of project that makes instant sense when you first describe it, but, upon reflection, it gets a little murky. Yes, water will extinguish a burning tree, but if the fire was caused by an electrical short in one of the lights, dousing that live wire with water would cause bigger problems, right?
But Greg had a product with a compelling story and a feel-good factor — it can save lives! (Maybe.) How is a spiffy bra or a remote control car going to compete with that?
So it’s hardly a surprise that Greg won. Hey, I’m happy for the guy, I’m happy for his family, but I’m not surprised. I don’t think it was the best product in the competition (or even the best product in the final three), but good job, Greg. Presumably, with a million bucks to play with, you really couldn’t give a toss what I think of your product.
So with that out of the way, what else is there to talk about? I’ve got to pad out this post, just like the producers padded out the results show. Maybe I can try to make you cry? Or make the judges cry? Or focus in on someone who might be crying? Or play clips of people talking about how utterly awesome in every way the inventors were, in the hopes of causing the inventors, the judges, the audience, and the camera people to cry? Think that’s a good way to use my time? Because lord knows the producers did. So many stirring tributes, so much cheesy inspirational music, so much schmaltz. And sure, yes, I teared up, but I cry at Hallmark commercials, and I sure as hell wasn’t happy about it. I like my tears to be earned, not bludgeoned out of me.
Or maybe we can talk about the other inventions that didn’t make the cut? Did anyone else find the montage of inventors with seriously cool, potentially life-changing inventions whooping and hollering and celebrating their ascension to the regional finals ironic and maybe just a little mean? Hey, that was a great idea! Look at how happy they were! They didn’t show their happiness being snatched away, their hopes crushed because the idea wasn’t marketable or sexy or whatever. But that’s show biz, right?
And then there’s the parade of crazy, the top ten "most memorable" inventors. Just call it a freak show and be done with it, ok? Or better yet, don’t do it at all.
Finally, the top three inventors got to sit through commercials for companies in their industry, who then offered them the answer to their dreams – sort of. Because if you listened closely, Spin Master (the Toronto-based toymakers) and Maidenform (the bra folks, and was I the only one who thought Sarah Blakely looked like she wanted to chew through her own tongue as she watched the Maidenform woman tout her company?) didn’t actually say they’d make the product. Spin Master agreed to fly Ricky DeRennaux to Toronto for a week "to try to help you achieve that dream of seeing HT Racers in every toy store in America." Maidenform (after what seemed like hours of flackery) said they wanted to let Elaine Cato "explore the possibility of bringing your backless bra to the market." There’s no commitment there. Yes, it’s a great opportunity, but it’s not a done deal, something Elaine didn’t quite seem to grasp: "Maidenform has made me an offer." Did that happen behind the Chavez family scrum? Because I didn’t hear Maidenform make any kind of commitment.
First Alert seemed to come closest to making a deal: "We offer you the opportunity to work with our designers, our engineers and marketing professionals to help take this amazing product to market." Does that mean they’ll actually produce Guardian Angel? Who knows. If they do, let’s hope they add a chemical fire suppressant to the system, not just water.
And that’s how it ends. The final three inventors were all quite classy — Ricky was thrilled to have someone interested in his product, Elaine made a point of congratulating Greg for winning, and Greg talked up both Ricky and Elaine. There was no pouting, no second guessing, no "it should have been me," which is a nice change from some reality shows. The show might have been needlessly manipulative and cheesy, but the final three inventors seemed to be good people. Congratulations to them all.
I, of course, am much less classy. I’m happy for Greg and his family (and I’m damn glad he changed from active firefighting gear to his dress uniform), but I don’t think it was the best product of the final three, for the reasons I mentioned above. I’d have picked Elaine’s bra. I don’t think the six semifinalists and the three finalists had the best product either — I would have picked the building blocks, the deaf interpretation system, and the maneuverable lawn mower as my final three. I still don’t quite understand what Pat Croce was doing as a judge — seriously, what has he ever invented? — and I never need to hear Peter Jones again. George Foreman needed to actually stand up when people gave Ricky a standing ovation — did he not like the product, the guy, or does he object to standing ovations on principle? Sarah Blakely needed to throw something at the camera people who kept focusing on her tearing up at the touching moments. And I need a break from reality schmaltz. Lucky me — now I get one.
Do you think the best product won? What would your top three, and your winning product, be?