With the triumphant return of America’s fifth major sport, MTV’s The Challenge, the 2012 GRTFL vintage is now more complex — with an added aroma of desperation, a savory sexiness, and an even stronger kick of “I can’t believe I am this excited about watching sociopaths cover themselves in honey to win a cash prize.” So allow me to be your sommelier and shamelessly pour you a glass (or 15) of the naughty nectar. There is a lot to take in this week and it is best to be a bit intoxicated while we take a meticulously detailed deep-dive into the lives of those who are always intoxicated. This week in the top scorers we have the Bill Belichick of Bachelorettes, friend of Grantland Johnny Bananas, and a Jersey boardwalk lass that we at GRTFL headquarters had subconsciously attempted to will out of existence. Sorry, Sammi.
I’ve been putting off doing a podcast for weeks. It is an odd feeling being in charge of the Grantland Network and calling your own number. I bet Pete Rose didn’t have any trouble putting himself in the lineup when he was player-manager of the Reds, but I am no Pete Rose. It was a fantastic time, though. Once Bill and I started breaking down the melee that occurred on Basketball Wives LA this week, that familiar “knowing this much about these reality TV shows is kind of embarrassing but this is way too much fun to care” feeling came back and off we were. We started talking about The Challenge: Rivals, and we called the show's winner, Johnny Bananas. Mr. Bananas exceeded expectations as a guest. He candidly spoke about the prison-like conditions of The Challenge set, the Mount Crazymore of female Challenge contestants, the hosting circuit, and his lawsuit against HBO. Then he went off to continue bachelor-partying in Dewey Beach, Delaware, because, you know, he’s Johnny Bananas.
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.
In case you hadn't noticed, the Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League is stupid. It's a league in which reality-show cast members were drafted onto teams to score points for reprehensible behavior. Participating in such a league makes you question things. Such as your intelligence, your priorities, and whether C.T. will commit cannibalism during this season of The Challenge.
The GRTFL draft is a lot like the NBA draft — nervous general managers shape their franchises by selecting players based on past performance, Internet reports, and how cool their names sound (Love in the Wild's Steele Dewald was our Bismack Biyombo). But instead of evaluating a pick’s potential to defend, rebound, or score, the GRTFL GMs looked at less easily quantifiable qualities such as emotional instability, tendency to respond to conflict with violence, and, of course, vomitability. These character traits won't get you invited to dinner parties, but they'll certainly score you points in the GRTFL, in which stats are compiled by league commissioner Katie Gorman on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet so detailed that, if it were ever printed out, you'd hear the far-off screech of undiscovered species in the Brazilian rainforest becoming extinct. The scores for the first three weeks of league play have been totaled, and it's clear that the inclusion of MTV’s The Challenge: Rivals (which premiered on Wednesday) is going to shake things up.
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.