A Dose of Reality: Reality Roundup: Week of March 19th
by Raul Burriel
Published: March 20, 2006
We're knee deep in a new wave of reality television but even as we suffer through the greatest and the worst television has to offer, we're already looking forward to what's going to hit the small screen this summer.
Starting with the biggest and the brightest, ratings for this season of "American Idol" remain at the top of the charts. And with good reason. While the judges say it every year, I feel this really is the best batch of contestants we've seen yet. Certainly, it's better than past seasons that gave us riveting finales such as Kelly Clarkson vs. Sideshow Bob and Clay Aiken vs. Ruben Studdard. The raising of the age limit certainly has paid off with two of the best contestants, Taylor Hicks and Mandisa (no last name, like Madonna and Lenin), both aged 29. Unfortunately, we also get the generic hillbilly rocker Bucky Covington (who can REALLY stand for an extreme makeover - he gushed to Stevie Wonder about his song "Superstition" and then went ahead and gave us a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan's interpretation), the tween squeeze Kevin Covais (who looks scarily like Charlie Brown), and inexplicable favorite and rocker Chris Daughtry. Sadly, we had to say good-bye to basketball goddess Ayla Brown before the finals started, as well as opera queen Stevie Scott (her voice is too good for a pop contest.) Surprisingly, Gedeon McKinney also missed the finals (America hates Black people!)
Read the latest recap of "American Idol" here at The Trades.
On a side note, "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell brings us reality show to TV. As part of his development deal, he's introduced "American Inventor" which hopes to bring the next great thing to market. Never mind the legalities of all this (By showing off your do-hickey, are you turning over ownership to the producers? How do you know a viewer won't steal your idea?), let's all remember Cowell's last attempt at his own reality program: "Cupid". In fact, let's not.
Dancing with the Stars
The second season of "Dancing With the Stars" ended with as much controversy as the first. But let's start at the beginning, with Master P, who after five weeks hadn't put in as much total practice time as any of the other celebs puts in on a single week. His Frankenstein style of dancing should have had him eliminated after week one.
The true outrage this season was the finale which gave us NFL superstar Jerry Rice (with Anna Trebunskaya), WWE wrestler Stacey Keibler (with Tony Dovolani) and former boy-bander (and celebrity brother) Drew Lachey (with Cheryl Burke). Now, I'll admit that Jerry Rice wowed me at the start of the season. He wasn't only passably good, he was REALLY good. But by the end, it was clear that it should have come down to a showdown between Lachey and Keibler (who had leveraged those legs and youthful dance experience to become the judges' favorite). But fan voting put Rice ahead of Keibler and it came down to firecracker Lachey versus Rice, who just couldn't keep up. Rice finally fell before the dancing might of Drew Lachey.
Read the recap of the final dance showdown here at The Trades.
Donald Trump has moved to Monday nights, taking with him a massive grudge match with Martha Stewart and leaving behind the show's high ratings. The new season of "The Apprentice" gives us some "international" contestants including handsome Sean from London (I bet the accent's fake), frumpy Brent originally from Toronto (this season's whipping boy - it's fun to pick on the fat guy!), and Lenny from the former Soviet Union (although I suspect his current place of resident is somewhere around Little Odessa - if he doesn't win this contest with sheer balls, he'll do it by "taking care" of his opponents.) This season also sees the debut of Trump's daughter, Ivanka, as one of The Don's minions and observers. Despite the blonde hair and vapid look, Ivanka comes off looking like the Wharton School of Business graduate she really is (maybe my standards were just too low and a trained monkey would have surprised me.)
Read the latest recap of "The Apprentice" here at The Trades.
The Amazing Race
The best thing I can say about "The Amazing Race" is that it's as good as it ever was. I'm still not tired of this show, despite reusing the same formula season after season. So far we've seen Brazil and Moscow (but neither London nor France, despite a couple of very busty girls and two really horny best buds). The leaders, though, are a couple of hippies who were born about twenty years too late. We've seen time and again that teams bunched together at the start of the season are likely to be the same teams racing for the finish at the end. That puts BJ & Tyler (the hippies) and Eric & Jeremy (the best buds) in the lead for winners and runners-up.
Read the latest recap of "The Amazing Race" here at The Trades.
Celebrity Fit Club
The show too kind to call itself "Celebrity Fat Camp" has ended its third season, proving once again that what we really need is a show called "Celebrity Intervention" or, better yet, "Celebrity Rehab". Former "Taxi" star Jeff Conaway didn't make it half-way through the show, "Cosby" kid Tempestt Bledsoe decided it was OK not to be a team player, Countess Vaughn (why is she famous?) decided that she didn't need to lose weight, and musician Gunnar Nelson came in halfway through the season to smoke everyone else. It's the best reality crap on VH1 unless, of course, you consider...
Read the recap of the final episode here at The Trades.
Flavor of Love
Spun out of the increasingly mind-bending "The Surreal Life," rapper Flavor Flav gets his own reality dating show. Does VH1 get a bulk rate for Sir Mix-a-lot's "Baby Got Back"?
Read the recap of the final episode here at The Trades.
The Surreal Life
Speak of the devil! The new season (it's 6th!) of "The Surreal Life" began this week, featuring such falling stars as Sherman Hemsley, Tawny Kitaen, CC DeVille, Steve Harwell, Andrea Lowell, Alexis Arquette and Florence Henderson (here's a tip for VH1 - if we have to Google the name, then they're not celebrities!)
Read the latest recap of "The Surreal Life" here at The Trades.
Put a bunch of women in a house together, vying for the affections of a man and things get catty? I'm shocked! This time, the women are sent to live in a countryside villa near Paris (France!) where they try to win the heart of a doctor from Nashville. In the end, it comes down to one woman who's "misunderstood" by the other girls (let's face it, she's a bitch) and the sweet elementary school teacher (also from Nashville!) Shockingly, the doctor picks the school teacher (he never picks the sweet girl!) I'll give you one guess as to whether the romance continues today.
This one's interesting. FX's "Black. White." is a social experiment in the way that UPN's "Beauty & the Geek" is absolutely not a social experiment. In this case, a white family from California and a black family from Georgia are made to live together in a house in Los Angeles. You'd think that would be enough for a reality TV show. You'd probably be right. But in the name of science (or maybe just for ratings and shock appeal), the white family will be made up in black make-up and the black family will be made up in white make-up. They will then be sent out to experience life as "the other side."
There's some friction in the house between the two families which is clearly aggravated by the whole "live like the other race" situation. I think there would be friction enough without the whole make-up hijinks. But, alas, these people are made to do absurd things such as black teenager Nick Sparks having to take etiquette lessons as a white teenager (that's funny - I missed that experience in my teenage years) and white teenager Rose Wurgels (by the way, really hot) taking a hip-hop poetry class as a black teenager.
The more I watch this show, the more I realize that the African American family, the Sparks, is the more normal of the two. Wurgel patriarch, Bruno (who is already unnaturally dark skinned) seems determined to go out and be insulted (or rather, he wants to prove to Sparks patriarch Brian that it's never going to happen.) "I'm just waiting for someone to come up to me and say 'Hey, n*****!'" claims Bruno. Bruno's argument is that since it hasn't happened, there is no racism in America. Brian claims that racism is much more subtle (I'll take Brian's word for it over Bruno's.) Besides, Bruno, the day you hear someone use the n-word against you, it won't be in a congenial sense like your "Hey, n*****!" statement (he's repeated it more than once.) No, it'll be more along the lines of "I'm going to f*$&ing kill you, you f*$&ing n*****!" And it'll be coming out of the mouth of a police officer as he holds a gun to your head and shoves his night stick up your surprisingly non-black ass.
Wurgel matriarch Carmen is apparently a child of the 60s, claiming to be totally non-racist and liberal. Yet that hasn't stopped her from constantly rubbing Sparks matriarch Rene the wrong way. At one point - while play acting - Carmen called out "Yo, bitch" to Rene, who took offense. My wife tells me that the women of "The View" call each other "bitches" all the time (what the hell is that?) I guess that Carmen watches "The View." We've seen Rose roll her eyes on more than one occasion to her mother's shenanigans. We sympathize.
If we started with the big boy of reality TV shows (that is, "American Idol," for those of you too lazy to scroll up,) then we must end with the grand-daddy of reality TV shows. "Survivor’s" been on for so many seasons, I can't even count any more. This time, we're back in Panama (this is - what? - the third time? I guess South Asia's got something of a Muslim militant problem these days, 'eh?) But there's a twist (isn't there always?) This season we've got Exile Island where, every week, one contestant will spend the night alone on Exile Island where they get clues to finding a secret immunity idol which they can use should the Tribal Council vote ever turn against them. Clues to the idol range from the basic (a map with areas shaded in stating "it's not in these areas") to the stupid ("it's under the 'v'" - someone was watching It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World when they wrote that clue.)
An earlier twist - where the tribes were divided into four instead of two - seemed to be a great gimmick until, just a week later, the four tribes were merged into two. I'd like to have seen the dynamics should the four tribes have remained untouched until it came time for a merger. Despite the new twists, I think "Survivor" still needs some major revamping to... uhm... survive. Sure, ratings are good, but they're not what they used to be. I demand "Survivor" become more like an adventure race (producer Mark Burnett knows all about adventure racing, which reminds me... BRING BACK "Eco-Challenge"!!!)
My favorites so far (and therefore likely to lose) are Bruce (the "ka-ra-te" master) and Terry (the gung-ho leader-type and fighter pilot). You can't say anything bad about Shane, though. The guy's a nut job and therefore makes for excellent TV. Cirie, the frumpish nurse from South Carolina has so far defied all the odds, flying under the radar and letting the people in her tribe pick each other off. She's playing this game masterfully.
Read the latest recap of "Survivor" here at The Trades.
That all that currently is and all that was on reality TV over the past few weeks. But, as promised, we're also looking ahead.
Yes, we're already looking ahead with "The Apprentice." Although, given the current ratings, I'm wondering how likely it is that we will see a new season. But we've been promised a season of "The Apprentice" in California, and I demand a season of "The Apprentice" in California!
Morgan Spurlock, who made a name for himself by eating nothing but McDonald's for 30 days and turning it into a documentary (Super Size Me) will be back in 2006 with a second season of "30 Days", in which people are put into unusual situations for 30 days (last season we had a born-again Christian live as a Muslim for 30 days, for example.) Good TV. Makes you think.
Starting this week, 9 people are placed in a bunker (Really, a bunker? It's not a set made to look like a bunker?) And they can leave any time, so long as they all agree who gets the $1.5 million prize. And until they all agree, no one leaves (insert tense music here).
After endless speculation as to what band would replace INXS for CBS's unexpected second season of "Rock Star" (c'mon - initial ratings were so bad that the "house episodes" were moved to VH1!), we've finally got our answer. No, it's not Van Halen, Alice in Chains, the Doors or even Queen. In fact, it's not a band at all! At least, not a band that exists yet. This season's contestants will be competing to be the lead singer of a superband featuring Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and ex-Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. Should this band actually get its act together, we could have another Velvet Revolver on our hands. If not, well, it'll be good exposure for all involved.
One analyst said that this would be better than getting an old bad to sell out in an attempt to rekindle its old flames. C'mon, we're not talking the London Symphony here. The only person being hurt by "Rock Star: INXS" was maybe the memory of dearly departed Michael Hutchence. These are commercial rock bands out to make a buck. If appearing on TV sells a few more albums, more power to them. The new season of "Rock Star" will premiere this summer.