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.

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