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December 04, 2006

Bad TV

By Harley

I meant to discuss some droll topic this week, like the Iraq summit, but then something Really Important occurred. My Wednesday night writers group took the night off and I caught a double feature:

America’s Next Top Model and The Biggest Loser.

I discovered ANTM in a hotel room last year and sat through five back-to-back episodes. It was an America’s Next Top Model marathon, a harmonic convergence that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let me change channels. Weeks later, I discovered The Biggest Loser.

For the uninformed, ANTM is a bunch of really skinny girls passionately working to perfect their walk and hair in order to win a modeling contract. LOSER is a bunch of really overweight people doing a lot of aerobic activity and shrinking. Both shows feature contestants living together and saying things on camera that are so not-in-their-best-interest you have to wonder if they’ve ever watched reality TV. Both shows feature crying.

The Models have challenges like being beautiful while riding elephants and getting stuffed in phone booths. The Losers have challenges like sprinting through football stadiums doing The Wave.

The Models are not intrinsically interesting, because they have no life experience and no aspirations beyond finding a good waterproof mascara. There’s no back-story. The Losers have back-stories. They have families they miss (the Models have families too, but close contact with Tyra Banks presumably compensates for that loss) and real jobs and children and they’re always on the edge of tears, due to chocolate cravings or an abundance of endorphins. The models live on the verge of tears too, also weak from hunger, but they have the added stress of being ridiculed for their knobby knees, their inability to look relaxed while suffering from food poisoning during a photo shoot and their lack of personality. Or excess of personality. Or wrong personality. They are one snide comment away from a nervous breakdown.

The snide comments are delivered by judges, people who are either themselves Top Models, albeit—how to put this delicately?—elderly. Or they’re designers, photographers and stylists, exuding fashion sans compassion. Except for Twiggy, who’s turned into someone you could envision gorging on crumpets with, and Tyra herself, who delivers the Bad News (you will NOT be America’s Next Top Model, Tiffania”) in a sad, yet firm, “I’m telling you this for your own good, you’re just too damn short” voice. These are not people you’d want around you.

The Losers, on the other hand, get enormous emotional support. They’ve been airlifted out of real life, where the world has ridiculed their love handles, and dropped into Happy Ranch, where personal trainers cheerfully turn them into Marines.

And while they do vote each other off the ranch, they always cry about it. Plus, there’s a mathematical angle, something about total body mass percentage, so that Barney, at 469 pounds and Clarissa, at a mere 238, have the same chance each week at being the Biggest Loser. Weigh-ins take place in a Fellini-esque ceremony on a huge platform stage, with a scale display like a Vegas roulette wheel.

Well, that’s it, actually. Writers Group is back in session this week, so I can’t see the season finales. Nor have I any social commentary to offer. In this, I remain a mystery to myself.

I do see two possibilities. Feel free to uh, weigh in:

____ Harley, you’re experiencing the dialectic of your inner Fat/Thin being played out in a public arena, making the Existential Loneliness of Life less searing.
____ Harley, you have a taste for the cultural equivalent of marshmallow fluff.
____ Other

Happy Monday!


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"They are one snide comment away from a nervous breakdown."

That is going to be on a T-shirt someday soon. Perhaps it can be added to the TLC catalog along with the tiaras and the Bitch Slap Cancer bumper stickers.

Harley - I'll take "Other" and write in a candidate, as I have in so many recent elections: Classic train wreck. You just can't look away.

Thanks for another great blog.

Whatever happened to the Bumper Stickers? Did anyone get them printed????

I can't really say anything about this except don't feel all alone Harley. I have a shameful addiction to DEAL OR NO DEAL (ten seconds and I'm hooked for the hour). Plus, being the owner of a matched set of love handles that arrived when I turned 37 and refuse to depart (and double damned if I submit to Boot Camp or surgery for them. Boot Camp would probably put me in ICU what with all the parts that have already been broken and abused, and as for surgery, SURGERY, to wear a smaller suit size?) I'll stay Bigg, Dum, and Stoopid Looking, thanks.

Harley, Harley, Harley. Here I imagined you reading tattered copies of obscure 19th century poetry in your off-hours. Like me. (NOT!!!)

I have been having snotty feelings about reality shows all these years. How can intelligent people lower themselves? To participate as well as watch? Then I discovered the Dallas Cowboy cheerleader show in which tyrannical bitches terrorize pathetically under-edcuated young women to perform tacky dances so they win the right to spend even more time with the tyrannical bitches. I don't get it---and yet I am glued.

I am very impressed, though, that you attend a weekly writers group. That kind of dedicate deserves reward.

Oh, William, Pardon My Ignorance (PMI) but what is Deal or No Deal? Yes, Nancy, mostly I do live under a rock. (and when's that cheerleader show on?)

I think that everyone with access to a television has one guilty pleasure reality show. There really is one for every personality, though I am afraid of further analysis of that thought. Due to Tivo, I don't know about the previously mentioned shows.

My show is Project Runway, followed religiously by the blog Project Rungay. I placate myself by saying that "atleast" Runway is about creativity and craft. It amazes me what people can make in so little time for so little money. The good thing is that it is seasonal, so I can get on with my life.

Ah, Harley.... DOND has Howie Mandel of all people bluffing and counter bluffing a contestant who chooses one attache case at random that may or may not have 1 Million Dollars in it. Over the course of the game, same contestant has to choose from among 25 other attache cases with values ranging from .01 to 750K. Add in a Banker who will offer lower amounts if the contestant gives in. Example: the 1M case is still unknown, the Banker will offer 300K if the contestant folds. (This is an over-simplified version of it, but it covers the basics). It's on NBC several times a week. Try it once, you'll be hooked!

The thought of those briefcases makes me think one of them is holding an explosive. Too much Bond in my head.

Who'd've thought briefcases could be riveting TV?

Tell me about it, H. Flipping channels, I try and skip right past it, I really do. For some odd reason, it's shamefully addicting....

Looks like someone saw CASINO ROYALE...:)

Harley, DO NOT watch Deal or No Deal. Ever. It's evil. Because if, for instance, you even once sit in a chair in the same room as your husband while DOND is on the TV, just to keep hubby company, you know, you may end up just like me, having to admit the following:

"My name is Ramona (Hi Ramona!)and because of my husband, I'm addicted to the dumbest show on the planet."

I'm doing you a favor here. Howie Girls just doesn't have the same ring as Bond Girls, does it?

Saw the cheerleader show. Those rookies are sooooooooooooo young. Isn't there more to life than shaking it all on a football field? I do admit a guilty addiction to Dr. 90210. Even tho I find most doctors on the show to be egotistical playing God narcissists........I cannot turn it off. Oh and the REAL housewives of Orange County. HAHA! I lived in Irvine for 10 years total and Coto de Caza is not real anything! I enjoy identifying places in the background. Yes and some day I could be your nurse. Scary, ey?

Saw the cheerleader show. Those rookies are sooooooooooooo young. Isn't there more to life than shaking it all on a football field? I do admit a guilty addiction to Dr. 90210. Even tho I find most doctors on the show to be egotistical playing God narcissists........I cannot turn it off. Oh and the REAL housewives of Orange County. HAHA! I lived in Irvine for 10 years total and Coto de Caza is not real anything! I enjoy identifying places in the background. Yes and some day I could be your nurse. Scary, ey?

Maybe it depends on the show. Gene Rayburn, now he should have been at the top. Wink Martindale, no so much.

I have NO desire to watch Top Model. I've caught Loser a few times and always had to flip the channel before I signed myself up (a vaca from the kids AND weight loss! HOOYAAAAAAAHHHH).

In the pantheon of show biz, just where does Game Show Host fall, I wonder?

Yes, but Cece, consider that most vacations don't come with roommate assignments. I think we're talking Summer Camp here.

Rayburn has to get points for Match Game - the whole panel was drinking and smoking during the show.

And Charles Nelson Reilly's ascots? Luscious.

That Dating Game host always gave me the creeps. A little too smoooooth or something. Ditto for Richard Dawson kissing everyone on the mouth in the original Family Feud. And poor Monty Hall - I kept expecting one of those dames to deck him.

Ooh, sign me up for one of those shirts! I’m not a fan of any reality show, or really any TV show, except 24. The fast pace show is about the only thing to hold my incredible short attention span (average 12 seconds) for the entire hour. The resident male is still fascinated by this accomplishment.

I was much too highbrow for "reality" tv. Then last season I watched American Idol for the first time. I ended up screaming at the TV weekly, planning my life around Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and crying piteously when my boy Chris got kicked off.

Does "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition" count too? Because I also occasionally cry piteously at that. And I confess to watching "The Apprentice." But only Trump's hair makes me cry there.

All this crying - maybe I should check out the models.

YES! YES! Our old au pair got me into Extreme Makeover and I defy anyone to watch it and not break into piteous sobs at the big reunion moment.

Oh. Wait. I don't know about the Home Edition. I'm talking about the one where everyone gets AT LEAST new teeth.

I have to confess I've never seen American Idol, but since I read US magazine I feel I get the complete exegesis. Same with Dancing with the Stars (known as "DWTS")-- a show I have never seen, yet I know everything there is to know about Emmitt Smith and Mario Lopez. It's the Cliff Notes version of watching reality tv.

My husband and kids went through a wild phase of obsession with "DOND," when it first started. My husband used to say it taught them math skills!

Too true, Michele. I believe Alan Greenspan attributed his abilities to an endless hours spent watching THE PRICE IS RIGHT in college.

I think the most sadistic reality t.v. show I watched was "Average Joe."

The model was a hot babe and the Average Joes were.....special. After a few weeks of elimination, the producers would ship in pretty boy hunks and change the dynamic. In the end, the fabulous looking Babe chose the hunk and the Joe was left at the alter.

One of the Average Joes got his own show and met desparate women. Eventually the Average Joe hat a choice between the hot babe and the good girl. Guess which one he chose???

NBC must have received some hostile communication. NBC finally did a last "Average Joe" and the geek got the girl, while the hunk was left in tears.

Hey Harley, when is Wollie's next adventure coming out? This "Average Joe" has too much time on his hands!

I loved Average Joe. I mourn its passing.

My next book, DEAD EX, doesn't come out till August so you're going to have to fill the long hours until then with . . . well, bad TV. Thanks for asking, Cinema Dave.

Bad TV....Worse movies.

The lovely and amazingly talented J. Carson Black has let me shoot my mouth off on her blog this evening:


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