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.
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.
With The Bachelor finale this week, you would assume Sean The Boring Bachelor’s big decision would be the lead of this column. I mean, it has to be, right? What could possibly have happened in reality TV that would top Sean The Boring Bachelor finally choosing his partner for life/three more Us Weekly covers? What human act could be more significant than pure ForeverLove? Only one human act can trump ForeverLove, and that act is ... a back rub.
This week, it was just me and Grandma. No friends. No wife. Just us. Grandma was fired up — taking her position on the couch around 7:15 p.m. Around 8:15, she grabbed her cane and scrambled to the back of the house in a panic, thinking that we had missed the first 15 minutes. When I explained to her that we were recording the show, she gave me a look that said, “I don’t care if you are recording it, The Bachelor is on, and we’re watching it now.”
Well, Grandma was right. Women Tell All shows are always kind of a drag — the only real joy is in evaluating exactly what type of “I just got dumped on national TV so I need to change up my look” adjustments the women made to their hair. But this season’s show had a moment — a transcendent accusation that severely damaged Sean’s reputation as Mr. Perfect-Bring-Home-to-Mom and totally cemented one bachelorette's reputation as that of a hot, obsessive, uber-organized alien cyborg. It was so fucking good.
There is no chance that I make it all the way through this column. First of all, four hours of The Bachelor is just too much Bachelor. Frankly, four hours is too much anything aside from, like, vacations and watching LeBron James pop a molly. Second, how am I going to make fun of the tragic death of a 12-year-old, a crying one-armed woman, and the supposed “sobriety” of Kim Richards without getting sued, fired, or the shit beat out of me? I can’t, I really can’t. I apologize ahead of time to my editors and every single person I am about to write about. Actually, no, I take that back, I apologize to everyone I am about to write about aside from Tierra. I can’t stand Tierra.
After it's all said and done, when you become a truly self-actualized person, you realize that there's nothing more important than love. I know this because I watch reality TV.
This week, the GRTFL showcased the variety of the different loving relationships that are part of this shared human experience. The Bachelor featured AshLee, who spent her time with Sean discussing the ratio of biological-to-adopted children they would have. (It was their first date.) On The Real Housewives (No One Can Remotely Relate To) of Beverly Hills we got to know Marisa, whose love for her husband is a different brand of love — specifically she loves to disrespect and humiliate him in public. And Buckwild? Buckwild featured love in its twilight. Shain Gandee bid adieu to OTP, his pickup truck, with an emotional farewell, “Well Ranger, you have been fun, few threesomes, DUI, few mud holes, snorkel ... you did good.”
While Buckwild failed to deliver a single GRTFL point his week, The Bachelor more than made up for it with dozens of women crying, forcing Sean to kiss them, and faking head trauma to get their butts rubbed. Allow me to explain.
Reality TV presented some unique remedies to common ailments this week. Drug problem? Drink some lemonade. Broken heart? Shoot some shit with a shotgun. Psychological trauma? Jump off a building with a buff blonde, bro. Confused? Read the rest of the column. To be clear, I can’t promise you that any of this will make sense/be effective/not get you killed. So yeah, there’s that.
Is Frank from The Challenge a heartless woman abuser? Will a Beverly Hills Housewife save her marriage with squat thrusts and lamb fetus injections? Are they eating Andrew Bynum boogers on Survivor? Am I the only person still watching Jersey Shore? Just imagine, if the world ended this morning, you would've never read this column and never known the answers to these questions.
Phew! Now that we know Earth wasn’t eaten by the planet Nibiru, we should all just take a moment to appreciate the gift of life, our families, and, of course, Frank The Alcopsychoholic. Especially Frank The Alcopsychoholic.
Remember when The Challenge was full of absinthe-fueled arguments between sociopaths, dudes getting eggs smashed on their faces, and subtextual sexual tension between an ex-gay porn star and an alcopsychoholic? Well, kiss that The Challenge good-bye, ‘cause this week’s episode and next week’s finale are when America’s fifth major sport morphs into something that is much more sport and much less “let’s put some lunatics in a house, give them alcohol, and giggle as they hurt each other’s feelings.” Basically the difference is that now they are vomiting due to physical exertion when before they were vomiting due to one too many cocktails comprised of two parts Everclear, one part Red Bull, and four parts insecurity. To be honest, it’s kinda fun to watch them vomit regardless.
Let me explain. In the late '90s, I made my living hustling tourists at the Empire State Building into going on the “New York Skyride.” The Skyride was a simulation ride, a movie with moving seats that would “take you on a trip to all the major attractions of New York City.” The money was great, hitting on a gazillion tourists was better, but operating the ride itself was the fucking worst.
A stellar Real World relapse and Real Housewives rendezvous made up for what was a snoozy Bachelor Pad this week. With Survivor, Basketball Wives of L.A., and The Challenge set to debut in mere weeks, I'm happily surprised to see the summer crop is still harvesting well. Anyway, the top scorers:
If the Real World can get an entire episode out of a dead barracuda, then we can get an entire podcast out of a dead fish, too. We decided to run it back with the reality TV podcast, covering not only the wildlife of St. Thomas, but also the "Men Tell All" episode of The Bachelorette, the dark reunion show of the Real Housewives of Orange County, and native Atlantan Rembert Browne gives his take on the divisive Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. And if you're looking for new shows to pick up, I fill Jacoby in on the UK's attempt at The Bachelor and he gives me the details on the newest season of Bad Girl's Club. Hopefully this will tide you over until the Bachelorette's three-hour finale extravaganza.
I tried as hard as I could to fight the power of Bravo and Andy Cohen’s “laugh at the entitled” Real Housewives tractor beam, but it’s too strong to resist. We are adding Housewives to the GRTFL. The Real Housewives formula is simple: Six wealthy-but-not-so-wealthy-they-won’t-appear-on-reality-TV women + city + events for them to argue at = television show. The Real Housewives franchise is the ultimate “I only watch because my wife/girlfriend/sister/girl-I-am-stuck-in-the-friend-zone-with-watches-but-secretly-I-can’t-wait-for-the-next-episode" program. I'm not going to sit here and try to sell you on some academic bullshit about how this show’s popularity is fueled by us middle-class folk basking in schadenfreude. I am simply going to confess that I watch it, enjoy it, and am more excited than I should be to write about it every week. There is something groovy about watching women who are paid to act like themselves on camera do their best to display anything but their true selves on camera. Shit, meet show.
Welcome to the first annual GRTFLies Awardsies. I couldn’t think of a good title, so I just added the syllable “eez” to the end of the nouns — that’s how all award shows do it, right? Anyway, since the inception of this enjoyable filter through which we view the deplorable programming known as Reality Television, there have been a slew of people, events, and sexual encounters that deserve special recognition. That last part’s actually not true. Let me rephrase: There have been a slew of people, events, and sexual encounters that would be fun to point and laugh at one more time before clicking and dragging them to the trash can on your mental desktop.
It’s hard to be a person who enjoys reality television. Not only do you have to struggle with the stigma of being the kind of piggy media-vacuum that sucks up big tumbleweeds of TV-watching every day, but you must at some point acknowledge your involvement in creating celebrities out of people who are (or — more likely perhaps — presented as) often scuzzy, vapid, or just downright horrible. You may worry, during some idle hour after watching what you swear will be your last episode of Jersey Shore, if you are responsible for making Snooki (and I should make the distinction between Snooki and Nicole Polizzi, the character on Jersey Shore versus the person none of us know: As with all reality show cast members, there exists the possibility that, like Jessica Rabbit, they aren’t bad, but just drawn that way). You may feel, down to the dark and most honest root of your confused soul, as though you never really cared about Snooki, but in fact you cared enough to train your eyes on her for several seasons. You familiarized yourself with her vernacular and recognized her unflattering likeness on South Park. You had a tent and occupied Jersey Shore in an accidental cultural movement; if you had been alone in your passive interest, it wouldn’t have mattered, but you were one of so many people that, for about a year, you could see the footprint of the show from space, and its halo of hair gel, and its Obey T-shirt.
But there is a show that causes an even bigger self-hate reaction. That show is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.