Reality Hit List, June 30: Oh, Lighten Up Already!by Brian James -- 06/30/2003
OK, so after last week’s column, I received scathing email - informing me I don’t belong on this site because I’m a horrible writer with nothing to say - from rabid Paradise Hotel fans. All one of them. You can see how much of a deterrent this was for me showing up again this week.
Still, though, because of this, because I indicated I might in last week’s column, and in the interest of fairness, I gave the show another shot this week… and…
It’s not quite as bad as I initially made it out to be.
Oh, don’t get me wrong - by no stretch of the imagination can it be considered “good” or “quality” programming. But I think last week I made it seem like it was the seventh sign of the apocalypse, and it’s not that either. You just have to kind of look at the show as more of a glorified ongoing Dis-Missed or Elimidate. Dis-Missed is a guilty pleasure of mine. It’s fun watching a bunch of obnoxious twits be blissfully oblivious to the fact that they’re making complete asses out of themselves on national television. And generally, there’s a hot tub involved eventually and one of the guys at least looks good in a bathing suit even if he has nothing else to offer the world. So in that context, Paradise Hotel can work as fun, disposable fare - kind of like the television equivalent of a trashy beach novel.
Still, that opens up a whole other can of worms. If that’s what Fox wants for the show - for it to be something people flick on if they’re home and in the mood - great; they’ve achieved that. If they want people to be glued to every episode and purchase the live feeds, though, I don’t see it happening. The ongoing nature and lack of a progression to a final prize or decision doesn’t give it the sense of urgency required for this - sure, someone will be CHECKING OUT OF PARADISE FOREVER, but someone will be doing that every week while everything else basically remains the same. If you miss an episode, it would seem fairly easy to pick up on what happened; it’s just that a player or two might be different. I guess we’ll see if the ratings bear this theory out.
If this week is any indication, it seems like it would take a lot for people to switch roommates - at least from the initial group. Once Charla snagged Scott, thereby preventing any other girl from choosing him, Melanie was doomed; it didn’t seem like any of the guys would have chosen her over their current roommates, let alone Beau. However, Amanda probably can’t ditch newcomer Dave fast enough. Speaking of Dave, is it just my imagination, or did he seem more attractive and pleasant when he was in the studio Monday night? I remember thinking they made the sane choice over the confrontational and grating Tom - then Dave hits the hotel and suddenly morphs into the obnoxious nerd from hell! I’m getting a sense that’s his strategy, but, I mean, this isn’t Survivor - I’m just not seeing what alienating just about everyone right off the bat will accomplish beyond a swift return ticket home.
In other news, Toni still needs to be informed that departing guests aren’t being sent to the gas chamber; Zack, Andon, and Charla acted out an R-rated episode of I Love Lucy in Charla’s bedroom; brain trust Andon spouted, “We connect on a intellectual level”; and Amanda, apparently having never seen an episode of The Bachelor in her life, got the bright idea that gushing to Beau about taking him home to meet her parents after only about TWO DAYS was a smart thing to do, then got offended when other people acted like she and Beau were married! Oy. Oh – and the women held a “Best Ass” contest. The “Biggest Ass” contest, apparently, is ongoing. And I keep hearing these rumors that there are people named Alex and Kristin on the show, but I’d be hard-pressed to prove it.
At this point, I can easily say that For Love or Money is hands down the most enjoyable reality TV guilty pleasure since Joe Millionaire. Lauren, my favorite, got the boot this week, but again, it’s hard to feel too badly for her when in a lot of ways she’s probably better off: she wasn’t into Rob and it’s not like she’d be getting the full million dollars in any sort of useful form anyway. Besides, it’s not like she was the best liar in the world: if she was going to try to convince the other girls she was truly into Rob, she might have wanted to come up with something better than rating Rob a “5.5 out of 10” as a kisser.
Still, though, she managed to put one over on Rob, although that’s kind of like being the best surfer in Kansas. In an absolutely classic editing juxtaposition, this was Lauren on Rob:
"It was weird kissing him because it was like kissing your pillow or something. I just didn't really feel anything."
Immediately followed by Rob:
"I feel like I made a breakthrough with Lauren. We've taken it to the next level. We're a lot more comfortable around each other."
Even Paige didn't bother me quite as much this week. I only wanted to brain her with a frying pan instead of bayonet her.
Another unintentionally amusing moment came near the end when Rob decided he wanted to have a heart-to-heart with the remaining three women. Fine and dandy, but next time, Rob, you might want to - oh, I don’t know - LET THEM COME IN FROM THE POURING RAIN first.
But the funniest moment came at the very end. In a scene of pure unadulterated screaming camp, as Rob opened up the check container, all the women’s comments about wanting the money came flying out to taunt him. All that was missing was Piper Laurie booming, “They’re all going to LAUGH at you!!! They’re all going to LAUGH at you!!!”
Speaking of Rob, this week I asked myself: would I think he was such an idiotic insensitive clod if I didn’t know about the extracurricular groping scandal? Or would I be able to write off his boorish behavior in episode 2 as unfortunate, but feel he learned his lesson and moved on? Honestly? It’s impossible to say. Now that I know about the incident, it’s kind of like the pink spotted elephant in my living room whipping up a batch of banana daiquiris - it’s impossible to pretend it doesn’t exist. (Easy on the crushed ice, Jumbo.) This would be one of the reasons why I am a writer and not a judge.
Finally, am I the only one who gets a very Disneyesque vibe from the shots of the women smiling and waving from the balcony? Are any of you thinking they should be in those medieval pointy princess hats where the scarf or veil or whatever hangs down from the tip and have cartoon bluebirds twittering around them? Or am I just warped? OK; let me rephrase that: I know I’m warped, but are any of you…
As for The Amazing Race, I think I’ve finally put my finger on what’s bothering me about this season:
These teams don’t seem to be having any fun.
To me, part of the show’s charm and uniqueness has been that, unlike most other reality shows, the Race has never been very cutthroat. Sure, it’s stressful and demanding, but for the most part teams have seemed to enjoy themselves and everything’s been fairly goodnatured. In fact, it was the teams who didn’t seem to be having much fun the majority of the time - Tara & Wil, Teri & Ian - who stood out as exceptions. This season, however, it seems like most teams are so hellbent on winning that they’re spending most of their time going for the throats of the other teams - or each other - giving it a very different feel from seasons past. Yet at the same time, there’s none of the unabashed glee that comes with the plotting and scheming of, say, a Will from Big Brother or a Rob from Survivor: The Amazon; it’s just coming across as a lot of petty, meanspirited squabbles. And if the teams themselves don’t seem to be having fun, it’s not as much fun to watch.
On one end of the spectrum are Tian & Jaree. Where do I even begin with these two? You would think that a leg that featured a Smoker Statue would have made them feel right at home, but tensions between them blew sky high this week. At first things just seemed like par for the course, i.e., Tian needing to put a sock in it and stop treating Jaree like a two-year-old she’s being forced to babysit, but then Jaree started going into great detail with absolute glee about just how much she’d like to inflict bodily harm on Tian. Perhaps she simply (and somewhat understandably) snapped, but when the two of you are making Tara & Wil look like shining beacons of supportive, nurturing communication, you’re in serious trouble.
Even Monica & Sheree admitted that while they don’t like to speak ill of other teams, they’d be happy to see Tian go. Given that just two episodes ago, they were working with her & Jaree and declaring “Girl Power!”, that’s saying something. Monica & Sheree are at the other end of the spectrum: really, they’ve turned into the class act of the Race almost by default. They don’t fight with each other. They keep their involvement in drama with other teams to a minimum. By and large, they just concentrate on getting ahead and seem to have fun as they go. This could be said of any number of teams from past seasons, but again, given the nature of this season, it’s making them stand out. To be fair, the same could be said of Jon & Al, but honestly, I’m just not feeling the love for these two; they’re reminding me of the old truism that people who try to be funny aren’t.
Then we have Chuck & Millie. Honestly, Chuck seems damned if he does; damned if he doesn’t. First, Millie had a fit when Chuck wanted to be certain where they were going before he took off in the boat. Then later, when he said he was turning right, she started screeching that he wasn’t to make a move until they were absolutely sure it was the right way. Well, which is it? It seems like ultimately Millie was right because they got so far behind they had to go for the Fast Forward, but honestly, to me, sometimes being annoying and self-righteous cancels out the positives that come with being right. Add to this the way that Millie is quick to point out Chuck’s shortcomings - in confessionals with Chuck sitting right there, to Phil at the mat, if someone drops a hat in Bujumbura - and I’m just waiting for her to produce a rolled-up newspaper, swat Chuck on the nose, and tell him to heel.
I swear - if I ever meet any of these teams, and we happen to be in line for something, I’m cutting in front of them. That’s how fed up I am with all this obsession over lines. It reached a ridiculous apex this week when Jon told Reichen & Chip, who themselves were pointing out to us that they chose to obey a line, no cutting or he’d punch their lights out. It’s five weeks in and I give up - are we ever going to move beyond subjects covered by PBS children’s shows? At this point, even the late Mr. Rogers would have had Lady Elaine Fairchild brain half these people with her Boomerang Toomerang Zoomerang.
Reichen & Chip need to learn to let things go, lighten up, and just concentrate on the Race. Yes, I know that they’ve received a lot of animosity from other teams, and yes, I think that a lot of the times they weren’t at fault, but this is The Amazing Race, not The Amazing Balcony of the Casa Rosada. Rather than constantly feel like they have to prove a point or defend their integrity, they need to shrug things off and move on like Derek & Drew did last year when they were the victims of the “Twin Hunt.” Just focus on winning and let that be your statement, proven point, sign of integrity, what have you. And have fun doing it.
Jon & Kelly both have said things like the aforementioned juvenile “I’ll punch your lights out” that have warranted the occasional eyeroll or “shut up” from me, yet I still kind of like them. I think it’s because for all the petty squabbling they do, they also seem to be equally able to enjoy themselves - and again, this season, that’s saying something. Still, though, they might want to concentrate a little less on nicknaming the other teams and a little more on racing. It’s also worth nothing that for all the clucking some people did over their referring to Steve & Dave as “BFG’s: Big Fat Guys” last week, this week, those recurring extras David & Jeff (are we ever going to find out anything more about this team? Is there anything more there to find out?) called Steve & Dave that right to their faces and Steve & Dave laughed heartily, so obviously it’s a term of endearment - and given their jovially self-deprecating natures, I wouldn’t be surprised if Steve & Dave came up with that moniker themselves.
Speaking of Steve & Dave, they were finally eliminated this week, and honestly, it seemed more like putting them out of their misery than anything else. Not that they seemed particularly miserable personally, but they’ve come in just one place above elimination every leg since they used up their Fast Forward. The only surprise was that this didn’t happen sooner.
Still, though, I’m not ready to write the Race off just yet. There’s still plenty of time left in the season for things to turn around. Really, all that needs to happen is that teams just need to start lightening up and having more fun. It’ll benefit both them and the viewers.
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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