One of the many benefits to the structure of Survivor is that as soon as things start to look predictable — when one alliance outnumbers the other, when someone loafs around excessively or goes out of his way to act obnoxiously — the whole tribe seems to hear a subconscious buzzer signaling Big Move Time. Big Move Time occurs after the post-merge group has been whittled down to a handful of starving, paranoid, raw-nerved people; it’s a period during which each of the remaining contestants has an idea of how they think they’ll appear to have performed during the game, and how they have to tweak or edit that image in order to progress and eventually appeal to the jury. Dawn has been holding back tears, mostly futilely, for 30-plus days. Now her face is an almost constant grimace — I think she’s trying to appear stoic. She’s chewing the inside of her cheeks off in every challenge trying to prove her physical prowess. Cochran, high off the fumes of a combination of luck and strategy that led to a mini-streak as the “challenge monster,” has turned into something that “would scare [his] mother if she saw [him].” People be power-hungry. People be island-crazy. Each of them knows that they’re an important character in the narrative of Caramoan, because at this point every individual’s plot trajectory contributes in a large way to the outcome of the finale (though Brenda, basically a ghost, is notable mostly as a pawn). Big Move Time separates the stars from the costars, the leaders from the followers. Big Move Time has arrived. It’s a blindside, bitches.
After last week’s crazy tribal council, there was a Grantland e-mail chain during which all of the office Survivor fans discussed Malcolm’s strategy of letting Stealth know that the Three Amigos (if I’m embarrassed to type that, why are they not embarrassed to refer to themselves as that?) were voting for Phillip. A good question was raised: If Malcolm hadn’t named the Specialist, would the favorites’ alliance have started voting for each other out of fear? Mr. Fierman pointed out that if Malcolm had simply announced the three bros were voting together and let the favorites try to sway them, there could have been an interesting and hierarchy-shifting scramble. The problem, though, is that the numbers in the favorites’ alliance is still strong. Unless Eddie, Reynold, and Malcolm are able to pull off some really impressive mind-fuck maneuvers on the remaining six in Stealth, one of them is going home this week. This season lacks a mastermind like Boston Rob or Russell Hantz, and it would take that kind of evil genius to shake up the can enough to explode the unity that Sheppard created with his goofus nicknames and constant check-ins. I’m hoping that in the upcoming episodes, someone (Cochran? Sherri? Andrea?) gets it together and decides to play a little dirty. This season could now use more “Russell seeds,” lies deliberately and carefully planted in little one-on-one shelter gabfests. Sherri, Andrea, and Erik are all prime targets — Erik voted with the meatheads to get rid of the Specialist, Sherri’s one of the last remaining fans, and Andrea has the Eddie connection (their romantic B-plot has been sidelined momentarily, hopefully leading to a Very Special Date episode to follow sometime soon).
You know what? I’ve turned a corner. Week after week, this column is full of pun jokes, insults about physical appearances, and catty comments about the idiocy of the imbeciles of reality TV. I've had enough; this week the GRTFL goes heady. I'm going to intelligently tackle the complicated issues we face as a society and go straight New Yorker in this bitch. Time to show my range. Instead of breaking down the way Selma’s boobs turned on her and tried to strangle her while she was rock climbing, I'd rather address the complications she faces as a Muslim woman finding love in a modern American society. Instead of pointing and laughing at Yolanda for her dedication to domestic perfection, I'd rather use her marriage as a jumping-off point for an essay on how the new gender roles at home affect gender roles at the office. Oh, wait, just remembered, no I wouldn’t. Why fix what isn’t broke? Let’s make fun of these assholes ...
Welcome to Season 3 of the GRTFL! What does that mean? To be honest not much. However, we will be adding a couple new shows to the rotation and bringing back some old favorites. This week we will be adding MTV’s latest in the “Let’s Hope This Catches On Like Jersey Shore Did” genre, Buckwild. Buckwild is basically Jersey Shore if you swapped out all the guidos for rednecks, nightclubs for swimming holes, and alcohol-abusing fame-hungry idiots for, ya know, alcohol-abusing fame-hungry idiots. As we always do when we add new shows to the GRTFL, we drew up some stupid rules and had a stupid draft:
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.
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.
I’m intimidated and a little nervous. When there is a The Challenge episode like the one on Wednesday night, I feel pressure to offer an appropriate GRTFL writeup. I mean, when you get the kind of violence, unbridled misogyny, and rampant lunacy this one episode provided, you owe it to the cast, crew, and audience to honor it. Look, nothing I can possibly write will be worthy of this episode of The Challenge. Nothing. But I will do my best.
OK, fine. I will do my kinda-best. Let’s get into it.
Kim is the one with the ass that launched a thousand ships and a couple of Kanye songs. Khloe is the one with a human soul. Kourtney is the other one. Kylie and Kendall are the ones most likely to sit at the right hand of Randall Flagg in Vegas following a world-devastating pandemic. Rob is the one who is not a factor. But at the end of the day, the true protagonist of E!'s Keeping Up With the Kardashians is Kris Jenner, the brilliant and ruthless CEO/matriarch/puppetmistress/alleged sex-tape distro-deal broker of the Calabasas Kennedys, a family-focused-yet-consequence-blind cable antihero as compellingly loathsome as Walter White, self-described in her Twitter bio as a "MOM, MANAGER, MOMAGER, LOVER OF LIFE, LOVER OF CHRIST." In case you missed it, that's Jesus in fifth place, behind "Momager," a made-up word that is now a registered trademark of Jenner Communications Inc. — and I'm not a religious man, but I'm reasonably sure that loving Christ means not giving the King of Kings the same billing in your Twitter bio that Rick Moranis got on the poster for Ghostbusters.
Imagine you woke up one morning and the sun didn’t rise. Imagine looking in the mirror while brushing your teeth and seeing someone else’s face. Now imagine it is 10 p.m. on a Wednesday and there is no Challenge on MTV. All of those things happened this Wednesday.
OK, sure: The sun came up and you were you in the mirror, but there was no Challenge. No T.J. Lavin, no Under Armour shirts, no Frank the Alcopsychoholic — just the credits to Friday the 13th. I have never hated Halloween more. I would have traded all the happy children, candy, and girls in slutty costumes in the world for The Challenge at that moment. Alas, Challenge-less, the GRTFL must trudge on. Good thing we still have Deena’s morning drinking! Deena’s morning drinking never has a bye week.
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:
Look, I’m smart enough to know that I’m not smart enough to understand all the implications of the breakdown between DirecTV and Viacom. But I would like to point out that one of the results of the breakdown in their negotiations, the fact that I no longer have Viacom channels in my living room, is un-freaking-acceptable. I don’t care how much you charge me, DirecTV — I will pay anything, absolutely anything, to get Real World, Snooki and JWOWW, and Love and Hip Hop Atlanta back in my life because “We have to get me some damn TV. I need my channels back.” You hear me, DirecTV? This has already gone to a weird place. On Thursday night, I considered reading a book.
Here are the leading scorers from a week that really put a spotlight on what is hindering The Bachelorette this season: Emily Maynard can’t carry this show.
Look, I don’t always enjoy watching these shows. Sometimes when I sit there and listen to a wealthy, Botoxed, pilled-up, piss puddle of a human complain about how hard her life is because her Gucci Chihuahua raincoat is the wrong size, I have one of those "How the fuck did this become my life?" moments. You know those moments? When you ask yourself, "If I started right now, how long would it take me to become a Shaolin monk? A dolphin trainer? Olympic curler? Seaside crepe-shack owner? Snuggie inventor?" These fits of introspection can leave you feeling like you don’t have a purpose, like a rudderless dinghy rocking in the wake of the passing speedboats. It’s a big ol’ drag ... until it happens. The moment you realize that you were born to do what you are doing. For me, that's when there's the occasional episode of reality television that is so captivating that when it ends I say to myself, "I can’t wait to write about this." An episode like that reminds me that making semi-offensive, poorly constructed jokes about reality television is what I was built to do.
This episode of The Bachelorette was one of those episodes.
“My wish is pretty simple. It is that I won't be single forever.” — Emily the Bachelorette
Oh Emily, that is both adorable and pathetic. It’s pathorable! But fear not, young lass — there are still a couple decent dudes left on this show vying for your hand in marriage. Like Alejandro, the Colombian master mushroom farmer. Yep, you read that right, there is a mushroom farmer on The Bachelorette. And he’s a G.
Have you ever fallen into Internet quicksand? You know, when you search something simple like “how to do the moonwalk” and that leads to a YouTube instructional video, which leads to a Rock Steady Crew documentary, which leads to the 1983 New York City subway map, which leads to the purchase of the island of Manhattan, which leads to Native American religious theory, which leads to spending three hours of your day exploring the entire Internet for your spirit animal? You haven’t? Weird. You must have, like, a real job, then, because that is what like 80 percent of people under the age of 40 call “a workday.” I fell into one today after googling “The Bachelorette,” and it wasn’t until four hours later, when I came across this creepy video of The Bachelorette host Chris Harrison barnstorming Bachelor watch parties and reviewing the ladies’ GRTFL teams, that I was reminded that I still had to, ya know, write the column this week. Sorry, cute Asian chicks listening for ghosts in Midlothian, Illinois’s haunted Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, I’ve got reality TV to make fun of. I’ll get to you later.
Screw this, we’re adding Survivor to the GRTFL. With the spring reality TV season winding down and the summer trash yet to be lugged out to the televised curb, something had to be done. Plus, this season of Survivor is starting to get good.
If you haven’t been watching Survivor: One World, fear not, you can read Tess Lynch’s so-good-they-kinda-piss-me-off recaps or I can get you all caught up on the first 11 episodes in a couple of sentences. At first there were two tribes, one all men and the other one all women, and they shared the same camp. Nothing happened for two months until all that was left were six hot chicks, a dude named Tarzan, and a dude named Troyzan. Read that last sentence again. Yes, this season of Survivor has basically dwindled down to the premise for a porn flick, and once that happens, well, welcome to the GRTFL …