Late last month, I received an invitation to test out a new crowd-sourced celebrity gossip app called sizzle. A Sizzle rep described the app as “Vine meets user-generated TMZ,” and it is endorsed, naturally, by child star–turned–tabloid fixture Lindsay Lohan. Just as Shots of Me—a photo-sharing app that traffics exclusively in selfies—proved sublimely simpatico with the persona of its own celebrity spokesperson, Justin Bieber, Sizzle exhibits deeply Lohanic qualities: It feels tedious, entitled, and a little sad.
Unlike Gawker’s own on-again-off-again crowdsourced gossip feature, Gawker Stalker, where readers were encouraged to submit intel about stars they see in the wild, Sizzle wants its users to share their takes, not their tips. (The app appears modeled after TMZ on TV, the syndicated daily television show where TMZ staffers are filmed riffing on the day’s celebrity rumors and sightings.) Here’s how it works: Users log into Sizzle, click an icon to “Create Hot Gossip,” type in a topic of discussion (“Would you cheat on Britney Spears?”), fix the cellphone camera on themselves, and open their mouths (“Hicks need loving too!”). Then, other users record their own video replies to the topic. (Sassy guy driving in a car: “Pipe down, bitch!” Seemingly intoxicated man walking down the street: “Hit me baby one more time!”) Lohan’s own initial contribution to the app is titled “Lindsay Lohan’s Secret Love”; click on the headline, and you’ll find a few seconds of video of a puppy barking at a mirror. Sizzle contributors replied: “The idea’s cool, I support dogs” and “Dogs are cool” and “Hey Lindsay, I hope to meet you some day” and “I had a pet frog once … I killed him.”
Logging onto Sizzle is like watching the comments section of a gossip blog come to life, or a hidden-camera show that deals exclusively in unedited videos of people yelling at their television sets. As one reviewer wrote on the app’s iTunes page, it’s “Like E! News, but I can talk back lol!!” Each Sizzle category provides an unrelenting stream of bad jokes, worse impressions, and a lot of blank stares from people who are unaware they’d hit record, but no actually tantalizing rumors.
That’s because celebrity gossip actually comes from somewhere—and in recent years it has come, more often than not, from the deeply-sourced and deep-pocketed professional muckrakers at TMZ, who broke the deaths of Michael Jackson and Brittany Murphy, unearthed Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic comments after his DUI arrest, surfaced the photo of Rihanna after Chris Brown assaulted her, and published the audio recordings that would ultimately depose L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Even when all TMZ has to work with is a paparazzi video of an actor walking down the street—also, by the way, a product of hard work—it often has the reportorial aggression and the editing chops to turn it into what constitutes a viral masterpiece, relatively speaking. A thousand guys sitting on a thousand couches can’t do what they do.
It’s depressing to watch Lindsay Lohan cash out the last remnants of her stardom on an app dedicated to pointing and laughing at people like her—and it’s even worse to see video evidence of an old, bearded, implied-naked man recording himself addressing Lindsay Lohan. But the saddest thing about Sizzle is that it’s made for people who live for celebrity gossip, and it doesn’t even take the pursuit seriously.