There are three ways to enjoy celebrity gossip: One, you believe absolutely everything you read, regardless of how much it stretches or directly contradicts the truth. Two, you look at it like glorified fan-fiction, enjoying the extended narratives being spun but finding no truth in any of it. Or three, you read it, look at the narratives being formed, filtered through the Hollywood PR machine, and ask why it’s being said in the first place.
My penchant for celebrity gossip tends to fall into the third category, empowered in part by the work of people like Lainey Lui, Karina Longworth and Anne Helen Petersen, all of whom treat the oft-maligned medium of gossip with the critical eye it sorely needed. However, even those experts in all their glory can’t explain everything in the labyrinthine ecosystem of celebrity. There will always be questions in need of answering: Questions such as “Who the hell is Minka Kelly?” Or “Why is Hailey Baldwin famous?” Or “What is it that Blac Chyna does?”
The phenomenon of “famous for being famous”, while nothing new, has become ubiquitous over the past decade or so, and has greatly increased thanks to the rise of social media and its ability to make people stars. Someone needs to help us navigate the treacherous waters of pseudo-fame.
Never fear, because Who? Weekly is here to help. Hosted by Bobby Finger and Lindsay Weber, the show offers chatty explanations for the existences of every Instagram celebrity, Real Housewife, maturing Disney channel star and hanger-on you seem to see everywhere but have no idea who they are. Whereas the classic model of celebrity – known in the show as a ‘them’ – stands in stark contrast to the likes of Julianne Hough and Cody Simpson, it is the whos that fill the pages of your lower grade gossip publications to meet the weekly page count. Imagine a more controlled version of the ONTD comments section mixed with your neighbor at the hairdresser who always has on the E! network. You may not admit to taking pleasure in the conversation, but its appeal is undeniable.
While the chatty tone implies a frothier take to the material, there’s a much deeper media criticism going on under the surface. Both Finger and Weber, veterans of sites such as Jezebel and Vulture, know how the gossip world works and how it thrives on the figures so often derided as wannabes and camera-hogs. The people they feature are blandly inoffensive at worst and the hosts are happy to direct their ire more at the media that builds them up and tears them down than the celebrities themselves. If you wonder why these whos are famous, Finger and Weber are happy to remind you it’s because someone wants them to be.
The true highlight of the show is their weekly discussion of their most precious who, British singer Rita Ora, who earns the dubious honour of her own segment and catchy theme music. As a Brit who knows Ora’s popularity in this country (and has never gotten the appeal), there’s particular joy to be found in how the hosts seem so affectionately bemused by her repeated attempts to break America. It’s a hilarious reminder of the ways in which fame can transcend borders but also reinforce them.
The sound quality can be a bit rusty at times but for any self-respecting lover of trashy celebrity gossip, there’s much satisfaction to be found in Who? Weekly. You may not be willing to admit you can name all of the Kardashians, but Weber and Finger are there to make the acceptance process a whole lot funnier.