This week in reality TV, we saw Cochran crowned as the ultimate Survivor, Hurricane Nia fall victim to rogue sex toy attack, and, you know, THAT. The tremendous vision above marked the high point at the climax of what was a legendary season of Survivor. [Buckshot Shorty voice] Let's take a sec to think back
Cochran (Survivor, Simmons), 50 points: As Chuck Klosterman masterfully pointed out in his Probstian Podcast, Survivor all too often rewards the wallflower. The backstabbers, challenge-winners, and manipulators are left wiping the blood off their hands and hoping for fan favorite. This season was different.
OK, this week in reality TV was heavy on racism, violence against women, suicide, starvation, ranch dressing, and, you know, drunken people being idiots. I’m intelligent enough to know that I'm not intelligent enough to appropriately address most of those issues, so I'm going to dive deep into the ranch dressing. (Is ranch dressing on pizza really a thing? Have people been doing this for years and I just didn’t know it? Is it good? I need answers.)
With a slow Survivor this week, the GRTFL is all about Real World’s Hurricane Nia. What did Hurricane Nia do? Oh, nothing, just, ya know, revealed her plans to write a “how to” book about dating professional athletes, displayed the work ethic of a stoned elephant seal, and brandished both an alarm clock and a desk lamp as assault weapons. In her defense, it was a hardy desk lamp. Let’s review how Jordan and Nia, the couple that brought us attempted cannibal fellatio, continued to innovate with murder by alarm clock. Keep reading. It only gets weirder.
Managing expectations is the key to success. When you draw a money hand, you should slow-play it — all the better to draw the suckers in. You keep the element of surprise in your corner. This week in reality television, Real World and Survivor overplayed their hands; they raised big with story lines that didn’t live up to expectations. There was no mutiny among the alliances in Survivor and there was no cannibalistic fellatio among the cast mates on Real World. The calm status quo in this week’s GRTFL shows was, in a word, boring. Don’t sell me on cannibalistic fellatio and feed me a Subway sandwich. Yes, a sandwich is leading this week’s column, but it isn’t any sandwich, IT’S A TUNA-AND-TURKEY SANDWICH. TUNA. AND. TURKEY.
I always know it has been a great week in reality TV when I get a little nervy as I sit down to write this column. I just want to do the week justice. I just want to provide the people who worked on and watched these brilliant television programs with a column worthy of what transpired. I mean, there was a complete psychological meltdown, a kleptomaniac ghost, a legendary tribal council, and the most mystifying sexual encounter ever filmed in the history of the Real World.
We have to start there. This shit was just I don’t even know I’m definitely getting fired for this one.
You have to trust your body. Your body will tell you what to do, what to think, how to feel … you just have to listen to it. If you dent a parked car and don't leave a note, your body will punish you with guilt. If you stand close to the edge of a cliff, your body will override your brain and back off of it. If you get drunk, when you wake up, your body will make you get a Gatorade and a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. Your body is smarter than you are. This week, my body was telling me that it can’t watch Ready for Love.
I tried; I really did. I carved out a couple of hours and sat down, ready to love Ready for Love. My body just wouldn’t let me.
Following the accidental death of its 21-year-old star Shain Gandee, you'd think the cancellation of Buckwild would be a no-brainer. Apparently, that wasn't the case. According to THR, MTV informed show creator JP Williams on Friday that it was moving on with a second season. (Gandee died from carbon monoxide poisoning on April 1 when the Ford Bronco in which he was off-roading became submerged in mud and its exhaust pipe completely covered.) At that point, four episodes plus a special had already been shot. On Tuesday, MTV reversed course, letting Williams know that the show was canceled. And now Williams is pissed.
"This is the network that has shows about teen pregnancy," he tells THR. "They'll stick by a show that allows you to abandon a child, but a kid dies by accident doing what he does for a living and they cancel the show? There's something that smells of shit here on every level."
It's time to add some new shows to the GRTFL. With only Survivor and Real World in the lineup, we had to diversify. I was going to wait it out until Des made her debut as The Bachelorette on May 20 … but then this happened.
With Ready for Love, NBC is straight gunning for that “I like to watch people fall in love in the most preposterous way possible” demographic. They aren’t even being coy about it either. The trailer begins with a voiceover that says, “Hey, Bachelor fans, are you ready for a new show?” So, yeah. NBC is promoting the show as The Bachelor with a couple of twists. First twist: The girls are vetted by matchmakers who assign them to their “team.” Second twist: The bachelors are all quasi-famous, fully handsome bros. Third twist: NO CHRIS HARRISON! I'm skeptical that human beings can find soulmates on national TV without the help of the Love Shepherd, Chris Harrison, but stranger things have happened. Stranger things like Eva Longoria EP'ing this show and Bill and Giuliana Rancic hosting it.
I will include this show in the GRTFL next week, but GRTFL lifers will remember NBC’s last attempt at getting that Bachelor money, Love in the Wild, which cursed this column and my life for three months in June 2011.
MTV's Real World franchise is still holding strong after 21 years. Last weekend, the network reminded us of how captivating its early seasons were with the #MTVretro marathon, allowing us to remember that Puck was a terrible roommate and Julie was a babe. But this was all just an amuse-bouche for the new season, Real World: Portland. Jacoby and I did a deep dive with our new roommates' bios, speculated on coming drama, and objected to the presence of Daisy, the canine roommate, in the opening credits. With so much MTV material to cover we barely had time for anything else, but we did manage to survey the Real Housewives reunion carnage and offer our Weird Watches of the Week. Give it a listen!
Last weekend, MTV programming suits ran backThe Real World: New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas to whet the appetite for this week’s debut of The Real World: Portland. It was a genius move. I may or may not have watched 12 episodes of that shit and I may or may not have remembered every single scene from a reality show 20 years ago even though it takes me five seconds to recall my own Social Security number. The weekend was great, but it also served as a reminder of how damn good the show used to be.
After a couple of “I think I may finally be out on this show” seasons in San Diego and St. Thomas, the franchise needed a breakout performance and planned accordingly. The first thing they did, as they should every season, was stack the cast with hyper-attractive young men and women who all share a penchant for getting drunk, getting naked, and getting into senseless, passionate altercations with each other. The second thing they did, as they should every season, is add a wild-card, midseason roommate. It also doesn’t hurt that the wild-card, midseason roommate is named “Hurricane” Nia and in the first 20 seconds of the “This season on” she threw George Foreman haymakers at 63 percent of the cast ... in her underwear. In fact, I’m not sure I even saw “Hurricane” Nia in street clothes during the entire clip. As far as I know now “Hurricane” Nia is perpetually mid-punch and perpetually in her skivvies. What Andrew Wiggins is to the NBA, “Hurricane” Nia is to MTV.
This weekend, to drum up enthusiasm for its 28th season, Real World: Portland, MTV ran a marathon of “retro” seasons: the first, New York; the third, San Francisco; and the 12th, Las Vegas, which I’m assuming was a nod to the fact that 2002 is vintage enough for most of MTV’s viewership. I tuned in too late for most of Season 1, the memories of which are still vivid enough (Julie and Darlene, endless conversations about the “melting pot,” Reigndance, Eric Nies), but even just dipping a toe into the '90s portion of the pool was creepily evocative of a time that suddenly seemed very long ago. Because it was long ago. It probably isn’t the first time us Gen-X and Gen-Yers have felt old — radio stations and mirrors take care of that — but, for some reason, watching the birth of reality TV caused a Proustian ripple across social media streams among people of a certain age.
Look, people may think that the first Grantland Live stream was programmed around the NCAA Tournament, but GRTFL readers know that the only reason the live-stream is happening this particular week is because this is the slowest week in reality TV history. With The Bach over, Survivor in full midseason “finally we're switching up the tribes” mode, and The Real Unrelatable Housewives of Beverly Hills trudging along, there aren’t any points to be doled out this week. But if you think that'll stop me from recapping, you are sadly mistaken. This week I'm going to run through the GRTFL Top 5 of Every Show That's on TV This Week. It's going to be fun. Let's do it.
What's the old saying? "You can take the Kanye West out of the hood, but you can't prevent the Kanye West from bitterly calling up a radio station and behaving perfectly"?
We were reminded of this old soothsayer fable yesterday, as Mr. West called up New York's Hot 97 radio station and on-air personality DJ Enuff to discuss a list that perturbed him: MTV's annual "Hottest MCs in the Game." This list, like so many things that exist, simultaneously is taken seriously and couldn't matter any less.
Every once in a while, a show comes along that you can't stop talking about because watching it makes you feel so weird. MTV is always trying to capture youth culture in a bottle, and it still occasionally succeeds. Jersey Shore featured one-dimensional personae who sometimes became real people, True Life is still riveting, and new seasons of Real World coexist peacefully with their documentary-reality spawn. Docu-reality has always been a bit of a misnomer — "reality" entertainment is conventionally staged, which undermines "documentary" claims of realism.
Somewhere between "reality" and fiction lies Catfish: The TV Show, whose finale aired this week. (Next week a "reunion special" will air, and the show has already been picked up for a second season.) Catfish: The TV Show follows Nev Schulman, the subject and cocreator of the 2010 movie Catfish, who tries to arrange for Internet couples who have never met offline to meet one another for the first time and films the result. According to the show's terminology, a "catfish" is someone who uses false information and/or pictures to seduce a stranger online.