Reality Hit List, June 23: Hope and “Reality”by Brian James -- 06/23/2003
You know, sometimes I think I can understand where Delia is coming from on Ryan’s Hope. I mean, I think she has a valid point: Frank knew what she was like when he married her, and demanding she become a different person just because he felt he grew and changed is like switching the rules mid-game and unfair to her. And I don’t get why Frank and Jill act like it’s their God-given right to be together and it’s completely unreasonable for Delia to want to save her marriage when, in fact, they’re the ones having an affair. But then I remember that Delia only pursued Frank in the first place because Pat turned her down, and then she goes and does stuff like trashing Frank’s campaign headquarters, and I-
What’s that? You came here to hear about reality shows, you say? Get on with it already? You’re sure we can’t just pretend this past week never existed? I mean, it wasn’t exactly a banner week for reality television. Seriously - when fictional characters from 28 years ago are behaving more like multidimensional, believable human beings than actual human beings of today portraying themselves, something’s very, very wrong.
Speaking of very, very wrong, Paradise Hotel debuted on Fox this week. As much as I’ve ripped on For Love or Money, I swear, this show makes it look like Masterpiece Theater. It makes Looking For Love: Bachelorettes In Alaska look like Citizen Kane. Hell, it even makes Married By America look like Scenes From A Marriage.
Basically, it’s kind of like musical chairs meets The Dating Game. You’ve got an uneven number of single men and women who must pair up to room together. Odd person out at a certain point gets eliminated. The last couple standing gets…
Well, that’s just it. They don’t get anything. On every other elimination-based reality show that I can think of, there’s an incentive to be the last person/team standing - a cash prize, a date, an engagement, or what have you. Here, as much as the show may boom, “ONE of the guests will be FORCED to CHECK OUT!!!,” without any such incentive, what does it matter if you’re booted first or fiftieth? Other reality shows like The Real World, High School Reunion, and even Temptation Island don’t have a prize, but there’s (ostensibly, at least) a point or throughline to keep viewers watching each week - some sort of learning experience the people gain from the (as much as I hate dipping into my list of Verboten Beaten-To-Death Reality Television Words) “journey,” be it being pushed outside your comfort zone by living with a diverse group of strangers, revisiting and reexamining old baggage from high school, or seeing if your relationship will withstand temptation from outside forces. Just the very thought of Paradise Hotel and “learning experience” being in the same sentence sends me into fits of uncontrollable laughter. So ultimately, the point of the show is that… there is no point. Great!
Still, though, the same can be said about most episodes of Passions and I keep watching. So what’s so wrong with this show?
Well, really, what’s right about it? Right off the bat, even the theme song is a tired generic remake of Eddie Money’s 1978 hit “Two Tickets to Paradise.” The host, Amanda Byram, has perhaps the most grating, over-the-top British accent since Downtown Julie Brown “wubba wubba”-ed her way onto MTV in 1986. The guests? Yikes! Was this show given the last round picks in the reality show draft or what?!? The best I can say about any of them is that they’re bland and inoffensive, which isn’t exactly enough to send me racing to my TV twice a week. We have Andon (“TheCustomOfLife” at Television Without Pity: “It’s either Andy or Brandon - decide!”), who wants to have his skin taxidermied after he dies. We have Amy, who one minute is calling a guy “retarded with no social skills,” the next minute is choosing to bunk with him for the week because “he’s a fun guy who makes [her] laugh,” and may have had sex with him the minute after that. Then there’s almost guaranteed future Reality TV Hall of Shame member Zack, a personal trainer who looks like a low-rent Matt LeBlanc and apparently can’t go without flexing or doing pushups for longer than five seconds: over the course of this episode alone, he said of Melanie, “She’s really old… she’s like, thirty!” and yammered on incessantly to Amy, the only girl who wanted him for a roommate, about how disappointed he was that two of the other girls didn’t pick him instead. Finally, who’s the genius who thought that we were just dying to see more of Love Cruise’s Toni? Although I have to admit that it was hysterical seeing her run amok like some sort of self-proclaimed reality TV expert (Toni to Charla: “We’ll talk more tomorrow and we’ll give you a strategy!” Charla: “I don’t need a strategy!”). Maybe she got on by playing up her apparent experience with cryogenic freezing: in 2000, when Love Cruise was filmed, she was “27.” Now, three years later, she’s only “28.” Neat trick.
Now obviously, I’m not naďve enough to think the producers were looking to populate this show with Mensa Society members or people witty enough to hold their own with Dorothy Parker’s circle at the Algonquin, but to be perfectly honest, while they’re certainly not dogs, no one’s so overwhelmingly attractive that I would feel compelled to tune in on that basis alone. (And yes, that is possible - I mean, have you seen Carter, the new carpenter on Trading Spaces?!?) And even if they were, what’s that old saying about being brought down by the company you keep? Charla may have been unhappy about getting the single room, but quite frankly, given her choices, I thought she got the best end of the deal, even - no, make that especially - if she winds up getting eliminated. Coming up, the show appears to veer into Jerry Springer territory as the giant TV screened heads of the current guests bark insults at people who are begging to - get this - get into the hotel. Why on earth would they want to?!? Seriously - if spending time with this group of twits is “paradise,” I’ll take my chances in hell. I may give the show one more shot just to make sure it’s bad-bad and not good-bad, but more than likely I’ll just wait a couple of weeks to watch the version with a point and what is almost certain to be a more diverse, entertaining group of guests: Big Brother.
One last thing - amazingly, astoundingly, this show is banking that people will want to fork out $9.95 a month for Yahoo! Platinum to see “exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and even night-vision bed cams!” It’s not quite the level of hubris as the LovePaigeJones.com Classic Thong, but close.
Checking in with the show that was immediately bumped up a couple pegs on the Class-O-Meter, For Love Or Money, first and foremost: shut up, Melodramatic Announcer. Every week at every commercial break: “The Elimination! WHO’S in it for LOVE? And WHO’S in it for MONEY?” It’s not like the ceremony determines either, so zip it.
Last week, Christina and Lauren removed Rob’s boots. This week, Laura got the “privilege” of making him breakfast in bed (even though Lauren goodnaturedly did most of the cooking). What’s next: Erin shines his shoes with her hair?
Laura apparently forgot one of the cardinal rules of dating shows: never waste your time asking someone if they’re keeping you around. Let’s face it: you’re never going to get an honest answer and it’ll probably only annoy them. I don’t know for certain that’s why she was eliminated this week, but I wouldn’t doubt it was a factor. Then again, given that she’s leaving behind a guy prone to saying things like, “Hey, Laura! We’re in bed together!,” can we really say that she didn’t come out ahead?
Really, that’s one interesting thing that I’ve noticed about this show: on Joe Millionaire, the women who seemed to be mainly after the money - Sarah, Melissa, Heidi - came across as selfish, shallow golddiggers. Here, the one who’s blatantly saying she’s in this for the money, Lauren, is probably my favorite at this point! How can that be?
I think it’s mainly this: whoever cast this show definitely knew what they were doing. Even if the groping scandal had never come to light, Rob would still come across as a vapid boor - but then again, so did Evan most of the time. What makes this show different, I think, is that for the most part, the remaining women who aren’t named Paige seem to be reasonably intelligent and self-assured with fairly decent personalities as opposed to obnoxious, conceited, or full of themselves. Therefore, there’s a built-in feeling that they could definitely do much better than this lunkhead, so if they’d rather choose the money, hey, more power to them!
As far as Paige, yeah, she still needs to be shot, if nothing else just for “I’m going on a DAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE!” and “I do want to win and the fact that I may not win is really scary!” alone. She also read waaaaaaaay too much into Rob’s “You’re too young for me!” comment (as much as I may rip on the guy, to me it honestly seemed like he was just kidding), made the idiotic decision not to say anything to Rob when given the opportunity just before he had to make his choice for elimination (really, just a quick “I had a nice time on the date” or something would have sufficed), and “I will get what I deserve… but sometimes I DOOOON’T!” is the new “It hurts my HEART!” The show would still have us believe she makes Marcia Brady look like Lizzie Borden, though. She may be a two-time DWI offender plus more, but she’s a sweet, sincere two-time DWI offender plus more, damn it! (Incidentally, Paige’s website store sure removed the LovePaigeJones.Com Frosted Beer Mug in a hurry. Never fear, though - the Camisole is still available!)
Kelly had me when she was laughing at Paige gushing over Rob’s poetry, then kind of lost me when she was pouting and grilling Erin over her solo date. She can’t really be falling for the idiot, can she? Can she?!? I suppose we’ll find out more next week, when Rob finds out about the women’s million dollar offer. Pass the popcorn!
Meet My Folks is back, but I’m wondering if they’re not shooting themselves in the foot with all these multiparters. (They had at least one other back when it was briefly on midseason.) To me, part of the appeal of the show is that it’s disposable. Almost every other reality show requires you to make a weekly commitment. Meet My Folks, in contrast, is something fun and frivolous to watch if you’re around and are so inclined, and there’s something to be said for that. Requiring a commitment from viewers - even a small temporary one - would seem to take away from part of what makes it unique.
Normally, The Amazing Race is my antidote for all the lunacy on the other shows, but this week, it may as well have been called The Amazing Romper Room. Seriously - have you ever seen a bunch of grown people so obsessed with lines and “cutsies” in your life? By the time Jeff was spitting that Reichen & Chip were acting “privileged” and Chip was wailing about his integrity, I was screaming, “Fer chrissakes, it’s The Amazing Race, not The Amazing Crucible!!” Honestly, if this keeps up, poor Phil’s going to be handing out milk, cookies, and nap mats at the pitstops!
Furthering the general “nyah nyah”-ness that was this week, Tian insisted Jaree throw away a map because it was “too much weight;” [air traffic controller] Steve threatened to slash Reichen & Chip’s and Tian & Jaree’s tires(!); Josh practically held his breath until he turned blue to get his dad to take the train to Salzburg - the completely wrong decision; Kelly continued to shriek that she was right when she was, in fact, wrong; and her teammate/fiancé Jon commented that “a woman’s orgasm is hard to come by, but when they finally get it they’re good for a week,” which would seem to say a lot more about his abilities than anything else.
Before this episode, I came to the conclusion that my favorite teams were Reichen & Chip, Monica & Sheree, Tian & Jaree, and Kelly & Jon. I’m still sticking to that list, but lately I feel like some of them are practically daring me to stop supporting them. One other thing I’ve noticed - at this point last season, I already had runaway favorites and teams I hated. This season, even four episodes into it, my favorites seem more by default, and while I don’t care for some teams as much, I don’t actively hate them with the white-hot intensity of ten thousand suns, either. Odd.
Elsewhere, Dave declared, “Steve and I, we’re both air traffic controllers - we don’t make mistakes!” Gee, that must be why they’re always in the lead, then. Meanwhile, Monica & Sheree reminded us yet again that their husbands were professional athletes, just in case we’d started thinking they were sanitation engineers or something wacky like that. Oh, and I’m going to take the high road. I’m not going to make one comment about virgin Chuck panicking because “it’s hot and tight!” That would be far too easy. Unlike, come to think of it - OK, I’ll stop.
Don’t get me wrong - I still love The Amazing Race. Among other things, its editors are so talented that I was completely in the dark as to which team was left to be eliminated - because they’d cleverly completely cut Steve & Josh out of the final fifteen minutes and I’d forgotten all about them! Furthermore, what other show can have you saying, “Awwww… good for them!” when one of your least favorite teams talk about how the Race brought them closer together? I’m just starting to wonder if perhaps this isn’t one of its stronger seasons. However, a weak season of The Amazing Race is still head-and-shoulders above most shows on television right now. And on the plus side for the sanity of me and any other journalist covering it - now there’s only one Steve left!
Still, though, I find it telling that out of all the shows I’m watching right now, these are the questions that keep me on the edge of my seat the most: will Jack and Mary be able to put their pride and stubbornness aside to have a successful relationship? Will staunch Catholics Maeve and Johnny blow their top when they find out Frank not only has been having an affair, but wants a divorce to boot? How far will Delia go to save her marriage? How will Bucky react when he finds out Faith isn’t scared off by every man - just him? Will Bucky and Seneca convince Nell there may be hope for her aneurysms? Like I said, these Ryan’s Hope characters may be fictional and they may be from 1975, but they’re a lot more real than a lot of “real” people on the air today.
Brian James is an actor/writer/singer in New York City. An avid reality show, Passions, early Ryan’s 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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