WALLA WALLA — Katie Dilworth Christianson could see the direction her turn on reality television was taking when the chanteuse was asked to channel her inner spirit animal by the show’s appointed talent coach.
You may have seen video of her flailing her arms in a bird-like manner in the online promos that have been circulating for “Showville.” That, she says, is her taking the exercise “zero seriously.”
But her cheeky impression shouldn’t be interpreted as her not taking anything away from the experience. The sense of openness and movement helped her and other members in Bizarre Love Triangle navigate what was their biggest stage yet — Walla Walla’s Gesa Power House Theatre — for the taping of “Showville” earlier this year.
Two episodes into the AMC series, Walla Walla will be the featured community in the talent docu-series at 10 tonight on AMC. (The show was previously set to air at 9 p.m., but the schedule has since changed.)
For their part, Bizarre Love Triangle will build up their television debut tonight with a live performance at Laht Neppur, 53 S. Spokane St., starting at 6 p.m.
The show, created and executive produced by Laurie Girion (“Cheerleader Nation,” “Welcome to Sweetie Pies”), brings Hollywood to small-town America. Crews searched for talent in unlikely burgs, looking for contestants from spoon players to ventriloquists and everything in between. Four finalists were chosen and coached by selected mentors over two days. The finale was a community talent show that, in this case, took place at the Power House Theatre. Eight episodes of the show were taped from Walla Walla to Kingston, R.I.
The winner received a $10,000 prize, though it won’t be officially announced until the show runs.
Funny thing about the featured towns: they may be the perfect hidden talent pools for television, but at the end of the day, they’re still small, so chances are many people already know whether Bizarre Love Triangle was the winner. More than 300 people attended the taping at the theater in January. “All of them, I’m certain, have had a conversation that starts with, ‘Well, I’m not supposed to tell, but ....’” Christianson said.
For the sake of playing along, the paper will wait until the show airs to reveal the winner, too.
But here’s what can be said: Apart from Bizarre Love Triangle, the other finalists were hip-hop dancer Benji Garcia of Milton-Freewater; ventriloquist Keith Ramsay of Kennewick; and Portland standup comic Tyrone Collins.
For two days after they were selected, Bizarre Love Triangle members were followed by camera crews to capture their stories, guitarist and vocalist Joe Cooke said. They also spent time with talent mentors Alec Mapa, of “Desperate Housewives” fame, and Lisette Bustamante, a choreographer who has worked with artists from Pink to Britney Spears. The training was more like two 45-minute sessions with each mentor, Cooke said.
Ultimately the movement training helped the trio to increase its stage presence. But it didn’t inspire them to build their sex appeal, necessarily, Christianson said.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen us perform, but sexy is not at the top of our list. We try to be classy, funny,” she said. “We rock the 6-to-9 p.m. set. If you take out your teeth at 10, that’s fine, we want to be in bed by that point.”
The “Showville” concept has been largely lauded by reviewers, but the show itself has received some chilly reception.
Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara called it a “mess,” largely because of all that it tries to accomplish in a short time: “capture the charm of its locale, run through early auditions, record the reaction of the four finalists, follow them through Mapa- and Bustamante-led tutorials, evoke the jittery glory of opening night, show the final acts, chronicle the voting process and proclaim a winner. Oh, and highlight the banter and reactions of the two hosts to provide episodic continuity.”
Bizarre Love Triangle fully expects the show to be its 15 minutes of fame before returning to the tasting room gigs and charity events. Incidentally, the band’s name is the title of a 1986 song from New Order. Christianson and Cooke thought it was ironic to call themselves that since they started as a duo. Her husband, Carl, an accomplished pianist, percussionist, sax and clarinet player, joined in the performances, adding another dimension to the mystery of the name.
No one was more surprised than they were when they were chosen as finalists.
Cooke said the majority of those auditioning in Walla Walla were musicians. “It looks like their criteria was one musician and three other kinds of acts. They were looking for this kind of divergent group,” he said.
“I don’t think we got on TV because we’re brilliant,” she said. “I think we got on TV because we’re a little bit intriguing and because we were having fun. We were clearly not going to be scared or shut down. We were going to play to the cameras.”