Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reality Rant: A Letter To Jonathan Murray

In the wake of another crappy finale for another crappy season of The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, I've decided that it's high time to explain to Bunim-Murray Productions' co-founder my frustration, and offer up my own solution.

Jonathan Murray
C/O Bunim-Murray Productions
6007 Sepulveda Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91411

Dear Mr. Murray,

I’ve been meaning to write to you for a while now. I’ve been watching The Real World/Road Rules Challenge for ages. I even recapped it for six seasons, which you can read on my blog at And I have to ask you a question, since your name is on top: Do you care anymore?

I just saw the end of The Ruins, yet another grueling season . . . not just for the players to compete in, but for true fans to watch. After untold weeks of drama, three of the biggest jerks wound up winning a sizable amount of money: Johnny Devenanzio, Kenny Santucci and Evan Starkman. The three of them have been a pain to watch since Fresh Meat. Watching them act like misogynists, especially around Sarah Rice, got to be tiring. Add that to the trainwrecks (Tonya Cooley, Wes Bergmann), the quitters (Casey Cooper, Evelyn Smith) the hotheads (Wes again, Brad Fiorenza), and the alcoholics (Tonya again, Katie Doyle), and it’s a recipe for disaster.

I’ve decided to take the initiative. In March 2008, I posted on my blog on how to improve the Challenge. I was frustrated by the events of Gauntlet 3, and I figured out ways to make your show better and more fair, without detracting from the drama. I thought that I was qualified, given how much detail I could pick up from the episodes. For instance: why was Jamie Murray put on the Rookies team in Gauntlet 2, even though he was on two Challenges? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to transfer Ace Amerson from the Veterans, because he had competed in four missions total at that time? Anyway, I’ve included my post with this letter. At the very least, I’d like to know what you think.

I’d like to call myself a fan, but you and the rest of Bunim-Murray Productions makes it so hard. At times, you still show quality product, like the Return To Duty special that aired last month. And The Real World: Washington D.C. does look to be more than fighting and fornicating. But I feel that the Challenge needs to improve, and quickly. Why? Because I don’t need another season of Evan and Kenny sublimating their lust for each other by belittling others and patting themselves on the back. And judging from the forums I visit, I am not alone.

Jason Borelli

PS: Could you at least consider replacing TJ Lavin as host? The man brings nothing to the table except for allegedly hooking up with female contestants. Ever consider Coral Smith in that role? I think you should.

I included the address at the top because I could never find a general e-mail address for BMP. Bottom line: If you're tired and dissatified by the Challenges, let 'em know how you feel, because it may be the only way they'll learn. And if Mr. Murray or anybody else from BMP responds, I'll post the results here.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Reality Rant: A Challenging Proposal

Note: The following was written while I was at work. I did this a few weeks ago . . . with the season finale of Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Ruins airing on Wednesday, now's a good time to print this up.

I think the time has come to pass the hat around for the sake of Brad Fiorenza.

We've seen Brad compete in eight seasons of Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Each time, he leaves with next to nothing and a hard luck story. He's been screwed by veteran players (Battle Of The Sexes 2), screwed by fate and beaten by Abram (Inferno II) and watched helplessly as Eric nearly died, taking the Veterans team with him (Gauntlet 3). Brad has made it to the end of two versions of The Duel. First, he survived a climatic Duel with a psychotic CT, only to fail to overcome a headstart from Wes. Last season, he was forced into a rushed, impromptu team-up with Rachel in the final mission, saw his lead evaporate, and lost to an undeserving Evan.

Cut to The Ruins. Brad has watched his team -- the Challengers -- lose all but one mission. Sure, both teams have an even number of players, but the Champions have the advantage. Brad loses his mind, lashing out against Kelly Anne and Casey. I'm not 100 percent sure where the Kelly Anne hatred came from, but I know why Casey got it . . . because she's the most toxic person from team morale. She does jack shit in missions and is generally worse than Beth . . . and after recapping Gauntlet 2, I never thought I'd say that. Anyway, Brad gets drunk, starts acting like a meathead, and goads Darrell into a fight. Actually, he goaded himself an old-fashioned beatdown. His right eye was all fucked up, worse than Davis's face after CT smacked him around in Inferno III. Why was this stupid of Brad?

1. He got kicked out of the game, a black mark that probably wouldn't disqualify him from future Challenges, but it will be hard to wash off.

2. His $2,000 went to the pot for the final mission, along with Darrell's $31,943 and Tonya's $2,858, which got added after she smacked Veronica. And yes, I did visit Wikipedia for the exact figures.

2a. With the final mission pot getting sweetened, this guarentees a bigger payoff for the Champions, who have dominated the game. It wouldn't be so bad if there was a single redeemable person on the tea,m. Susie? She's devolved into bitchdom. Johnny? He's a weasel. Evan and Kenny? Deluded assholes who will more than likely win the game without going into the Ruins [which turned out to be true]. Derrick? He's gone from being a decent guy to a yes-man for the Axis of Ass and a pint-sized thug.

(Note: Yes, I heard that he went first into the mission with the crawling on the chain link fences over a great height mission. Yes, I understand that he tried to shake Sarah off because he thought Susie might throw the mission in order to get a Ruins date with Casey [which she did get in the very end]. But the way he was shaking the fence and pulling on Sarah's fingers? That wasn't very sporting. Wee D should be ashamed of himself.)

Never mind that we'll be in for yet another depressing finale. I think Brad is a decent enough guy. He might be a bit of a meathead, and his taste in women is questionable (Tori? Really?), but I always root for the guy. My first thought was that we should raise some money so that Brad could ease off the Challenges, since they're eroding what little of his brain is left. But I don't think Brad would accept charity. He'd want to earn the dough. So I came with an idea which can be summed up in two words: celebrity roast.

Think about it: What's the main draw in Challenges? It might be the grueling competition, random binge drinking and humping, and exciting endgames . . . but then there are the interviews where the players insult each other to the cameras. For example, Cora maybe an average competitor, but she's best known for lighting up whomever is displeasing her. That's why we love her. Well, that's why I love her. Anyway, we take the disrespect, put it at the forefront, and put a happy face on it. We bring Brad up to the stage, where his peers can make fun of him all they want, and we can have a good laugh. At the end, Brad can blast them back. All the while, an 800 number runs to raise money for Brad, so he can have enough to never come back to the Challenge again. I figure half of that would go to his favorite charity so he doesn't look like a total sad sack.

I think I'm onto something with this. Wouldn't it be worth it to raise some dough for Tonya, instead of watching her embarass herself over and over? She was so normal in Battle Of The Sexes and The Gauntlet, but her mind has been gone with subsequent Challenges. Ruthie seems like a sweet girl and more than merely the drunk chick from The Real World: Hawaii, but she's been doing worse with every season she's been on. And wouldn't you pay money to make sure somebody like Johnny never darkens your television screen again? Or Susie? Or Rachel? Hell, put Evan and Kenny in a joint roast, and they can finally afford the wedding of their woman-hating dreams. Yes, I still believe they're that into each other.

Sure, raising money might seem like wasting popular draws, but really . . . isn't Bunim-Murray Productions good at finding other mental cases? That's the whole point of next season of Fresh Meat 2, right? Besides, nobody should have to seek relief in the diabolical Russell over on Survivor: Samoa on the following day. After a night of yelling at the TV screen, seeing a little man make everybody's life miserable seems quaint by comparison.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reality Rant: When Katie Attacks

Normally, I'd bitch about the latest episode of The Ruins, which featured Tonya getting ejected from the game after she smacked Veronica, something viewers like myself had waited a long time for. However, somebody did a great job talking about the episode, and giving much-needed grief to the jerks who've helped wreck the franchise. Katie Doyle, one-time member of Road Rules: The Quest, veteran of several Challenges, and creature that runs on alcohol and cigarettes threw in her two cents on her MySpace blog. Despite some grammar errors, she managed to articulate her rage surprisingly well. Because I have a life and am also a bit lazy, I will comment on Katie's blasts regarding her final episode, where she lost to Sarah in the Ruins, something few people will remember about the show.

Evan and Kenny thought it would be hysterical to pour baby powder in my suit case. All over my clothes. Then I discover the plunger in my bed. That is just disgusting. I do not like to be the target of anybody's joke. I think I have made that pretty clear over the years. Regardless, Kenny and Evan do not care. They just want to be amusing, silly and have fun. But, they seem to only want to do it at someone else's expense. Not mine, fuckers.

I immediately like that Katie has the same contempt for those two assholes that I do, and I don't even have to live with them. And she's just getting warmed up.

As far as the Sarah story line is concerned...she isn't that bad. She did try a little too hard to fit in with the "Champion" team which was bizarre because she should have been trying with her own team. But everyday, morning or night- she never left our room. I was not the only one who thought that was weird. People called her "superfan". Her obvious crushes on Evan and Kenny were more than apparent. And yes, the guys did say bad things about her when she would actually leave the room.

And with that, I lose respect for Sarah. Crushing on the likes of Evan and Kenny? That's just sick. From what I hear, Sarah will be on the next season -- Fresh Meat 2 -- but I think everybody will be distracted disrespecting the attitude of her ex-roommate, the mouthy transsexual known as Katelynn.

The next day, I felt bad. I knew that my anger [towards Sarah] was misdirected. I should have flipped out on Kenny and Evan. Funny how neither one of them even remotely defended her as I screamed. They let her take the heat and even laughed about it. They don't care. That is the type of guys they are. They are on the wrong show. They should be on Tool Academy.

Here, Katie is dead wrong. Those two would never make it to Tool Academy. From what I've gathered, girlfriends "enroll" their less-than-respectful guys in the Academy. Can you see either of those two with a steady girlfriend, as opposed to an on-air hookup? Of course not. In fact, the end of the latest episode had Kenny lying on his bed, with Evan over him like he's about to plant his lips behind Kenny's ear. They're probably not gay for each other like I rant on the TWoP forums, but footage like that makes me wonder.

Seriously, I have heard the same jokes with Evan for the past 5 years. He used them on Freshmeat. He switches it up a bit to cater to his new audience. I am so completely confused how these 2 assholes have managed to be popular from this show. They were NEVER even on Real World or Road Rules! And because it IS the title of the show, um...I am still confused where they fit in. As far as I am concerned, they guest star on the show.

And that's why Fresh Meat has ruined the show. With Road Rules defunct, Bunim-Murray Productions needed to inject new life into the franchise beyond the seven meatheads on any given season of The Real World. Of the ten new cast members from Fresh Meat, five of them (Aviv, Chanda, Jesse, Johnnie, and Linette) have never been seen again. I figure that Ryan and Eric are rather inoffensive. What are we left with? An overachieving lesbian who sold out her principles for big money and quit on her team in order to save a friend (Evelyn); a cancer survivor whose dramatics have rubbed some the wrong way and who willingly dated CT (Diem); a twit who's afraid of half the missions, used her prize money to get implants and who talked shit about Coral (Casey); and Evan and Kenny. Even if I take away Diem, somebody who hasn't given me enough reason to dump on her, that's still enough reason to dread Fresh Meat 2.

Unfortunately, that's not how it works. I am also not in the editing room at BMP. Because with all the Wes drama, I don't think Evan needs to constantly be the mouthpiece for the team. Its ALWAYS what Evan says that makes air. Why not show Darrell's, Syrus or Derricks opinion? Must it always be from Evan and Kenny? For fucks sake, I lived the show and get bored watching the same 2 pricks put there fucking opinion in over and over. The house had 28 people! Use Ibis, Kim, Adam...anyone but them over and over and over. I get it, they are witty. But still...

Exactly. Of course, Darrell's interviews are no fun unless he's massacring the English language ("non-flexiblist," "infuerno," "I ain't come at you foul!"), but you get Katie's frustration -- as well as my own -- that these two tools get the lion's share of the commentary. Norma, well-adjusted folks just don't get the commentary time. That's why back during Road Rules: The Quest -- Katie's initial season -- we dubbed Steve as "HiSteve" because it was so rare that he got any sort of camera time. Meanwhile, most of it went to Adam (obnoxious ADD case) and Ellen (equally obnoxious twit who had a love/hate thing with Adam).

What's confusing to me is that Evan can be really friendly outside of these shows. We got along great on Duel 2. But then again, we were not on the same team. He used to bring me chocolate candy bars on Duel 2 but on The Ruins I get plungers.

It's possible to say that Evan is the worse of the two because he wasn't an asshole to start with. He was pretty cool during Fresh Meat, back when he was paired with Coral. But somewhere along the line, he let himself turn into a douche, culminating with him turning his back on her in Gauntlet 3. And that's why the conclusion of Duel 2 sucked ass; because Evan eked out a win over Brad for the big money, and Brad was a far nicer, far less dramatic guy than Evan. Even though I don't drink or act like a meathead, I'd probably hang with Brad before Evan. To me, Evan's the worst thing to come out of Canada since SARS. Or maybe just Celine Dion.

Evan does not care about Tonya. Don't be confused with his pathetic attempt at looking like a nice guy. He tortured that girl the entire show. I mean, fucked with her so bad- most of it didn't even make it on TV. Evan is hyper aware of the camera's. (Clearly) So he saw an opportunity to get his mug on TV a little more by consoling Tonya. That is all it was. I can promise you that. That's why I was so annoyed after he gave Sarah the flowers after I screamed at her. I wish Evan had the fucking balls to admit to peoples faces what he says behind their backs. But that's what he does. He always makes fun of someone to get some laughs. But every moron on the show laughs hysterically thinking how funny he is...until they walk out of the room and they become the joke. Naive idiots, I tell you.

The whole Tonya/Veronica feud and its ugly conclusion reminded me of the "Cripple Fight" episode of South Park, where differently-abled rivals Timmy and Jimmy wound up beating the shit out of each other in front of the whole town, reenacting the big fight scene from They Live. Only when both of them knock each other out does an adult step forward and tell them to break it up. I didn't buy Evan's consolation for a single moment, seeing it for what it was: a pathetic attempt to look good in front of the cameras. In fact, some viewers think they saw Evan hold back Wes before Wes could break up the brewing fight between Tonya and Veronica. If that's true, Evan is really a piece of shit. And if it's not? He's still a piece of shit, but for different reasons.

I know they don't like me. Even when Evan pulls me aside to explain he didn't do the plunger and we are "friends". Fuck you. Evan has fucked over many of his "friends" on these shows. Coral? Paula? I mean, do these girls really think he cares??? Come on! This guy will do whatever he can to benefit himself. Always.

No real comment, at least none I haven't posted already. I'd love some sort of comeuppance in an upcoming Challenge where the women gang up on Evan and toss his ass into the fire, but something tells me that's not going to happen. I'd settle for Evan, Kenny, Johnny, etc., getting booed on a reunion special like the losers that they are, but that also never happens. I guess it's my fault for expecting torches and pitchforks.

I also really like Wes. We are friends, they don't show that. But we are and I defended him on numerous occasions. No one agreed with me, but I still said what I thought.

How messed up a season is this where Wes is a voice of reason? I mean, he's still an asshole, and he probably would throw his teammates under a bus out of spite, but he did seem to care about Tonya.

Ok, so I have said what I have wanted to say. I recently saw Evan in Vegas and we actually got along quite well...but then I heard from a mutual friend, Murtz, that he insulted the shit out of me. So game on, motherfucker.

I don't know how truthful Katie was about The Ruins being her last Challenge, but there's a part of me that wants to see her eviscerate Evan with the same amount of gusto she did attacking Veronica in The Inferno. Hell, I'd settle for her sneaking up behind him in a "real life" setting and letting him have it.

Believe it or not, i like 90% of the people on these shows. I like Johnny, he was never an asshole to me.

And there's the glaring blind spot of Katie's blog entry. Like I've said before, Johnny is every bit the tool as Kenny and Evan, if not more so. I guess it's a combination of a lack of screwing her over and actually appearing on a season of The Real World.

Katie, you're probably not reading this, but if you are? Thank you. Thank you, you tiny volcano of simmering resentment, you. And even though you're no longer on the show, I'd love to hear more about the events in The Ruins from your perspective.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reality Rant: Road To "Ruins"

I watch television. A lot of it. Perhaps too much to be healthy. Some of it sucks and I'm all right with that. Sometimes, I watch a show that isn't good for me, yet I watch because I want to stick with it as long as I can. Smallville is a prime example; the premise of Clark Kent growing up without calling himself "Superboy" lost its appeal years ago. I can go on about it, but I want to talk about another show where all hope has been abandoned: Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Specifically, the current season: The Ruins.

I know that show is supposed to be trashy. It was trashy in the days of Challenge 2000 and Extreme Challenge. It was trashy while I was recapping it for six seasons. But now, it's gotten VH1 reality show trashy. True, there hasn't been a deuce dropped on stairs -- at least none that has made it on air -- and the biggest would-be candidate for Tool Academy is currently on The Amazing Race. But thanks to several bad apples, the Challenge has gotten to be downright unbearable . . . and we're only two episodes into the current season.

The usual suspects have stepped up to rise as this season's Axis of Ass: Evan, Johnny and Kenny. These three have been trying to run Challenges for years, and they're all punks. Worse, they're punks who won big money in the past two seasons (The Island for Johnny and Kenny, Duel 2 for Evan). Joining the Axis this season is Darrell. I've had mixed feeling about him; he started his Challenge career by trying to throw Sarah -- my favorite player -- under the bus in The Gauntlet. Yes, Sarah was a competitive underachiever back then, but I didn't need her ex-castmates from Road Rules: Campus Crawl Darrell and Rachel looking to boot her off right away. Over time, I mellowed on Darrell as he lost his attitude and steered clear of drama, winning a record four Challenges in as many tries.

So where did Darrell go wrong? In an obvious attempt to get Wes kicked off the show, he openly talked shit about his girlfriend Kelly Anne. He kept saying that Wes couldn't "turn the ho into a housewife" in order to get punched by Wes, thereby getting him booted. Not that Wes's action would be tragic to his Champions team (those who have won Challenges in the past); Bunim-Murray Productions probably has MJ on speed-dial, after he was brought into Gauntlet 3 and Duel 2 in similar circumstances. Also, I suffered a flashback of my own. Back in the days when I was attending talk shows for article fodder, I made the mistake of going to a taping of Sally Jesse. There were newlyweds whose marriages were already on the rocks, an there was this one guy decked out in a blue suit, insisting over and over, "You can't turn that freak into a housewife!" It was so bad, I bailed out of a subsequent taping right away. Anyway, Darrell made me remember that, and he sucks for it.

Getting back to Wes . . . at this point, he's the closest thing to a protagonist this season has. For those new to the show, he was one of the worse things about The Real World Austin, which was one of the ugliest seasons in the history of the show, Real World Awards results be damned. He's not a team player . . . in fact, he's never been on a team before, having played for himself (The Duel) and partnered with Casey (Fresh Meat). So he gets put on the Champions team, and he has this idea of pulling names out of a hat to determine who would be up for a potential sacrifice. Really quick: three men and three women from each side step up before the mission, and the winning team's sextet determine the male and female matchups for the endgame known as The Ruins, where the winner stays in the game while the loser goes home. Anyway, Wes is obsessed with the hat, and while the Axis were justified in shooting him down, they did it in the douchiest way possible. So Wes decided to out-douche the Axis by scheming to throw missions whenever possible.

Onto the second episode. A plan is hatched to put the screws to Wes. The scheme: get the Challengers to put up Kelly Anne, then bring in Evelyn from the Champions to take her out in The Ruins. Of course, Kelly Anne and Evelyn are best friends, and they're the only people in the game -- along with Wes -- who don't know the plan is coming. And when the Champions majority -- Derrick, Johnny, Susie and Katie -- take Evelyn's Ruins choice out of her hands, she exploded. Apparently, she learned nothing about how Johnny put the screws to her in The Island. She probably thought everything was cool after she won the final mission along with Johnny, Kenny and Derrick. It never occured to her that Johnny could still be a scumbag. And shame on Derrick for rolling over like the 5-foot-6 dog that he is. Way to set an example to your wife and kid, Wee D.

Anyway, Wes and Evelyn had their Hulk-outs, while the Axis were shocked -- SHOCKED! -- that Evelyn would have reservation about fighting her BFF instead of a weak Casey. Evelyn threatened to throw missions down the line, while Wes got up in Johnny's fugly grill. When the two strongest members of your team are openly rebelling, it's not a good thing.

Cut to The Ruins: Evelyn and Kelly Anne are pitted against each other, and Evelyn decides the best way to screw her team . . . was to throw the game. Instead of making the Champions' lives a living hell, she took the easy way out, and this came three seasons after she crapped on Coral for doing something similar. And that's why I can't like Evelyn, ever.

There's so much other bullshit to sift through, like Johanna threatening to sell Wes's house from under him, Tonya being a human trainwreck, and the next episode, where Veronica snuggles up to Evan, making one of the fugliest couples in reality show history. There doesn't seem to be any genuinely feel-good moments on the horizon; even if all three main Axis members are taken out, you still have a lot of idiots who don't deserve the money to be won. In fact, there are only three people worth rooting for without guilt: Cohutta (no drama, good sense of humor), Syrus (fun older guy) and Brad (guy who has gotten screwed in every Challenge he's been in to date). Worse, BMP is bringing back the "Fresh Meat" edition for next season, where reality headaches old (Wes, Evelyn, Kenny) and new (CJ from RW: Cancun, Katelynn from RW: Brooklyn) are paired up with newcomers . . . and if you think the company would bring in a few stable people like last time (Aviv, Linette, Ryan), you're sadly mistaken.

I wish I could quit this show with all these mental midgets. It would be nice to see South Park at 10 p.m. instead of waiting for the midnight repeat. But I'm stuck with this show, for better or for far, far worse. And unlike actual marriages, I don't think I'd get alimony if I break it off.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Reality Rants: Host With The Least

A funny thing happened when I was contemplating recapping the latest season of The Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Namely, I got a job. While it's a part-time position, it's important enough where I can't waste extra brain cells searching for quotes, picking out moments, and telling people to shut up like they can hear me. But I'm willing to compromise. So here's my plan: whenever I feel like it, I will engage in a "Reality Rant," going off on whatever's bugging me in the genre. And what better way to start than with the Emmys . . . specifically, the "Best Host" category.

The thing you have to understand about me is that I'm a devoted fan to The Amazing Race. I don't think it was an accident that it won Best Competitive Program seven years in a row. Sure, you'd think the Emmy voters might be lazy, and there have been off years for the show (Family Edition, anybody?), but I firmly believe that even at its lowest point, it still kicks ass. And a big part of that success lies with its host, Phil Keoghan.

In case you're new, I'll be brief. Phil comes from New Zealand, finishing runner-up for the Survivor hosting gig. He acts as the show's narrator, guiding the audience to the exotic locales the Racers run through. He greats the teams at the end of each episode, often eliminating the last pair to arrive. And perhaps most importantly, there isn't a time where he makes himself more important than the show.

Cut to Emmy night. Phil is nominated for Best Host after getting snubbed last year. It seems like a slam dunk; since TAR is the only winner of its category, why wouldn't Phil win his? Wrong. Instead, it goes to Jeff Probst. Again. Cut to me yelling "BULLSHIT!" at the television screen.

What was my problem? Jeff Probst was the right guy at the right time, hosting Survivor as it led the reality television boom of 2000. But that was then, and this is now: Probst has become more of a factor on the show than he should be these days. His running commentary affects challenges. At Tribal Council, he once shamed a tribe into picking a leader on the spot. And he loves alpha males in such an unhealthy way, it makes him disdain almost any other competitor. Sure, he dated one-time contestant Julie Berry (from Vanuatu), but you have to wonder about him at times. Clearly, this is not the guy who should be given an award for being a dick.

Order was restored a few minutes later, when TAR won its seventh straight Emmy. You can say that Phil sharing a stage with the production people is a metaphor for how the show is a team effort, but it still felt hollow. Clearly, there had to be a way to stop Emmy voters from making the same mistake next year. My solution: open up the category by renaming it Best Permanant Cast Member. This way, judges and other personalities can be elligible. I don't want Project Runway, but I've heard enough about Tim Gunn to know he could wipe with Probst. At this point, I don't care who does it, as long as it gets done.

Attention, Emmy voters! You guaranteed a scene in Season 20 of Survivor where Probst, clearly thinking he's in the right, will snuggle in the lap of JT and/or James. And guess what? It's your fault that it'll happen.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Battle of the Sexes (2003)

Once upon a time, I considered Rachel, Veronica and Eric Nies to be human beings, I thought Emily was the biggest bitch out there, and that Puck was the biggest douche alive. Guess which two I've reconsidered since my time recapping Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle Of The Sexes?

After my stint on Dog Days, I picked up where Television Without Pity left off, recapping Bunim-Murray Production's band of money-hungry misfits and their monkeyshines. In retrospect, I think I did a good job, even if I was easily irritated and in the proverbial bag for Melissa. You'll see lots of quotes, requests to shut up, and the feeling that I could be doing something else. And that's what I called "fun."

Prelude: Once Upon A Time In Jamaica A brief history of the franchise prior to Battle Of The Sexes. (posted on Augst 29, 2016) 

The Good, the Bad & the Notorious Host Jonny "Big Air" Moseley and contestant Ruthie preview the newest season of the Challenge.

Guide to the Fantasy Game Remember the fantasy game on, where you picked players and got points for all the stuff they did? I give advise here. Oh, and I didn't pick Puck during the whole season, because I would have felt dirty.

Episodes 1 & 2: Jamaica Me Crazy The season starts strong, with a fierce battle between David from Los Angeles and Puck, Melissa ranking on her roommate-turned-enemy Julie, and one of the biggest upsets in Challenge history.

Episode 3: Riding (and Dying) in Cars with Boys Laterrian's gung ho attitude gets him nowhere with a pitiful score, while Beth gets booted over a pregnant Gladys. Also: Ruthie reveals herself as Superwoman for the first time.

Episode 4: Log Cabin Fever Puck celebrates his birthday by picking on Ellen. Meanwhile, the teams try their hand at log cabin building, and Jisela contemplates killing Jonny.

Episode 5: Will You Be My Baby Tonight? The sweet romance between one of the most egocentric characters in BMP history and crazy Ayanna fizzles as David is voted out of the game. Also: Puck's relatively sane fiance and baby son come to Jamaica, and he apparently threatens to kick Ellen's ass.

Episode 6: My Big Fat Puck Wedding If you ever hated Puck as much as I do, this is not the episode for you. I suffer through it so you don't have to. Also: Aneesa walks around topless.

Episode 7: Everybody Loathes Ellen Ellen works everybody's nerves, including mine. Puck wins a mission with Theo. Bonus: my somewhat flawed Survivor: The Amazon predictions.

Episode 8: Cold-Butted Snakes The drama peaks as Emily convinces Ellen and Ruthie to screw team protocol and vote off Rachel. Also: an ice-cold mission turns Melissa into a Melissicle.

Episode 9: Life Goes On, Puck makes a dramatic exit from the game. Dan's welcomed back with open arms, only to depart yet again.

Sharing the Blame: An Analysis of Puck’s Departure from ‘Battle of the Sexes’ I put a little too much thought into Puck leaving and BMP's less-than-stellar efforts.

Episode 10: Shirks and Skins A mission involving trivia and stripping splinters the girls' team, even though THE STRIPPING IS STRICTLY OPTIONAL. In other news, Veronica fails to get Emily booted, and Jake leaves on his own. Jake who? Exactly.

A Midseason Review With an off-week, I take a look at the season thus far. Also: my conspiracy theory centering on the David/Puck fight.

Men’s Midterm Review A look at the men's highlights so far.

Women’s Midterm Review A look at the women's highlights so far.

Episode 11: The Ancient Jungle Monkey (And Other Jamaican Folk Tales) While Emily's clique bashes Veronica, Eric climbs like the eldery simian that he is.

Episode 12: True Colors Emily (and her bloody axe) strikes again, convincing Ellen and Ruthie to dump Veronica and her ton of makeup. Also: Jamie is sexual chocolate, while Melissa makes like a poor man's Peter Pan.

Episode 13: Ayanna Get Your Gun It's Ayanna vs. the underfed Anne, as the girls are overmatched by the guys (with a Warriors-invoking Jamie) and their laser guns.

Episode 14: Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Shane contemplates leaving the game, stays on, wins the mission, and finally puts the Ion Lifesaver to good use.

Episode 15: Passing the Franc At long last, the men are forced to make a decision as to who should get sent packing, and their choice has a major effect for the women.

Episode 16: Everybody Sucks Don't mind me . . . I'm just mad at everybody and everything, including MTV for a technical glitch.

Episode 17: Penultimate Plunge, A harrowing mission gives Ruthie the best stage to show off her superhuman skills. In other news, two of the most entertaining players are eliminated, and Lori finally gets some camera time.

Episode 18: Finale The guys and girls fight it out for the $150,000 grand prize, and the boys kind of cheat to win it all.

Hot & Bothered: The RW/RR Challenge Battle of the Sexes Reunion Cast members reunite to look back at BOTS.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gauntlet 2 (2005-2006)

Gauntlet 2: An Overview: A preview of the horror that is to come.

Rookie Guys Preview: A quick look at Adam K., Alton, Danny, Jamie, Jeremy, Landon, MJ and Randy.

Rookie Girls Preview: A brief insight into Cameran, Cara, Ibis, Jillian, Jo, Jodie, Kina and Susie.

Veteran Guys Preview: A peek into Ace, Adam L., Brad, David, Derrick, Mark, Syrus and Timmy.

Veteran Girls Preview: Analysis of Aneesa, Jisela, Julie, Katie, Montana, Robin and Ruthie. And Beth. Boo, hiss.

Rough Seas Ahead: The Gauntlet 2 Preview Special: Host TJ Lavin takes a look at the upcoming season.

Episode 1: Debacle Of Madness: The gang gets adjusted to their new digs and Jo freaks the hell out.

Episode 2: Delayed Karma: Jo quits, Derrick starts kicking ass, and Adam Larson gets kicked in the teeth four seasons too late.

Episode 3: Succumb All Ye Faithful: A boring episode is saved with Cameran quitting and Aneesa trying to cut Cara with words.

Episode 4: Earmuffed: The kids take part in pyramid scheming, Danny gets pissy, and Alton humilates him in the Gauntlet.

Episode 5: Mark Smash! Nice guy Mark finally explodes like the douche that he is. In other news, the season's token erotic mission is unveiled, and Jisela takes her usual departure.

Episode 6: Brokeback Meatheads: Brad and Derrick get into it, overshadowing a Speedo mission and Adam King going home.

Episode 7: Horror & Disbelief: The season takes a turn for the worse when Beth beats Ruthie in the Gauntlet. Plus: Alton is Superman, and Montana gets in some choice shots at Beth.

Episode 8: Clutch Performance: Cara and Susie come under suspicion, both teams struggle with a truck-pushing mission, and Ace's screw-up costs him a shot at the finish.

Episode 9: The Eighth Sign: Beth runs her mouth, underachieves in the mission . . . then chucks rival Montana out of the game. Clearly, karma has given this show a pass.

Episode 10: Broken Bull: Jodi and Alton get closer to each other. Syrus picks a bad time to fail, and an overmatched Derrick chucks him out of the game, causing Beth to cry.

Episode 11: Resistance Is Futile: The teams engage in rope-holding. Beth somehow doesn't go to the Gauntlet, but Cara does.

Episode 12: Tired And Sick: Beth underachieves yet again, but Ibis and simple mathematics defeat the Rookies, who wind up sacrificing Jeremy to Mt. Alton.

Episode 13: Beth Ruins Everything: Good news: Beth is finally gone. Bad news: she does it in the most self-pleasing way possible, avoiding a predestined and deserved beating from Aneesa.

Episode 14: Television With Pit:
The teams improvise to climb out of a hole. Derrick and Brad finally have it out in the Gauntlet. Plus: more Alton/Jodi canoodling.

Episode 15: Blind Faith: After a mission of blind trust, Kina goes mental before taking out Jillian in the Gauntlet.

Episode 16: Penulitmate Pitfall: Derrick rips his indecisive team, and a poor table pays the price for his anger.

Episode 17: Whimper: After a dramatic Gauntlet, the Veterans let themselves and everybody else down, bringing a crappy season to a crappier end.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Who Wants To Be A Superhero? (2006)

Back when I was recapping for a reality site, there was one show that I wanted to recap. Who Wants To Be A Superhero? was in developmental limbo for years; I wound up picking up an application back at Comic Con International in 2003. I was told that I'd get to recap the show once it came out, but then it got promised to another. By the time the show came out on Sci Fi (now SyFy) in 2006, I was independent and a few months removed from quitting recapping The Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

You'll notice that I only recapped the first half of the season. What happened? I got the first three episodes covered, but then I dawdled on the fourth. In the mess in my room, I still have the notes from that episode. I just fell behind, and I decided to pull the plug without any fanfare. Aside from the elimination of fan favorite Major Victory, there weren't any real surprises, as superfan Feedback triumphed over Fat Momma to win a mediocre one-shot comic from Dark Horse.

It's not that I stopped caring about the show. Not only did I watch the second (and final) season, I wound up getting -- to date -- ten sketches based on the contestants from both editions. Really, how many other reality shows can you do that with and not feel weird about it afterward? And I hope for a revival down the line. Even with the misfits (Ms. Limelight and Mr. Mitzvah from the second season), plants (Rotiart and Iron Enforcer) and questionable decisions made by sole judge Stan Lee (the eliminations of Tyveculus and Major Victory), it was a great show. While other summer reality shows featured backstabbers, media whores and all-around losers, WWTBAS? had people trying to reach a higher standard, attempting to be better people in the process. Looking back, it's a miracle the show got two seasons.

So, for your reading pleasure . . .

Issue #1: Heroism 101: Stan Lee deals out harsh lessons for the assembled heroes. Levity learns that he can sell himself too much, Nitro G comes up a little short (in more ways than one), and Major Victory commences to chew scenery.

Issue #2: Mad Dogs & Makeovers: The heroes endure a test of bravery, then get costume makeovers. Cell Phone Girl gets disconnected, Stan makes Iron Enforcer an offer he can't refuse, and Monkey Woman becomes doggy chow.

Issue #3: Stan Never Promised A Rose Garden: After botching a hidden mission, Monkey Woman gets destroyed by Snarlin' Stan. In other news: Dark Enforcer is unleashed on the heroes, and Tyveculus fails to take himself down a peg, winding up running out on pegs in the process.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

To Recap Or Not To Recap

I got the news a few days ago: Television Without Pity was no longer going to recap The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, and the forums were going to be eliminated. Some would view this as a good thing, since the recapping of the show had been mediocre over the past few years and the less TWoP has to do with MTV the better. But now there's this voice in my head, whispering, "It's time to step up again."

This isn't the first time this happened. Back in 2001, TWoP had stopped recapping the Challenge after Extreme Challenge aired. The move made sense, since the show only aired once a year at the time. I think it was that event which inspired me to contact another recapping site whose name I'm not going to say for reasons I'll get into later. They already had somebody recapping the show, but I carved out a niche as I wrote articles and opinion pieces, culminating with recaps of Dog Days from Animal Planet. And by the time Battle Of The Sexes rolled around in early 2003, I was ready.

In retrospect, the first year of recapping the Challenge was my salad days. With BOTS, I had to put up with a lot of bullshit from the show; specifically, the attention-grubbing antics of Puck from The Real World: San Francisco. It was clear that he never grew up, and the poster boy for media whores yet to come managed to make himself the center of attention before leaving midway through the season. There was also stuff like Emily (second season of Road Rules) and her two snotty friends (blah Christina, underfed Anne) and her vendetta with Veronica (RR: Semester At Sea), culminating with Veronica's dismissal from the game. But there were good times to be had: Jamie (RW: New Orelans), his Jesus-like beard and his overachieving; Antoine (RR: Europe) and his ambigious sexuality; playa David (RW: New Orleans) not only being on his best behavior, but also finding a love connection with crazy Ayanna (RR: Semester At Sea); and Melissa Howard in general. I adored the girl, and I enjoyed defending her, even when her heart wasn't in the game. Her getting rid of ex-friend Julie Stoffer in the first episode? That was a bonus. And I was recapping with both barrels. Sure, it took me longer to recap than the other writers, but I used the TWoP method: write down everything from the tape, put out the memorable quotes, and leave little out. I can't believe it's been almost seven years since I went over that season. I also can't believe I once treated Veronica, Rachel (RR: Campus Crawl) and Eric Nies as human beings back then.

Then came The Gauntlet in late 2003, which I consider to be the last truly great season. For one thing, I got to recap the dynamic duo from RW: Back To New York: aspiring wrestler/meathead Mike Mizanin and caustic bitch Coral Smith. But the real scene-stealer was Sarah Greyson. She had been the most identifiable to me during RR: Campus Crawl, and it broke my heart when she was voted off by her teammates, most of whom couldn't stand her. Two of said castmates -- Rachel and Darrell -- started off The Gauntlet by wanting to take Sarah out of the game. Half of the Road Rules team wanted Sarah gone, voting her into the Gauntlet five times. And all five times, she'd come back as the winner. That year, the website had its year-end awards, and we voted her as Most Courageous/Inspiring Moment on a Reality Show. Of course there was stuff to offset that, like Coral's breakdown after getting voted into the Gauntlet, the Abram/Rachel/Veronica threesome in the shower, and Coral getting bit by a spider and half her team thinking she was dogging it. All in all, The Gauntlet had drama, but it was fun drama.

Things went downhill throughout 2004 and early 2005. It wasn't just about writing about the Road Rules team bullying Katie during The Inferno or the guys destroying the girls throughout most of Battle Of The Sexes 2. Every now and then, I'd post something on the website's forum, something that wouldn't really offend anybody on TWoP, and I'd have other recappers looking to rip my head off. Suddenly, it was bad for me to have opinions. I swear, I never cracked my knuckles over a keyboard, hellbent to make other people mad. It was just a matter of my inability to feel the temperature of a room. Combined that with my increasingly negative recaps during BOTS2 and my inablity to produce in a timely manner, that was enough for the head honcho to boot me from the sight without me getting a chance to defend myself. I responded by making this blog and recapping the following two seasons: Inferno II and Gauntlet 2.

By the time Fresh Meat rolled around in 2006, I wondered, "Do I have to do this again?" Recapping a toxic Beth week after week during Gauntlet 2 had taken its toll, becoming one factor of many that led me to stop recapping. I had a brief fling with Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, a story that will be told at another time, but I lost the will halfway through the season.

So why start again now? Because the situation is similar to when I first got started. Because I still don't have much of a life. Because I need to work through the crappy season of The Real World: Cancun which precedes The Ruins. Because some of the folks entering The Ruins need to be reamed. For every person there that's halfway normal (Ibis, Darrell) or positively entertaining (Brad, Derrick), there are ugly mothers like Susie, Evelyn, Johnny, Evan and Kenny. Look through my posts on TWoP; people like them bring out the worst in me. And that's a reason for me not to recap. Why risk what little sanity I have left on the likes of Wes, Johanna and Shavoun? Is it funny for me to claim that Casey had "titty envy" of Coral, or is that anti-woman of me to say? Does saying "Shut UP, Veronica" and calling her "Verantula" every week really worth it? What do I have to prove?

Bottom line: I'm on the fence. The Ruins starts up in late September. I could go whole-hog and spend days going over an hour's worth of tape to bring the best recap I can. I could just half-ass it. Or I could not bother at all. It's nice to have choices, and I'd like to hear what anybody reading this has to say.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Night In The Citi

It had been a few weeks since the New York Mets opened their new stadium. Seeing how these are the Mets we're talking about, they sold the naming rights to Citi Bank, which ended up getting bailed out by the government. And naturally, the third pitch thrown in an official game (exhibition games against the Red Sox don't count) got launched into the stands by Jody Gerut of the Padres. When you're a Mets fan -- even a lapsed one such as myself -- you have to cope with this sort of stuff.


It had been four years since I had gone to Shea Stadium, which I documented on this blog. I had meant to come back before the last game was played, but I never got the chance. Today, the Mets play in Citi Field, a shiny new ballpark that owner Fred Wilpon has been dreaming about all his life; a park with the facade of old Ebbets Field and all the bells and whistles. Sure, Shea Stadium had been rendered an antique, but all it needed was some remodeling. But now, all traces of the park are gone. Some may have considered it a pit, but I reckon it was our pit.

So I decided to go see the Mets in action. This is tough for me, not just because the tickets are pricier than when I started seeing games in 1983, but also because the Mets have a ticketing plan wherein people pay more for certain dates. Click here to see what I'm talking about. It's okay . . . I'll be here when you're done.

Back? Yeah, it's insane, isn't it? Anyway, with "Value" dates few and far between, I decided to go to a Wednesday day game. But then I got saddled with taking my grandfather to a doctor's appointment. Then I had a realization: why not go the night before? It's not like I had anything worth getting up for the following morning.

Because I'm a dummy, I spent too long at home and got to the express bus stop at 4 p.m., three hours before game time. It took me over ninety minutes to get to the 7 train; I could've zipped on the 4 train downtown, but I wanted to nap on the bus. By the time I got to Citi Field, I didn't have much time to explore. Well, at least not as much time as I would have wanted.




I entered through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, which is a huge exhibition space dedicated to baseball's first black player. In retrospect, you'd think there would be something representing the Mets, but instead there's space for a guy who retired five years before the Mets were born. In short: Jackie = Ebbets Field = Fred Wilpon in the owner's box, with a hand in his pants. In Wilpon's defense, Jackie's number getting retired by Major League Baseball did happen at Shea in 1997, so there is that. It is beautiful, though . . . lots of video footage of Robinson, quotations along the walls, and a big "42" for people to pose next to, not unlike the retired numbers of Orioles players outside of Camden Yards.





I bought a "baseline box" for $45, but I found myself in the outfield, a stone's throw away from the left field foul pole, with a good view of the retired numbers: Casey Stengel's 37, Gild Hodges' 14, Tom Seaver's 41 (I was there at the ceremony in 1987), Robinson's 42 and a circle honoring Shea Stadium. To be fair, the baseline was nearby, so it wasn't false advertising. After checking out my seat, I had to go exploring. I found myself at the Taste Of New York area, full of food stands. You want ribs? Go to Blue Smoke. Or maybe pick up something at the Shake Shack. Or play around at FanFest, maybe play the latest MLB video game. Only problem? The lines were unbelievably long, and time was short. I'm anal about baseball, in the sense that I always -- always -- have to keep score, meaning little to no movement from my seat. I ended up "settling" for a sweet sausage in a roll with onions and peppers.

Before the game, Gary Sheffield was honored for hitting his 500th home run about a week ago. This is messed up, given that a. Sheffield is a suspected steroid user, and b. His milestone homer was his first as a Met. He ended up getting a crystal bat for the occasion. Maybe that's why the Tigers cut up loose in spring training; not because he's a malcontent, but that they couldn't come up with the scratch to properly reward him. Even weirder was the montage on the video screen showing his homers for seven other teams. For a guy with Hall Of Fame numbers, he sure got around. Also, it turns out that he was the third guy in MLB history to homer in his teens and forties; the other two being Ty Cobb and Rusty Staub. That explains why "Le Grande Orange" was at the festivities.

After cellist Bianca Kovic played the national anthem, it was game time. The Mets were one game under .500, facing the slumping Florida Marlins. The starting pitchers were playing Who Wants To Remain In The Rotation?, with Livan Hernandez taking the stage. He did well; he only pitched five and a third innings and gave up three runs, but he struck out five. The Mets went out to a quick lead after Sheffield, the man of the hour, tripled in two runs in the first. By the time the seventh inning rolled around, the Mets were up, 4-3. I was comfy with my seat; one thing that I saw with the new park was that the vendors were always there. Sure, I'd have to get up to get ribs, burgers or fries. But if you want the staples -- beer, soda, franks, ice cream, peanuts, Cracker Jack, etc. -- all you needed was a loud voice and money. And with the Mets up, I knew what would happen; they'd turn to setup man J.J. Putz to hold the eighth inning (that's "Putz" as in "Puts 'em away"), followed by Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez saving the game at the ninth. Simple, right?

Enter reliever Sean Green. Top of the seventh inning. After walking Alfredo Amezaga, Green struck out pitch hitter Ross Gload for the first out. Emilio Bonifaco singled, followed by Amezaga stealing third. One ground ball from Cameron Maybin, the game was tied. John Baker walked, leading to Jorge Cantu coming up to bat. First of all, is it obvious that I'm writing all this off my scorecard? Secondly, Cantu had already homered in the fourth. Tied score, late in the game . . . you can probably guess what happened next.

Final Score

Cantu homered to center. Marlins led, 7-4. And nothing really happened after that. The Mets only got one hit in the final three innings. This wasn't as ugly as the time I went to the Braves/Mets game in 2001 when Armando Benitez blew a big game, the Mets lost in extra innings, and I ended up spitting on a belligerent Braves fan after the last out . . . but it wasn't fun. I mean, the stadium makes me what to come back and spend more money, but a win would've been nice.

Epilogue: The Mets didn't fare well the following day, so I didn't miss out on anything. Johan Santana had trouble early, and his ERA swelled to 1.10, but the Mets supported him. Then Putz blew the game, and the Mets couldn't make up the difference. New park, same Mets. At least they haven't been forced to slash prices on their pricier seats, unlike the Yankees.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

30 Second Recap Contest: What I Learned From Comics In 2008

Once again, Chris Sims has asked for entries to his 30 Second Recap Contest. Once again, I answer the call, even though I have no business drawing anything, ever.

Last year, I covered almost a year's worth of one of my favorite books, The All-New Atom. I didn't win anything, though Sims thought I ought to deserve an award for having Adolf Hitler getting kicked in the face. On the bright side, I got a laugh from Gail Simone, an online acquaintance of mine who also wrote the book at that time. Surprisingly enough, that was an award in itself.

This time, I'm showing off what I've learned from comic books in the past twelve months. Once again: I can't draw for spit. Expect characters with round heads and near-symmetrical, undefined bodies staring blankly at you while they give off what I hope are humorous lines. Due to my getting off to a late start, you won't be seeing Gorilla Grodd actually throwing The Brain at Monsieur Mallah, let alone hitting him (as awesomely depicted here), one of the snarky white gorillas from Wonder Woman lifting his own car battery, the exposed dong shot from the consistently-delayed War Heroes getting censored by Felony from Special Forces telling us about her consistently-delayed series, and -- most tragically -- the scene from Final Crisis: Requiem where Batman friggin' catches on psychic fire while driving the Batmobile, calmly telling Alfred that he'll check it out once he deals with the hoods he's pursuing. Frank Miller can go over-the-top with his non-satire satire All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder all he wants, he can keep using the word "goddamn" like a comma, he can make all the other heroes look like total bozos (except Black Canary, whom he makes Irish . . . seriously, I don't know), and yet there's Batman. In DC continuity proper. On fire. While driving. If I had the chops, I would've drawn it. For that, I'm sorry.

Okay, I've kvetched long enough. Enjoy!