Late August is always bittersweet. When we were kids, it brought both the gloom that was the end of summer and the excitement of the new school year. As adults it brings the heartbreak that is saying goodbye to your reality TV fantasy roster and the anticipation of drafting from the intellectual dregs of the fall’s offerings.
It is hard to imagine that in just a week we'll have to say goodbye to the drunken maniacs of The Challenge and the sober ones of Celebrity Rehab. But it's not all bad — we no longer have to be subjected to the disaster that was Love In The Wild. Also, we have Jersey Shore, and the women of the Bachelor Pad are to irrational desperation what the Phillies’ starting rotation is to dominant pitching.
This was a particularly newsy week in reality TV that included a threatened lawsuit, leaked legal documents, and a sensitive Situation. We also saw Ashley the Insanely Insecure Dancing Dentist’s reign as this season's Bachelorette come to a surprisingly entertaining end, and welcomed a new season of Jersey Shore, the show that we all watch but desperately hope is never discovered in a time capsule by aliens when our species is extinct.
It was a historic week for the Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League. There was a topless brawl, a fraudulent denial of coitus, and a concealed erection. We were one STD scare away from a complete shame cycle. These milestones made the torture of enduring all the forced conflicts, lame courtships, and clichéd montages worth it (except for the hour I spent watching Love In The Wild. Including that show in the GRTFL was the worst decision anyone at ESPN has made since ESPN Hollywood). There was so much action this week that, while watching The Challenge on Wednesday, I said to myself “I really hope C.T. doesn’t eat somebody, because I already have too much to write about."
Things are starting to come into focus in the Grantland Reality Television Fantasy League standings. Aided by Steven Adler and his twisted obsession with making Amy Fischer cry, Bill Simmons took a commanding lead this week. But behind the scenes, the GRTFL is suffering from problems that make the NBA labor dispute look like an argument over who rides shotgun. Watching six hours of reality TV every week, and scoring it using the dumbest system since the QB rating, has taken its toll on poor Commissioner Katie Gorman, who was last seen three days ago in midtown Manhattan, shouting at passersby and muttering to herself that she'd "just scored five points for verbal fighting.” We may have lost her. We hope she can recover, reenter society, and return to her real job with some league called the "NFL."
This week was far and away the most active week of scoring that we have had. So active that it nearly killed Commissioner Gorman.
Week 4 of The Grantland Reality Television Fantasy League was the first in which all five of our shows were on the air, and the first time I rooted for someone to lose a limb to a crocodile. For the unfamiliar, the GRTFL is like fantasy football, except a little more complicated and way more shameful. You do not truly know embarrassment until you turn around in a coffee shop and see a group of attractive women giggling because you're watching The Bachelorette on your laptop and taking notes.
Comedian Fred Allen once called television "chewing gum for the eyes." If that’s the case, reality TV is chewing tobacco for the eyes: It’s unhealthy, addictive, and sometimes makes you want to puke. But unlike dip, reality shows have an appeal that stretches beyond just dudes who wear overalls for function. Reality TV is popular because it's fun. And it's about to get more fun.
One thing sports have taught us is that almost anything can be improved by creating a scoring system and holding a draft. Try it. Assign point values and draft your coworkers before a meeting. Or family members before Thanksgiving dinner. I once participated in a celebrity DUI draft (Shia LaBeouf was a late-round steal). And this summer we’ll use a similar model for the inaugural Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League.