Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Reality Bites

The new fall season is upon us. Time to stop wondering what the heck is in the hatch, and start thinking about the identity of the poor bastard in the Applewhite basement. Also, it's time for me to obsess over the starts of reality shows.

The Apprentice

I know, I know...I said I'd give up on this. But I just had to tape the fourth season priemere last night. Just for the heck of it, here's the big speech Donald Trump gave to the troops:

"My name is Donald Trump. Maybe you've heard of me...I put my name everywhere in New York. I will do anything for attention, up to and including wearing a straw hat and overalls, and singing the theme to Green Acres with Megan Whasserface at the Emmys. See, I know that this show is average at best, and it won't win awards. But I had to upstage The Amazing Race. I hate that show. For the third year in a row, Phil Keoghan sent the losers kiwis. If there's one thing I hate, it's a New Zealander telling me that I can go eat him.

"Anyway...we all want to forget last season. I want to forget, Big Daddy Burnett wants to forget. I have succeeded in hunting down and killing most of the cast from that season. I personally put a silver stake into Kristen's heart. Chris? Took twenty of my best men to bring him down. Last I heard, we had some resistance....Tana, Craig, Bren and Danny were hiding underground in Europe. We'll smoke those fools soon.

"My point? I handpicked you brownnosers myself for maximum drama. I took a look at your psychological profiles, and brought in the most dramatic assholes I could. Markus...I noticed that you scrawled "MG + DT 4EVA" in your notebook about a thousand times. Normally, you'd be out on your ass with a restraining order, but I welcome the stalking this time. Melissa, you're very twisted and you kept saying you don't work well with other women because you're that good. Bring it on. Alla...jeezus in a birchback canoe, you are a friggin' car wreck. Read your profile on The Smoking Gun before my headshrinkers gave me their analysis of you. No freakin' way should you be gunning for this gig...but you're here anyway. And there's no way we'll be getting ratings unless one of you snaps and tries to kill me. I came so close with Chris, but I broke his spirit before firing him. Once somebody jumps over the desk and tries to pull a '187' on me, we get a fat 40 share, and I get to close the show on a high show.

"Behind me are two people who basically have to agree with everything I decide upon. George is basically my Albert to my Bruce Wade, whatever that means. Carolyn is the most overrated person in reality television. Yadda yadda yadda, eyes and ears while I'm the only person doing any real work. Also, I will occasionally trot out my three Apprentices. They're like the Iron Chefs, except Chairman Kaga never kept his boys in a windowless office. Do not ask them for advice. Do not make eye contact. If Kelly asks any of you women if he can 'check your box,' tell me immediately.

"Seeing how I never learn from my mistakes, I will divide you into teams of men and women. Gentlemen, any loss to the women in any task means that you should be wearing skirts and heavy lipstick. Over the next thirteen weeks, you will be competing in various tasks with companies good enough for you to have heard of them, but not good enough so they can skip the part where they kiss my ass. There's a new rule where winning team members vote on whether their Project Manager gets exempt from the Boardroom after the next task. Please be as mean and spiteful about that as possible.

"That's it. Your first task involves gym classes. Oh, and there's a helocopter on the premises. First team to have two members reach it gets to fly into the city. I bet you silly girls wished you hadn't worn those fancy heels, huh? And if you listen closely, you can hear this show jumping the shark yet again. Good luck, God bless, and release the hounds!"

I'm done. For real this time. There was more to this episode, including Randal's grandmother dying, and the unfamilar thought of "Shut up, Melissa!" bouncing through my head. But I had to make sure this wasn't worth watching, and I was right. I'll watch Survivor, post my thoughts in the forums, then watch Smallville on tape.

The Apprentice: Martha Stewart

Okay, so I understand that Martha Stewart is a certified bad ass. I realize that if I cut her off in traffic, I'd wake up with potpourri where my kidneys should be. But this show feels softer than Trump's version, and I feel it deserves your reality-starved attention. So how come it got smoked in the rating by a Lost recap special? How many newbies are there that didn't watch last season AND couldn't get the DVD?

In this edition, Martha asks the boys and girls to spin fairy tales for a modern audience. Like with Trump, Martha gives a monologue that ruins the surprise of which team goes into the big room to face her. The good news...idiot Project Manager Jeff was the first to walk the plank. The bad news? We got our first villain in Jim, a smirky, eye-rolling asshole who's trying to fill Omarosa's pointy shoes. The man is ten pounds of smug in a five pound bag, and waiting for him to get his just desserts might be enough for viewers to tune in every week.

What are the differences? Well, the theme song kicks ass: "Sweet Dreams" by The Eurythmics. Think of this possiblity: if Martha were to surpass The Donald in popularity, Trump's show could kick off with Marilyn Manson's cover. Imagine the once-cool shock rocker droning on Annie Lennox's lyrics, as a fully made-up and pierced Trump rides a pig to the Boardroom, tugging on a collared George and Carolyn. Martha also has a different line of "fire power"; instead of Trump's "you're fired," Martha has this: "You just don't fit in." Not quite as punchy as Trump. In a neat twist, after Jeff vacates the premises (and talks smack to Jim...who wouldn't?), Martha writes him a letter. Maybe the aftermath will be different each week. When Jim gets fired/dismissed/whatever, Martha could break an antique chair for the express purpose of beating him with the leg. Heaven help me, I might be coming back every Wednesday.

Survivor: Guatemala

This might be the most awesomely brutal season ever. If you're one of the sixteen first-time Survivors, you gotta wonder what you've gotten yourself into. Harsh tropical environment, eleven-mile death hike through the jungles, screeching howler monkeys barking in the early morning...oh, and just for the hell of it, Mark Burnett brought back Stephanie and Bobby Jon from Palau. This is scary, since those two know how the game is played. Okay...they know how to get their butts kicked by the likes of Coby, Janu and Willard. It's funny how Jeff Probst never brings that up.

So far, nobody has made an effort to step up to take hero and villain roles. The most hyped ongoing plot involves Gary the ex-NFL quarterback trying to keep his past a secret. With Bobby Jon and Steph coming on board, the heat looked to be off Gary...until Danni (sports radio host) blurted out something to raise the paranoia during a challenge. Most of the folks kinda blend together, with a few recognizable shapes thrown in (Judd the burly doorman, Lydia the fishmonger who looks kinda like Mama Solis). The first two votes were unamious affairs, as we said goodbye to Jim (fire captain, broke a bicep on the long hike) and Morgan (magician's assistant, didn't work much at the camp). Also, Bobby Jon and Stephanie finally won immunity challenges, so they're officially on the rebound. It's still too early to tell where this season will go or who will win, but it'll be worth watching to find out.

Battle Of the Network Reality Stars

Anybody smell that? Aaaaaah, the soothing aroma of bullshit.

As I look through the forums, I see people happy that the so-called "Underdog" team won the final mission. Yes, I've liked the down-and-outs in the past. Hell, I was the conductor of the Sarah Greyson love train during The Gauntlet. But I have two problems with the finale:

1. To me, underdogs should be lovable, worth rooting for. Nikki McKibbin? I still remember her letting Omarosa in her empty head during the reality "star" episode of Fear Factor. Rachel Love Fraser? She won The Swan...big whoop. Mirna Hindoyan? Reverted back to her hysterics after being voted off Team Miz, then rubbed the win in Heidi's face, to the point where Heidi called her "trash." Brian Worth? He's an "Average Joe," so whatever. Adam Mesh? Same as Brian, but he's fugly, obnoxious, and flapped his yap about Coral while she was recovering from an injury. Bradford Cohen? If he didn't waive his exemption and put his onions on the line during The Apprentice, there's a good chance Ivana would've been canned, and the second season might not have sucked as hard as it did.

2. The finale was rigged. First, the teams had to shoot basketballs from different spots. The heavily-favored Team Miz gets a good start, while the Underdogs flounder. Next task: players sink putts from different distances. The Mizzies finish that first. Third task: arrange colors on a board to represent where each team finished in every competition. The Underdogs were folks voted out from three different teams. How is that not an advantage. After the Underdogs breeze past the Mizzies (and Mike probably gets wicked awful flashbacks from The Gauntlet and The Inferno), I watch in horror as the Underdogs got $10,000 apiece, none of whom deserved it. I figure that Mirna can be proud that she's 1/100th as successful as Chip & Kim, Nikki can buy 20,000 of her albums, and the guys can pay to have sex...because how else are they going to get it? Those six went into BONRS as losers, and they walk away losers with money.

All in all, a dissapointing finish to a promising series. While Chip's lack of fire might have hampered his team in the end, I still wanted to smack Susan and Theo for ripping into him. If Theo really did have problems with Chip's leadership, may he come back next time under the guidance of Colin Guinn. I'm sure Mr. Broken Ox himself could teach Theo about having some fire. On the bright side? This wasn't Kill Reality. I peeked into that atrocity a few times, and I'm glad I didn't stay for the duration. As for BONRS? You have to be crazy to accept the end results as a good thing...just like this guy.

The Amazing Race

Had a bad omen today. Got up a little after 7:30 a.m. to record TAR-related bits from The Early Show...and I missed them completely. Had to sit through segment after segment, including an interview with Denise Richards (plugging her show on UPN, which is CBS's red-headed stepchild station), and a not-live concert from Bon Jovi ("Have a Nice Day"? Are they kidding me?!?) I did see the material online...the Schroeder family coming back to their wrecked home in New Orleans. Before their return, they stayed with the Rodgers family in Shreveport. At least some good came from the iffy idea that is Family Edition.

Last week, the show won its third Emmy. Of course, since the folks who run the show aren't that gung-ho about the genre, they brought in Blue Man Group to reveal the winner. I'm sorry, but I had to mentally insert a painted David Cross into the scene, crying about how it took three hours to blue himself. From what I've heard, the only team that was there was Uchenna & Joyce. While I didn't like Rob & Amber's inclusion in TAR7, bringing them in would've rubbed salt in Mark Burnett's wounds. Think about it...maybe for TAR9, they could bring in Kwame & Troy, just to piss Trump off.

As we wait for TAR8 to start (less than five hours as I write this), GSN will finish off TAR6 tomorrow night. The way I see things, it was as if all the good karma involved in Chip & Kim winning the prior season was squeezed out, leaving the evil and stupid teams to thrive. I know Avi & Joe deserved their boot for trying to find a clue in a seven square-mile lagoon and for not following Gus & Hera to the Pit Stop, when they could've rushed past Gus. I know Meredith & Maria earned their ejection for not knowing to drive a stick shift. But after seeing Lena struggle with a hay-rolling Roadblock, while five teams whizzed by her and sister Kristy despaired on the sidelines? That was a huge sign. And those were two Mormon women who weren't annoying, which hurt worse (I wasn't that bugged by Neleh Dennis, but I heard that Carmen Ramussen was an awful singer. Julie Stoffer? Come on, do I really need to explain what I don't like about her?)

There were many screw-ups along the way, including frequent bunching and poor race design. Those that irritated got to overstay their welcome. I still get mad thinking about Jonathan & Victoria, the biggest black mark in the history of the show. It was morbid fun to look into the BONRS thread and see new people recoil from how big a jackass Jonathan was. After he and his abused wife were eliminated, the crowds rejoiced. In the next leg: bunching, bunching, Detour, bunching, Roadblock, finish. The end result: likable wrestlers Lori & Bolo were eliminated, and we were stuck with three teams who bugged.

The only hope for a happy ending came from Kris & Jon, the long-distance dating couple. In my mind, they were an experiment to combine the racing know-how of Colin & Christie with the lovablity of John Vito & Jill. They got along with each other, they didn't have too many scares, and everything ranged from "sweet!" to "this sucks!" But they never got unruly. In contrast, there was bickering couple Hayden & Aaron, alternative wussy boy Adam and emasculating shrew Rebecca, and empty suit Freddy and foot-in-mouth bitch Kendra. Going into that final episode at TARCon, most of us were pulling for Kris & Jon to win...but they had some bad luck with a travel agent, and Freddy & Kendra won the damn Race. Worse, they didn't show up at TARCon. I mean, Flo came to TARCon 3, and just about everybody despised her at the time (a collegaue of mine and a friend showed up in matching "Shut Up, Flo!" t-shirts). Colin dropped by TARCon 5, where many fans wore homemade "My Ox Is Broken!" t-shirts. Heck, Jonathan dropped by...but he's probably of the "no publicity is bad publicity" mindset. This was as close as I wanted to get to the festering wound of a man. This woman? Wasn't as fortunate.

Still, I'm hoping for the best for TAR8. I read part of an article on TV Guide (had to slam on the brakes at a spoiler warning), and the first task is very unique. I'm hoping that the level of quality remains the same, and that having kids doesn't drive viewers to other shows. At worst, it should be a mild distraction on the way back to the two-person format.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

For Your Consideration

What is Project Runway?

No, I'm being serious here. Apparently, it was this reality show on Bravo about fashion designers. Yesterday, it was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program. And the weird thing? Some fans of The Amazing Race are sweating.

In case you're not into the reality scene, that category is in its third year. In the two prior editions, The Amazing Race won the Emmy. For the fans, it's validation that the show kicks ass. I've seen the show go from cult status to a point where it could qualify as a religion and tax-exempt status. But the Emmy still means a lot. After the first Emmy, a thread was set up on Television Without Pity's forums to celebrate. It carried over into last year, where the show triumphed over the likes of Jeff Probst, Donald Trump and Simon Cowell. But now, the feeling in the air is different. I know not who this "Wendy Pepper" is, or why she's a horrible person. I wish I could watch the show now, but Bravo didn't reair. I saw her on Battle of the Network Reality Stars, but I got more of an impression from one of her castmates; the albino vampire known as Austin Scarlett, who did fashion reports and mangled Scott Baio's name ("Bay-you"? The hell?!?)

What do I know about TAR's chances? I figured it would be the favorite to win. The show has three seasons for voters to consider, but apparently the producers went with two TAR7 episodes back-to-back. This makes me queasy, since that season was a mixed bag. The episodes included Gretchen nearly getting killed in the cave, Uchenna & Joyce with the orphans, Brian & Greg flipping their car over, and their ensuing miracle finish in beating out Ray & Deana. All well and good...but what about Chip & Kim's miracle finish? Or Colin exploding in several legs ("Hakuna Matata!" "I'm packin' it!" "My ox is broken! This is BULLSHIT!"), yet dominating with his partner, Christie? My guess is that the producers needed something a little fresher in the minds of voters.

A quick look at The Apprentice and their submitted episodes, and you can see why Donald Trump will be whining like a baby again this year. The third season was ignored entirely, with Mark Burnett admitting the "Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts" format wasn't a good idea. Instead, two installments from the second season were offered for consideration. One of them was the finale, which dragged on and on, where Kelly dominated Jennifer, and everybody in the studio audience knew it. Once Omarosa offered her support towards Jennifer, the eventual runner-up should have packed it up and went home. The other episode made me furious at the time. In "Lights! Camera! Transaction!," Trump decided to fix the floundering all-female Apex corporation the only way he knew...by forcibly grabbing Pamela (who had defected to the all-male Mosaic in the first episode) and making her Project Manager of Apex. That team didn't appreciate her no-nonsense way of leadership, and they ended up losing to Mosaic in a battle to sell wares on QVC by a minisucle amount (around $10). In the Boardroom, Apex railroaded Pamela, and she got fired over Maria (who had screwed up the task) and Stacy (a tiny troll of a woman who needed to be smacked). And THAT'S the episode that got submitted. Shit, why not throw in Apex dogpiling on Stacie J? Or the one where Trump fires Kevin, then all but pulls his pants down in anticipation for another Jennifer/Sandy catfight? Then there was the crap I had to go through expressing my opinions to my "peers" at RNO...but I'll save that for another time.

Skipping past American Idol, we go to Survivor. Of course, we have to pretend Vanuatu never happened. Sure, we got a comeback victory for Chris, the Cyril-from-Oz-looking dope, who was looking to get Pagonged out of the game before getting a clue. We had Chad, a guy with an artifical lower leg, who didn't look like a huge ass. And there was Twila, the Sling Blade-sounding lady who hated the "bowheads" on her tribe, and ended up finishing runner-up to Chris. But aside from them and a few others (blonde Dolly, token black guy Rory, squareheaded Lea/Sarge, eldery lesbian Scout), could you pick the cast out of a lineup? Ami was supposed to be this evil, evil woman, but I can't remember what she did to deserve that. Most of the younger guys that went out early were pretty interchangable. And the only reason anybody remembers Julie is because she's currently dating Jeff Probst.

Now...the next season? That should scare the crap out of TAR fans. At first glance, one tribe beating the ever-loving crap out of the other doesn't look appealing. But there were people you can remember...James the insufferable redneck (first words out of his yap: "Jeff Probst is a sumbitch"), Janu the underfed showgirl, Caryn the annoying lawyer, Willard the stealth lawyer, Angie the Frankie-from-RW: San Diego lookalike with the hidden power. We had Bobby Jon, the built guy who vaguely looked like Jesus. There was Stephanie, perhaps the strongest female Survivor ever, who never got to relax during Tribal Council. We had Coby, the poor man's Richard Hatch, down to the scheming and gaiety (but not the nakedness, thank goodness). And looming large was Ian, a dolphin trainer and one-time Race applicant, who would come so close to the million bucks.

And...of course...there was Tom Westman. A firefighter from New York, Tom embodied the best qualities of guys like Rupert and Colby (strong provider, immunity winner), without the messy crap (fierce entitlement, attraction to his mother). Tom impressed fans and contestants with his ability to fish...including the time he bagged a shark. He won five individual immunities, tying Colby's record from The Australian Outback. In the two times he was vunerable, nobody casted a vote against him. And his friendship with Ian made for one of the best stories in reality TV...until they broke apart in the final episode. Tom endured a grueling eleven-hour ordeal clinging to a buoy before Ian broek down and took himself out. In the end, Tom defeated Katie (who? Exactly!) 6-1 to win $1,000,000. And if Survivor takes the Emmy, he will be the reason.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Melancholy and Mardi Gras

Apologies to anybody who went into Sunday night's Logo marathon with my list. Wait, why should I apologize? First of all, the odds of anybody reading this blog, having Logo, AND caring about the marathon are slim to none. Secondly, I culled the list from Yahoo's TV site. As near as I can figure, somebody wanted more New Orleans episodes in the aftermath of Katrina, so stuff was shuffled around willy-nilly. I only saw two scheduled episodes from that season, and three more aired; the season opener parts one (Danny revealing his sexuality) and two (Danny getting a visit from Paul), and the Valentine's Day episode (Paul dropping by that night with food from their favorite restaurant). I saw bits and pieces from most of the episodes...in the beginning, they kept shifting from New Orleans to Philadelphia to Chicago. Then I saw the slated episodes from New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas (the one where Alton deals with his homophobia). I'm guessing that if you're a fan of Beth Anthony, Dan Renzi, and/or Genesis Moss, you got screwed.

Speaking of screwed...okay, so I see the credits for Chicago, and I recognize the episode where Aneesa just got off screaming at Feninem. I get excited...Aneesa doesn't do much for me, but this is the one where Cara hooks up with Kyle's friend, Djordje (pronounced "Geroge." Don't ask). And the kicker is that Cara has been so "open," the editors bring out David Broom, one of the most "open" cast members in the show's history, to sing "Come On Be My Baby Tonight." It's basically ripping off "Luck Be a Lady Tonight," preceded by scatting, and it is funny. It's "Trapped In the Closet" funny.

Anyway...there's Cara. There's Djordje. They're getting on each other in the hot tub. And I'm waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And an alarm goes off in my mind. And now I see Keri making humping motions from a distance. The song didn't play. From what I've gathered, there are licenses involved or something. When episodes of The Real World and Road Rules got syndicated, some songs were boiled off. Oddly enough, I could pick off songs from the really early episodes, so stuff must have been renewed. I understand why it has to be like that, but it does take me out of the game for a bit.

I saw most of the San Francisco episodes, trying my best to skip anything related to Puck. Luckily, three of the four installments were post-Puck. One came right after he was kicked out, with Mohammed burning incense to cleanse the house. I would've fumigated the place, but that's just me. There are a lot of differences between that season and Austin. For one thing, the roommates had lives back then. There wasn't a lot of getting drunk. They had jobs and gigs of their own, as opposed to the spoon-fed occupations the producers foist upon them. Oh, and Judd's hair really receded in the past decade.

Of course, seeing Pedro again is somewhat painful. Would any other popular documentary-based program have somebody who was HIV-positive these days? Some say that he was too boring, or that he was too preachy about his condition. Here's my thing: this is a guy who came over from Cuba on a boat. He had a good life, but he made a mistake, and it cost him his health. So what does he do? He lectures to others, trying his damnest to make sure nobody goes down the path he went down. And he ended up dying the day after the season finished airing. It's just not fair that he's dead and...well, if you ever watched the season, you know how that sentence ends.

But for something really bittersweet, there's the Mardi Gras episode, from a mere five years ago. A few days ago, a friend of made left a comment on this blog. She's gone down to New Orleans for the clean-up...and apparently, it's really bad down there. I'm a wuss...all I can do is send money to charity, and cling to memories of what I consider to be the last great season in Real World history (a case can be made for San Diego, but that's it). And there was no better episode than the one dealing with Mardi Gras. Why was it good? Let's count the ways.

1. Parade rolling outside the Belfort mansion, where the kids were staying. Come on, how cool is it to have marching bands and little princesses on floats? Nowadays, cast members get stools and injured eyes.

2. The visit to Anne Rice's house. It was a little cheesy...like she'd do that out of the kindess of her heart as opposed to for the publicity. Bonus: Matt bitching about how the male servants were hitting on him.

3. David taking a girl he barely knows and gets busy. While "Big Pimpin'" serves as background music, we see Matt trapped in the next bed, and the roommates are forced to play muscial beds. And that leads to...

4. Melissa's confessional interview. With Julie beside her, she goes on about the situation, and how Julie woke her up to crawl in her bed. "I'm thinking I'm seeing Jesus and my days are through," she spits out. "It's just long-haired Julie." Then we see Danny walking around naked, trying to find a bed of his own after Jamie plopped down on his. And guess where Danny ends up? Melissa: "So, let me tell you what the sex life is like. Melissa is in bed with a Mormon on the left, a naked gay guy on the right. What am I supposed to do with that?" Then Julie wails about how she signed up for the "Belfort Brothel," and Melissa screams, "Whhhhhhy? Whhhhhhhy?" Good times...and believe it or not, there was a time where I didn't hate Julie at all.

5. Back to David...as "Say My Name" plays and he escorts his latest conquest out. He interviews and goes "woo woo"...then he admits that he "never got to names," then smiles. The look on his face basically translates to, "When my mother sees this, she will freakin' kill me."

6. Speaking of Bishop Woo Woo...the kids got a chance to ride on a float. David figured that he'd rather be a spectator, and invite some friends over for a barbeque. Julie interviews that he said he wasn't trying to exclude himself. She then does a nice impression of the guy: "Woo, woo, that's not my scene, woo, woo." Cut to David on the phone with a friend: "I'm gonna bounce now, and get all this stuff, woo, woo."

7. The kids ride the float in the parade, and that was fun. Always cool to see a sheltered Mormon girl yell to see breasts in exchange for beads. Meanwhile, Danny is getting drunk. Now...I should hate Danny. Not because he's gay, but because he was just too perfect. He had looks, he had brains, he had Paul (whom he called "kid," which I figured was a New England thing). But his Kryptonite is booze. Later, we found out he had a fear of heights. I still can't believe he and Kelley ended up winning on Battle of the Seasons one year later.

8. Anyway, there's a party at the Belfort. Danny's tipsy, and he meets a friend of a friend named Forrest. They head into the confessional...you hear a belt buckle...and a slurp. He stalks out, laughing about how royally he fucked up, and there's Forrest wiping his mouth. Suddenly, the relationship between Danny and Paul looked to be in jeopardy.

9. Mardi Gras Day itself. We got vignettes from just about everybody. There's Julie with a wig, trying to have as much fun as she can. There's Jamie electric sliding with a crowding. There's Kelley, partying with her guy, the unfortunately named Dr. Peter. There's Melissa, her dream of being in a "man sandwich" comes to horrific fruitation as she's bounced between two heavyset guys. There's Matt, sitting outside the Belfort in his parade get-up, proclaiming himself to be "The King of Mardi Gras." And there's Danny, wondering if it was over between him and Paul. Eventually, Danny made the call, and Paul forgave him.

Thinking about things now, I've come to realize...there's not gonna be a Mardi Gras next year. There might not be a Mardi Gras there for years to come. I'm not into that...the only Mardi Gras I remember was the last one...and only because I went to TARCon 6 at the Play by Play. I never wanted to go to New Orleans...but now I feel like I missed out (especially after reading Bill Simmons' heartfelt column a few weeks ago). I know it's dumb to relate a decimated city to a dopey reality television show, but that's all I really have.

By the way...if you want to read the reactions from The Real World: New Orleans cast members, click here. Don't ask me while Julie and Matt didn't contribute. Matt's probably petitioning to breakdance for the new Pope. As for Julie, she's more than likely crying off her latest humilation in the latest Challenge (not a spoiler, but an educated guess from past seasons). Next Wednesday , Melissa will be hosting a benefit for hurricane benefit at The Downtown in Farmingdale, NY. Also, this NOLA nostaglia might get me to go over my copy of The Real World You Never Saw: New Orleans DVD. Got it a while ago, but I've only seen it the one time. It's gotta be good writing material before the next Challenge kicks off.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reality Preview

The Apprentice

Once again: I’m done with Donald Trump. After two seasons ranging from sucking to mere blandness, I’m not wasting time with this show. I took a quick look at the cast...anybody local? No? Hey, there’s the token black guy! And token black girl! “Toral”? Weird name. Hey, I knew an Alla in high school. Is that...nope, it’s not. My Alla was tiny and laughed like Elmer Fudd on helium. Screw it.

Seriously, don’t watch this crap. It’ll be the same story...Trump looms large on the scene, flanked by his bobbleheaded sidekicks. Carolyn and George? Vastly overrated. Trump will make us remember that he knows famous people. Trump will butt in the middle of the episode and give us a valuable lesson, spoiling the contest’s results in the process. Trump will make crappy decisions while firing people. None of the cast members will be as lovable as Kwame and Troy way back in 2004. Hell, the producers actually recycled a detestable character in Kristen, a two-time gold medalist in the Fuglympics. The closest thing to a cool character from last season was Tana, and she went batshit crazy in the end. Actually, I think she realized that the “winner” would get a windowless office, receive chump change in comparison to other reality show victors, and get paraded like a show pony. Would it be that hard to believe Tana morphed into a flyover looney just to wriggle off the hook? Now she can get a better deal with less attention to herself. Or, failing that, tour with Lil Jon. “Hey, Yin Yang Twins? Kay, I get ‘crunk’ now, but what the heck is ‘twurk’? Can I do it with my Beadazzler?”

I will look into Martha Stewart’s edition for at least one episode. I’m curious as to what the credits will be like. I’m thinking we have Martha tunnel out of prison and channel Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption, heavy rain and all. And how would she dismiss people? Trump owns “you’re fired,” cobra hand motion and all. In keeping with the ex-jailbird motif, I suggest the dismissed candidate try and survive a shiv fight with the domestic diva herself. Eh, she’ll just say something like “I no longer need your services.”

Survivor: Guatemala – The Maya Empire

After the slam-bang good times of Palau, this season is going to be a letdown. Looking at the cast (mostly white...Mark Burnett hearts white people!), there aren’t too many standouts. Judd the doorman...is he the first Judd on reality TV since Judd Winick on The Real World: San Francisco waaaaaaaaaay back in 1994? There’s Morgan, the magician’s assistant...watch her make weight vanish in two weeks! The biggest name in there is Gary Hogeboom, who used to play quarterback in the NFL. Probably didn’t make the insane amounts of money that his descendants earn nowadays, but he’ll be keeping his identity a secret from the others.

The challenges sound intense...I heard about an 11-mile hike on the second day, in the oppressive heat. According to Shawna Malcom of TV Guide, “The challenges are so intense they’d make Palau winner Tom Westman cry for his mommy.” To which I say, “Lady, did you not see Tom in action?” The guy did everything but kill Jeff Probst and take over the show. Once again...his season will be tough to top. I should mention there’s supposed to be two twists. Originally, I figured it had something to do with several contestants being identical twins. Not that Burnett would take cues from Big Brother, but it doesn’t sound too unlikely that lookalikes would tag in and out of the game. Nope, here’s what I read in TV Guide:

Two past Survivors return and take the game to a whole new level!

I’d rather have ancient Mayan cannibalism, to be honest. From what I’ve heard, the returning Survivors are Bobby Jon Drinkard and Stephanie LaGrossa. Last season, they were on the doomed Ulong tribe, which got schooled every week by Koror. Midway through the season, they were the Ulong tribe. And after another immunity loss, they had to face off in a firemaking challenge. Bobby Jon lost, and got his torch snuffed by Probst. Stephanie ended up getting acquired by Koror, and managed to stay on for nine days before getting voted off. They seem like two great people, both of whom might have made the final four in any other season. But after All-Stars, I didn’t think anybody should get a second chance at the million bucks. Besides, last season taught us a valuable lesson: once Tom Westman kicks your ass, your ass stays kicked. Or maybe last season’s first cuts will get a second chance. A grueling eleven mile hike, with Wanda Shirk making up lyrics to “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain” along the way? That would make Tom cry for his mommy.

The Amazing Race

Flash back to February 9, 2005. I’m manning the VCR at 8:40 a.m., recording segments of The Early Show. The previous night, I saw the finale of TAR6 at TARCon, held at the Play-by-Play in Manhattan. Along with hundreds of my fellow fans, I witnessed empty suit Freddy Holiday & all-around bitch Kendra Bentley luck into winning the million bucks, while fan faves Kris Perkins & Jon Bueller ended up making out and waiting for a train to pass. To make matters worse, Freddy and Kendra didn’t show up to TARCon, even though they were in town to pick up the check. The only other no-shows were wrestlers Lori& Bolo, but they had prior obligations. I hobnobbed with some of the teams, took pictures, finally met Darwin Conner from Mole 2 (greatest season never to get rerun), and stayed the hell away from Jonathan Baker.

Anyway...sometime after the weather guy clipped Adam Mallis’s hairhorns and Freddy and Kendra got their precious check, Harry Smith talked to host Phil Keoghan about the next season, which would air in three weeks. After Phil went on about how he didn’t know Rob Mariano & Amber Brkich, Harry let it slip that applications were being accepted for the season after that...for families. Apparently, that season would bring out families of four. To race. Around the world. And we’d later find out that the age requirement would be lowered past 21. Phil should’ve told us. He should’ve taken the camera solo, and told us in the same way your daddy told you why he and mommy weren’t sleeping in the same bed anymore.

A family race. Super. Bad enough the seventh season had the specter of hoping that a safe would land on Rob’s head, but the next season might suck as well. I do try to stay positive. Back when Big Brother harpy Allison Irwin made it to TAR5 with her dumbass on-again/off-again boyfriend Donny, I tried to look on the bright side. I imagined a Roadblock where she’d have to deal with mimes (this coming after a painted clown tormented her in the BB house). Sure enough, she and Donny got eliminated in the second episode. What we’re facing now might have the potential to rock the house...or suck worse than TAR6.

We have ten teams of four this time around. The youngest Racer is Austin Black, age 8. I don’t care if he’s disciplined with the Tae Kwon Do, it’s still a bad idea for the little ones to race. Carissa Gaghan, age 9, said that you’re either a hero or a zero. Upon hearing that, forum posters began to hope that she has to beg for money in India. Two families are from Louisiana (the Schroeders from New Orleans, the Rogers from Shreveport), and I’m hoping that they’re doing all right as I write this. There’s the Linz family, part of a huge family collective that wants to represent the city of Cincinnati. This may entail betting on the outcome of individual legs, doing the Ickey Shuffle on the pit stop mats, and dropping live turkeys from helicopters whenever possible.

My prediction for who wins? It’s a funny thing...blood may be thicker than water, but it only gets you third place at most (siblings Blake & Paige Mycoskie in TAR2, brothers Ken & Gerard Duphiney in TAR3) We’ve seen parents and children, siblings and cousins race...but the only winners have been best buddies, married couples, and a “Are We Dating?” duo. I want to say it’ll be the Black family. Of the three couples of color, two have won (Chip & Kim, Uchenna & Joyce), and one came close (Frank & Margarita). What counters that? Tae Kwon Do. Hear me out...I think I’m onto something. Last season, we saw Ray & Deana making with the martial arts in the opening credits, and they flamed out mid-race. Avi was seen practicing Tai Chi in a clip seen on The Early Show, and he and Joe got eliminated in the first leg of TAR6. You want more? In TAR4 the four remaining teams had a Detour in South Korea: bust boards with their hands, or eat live octopus. Which team didn’t break boards? Reichen & Chip. Which team ended up winning? Reichen & Chip. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Anyway, it’s going to be Team Aiello winning. It’s the perfect situation: Tony is the father-in-law for the other team members (Kevin, Matt, David). You’re telling me that kids will end up helping their teams? Mark my words: only one team with underaged representation will be in the final four. And there’s no blood relations within Team Aiello, so it will work out. Of course, I had Rob & Amber finishing sixth last season, and Ryan & Chuck being the fan favorites, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Real World/Road Rules Challenge

You didn’t think I’d skip past this, did you? The Challenge remains my bread and butter...food which I’ll have to wait too long to eat. The season premiere is set for October 31. Now...let’s ignore the likelihood that I won’t go to La Case Cee because I don’t want to deal with people in costume all night. Why so late? Filming was wrapped up months ago. Are you telling me that Laguna Beach is that compelling? They have Hillary Duff singing “Come Clean” in the opening credits! Just move the show over to Wednesdays, and let the has-beens and also-rans reclaim their proper spot.

The good news is that BMP is going back to the Gauntlet format. Last time, teams had to send in one of their own to compete in an individual contest, where the winner stayed and the loser went home. It was one of the best seasons in series history, what with the upsets (self-proclaimed puzzle master Steve getting wasted by Trishelle in a puzzle challenge), the righteous ass-whumpings (Alton destroying Laterrian in Pole Climb, Mike sinking Abram in Knock Your Block Off), and the evolution of Sarah Greyson from a two-time loser on Road Rules to the butt-kicking Queen of the Gauntlet, winning five times, while nobody else went in more than twice. From what I hear, team members might be forced to duel in the Gauntlet this time around, which will be an interesting wrinkle. Another twist: the teams will be separate by how many Challenges they’ve done. Competing in two or more seasons places players with the Veterans, while everybody else runs as Rookies. Beats “Good Guys” and “Bad Asses,” doesn’t it?

As for the cast? A lot of familiar faces won’t be coming this time. Coral is apparently done with the Challenges. Mike retired following Inferno II, going on to join the WWE, where participants take steroids for fake contests, and where the boss is fifty times worse than Bunim or Murray ever were. The oh-so-compelling drama embodied by Tonya, Veronica, Rachel and Tina won’t be back. The bad news: Beth will return, even after she took the coward’s way out by quitting last season. Brad will try not to go out like a punk for a third time, and he’ll have to face Randy, his best buddy in San Diego. We’ll be getting two flavors of Adam this season: the dopey Adam King, whose Ace fetish will be alive and well with that schmuck on the cast; and Adam Larson, who still has a lot to answer for after the original Gauntlet. Katie also returns, but since it’s been revealed that she slept with Jon Dalton, she’s dead to me. On the NOLA front, Jamie Murray will try and join Darrell as the only players to win three Challenges in a row. On the other hand, Julie will come back with her half a brain, 424,620 teeth, and obliviousness to how much she sucks. Normally, I’d have her slated for yet another humiliating endgame...but with Coral getting knocked out of Battle of the Network Stars, I think Julie’s luck might change.

(Side note: How bad did that last episode suck? We get a new team of “Underdogs,” none of whom are that endearing. Bradford? Couldn’t win anything except a Tony Kornheiser lookalike contest. Mirna? She’s back to her histrionic ways. Nikki? Probably cries herself sick anytime somebody mentions Kelly Clarkson. But this new team survives, and Team Coral gets bumped off...and that includes my girl Melissa, Gervase, and “Joe Millionaire” himself. Worse, Coral sprains her finger while bullriding, and her team’s remaining members couldn’t survive the multilegged race. Then ex-Team Coral member Adam Mesh crows about how he wished Coral was there, since he hated her. He was on Average Joe. When should somebody from a Bachelor knockoff say anything, ever? If Coral ever sprains another finger, may it come from pummeling that idiot senseless. At least I got Team Chip to root for. I’m rooting for them to win, and for Sue Hawk to humiliate Richard Hatch in an entertaining way.)

Anyway, once the cast list is announced by MTV, I’ll write some preview material to whet your appetites. And BMP is set for the next Challenge. When I was in San Diego, I read about a new twist: RW and RR alumni will face brand new people. That’s right...the road to the Challenge doesn’t have to lead through The Real World anymore. Like TAR8, this could either rule or suck. Sadly, the age range is 18-25 years. I wouldn’t be inclined to answer the call, but there has to be a fit guy in his mid-30s, a guy who would love to show up folks in his age range (Beth, Eric Nies, Mark Long, etc.) And who is BMP to deny long simmering resentment?

The Real Mean Girls

After I came back from San Diego, I caught wind of another BMP idea, something that chilled me to the bone:

Veronica and Rachel from Road Rules and The RW/RR Challenge are filming a new show. The girls are looking for a BFF and someone to help them out with their clothing line, College Dropout!

We are looking for smart, sexy and fun girls who have what it takes to hang out with two of the most notorious girls of reality TV.

Silly me...I thought that Veronica would get her own damn life after competing in seven of the past eight Challenges. But no, she gets rewarded for being a bitch. And she’s joined by Rachel, who is just the ugliest person inside and out. What was the reasoning for this show? Because of their torture of Tonya? News flash: Tonya is the easiest target in reality TV today. The girl has no self esteem, no comeback skills whatsoever. What will Veronica and Rachel do for an encore? Swipe candy from a baby? Shove senior citizens into traffic? Beat up Stephen Hawkings? And why do they need a new best friend? I thought that was Shane’s department. If Rachel is “Butterface,” then Shane is “Pat.” Maybe Rachel forgot to roll the car window down, and Shane almost died because of it.

I also heard that Tina will be on the show. I tried to give this chick the benefit of the doubt in the past. I reasoned that she joined those two in Inferno II because of her petty rivalry with Tonya. I figured that Tina was just looking for the one big score, and that she wasn’t going to go the Hollywood route. Hell, she never tried to commit a sexual act in front of cameras, unlike Butterface and Verantula. But if Tina is involved with this show, then she sucks, and she’s nothing but Coral without the mystique.

I don’t know when or if this show will air. If it does hit the screens, I won’t watch. The only way I’d watch is if BMP sets them up for a fall. Like, in the season finale, Sarah would lodge her extra-large shoes up their asses. Or Emily would drop by with her bloody axe. Or maybe Pua and Ayanna would “borrow” funds from Veronica’s bank. Honestly, Veronica and Rachel cannot fall far enough or hard enough to suit me.

A Gay Old Time

I have DirecTV, which means I have access to lots of channels. Way too many channels, in fact. Most of them I pass on the way to my favorite programming. One of them is Logo, a gay-themed station. This Sunday, they will air Real Gay, which will bring together gay cast members from a cornucopia of reality shows. Some of these people I've never heard of (Ebony and Michelle of America's Next Top Model, Jim from American Idol), some I can do without (Coby "Tom Westman Sucks!" Archa from Survivor: Palau; Lynn & Alex, they of "Ramber? We never heard of Ramber!" fame from The Amazing Race), and a few folks from BMP (Genesis and Willie from Real World, Sophia from Road Rules).

Here's the big thing...from 10:30 a.m to the start of Real Gay at 9 p.m., Logo will be airing gay-themed episodes of The Real World. And good gravy, some of these shows go all the way back to the days of New York and Los Angeles. Being the fanboy that I am, here are some of the episodes I'll try and watch on Sunday. Bear in mind that the gayiety in some of these eps is not what brings me in.

11 a.m.: Aneesa contemplates getting back with Veronica. No, not the oily bitch I hate...the one us posters dubbed "Feminem" back in the day. Actually, the big highlight is Cara hooking up for the umpteenth time (with one of Kyle's buddies), and the producers piping in David "Bishop Woo Woo" Broom's cult hit, "Come On Be My Baby Tonight." Feel the love. Woo woo. (Chicago)

12 p.m.: The debut of Beth A., the first lesbian in RW history. Also, the gang finds out that Aaron appeared in a surfer calendar, and decide to torture him about it. (Los Angeles)

2 p.m.: First episode of the third season, as we meet AIDS activist Pedro Zamora, as well as those who will befriend him, and the one asshole whose act wears thin really quickly. Feel free to break out a copy of Judd Winick's Pedro & Me and do some comparing. (San Francisco)

2:30 p.m.: The good news: it's a Danny-based episode, and he's cute. Bad news: it's a meh episode, where his folks meet Paul, his blur-faced boyfriend. Oh, and Jamie produces the cast's cable access show so badly, their boss rips him a new one. (New Orleans)

3 p.m.: Rachel takes Pedro home to Arizona to meet her folks, and to pronounce his name in a way that reminds us that she's Latin. Also: Judd plans Pam's birthday party. Good times. Did you know they had a kid a few months ago? (San Francisco)

3:30 p.m.: MTV News Now special, where we catch up with Danny and Paul, and we finally see the man behind the blur.

4:30 p.m.: I don't remember this episode, where Norman finds love, and Julie spends a night with the homeless. I'm throwing this out because it's old school, and it's much better than the Austin follies going on now. (New York)

5:30 pm.: The introduction of Feminem and her ex, as well as a primo tantrum from Aneesa. Also: the cast starts to work with kids on a mural. Yes...somebody at BMP thought it was a great idea to expose children to the likes of Cara, Kyle, and Tonya. (Chicago)

7:30 p.m.: Pedro gets sick. Really sick. Judd bawling in the confessional sick. Also, Mohammend has girl problems. I think this was the closest he got to a plot all season. (San Francisco)

8 p.m.: It's the Mardi Gras episode, which will invoke some major melancholy due to recent events. Danny tries to remain faithful to his guy back home, but screws up. Also: Julie tries to discover the fun of Mardi Gras, David has sex with some random girl and excludes himself from the group, Matt gets stuck in the same room as David has sex, and Melissa gives one of the funniest monologues in the show's history. Oh, and Danny walks around buck naked. Good times? The best. (New Orleans)

8:30 p.m.: Pedro and boyfriend Sean get married. Also: Puck races in a soapbox derby. Yeah, those two plots are so relatable. (San Francisco)

Monday, September 05, 2005


I have ideas for entries. I plan on going over the new seasons of reality television. I was thinking of writing about my next comic show trip if something funny happens. I'm planning on seeing the Mets next week. And all I can say is this: I'm sorry.

Last week, I heard about Hurricane Katrina, and I didn't take it seriously. I heard about people being evacuated to the Superdome. I saw Anderson Cooper out in the open, like he was a few weeks ago during another hurricane. So help me, I didn't think it was going to be a huge deal. Today, the state of Lousiana is a disaster. Thousands are dead, tens of thousands are without homes...and I'm not sure how I can help.

Okay...I have helped out a little. I sent $20 to help students dislocated by Katrina. I'm expecting money from articles I've written, and I plan on giving to the Red Cross. Heck, if they need blood, I can give that as well. But it doesn't feel like enough. I talked with an online friend, and she's going over there with the Red Cross. Meanwhile, I stay at home and obssess over Battle of the Network Reality Stars. I got a PhD in triviality.

I've been through this before...sort of. Granted, comparing last week's events to those in NYC some three years and 51 weeks ago is like comparing apples and oranges. There was a sense of panic and fear, as we wondered if a terrorist attack could be repeated. Hell, I had been to the city on 9/9 and 9/10...the latter for my first session of a grad course. On 9/11, I was supposed to get introduced to Sports Journalism, but I never left home. My mother, on the other hand, was on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge when the first plane hit. I was lucky that I didn't have an early class that day, and that I didn't lose anybody that I knew. The city ended up rebounding, even if no replacement has been erected yet. I know that the odds of an immediate comeback are remote, but I'm sure New Yorkers are helping out. We'd be hypocrites not to do so.

I know that this blog is mostly fluff. Who cares if Rachel Robinson is a severe butterface, or how I'm guessing that Survivor: Gutemala won't rock as hard as Palau? I do feel that I keep perspective. I feel that words like "miracle" and "tragedy" can be used in the context of television and sports...as long as we know that it doesn't apply to real life. Honestly, why should one city go to pieces because some guy let a ball go between his legs? In the big picture, it doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter. But for Boston, Bill Buckner's flub in 1986 no long matters, because the Red Sox won the World Series last year. Same goes for reality television...I can call Amaya and Melissa's victory in the Sargeant Says mission during Battle of the Sexes as "The Miracle at Montego Bay" all I want, but it doesn't qualify either of them for sainthood. Ditto for the five Gauntlets that Sarah had to endure...but at that time, each victory was a stern "eat me" to the faction that wanted her gone, and I enjoyed it immensely. But once again...not a huge deal in the big picture.

I don't know what else to say. I've been getting some nice feedback in the last week. If I can provide a nice place for people to get away from the crappiness that's going on, perhaps I should be glad. Still, I'm going to try and do more with my life than this blog.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Best Season Ever

I'm holding off on doing a reality preview post until I see commercials for The Amazing Race 8. Right now, I just want to remind anybody reading this that TAR5 debuts on GSN tonight at 9 p.m., and it was the best season ever. Seriously...fans had gone almost a whole year between seasons, and had to deal with models, actors, a little person and her cousin, AND the runner-up in a show whose quality was far below that of TAR. Oh, and she got freaked out by a mime the year before.

My point? That season could have been a huge clusterfuck. It some ways, it was a clusterfuck, like with Marshall and Lance's inablity to get excited, and the dumb rivalry between Chip and Kami & Karli. But throughout the season, we had the best villain team in a couple whose overachieving made them as hard to root for as the Yankees. We had a guy who needed stitches in the very first leg of the Race, yet toughted it out. We had Chip & Kim, who are as nice on this show as they currently are on Battle of the Network Reality Stars (did you see Chip and Theo make fun of Jonathan's wipeout last night? Hilarious!) Honestly, I wouldn't steer you wrong, especially not about this.

Once again: season debuts tonight on GSN. On Sunday and Monday, the network will air TAR1. So if you missed it the first time, or need to see if you want to get the DVD, tune in. And I'll say my piece about TAR8 soon, as well as Survivor, both editions of The Apprentice, and the BMP stuff.