Coming Up to Date on Paradise Hotelby Peggy Keller -- 09/19/2003
Paradise Hotel seemed to be, in the beginning, a benign entry into the usual summer fill-in of repeats and reality TV. A boring Temptation Island with lots of cry babies and bravado. The big twist of letting someone from the audience participate in the show was unique but did not seem to be as interactive as Fox would have you believe. It was just another reality show where boys and girls competed for each other’s affections and someone got kicked out. Along the way there were twists and turns that seemed to be made up on the spot.
The show was a snooze fest. I quit watching regularly after a couple weeks. Occasionally I would flip over there and watch Zack make as ass out of himself and Amy and Toni look like the poster girls for why women should not take testosterone supplements. But all in all, the show was a bore.
Then Fox did something so wicked, so vile, so absolutely pathetic in an attempt to get the ratings up. They brought all the old guests back. All the people who had been voted out and had been sitting there watching the show on TV and finding out all the dirty little scheming and plotting that was going on were allowed to come back on the show. And they were pissed.
Oh yeah, it made for great TV, if you like to see puppies kicked in the head. The message boards lit up and people started watching again, but the reaction was probably not quite what FOX had in mind. Hmm, let's see. Confine people to a luxury hotel and persuade them to hook up with as many people as possible, then humiliate them by filming everything they do and kick them out of the show. After that, let them go and watch all the whisperings and everything everyone said about them. Edit the show in such a way that even the most innocent comment is played up in slow motion with a horror flick soundtrack in the background and then have the humiliated people, who were such type A personalities that they thought they were men (when they were women) or that they could inherit "lawyer" like one inherits buck teeth ( Zack: "Don't mess with me, I's Part Lawyer"), come back to the hotel and tell them they will get bonus points for being obnoxious.
Ding ding ding! Oh yeah, this was gonna be good television.
But it wasn't. It was awful. When the hotel guests came back they postured and posed and jumped on the bed making monkey noises like they just walked off the Return to the Planet Of the Apes set. They stuck their fingers in people’s faces, touched others’ ears inappropriately, and reminded the viewing audience what high school was like the week after the football team won the big game. Obnoxious with a capital O. Mean, cruel, in your face name calling, puppy-kicking obnoxious.
The returning hotel guests, for the couple days they were back, made every other backstab and every other reality TV twist look lame by comparison and made a reality TV fan long for the subtle plotting and scheming and backstabbing in Survivor. Remember the “Snakes and Rats” speech that Sue gave in the first Survivor finale? Multiply that time 50, and say it over and over and over and over and over. That is what Paradise Hotel became.
Zack, thankfully, was kicked out a second time for threatening physical violence on Keith. His paramour Amy, who also threatened to poison and kill, was not. Instead she remained in the game to wreak her bitter havoc on everyone she could.
Beau and Melanie (the first one asked to leave paradise) were voted back in but within days they were sent packing again. So who is left?
Amy, the 21-going-on-14 arena football cheerleader who loves to eat and eat and eat. Amy slept with Zack the first night they were together – rewarding Zack for telling her and everyone else how disappointed he was that he had to room with her, since she just wasn't as hot as the other chicks (eat away Amy). Since then, they are now in love, awww. With Zack, the vulnerable "my mom left me when I was little, but later told me she really likes you, Amy" guy gone, Amy's only goal in life is to make life miserable for anyone not in her clique. Ahhh, we all know Amy don't we.
Charla, the same age as Amy but only in years. Charla is a waitress from St. Paul. She has had her moments good and bad, made herself a social outcast from day one, and yet looking at who she has chosen to befriend, Keith and Dave in particular, maybe there was a good reason she didn't hang with the jock boys. Charla was on the receiving end of many vicious verbal attacks and she took it like a pro. Yes, she did nearly have a nervous breakdown at one point (de rigeur for this show apparently) but she has remained loyal and Fox is editing her as a clear underdog.
Dave. a 26-year-old Bostonian, was the guy who was brought in, just having lost seventy pounds, and was still a little bit, er, normal looking compared to the hot model types on the show. He has been teased mercilessly and yet maintains a calm exterior. He is in love with Charla and the "jock/cheerleader" clique hates that. They treat him like he is a mascot to be beaten and they ridicule him every chance they get. Yet Dave takes their onslaught like a trooper. He has had much practice, as a vendor at the sports venues in Boston, Dave hawked Crunch and Munch during games in such a way that he was universally loved and hated. His sales of Crunch and Munch were 400% higher than the other vendors. After being "voted out" of that job by annoyed upper management, Dave went on to own his own marketing consultant company.
I think his history has helped him in the game. He was an outsider from the start and they old boys club wanted him gone, but strategically he has played the best game. Knowing what couples to break up, which threats to get rid of, Dave is the one redeeming thing that makes me continue to watch Paradise Hotel. I want the guy to win it all.
Holly, the 22-year-old sales clerk is the basic boring brunette who is rooming and hooked up with Scott. She received little air time, and all that has happened to her lately is that she and Scott are breaking up what never really got started, leaving Scott open for Amy to jump to now that she is without a partner. Holly is just background noise at this point.
Keith, 23 years old, a model who has played the game as well as anyone and been a target of the old guests’ humiliations. He remains a solid mature player who works very hard at not letting the likes of Andon, Beau, and Zack get under his skin. Keith, Tara, Charla, and Dave have been the only ones with any strategy the entire game that does not involve beating someone to death.
Scott, 30 years old, the day trader who flies under the radar and whose only mistake seems to be choosing to side with the nasty manipulative highly dramatic original guests. Scott has played it safe and shows intelligence most of the time, but being the oldest player in Paradise, you would think he would not get caught up in the frat house atmosphere that Andon, Amy, Zack, and Beau created. He currently has a chance to drop Holly and pick up Amy as roommate, and since the final vote is supposed to be decided by a jury of the former hotel guests, it would be a smart move on his part, simply because the apes will chose one of their own.
Lastly we have Tara, the 21-year-old college student who has used whatever she could to stay in the game until she settled on Keith. Amazingly, she has the reputation among the older guests that she is the one to target for her manipulations, but she has done nothing more than any of them have. Still they hate her.
Thankfully, it's almost all over. Fox says they are happy with the ratings, which are OK, but considering that Fox does not have a top 20 show currently, they will take anything they can get. In the mean time, sponsors are dropping like flies. Jergens, McDonalds, Burger King, Alberto Culver, and Rent a Center have all pulled their advertising of Paradise Hotel after being pressured by the fact that an 8/7 Central show was showing sexually explicit scenes and smoking (yes, smoking).
The current buzz is that the producers have set the whole show up in a Joe Schmo sort of way where they guarantee a final showdown between Amy and one of the people she has threatened to kill. Rumor has it that they have completely manipulated the show, creating underdogs so severely brutalized that, like a good horror show, you hate the villains too such an extent you will cheer when they lose. However, if that is the case, then I don't think Fox will put the winning decision in the hands of so many sociopathic guests. We’ll have to see what happens in the finale…
Peggy Keller is Mother and Behavior Therapist to her two autistic sons and teenage daughter. Click here to e-mail her.
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