Watch struggling actors get shot down on Bravo's new reality series. 

Got "It"?

The British author Aldous Huxley called it "merely a form of emotional masturbation." Acting, according to Huxley, was not a profession to brag about. A couple of decades later, Marlon Brando took a more practical approach when he said it was all about the paycheck: "The principal benefit acting has afforded me is the money to pay for my psychoanalysis."

It's hard to imagine that there's not a little something off about anybody who decides to live his or her life onstage or in the movies or on TV. An actor has to think an awful lot of himself to have the nerve to believe an audience will pay to watch him pretend to be someone he isn't. An actress risks the ultimate in personal rejection every time she auditions. "Hello," they must say. "This is me. Love me, please."

That, come to think of it, might just be the basic appeal of Bravo's "It Factor." It taps into a kind of voyeuristic thrill that comes with watching a dozen young wannabe actors working hard to find somebody who will pay them to gratify themselves in public.

"It Factor" follows 12 people in New York who want to break into show business, 12 out of 100,000 actors in the city, of whom only about 2 percent actually make their living as actors. Predictably, there's at least one of every type imaginable in the lot of them, ranging from the beautiful, willowy blonde to the GQ hunk, from the zany comic to the flaming queen, from the winsome guy or girl next door to the plain Jane or Joe you'd never pick out of crowd. But they all think they've got "it" — "it" being defined as whatever it is that makes an audience want to watch and pay for the privilege.

If you've ever wondered how an actor makes his bones, "It Factor" will lay it all out for you. The cameras follow the young cast as they work on the way they look, dress, walk and do their hair, as they search for managers and agents, as they worry about how to pay the bills before the big break comes along, and as they audition — endlessly and fruitlessly, it seems — for parts in TV soaps, commercials, trade shows and Off-Off-Broadway. The cameras tag along as their hopes rise and then are dashed, as they sweat blood, and sometimes, as they actually find somebody who'll pay them to act.

Then it hits you that 2,000 people auditioned for these 12 spots on "It Factor," and you wonder: Whatever happened to the 1,988 who aren't in the cast? How much of a blow to the ego was that — to be rejected privately before you even get a chance to be rejected publicly?

Most of us couldn't do it, but these 12 can and did, so there's some small measure of respect due on that count alone. At least on Bravo's version of a reality show, you don't have to vote your fellow cast members off or, worse yet, eat worms.

But then you might remember what the novelist and critic Gore Vidal once said: "The theater needs continual reminders that there is nothing more debasing than the work of those who do well what is not worth doing at all."

Try thinking about that each morning before you go out and look for a job.

"It Factor" airs Sunday nights at 9 on Bravo.

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