Reality Hit List, June 9: Blocked Entrances and Defaced Paintingsby Brian James -- 06/09/2003
On The Amazing Race 4 this week, the biggest event was probably the showdown at the train station between Reichen & Chip and Steve & Josh, or I Know What You Did Last Ticket Counter, culminating in Reichen & Chip blocking the doors to the train station. If various message boards are any indication, it would seem that Reichen & Chip have lost a lot of viewer support this week as many people seem to think theyíre being whiny babies. I donít know Ė I can understand where they were coming from, at least, so they havenít lost any ground with me yet.
The thing is, it seems like Chip, and Reichen in particular, went into the Race almost expecting other teams not to like them Ė as Iíve said before, seemingly stemming from bad past experiences with homophobia. When youíre on edge waiting for something to happen, and then you get confirmation that itís happening, as they did when Monica & Sheree spilled the beans that the other teams were gunning for them, thereís that extra added edge of "Damn it, I knew this was going to happen!" to fuel your upset and frustration.
Not that it was homophobia that fueled their being targeted Ė according to Josh, it was because the "tall pretty boys" were fierce competitors... in other words, "Twin Hunt 2: Get The Buff Alpha Males Boogaloo." Great. Because that worked so well last season. Just look at how much further Aaron & Arianne finished than Derek & Drew. Furthermore Ė look at the final three teams last season Ė Flo & Zach, Teri & Ian, and Ken & Gerard. Not a "buff pretty boy" team among them. So Iím just really over the assumption that a team of younger, athletic males needs to be eliminated because theyíll win the race, because itís proven to be untrue. Plus, while positive alliances Ė teaming up to share information Ė work on this show, negative alliances Ė banding together to knock another team out Ė not only donít, but make the conspiring teams look bad.
(Come to think of it, what is the deal with Monica & Sheree? First theyíre telling the anti-TallPretty people that "if everybody catches up, some people are going to be really aggressive, so beware," then they tell Reichen & Chip and David & Jeff that "theyíre trying to bump you out ASAP." Double agents? Trying to pit teams against each other? Or just harmless, well-meaning gossips? Who knows? What I do know is they need to concentrate more on their own game Ė I like them, but theyíre not racing all that well and theyíve used up their Fast Forward. They need to get their act together fast or theyíre doomed.)
So Reichen & Chip decided turnabout was fair play (for last weekís OrderGate Ė I swear, all roads lead back to that SwissAIr ticket counter!) and blocked the doors to the station. Did they push it too far? Well, yeah, literally clinging to the doors for dear life was a bit over the top. In the grand scheme of things, itís The Amazing Race 4, not The Amazing Joan Of Arc Auditions. And, in all fairness, while they said they planned to play an honorable game until they saw people cutting in line, itís not like they were exactly protesting when Jon kept Monica & Sheree off the airport bus before that, either. But Reichen himself admitted it was childish afterward. Also, while plane tickets are usually in scarce supply, the issue with trains is generally getting to them on time, not whether theyíll be enough room for everybody Ė I mean, even if all eleven teams were there, if theyíre camped out and first in line for tickets, I have yet to see a train that wouldnít hold 22 people! (Or even 44 if you count the production crews.) So it probably would have proved pointless in the end even if the shuttle bus hadnít come for the other train, rendering the whole notion of a line moot. But like I said, at least I could see where it was coming from.
It kind of reminds me whatís going on right now on the SoapNet reruns of Ryanís Hope. (What?? Shut up! Itís a great show!) Dr. Nell Beaulac bullied her way onto the staff of Riverside Hospital through family connections, then proceeded to alienate the entire staff with her constant, seemingly selfish and impatient demands, to the point where Iím watching it thinking, "Whoa, Nellie! Take it down a notch, will ya?" However, it turned out what was driving her was she had just discovered she had an inoperable brain aneurysm and wanted to get as much work as possible done on her research projects before she died; she was insisting everything had to be done right that second because she didnít know how much time she had left. (Itís a lot less melodramatic and soapy than it sounds.) Her behavior made a lot more sense then, and even Faith Coleridge, whoíd been at her throat pretty much from day one, softened toward her. I guess what Iím trying to say is that Reichen & Chipís behavior might have seemed a bit extreme, but in context itís more understandable.
Still, though, they need to watch themselves and not let their emotions get the best of them. Last season, Derek & Drew, to their great credit, let the whole "Twin Hunt" thing just roll right off their back, focused on the Race, and finished well ahead of most of the teams out to get them. Even if every single other team winds up being against them, it still doesnít spell doom Ė no one wanted to help Teri & Ian last season, but they hung in there and came in second. Next week it looks like Chip & Millie have a confrontation Ė so far I like them both, so itíll be interesting to see what thatís all about.
Iím not feeling much Steve & Josh love at this point, but theyíre kind of entertaining to have around as antagonists. They remind me of Ė you know how on every "family" sitcom, eventually thereís an episode where one of the kids gets picked on in school, so the parents go to talk to the offending kidís parents and either theyíre jerks too or they completely justify little Sonny Boyís actions? Thatís who Steve & Josh remind me of. Not "that mean olí Buddy Hinton" and his gem of a dad, because theyíre not beating up on people, but thatís the only example thatís popping in my head right now. You know what I mean, right? Itís interesting that Josh said they spent most of their lives not getting along; so far they seem perfectly in sync in the Race.
(Oh Ė and "Weezer and Geezer"? BWAH!!!)
OK, so it happened again this week. Chuck & Millie, Amanda & Chris, what is with the waiting for the other teams when you finish a task?! Itís a race!!! Go!!! Go!!! (Well, itís a little too late for you, I suppose, Chris & Amanda, but still.) Thankfully Chuck & Millie didnít wait for Chris & Amanda after the Roadblock or we would have had our first tie for elimination!
Iím starting to figure out why Jon & Al can get on my nerves. They said theyíre the "morale makers" who do "crazy things" to "keep the spirit up." Iím the person who glares at people doing "crazy things" to "keep the spirit up."
I think I'm actually starting to like Tian & Jaree, though, and Iíve figured out why. They have this odd sort of dynamic where one of them needs a push or is upset and the other pushes them or calms them down, and whether they realize it or not, they seem to trade off pretty consistently in that regard. But it seems to work for them. They bicker a lot, but itís usually more entertaining than cringeworthy. (One of my favorite moments was when they were bickering on the train as usual and Kelly could barely contain her glee as she squealed, "They're fighting!" I died. Oh Ė and Kelly & Jon? Yup, Flo & Zach redux, alright.) So yeah, theyíre growing on me.
More cringeworthy is the dynamic between the Captain and Tennille 2003, Russell & Cindy. Cindy tells us how much she likes and admires Russell. Hereís Russell: "We havenít been in a romantic relationship in this race because I wasnít traveling 40,000 miles for sex." (Well, neither were Chuck & Millie.) Russell has called Cindy a "dumbass" twice so far Ė and unlike some of the other teams that call each other names to vent, truly seems to mean it. Cindy calls him on not respecting her enough to include her in his planning and heís a complete dismissive jackass in return. If this is what heís like to her on a consistent basis with no apologies, I certainly hope sheís still not telling us how "wonderful" he is by the end of the Race! She showed signs of not putting up with it this week. Go with that, Cindy. For my sanity if not yours.
When Chris & Amanda were starting to bicker on the gondola about their speed, Amanda told him, "Do you know why that doesnít upset me? Because if we had walked we wouldnít have been able to see any of this... this is really beautiful!" True enough Ė and I think thatís the reason why most teams chose the gondola option in the Detour; how much would it suck to leave Venice without a gondola ride? But in retrospect, right then and there is when I should have known they were the team to be eliminated. Hereís a tip Ė if you look at every episode carefully, the eliminated team will almost always have a "reflection" moment like that Ė whether itís what it means to them to be there, how their relationship has changed, or what have you. Of course, sometimes more than one team will have moments like that. But in general, "reflection" = "doomed."
Speaking of those gondolas, when the teams were going under the bridges on the canals, was I the only one wanting a team member to stand up and sing, "I made it through the wilderness..."? Or has American Idol 2ís Keith effectively killed "Like a Virgin" forever? Come to think of it, Millie & Chuck were one of the only teams that didnít choose the gondola route. Hmmm...
(Hey, Iíll stop making jokes about it when the show stops hitting us over the head with it!)
Really, though, all the tasks on this leg seemed like a lot of fun. Besides the gondolas, the snow rafting (whether using an actual raft or not) looked like a blast, even if some of the resulting screams sounded more like dolphin mating calls (eh, Monica & Sheree and Kelly?). The Commedia DellíArte Fast Forward is one of the more fun ones Iíve seen Ė and as a theater major, I was shouting, "Styles and Crafts Class! Styles and Crafts Class!" as I had flashbacks of being bleary-eyed at 9:30 in the morning in 1994. (For a more thorough explanation of Commedia DellíArte, you can go here; also, did anyone else notice the "Shaft"-esque music playing as Steve & Dave searched for the clue? Heh.) The masquerade Roadblock may have been frustrating for some, but seemed like a unique and interesting experience Ė and how cute was Millieís constant "You... not you... you... not you..."? (Also, the green "Photo Accepted" and red "Photo Rejected" were extremely Mole-esque.)
In the end, though, Amanda & Chris were the last to the pitstop, where it was nice to see the lead singer of Army of Lovers was getting some work nowadays as the greeter. (No, I doubt it was really him, but if you remember the "Crucified" video at all you know what Iím talking about.) They went from first to last in a single leg Ė one of the many reasons I love this show; you never know what could happen. I wasnít especially wanting it to be them, but this early in the game, someone has to go.
Couple more observations about The Amazing Race Ė first of all, the fans are the best! I got more response to last weekís column than I did for all my columns put together on Survivor: The Amazon Ė thanks! Secondly, remember how I said that even people who hate most reality shows usually like this show? Just found out that my best friend, who fits that profile exactly, is completely hooked and a big Reichen & Chip fan. So if youíre a fan, spread the word Ė particularly to Nielsen households! Itíd be great to see a quality show stay on the air.
Now we go from "quality" to... well, its antithesis. For Love Or Money debuted last week on NBC. "Fifteen women in search of true love!" Gee, that doesnít sound familiar at all. Oh, great Ė now Iím having a vision of women in complete bridal regalia trudging through the frozen Alaskan tundra. Somebody scrape out my memory with a spatula, will you? "But like every love story, thereís a twist!!!" Every "love" story complete with elimination, TV cameras, negative attention seeking, and famewhoring, that is. I mean, not that itís always smooth sailing, but basically most people meet, fall in love, and eventually marry or break up. Thereís really not a whole lot of twists to it other than that. "Will these women LIE, BACKSTAB, AND BREAK HEARTS for cold hard cash?!" Oh please Ė does the sun rise in the east?
Anyway, itís time to meet our latest crop of people blissfully oblivious to the fact that their fifteen minutes of fame are already preset at something like 14:21. You know, as I write this, Pretty in Pink is on Showtime and I havenít seen it in years. Yet Iím ignoring it because I promised you Iíd talk about these people. Is that dedication or what? OK, deep breath. Fare thee well, Ducky. Into the abyss! Among the more notable people are Cristy, who won Miss Steamboat Days or something or other and now "[has her] eyes on a bigger crown!" Too bad sheís one of the first crop to get booted. Thanks for playing. Lauren declares sheís going to be the one to walk over people! You know, if she had broken into "These Boots Are Made For Walking" at that point I would have loved her forever. As it is Ė meh. Alimaís a virgin and saving herself for marriage. You know, just once Iíd like to hear someone say they were a virgin because they couldnít land a date to save their life. That would be refreshing. I never thought Iíd be using For Love or Money and "restraint" in the same sentence, but at least they identify her as "Elementary School Teacher" and not "Elementary School Teacher/VIRGIN."
Paige can talk to the trashman outside, and then she can talk to the president of Wal-Mart! Why on earth would she want to? No one ever approaches Christina or asks her out, and she doesnít know whatís wrong with her! Besides being on this show, all I can figure out is that sheís the spitting image of Kelly Clarkson and maybe guys think she is her and are intimidated. Melanieís been proposed to five times and none of them have worked out, and is setting herself up to fail in public this time because sheís a masochist Ė er, "ready for the sixth engagement!" Thirty-four year old Laura thinks these silly little girls need to be put in their place and sheís just the woman to do it! Why, sheís had experience theyíll never have! Yeah, but apparently that experience doesnít bring with it the wisdom to steer clear of claptrap like this, so get off the high horse, Pallas Athena. Catherine doesnít think that being catty or trying to tear someone else down makes you a better person. No, but it does usually guarantee you some airtime, at least. Kelly doesnít so much say anything about herself as rattle off a pretentious itinerary that includes ballet, the Hamptons, and Europe. She leads an extremely busy life, she sniffs. Well, I know Iím thrilled sheís made time for this in her day planner; arenít you? Cristy (yes, another one) is an artist who feels that as an artist, youíre constantly finding unique and unconventional approaches to life. Hey, whatever you have to say to justify this to yourself. Finally, Kirstin is a Midwestern girl whoíll take beer over champagne any day! Apparently she missed the memo that Joe Millionaire is so February.
So they arrive at the mansion and itís in Bel Air and hereís the requisite oohing and aahing and squealing and yakking and gee, Iíve never seen this before. Then they meet stock reality host #36, whoís identified as "Jordan Murphy" and who Iíve never heard of before and most likely wonít again. I am embarrassed to admit that I find him kind of attractive in a smarmy, cheesy sort of way, though. "Hi, my name is Brian and Iím attracted to a cheesy reality TV show host." "Hi, Brian!" OK, I feel better.
OK, Jordan, youíre cute and all, but really, you can lay off the minute-plus pauses for suspense. Seriously Ė almost every time he has to say something "important" you could drive a truck through those things! To entertain myself, Iíve created a game in which I finish his sentence for him while heís stalling. "You traveled across the country to meet the man of your dreams. Well... [thatís what we WANTED you to think! Itís all a big hoax and now youíre going to be a mass sacrifice to almighty Isis! Jeeves! Start the incinerator!] we found you a guy." "One of you is... [a delusional famewhore under the misguided belief that this show will somehow jumpstart a nonexistent entertainment career] a millionaire!" "Tomorrow, five of you... [will be taken out back and drawn and quartered] will be eliminated!"
Kelly and Artist Cristy team up and you can already tell theyíre going to be the bad girls. When they walk around the mansion you feel like they need a good "bad girl" theme, like, "ba-DA ba-DA!" playing in the background or something, but since this show has zilch creativity or originality, we donít get that. Kelly starts namedropping over luggage. No, really. She does. "Someoneís got Cruise Control in garnet!" Pardon my ignorance, but are people really that particular over luggage?! I mean, Iím not proud Ė Iíll get the cheap stuff on 14th Street as long as itís functional. There are some things Iím particular about, but luggage is not one of them. Kelly, by the way, is really reminding me of Chiara from Big Brother 3, but someone else even more so. Not Shannen Doherty Ė Xena? One of the Donnas? Does anyone else know who Iím talking about? Kelly and Cristy find Paigeís paintings and start making fun of them. OK, on the surface that sounds really catty and crappy, but... I mean, we have to consider the paintings. Theyíre basically from the Unicorn And Rainbow Stickers All Over A Notebook Thatís Most Likely Purple School of Art. Oneís a giant red heart against a blue sky saying "LOOKING FOR LOVE." No, really. The other oneís a poem on a multicolored arch with fluffy clouds on a purple background that begins, "Feel my realness... one on one... one soul in two Ė " AAACK!!! Come back, Mojo! All is forgiven! So yeah, Iíd be cracking up too if I were there.
Later it became a huge scandal when Cristy stole Paigeís picture in the middle of the night and vandalized it, changing "Looking For Love" to "Looking For Big Piece of Meat." OK, granted, overall that was a pretty crappy thing to do, and Cristy was pretty nonchalant when confronted about it, but again... consider the original painting. It was so sappy Iím not surprised someone had the urge to vandalize it. Itís kind of like a "family" restaurant in the town where I grew up that called itself "Mother Tuckerís." Thatís just asking for trouble.
So the catís let out of the bag that whichever woman the guy chooses will win one million dollars, checks addressed to each of them are distributed, and in a weak attempt at humor, Laura tries to hang onto hers. Itís not funny, but just because itís lame, not because of what Paige starts spewing from out of nowhere: "I didnít think it was funny! I thought it was disgusting! It made me sick to my stomach!" Oh, get off the cross, honey, we need the wood. Furthermore, itís not like Paige is all that averse to making a buck or two herself: Laura isnít the one with her own official website, LovePaigeJones.com, where you can buy such paraphernalia as the Official LovePaigeJones.com Classic Thong, Camisole, Frosted Beer Mug, and Gourmet Quick Chopper Apron. No, Iím not kidding.
Thereís a lot of clucking about how MATERIALISTIC Kelly is, and yeah, the constant namedropping and financial references ("Most people I associate with make more than that as their annual salary!") grate, but she does have a point when she says a million dollars isnít all that much. I mean, it is, but certainly not to where youíd be set for life or anything, especially after taxes, and you could easily blow through it pretty quickly if you werenít careful.
As for THE GUY himself, Rob Campos, heís basically got that standard upper income bracket but not super rich thing going thatís been de rigeur on most editions of The Bachelor: lawyer, soccer player, owns own sailboat, close to family, yadda yadda Ė so basically out of the reach of a lot of us, but not enough so to be completely intimidating. Also in keeping in line with most The Bachelor editions, heís nice to look at but personality-free. At this point Iím starting to feel like this show is put together by macro. Girls arrive, weíre introduced to them one by one, they settle into a gorgeous mansion, bio video of the guy, group meeting, individual time, eliminate ten people right off the bat. Along the way we get such tried-and-true reality dating show golden oldies as "I came here to meet a husband, not to make a bunch of friends!" "The gloves are going to come off!" "The game is beginning!" "Every girl you look at is your competition!" "I believe in love at first sight!" "It was overwhelming meeting them all! Oneís more beautiful than the next!" "I think itís very possible that within this group thereís a girl that could be right for me!" "This is really hard for me... I wish I had gotten to spend more time with you!" Iím pretty sure that "journey," "connection," and "soulmate" were also bandied about at some point, so really all that was missing from "Stock Reality Dating Show Answers" was "fairy tale." Seriously Ė this is kind of like "Instant Reality Dating Show Ė Just Add Manure!"
OK Ė so when Rob, whoís starting to rival Evan "Joe Millionaire" Marriott in the sheer inanity of most of his confessionals ("I liked her dress! It was lowcut and had a little piece of metal! It was kind of exciting!"), said about Paige, "She was nice! She had spunk!," did anyone else hear Lou Grant in their head saying, "I hate spunk!"? Meanwhile, Melanie is busy practicing her smiles because she has the goofy smile, the genuine smile, and the smile her mother says is the real her. OK, Sybil. And Stacey says if thereís a connection, "Thereís no stopping us! Thereís no stopping us!" Thank you, Ollie and Jerry.
Iím rewatching Rob meet woman after woman and Iím starting to think thereís nothing wrong with him that a cattle prod couldnít cure. Seriously Ė "Itís nice to meet you!" and "Iím doing great!" all come out in the exactly the same tone of voice one would use to say, "The newspaperís on the chair." Well, if this doesnít work out, heíd fit right in at Passions.
Actually, I think Robís even kind of starting to look like Evan to me Ė or maybe Iím just on reality overload. But when the girls answered the door at lunchtime to find him there, at first I seriously thought Evan was making a guest appearance. Oh Ė and, "I told them that I would go around the room and have them each sit next to me for a couple minutes"? Whoopee.
Oh, pass me the sickness bag. Now Paige is telling Rob that sheís wearing a promise ring as a promise to herself that she wonít compromise herself or have sex without love, yak yak... Next week, no doubt, sheíll be walking barefoot through the forest healing the sick and communing with the animals. You know, I donít like Paige for the same reason I donít like Charity on Passions Ė in both cases, the show is ramming them down our throats as being so good, so pure, that itís absolutely nauseating. I mean, the way this show is building her up, itís like Paige made a wrong turn on the way to The Song of Bernadette auditions or something. "Sometimes I just donít buy it," said Lauren about Paige. OK Ė Lauren can stay. She also looks so much like my former coworker Megan itís not even funny. (Thatís a good thing.)
Another thing that gets really old about this show really quick is the need to hear everyoneís opinion on everything. For example, when the checks are presented, each girl gets a confessional on what a million dollars means to her, and none of it is particularly interesting or enlightening. Then, Jordan puts the checks away in the SECRET ROOM, and as each check gets put in, each girl gets another confessional about the exact same thing, and itís even less exciting the second go-round. This culminated in what could have been described as THE MOST DRAWN-OUT ELIMINATION ROSE CEREMONY EVER! Seriously Ė this thing was THIRTY-THREE MINUTES LONG Ė with THREE commercial breaks!!! And basically it boiled down to, "Say contestant name, compliment appearance, say one nice thing about them, expound a bit, give decision, summarize everything in voiceover." EXACT same formula. FIFTEEN times. And none of it was particularly interesting or shocking. Thank God for fast forward. Oh, and gee, wasnít it shocking when Rob chose St. Paige over Evil Cristy at the end? Itís not like there were about a thousand Anvils of Foreshadowing predicting it or anything. Oy.
This all led to the loopy "Youíve got to see it to believe it" finale in which the losers are led to the SECRET ROOM and forced to throw their checks into the fire. They intercut shots of this with the chosen girls popping open champagne to emphasize the Cinderellaness of it all. Again, another musical cue was wasted by not using Polly Brownís tacky 1975 disco classic, "(Up, Up,) Up In A Puff Of Smoke."
In case we didnít get the point the first ten million times, the show ends with someone chirping in voiceover, "I had a one in fifteen chance at a million dollars! Now I have a one in ten chance at a million dollars!" Gee, thanks a heap. Never would have pieced that one together on my own.
OK, so the show did have a few genuinely fun moments Ė like when Erin said, "Come on Ė any one of us could go out there and marry a millionaire if we really wanted to," and Melissa shot back, "I canít even find a guy thatíll hold down a steady job!" Ditto Melanieís, "I could lunge my way around this mansion and still not have the legs that I wanted to have for this thing!" and Kirstinís, "I donít want to end up as the crabby aunt who has a lot of cats!" Christina also had a valid point when she pointed out the absurdity of asking your competition how you look. These were my favorite women, along with Catherine, Lauren, and, believe it or not, Kelly. I hated Kelly the first time I watched this, but the second viewing, quite honestly, I found her refreshing. I think sheís one of the best "Bad Girls" Iíve seen on a reality show in a long time Ė mainly, I think, because she genuinely seems to be having fun Ė and really, I think she seems more concerned with having fun herself than deliberately trying to stir up trouble with other people. Overall, Iím hoping this proves to be a consistently entertaining trashy trainwreck like Joe Millionaire as opposed to one that fizzles like Married By America or Mr. Personality. Either way, Iíll be back next week calling it as I see it!
Brian James is an actor/writer/singer in New York City. An avid reality show, Passions, early Ryanís Hope, retro music, and Internet discussion board junkie, he can be found holding up "Will Snark For Food" signs in subway stations as he continues to search for that elusive "day job." Brian would like to stress that his writings are based solely on what he sees in each episode, and realizes that there may sometimes be more to the story and that people may behave quite differently under normal circumstances. Comments and cybertomatoes accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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