Bachelorette cast member Eric Hill has died

Eric Hill, one of the suitors on the cast of this summer’s The Bachelorette with Andi Dorfman, has died following a weekend paragliding accident. His sister wrote on Facebook this morning:

“Eric shared his final journey with us this morning as all his immediate family were able to be at his side when he passed away. Thank you to all of your love and support and prayers and fasting. It was amazing to be with so many of his friends and family yesterday in the hospital who came to express their love for Eric. He gave us such a gift of a life fully lived and fully shared, and allowed us all to be a part of his last adventure here on earth. It is hard to think of life without his bright spark, but we know he is on to new adventures. We look forward to carrying on his legacy here and greeting him joyfully again someday. I love you so much, little brother!”

While The Bachelorette is still being filmed, Eric is not one of the final four suitors, according to reports by Reality Steve. However, Eric did have the season’s first one-on-one date, which was photographed by paparazzi.

The Wrap reports that “ABC referred requests for comment to Warner Horizon, which produces the show. A Warner Horizon spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.”

Eric’s attempt to visit all 195 countries in less than 3 years, 3 months, and 6 days was documented on his web site. The Facebook page for his project posted last night that “He is an every day hero. Someone who we can really look up to. He literally lives every moment to its fullest.”

This is actually the best reality TV supercut ever

VH1 has gathered what it says are The 5 Greatest Fan-Made Reality TV Supercuts. It’s hard to argue with 2008’s comprehensive “I’m Not Here to Make Friends,” and Michael Kors’ critiques make me miss him even more.

But first came something even more magical from the now-defunct TVgasm (Real World producers bought it, ruined it, and then shut it down, similar to what happened recently with NBCUniversal’s Television Without Pity). This supercut arrived three years before “I’m Not Here to Make Friends.”

Yes, I’m talking about Julie Chen and “but first,” which highlighted and brought attention to her robotic hosting in a completely new way. It’s still hilarious, with the repetition and the fun bits thrown it at the end.

Even if you’d watched Big Brother and were conscious of Julie Chen’s awkwardly robotic hosting (note: how could you not be?) and her repetition, this was still mind-blowing, especially to see the way she turned exactly the same way and said it with the exact same intonation.

Best of all, a friend showed the video to Julie and she watched it and agreed with us all, declaring, “I am the Chenbot!”, thereby proving that she actually was not, because she could laugh at herself. Top that, “I’m Not Here to Make Friends.”

Voice’s live shows start by silencing one contestant’s voice for 20 seconds

The Voice’s first season-six live show suffered from a major technical problem during a top 12 contestant’s performance.

About 20 seconds of Kristen Merlin’s performance of “Stay,” below, was inaudible because her microphone failed. She removed the monitor in her ear, thinking that was the problem, but she kept singing anyway, finishing the song with its final word as someone handed her a working mic.

Kristen previously had both her battle round performances condensed into brief recaps, so cue the conspiracy theories.

Kristen was praised by the coaches, particularly by Adam, for her professionalism—i.e., not panicking and freaking out, which could help her with viewer votes. In addition, Yahoo’s Lyndsey Parker suggests that, because downloads of the song count as votes, she might receive more votes when viewers seek out the full version because they didn’t hear it on TV.

However, when an awkward post-show interviewer said she might get a sympathy vote, Kristen quickly added, “which I don’t want.”

Bachelorette suitor critically injured

A man who will apparently appear on Andi Dorfman’s season of The Bachelorette this summer was critically injured in a paragliding accident Sunday.

KUTV reported that “[a] 32-year-old paraglider suffered critical injuries after his parachute collapsed near Point of the Mountain in Draper” and “[c]rews found him unconscious but breathing 100 to 150 feet up the mountain. … The medical helicopter transported him to the University of Utah Hospital in critical condition with possible head trauma.” A friend of his said he was in an induced coma and had “severe head trauma.”

News outlets, such as The Salt Lake Tribune; the Salt Lake City Fox affiliate; and KUTV, the Salt Lake City CBS affiliate, have not identified the victim by name, but officials said he was from California.

However, in a public Facebook post, Eric Hill’s sister wrote, “He’s in critical condition after a paragliding accident at Point of the Mountain in Draper.” Her Facebook profile identifies Eric Hill as one of her brothers, and his profile says he’s from California and connects to a Facebook page for his attempt to visit every country on Earth in fewer than 1,200 days. Last month, it teased his appearance on the show last month: “He is off on different kind of adventure (some of you may have already heard) for another month.”

Bachelor spoiler Reality Steve first mentioned this on Twitter, noting—minor spoiler alert—that Eric is Andi’s first one-on-one date of the season. Steve, who recently identified Andi’s final four, previously identified Eric Hill as one of her suitors.


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Survivor memory challenges and Jeff Probst’s dangerous game

Survivor challenges that test the contestants’ memory, such as Wednesday immunity challenge, were unlikely to return to the show for some time—at least until Jeff Probst listened to 17 people on Twitter and changed his mind. Really.

This started with Dalton Ross asking Probst in their weekly Q&A about the Dream Team’s testing of those challenges. As part of his answer, Probst said,

“Personally, I’ve become less and less fond of memory games. We may take a break from them for a while. (No promises, but that’s the gut feeling right now.) They just don’t have enough action to ensure they’ll be exciting, so you are forced to rely on a very close finish, which fortunately we had this week.”

That’s a reasonable answer, even though I disagree; I like variety more than consistent action, and would much rather see a memory challenge than a repeat of a challenge that tests the same skill (endurance, for example).

Anyway, Probst’s response prompted Dalton Ross to have what he describes as “a long back and forth about it discussing the pros and cons” with Probst, who then asked his Twitter followers what they thought. Here’s what Probst said after getting feedback:

“Based on your statement that you actually liked the play along factor of memory challenges — I went to Twitter tonight to ask the fans what they thought. Are memory challenges fun because you can play along or boring to watch? The overwhelming majority was ‘fun to play along!’ So never mind what I said about taking a break from them! They’re back in the rotation! I love getting direct and immediate input from the people who matter most — our fans.”

So, that seems pretty awesome. The executive producer and host of network reality show was willing to be challenged and listen to feedback, and changed plans for the future based on that feedback.

Except: That “overwhelming majority” was, as of right now, 17 out of 18 people who replied to Jeff’s tweet. To be fair, 219 people favorited his tweet; Twitter describes that function as “most commonly used when users like a Tweet” which “can let the original poster know that you liked their Tweet, or you can save the Tweet for later.”

Let’s make the wild assumption that all 219 were letting Probst know they liked his tweet—and not just that they liked that he was asking the question, or that they were bookmarking his tweet, but that they actually like the idea of memory challenges.

So, doing the math:

  • 9.35 million people watched Wednesday’s episode live or DVRed it and watched later that day.
  • 354,252 follow Probst on Twitter.
  • 236 of those people just affected the future of the show.

That’s awesome power. And absurd power.

We have seen this before; three years ago, Probst said a returnee was brought back because of Twitter; the evidence suggested that was Ozzy, even though no one replied to his tweet about bringing Ozzy back and only two people favorited it.

Back then, I agreed with Probst when he tweeted that “complainers typically have a bigger voice than those who enjoy something” and said that hidden immunity idols would have been gone from the game had he listened to those people.

But why listen to the memory challenge complainers and ignore the immunity idol complainers? It’s odd because this isn’t just Probst using feedback to justify his decisions; here, he actually changed his mind. That’s both cool and frightening—frightening because I don’t want the future of one of my favorite shows in the hands of the loudest voices on social media. Read the comments on Survivor’s official Facebook page’s posts and see how comfortable you are with those people making decisions, never mind the fear you’ll have for the future of our species.

I want creative people who work in television to make the best shows they can, making decisions they think are best, even if I don’t like those decisions. Sure, they should be aware of and listen to constructive feedback, and even incorporate that. But a knee-jerk reaction to what a handful of people say online is not a great creative decision. It’s scary, even if the outcome is a change I agree with.

You’ll never laugh more at people crying than with this Real Housewives montage

Jezebel has created a montage of “the best of the worst cries from” Bravo’s The Real Housewives shows: New York, Beverly Hills, Atlanta, New Jersey, D.C., Orange County, and Miami. The result is hilarious footage of sadness—perhaps because, as the headline says, it’s “Real Housewives crying through Botox.”

If you think it’s mean, just wait until you hear what song they’ve set the montage to (hint: it’s “Tears of a Clown”). Watch it here. (By the way, there’s something super-ironic about a Gawker media property not allowing other sites to embed a video they created.)

Survivor’s Tony keeps playing with fire and burning others

After last week’s loss of the best player to play the game, Survivor Cagayan managed to recover with a crazypants episode courtesy of whirlwind Tony. Bravo to the editors for presenting the most coherent, linear version of Tony’s madness as possible, though I still had to pull out my whiteboard and map this out while it was happening.

Fearful that he was in jeopardy because the minority alliance voted against him (!), Tony decided to turn on his own alliance (!!). Instead of doing that directly, he lied to LJ about how worried he was about Woo (!!!) and that led LJ to basically agree Woo had to go (!!!!). Yet when it came to actual strategy talk after the immunity challenge, LJ kept his attention on the minority alliance: Spencer and Jeremiah, who I keep confusing with LJ. While Spencer/Jeremiah votes seemed to be the plan, Tony used the idea he’d planted with LJ to suggest that LJ was really the threat for turning on their alliance, and got his alliance to vote LJ out (!!!!!). That was most incredible to watch when Tony told Woo that LJ was targeting him, when, of course, it was Tony who’d targeted Woo.

I need a drink.

Tony’s game play strikes me as brilliant and insane all at once. It’s not quite out of control, but runs up against that line all the time. If Tony makes it to the finals I’d say he has a solid case; he’s spent much of this season dropping lit matches into a gas tank and has not been burned yet.

Earlier, after winning reward, Spencer told Tony his minority alliance of three were simply “pawns on the board.” All three of them ended up voting for LJ. In other words, the vote wasn’t even along alliance lines, though several members of the dominant alliance voted for Jeremiah as a back-up.

Tangent: I’m thrilled rewards are back but also remember fondly those days when rewards actually meant going someplace spectacular, not to a chair and camp shower set up on a beach.

I was glad to see a mental immunity challenge, which Tasha won, thanks to her ability to retain basic information—colors, in order—while listening to Jeff Probst babble on and on and on. Seriously, I don’t think keeping the colors in order was the challenge here; the challenge was keeping them in order throughout the long, drawn out process of showing one tile at a time while Probst did commentary. Just watching, I was thinking this.

That also seemed to be what everyone was doing at Tribal Council, talking around their collective decision to dump El Jay as Probst prodded. The most reaction came from the jury bench, such as when Sarah looked like she was going to jump up and beat Tony over the head with a torch when he was talking about trust and then identified himself as a construction worker.

Next week, Woo falls out of a tree (!!!!!!).

Top Chef spin-off gets new name, host; hit reality shows with black audiences ignored; NatGeo shake-up

Our semi-regular round-up of stories you may have missed:

  • The top executives at National Geographic’s U.S. channels, Howard T. Owens and David Lyle, are unexpectedly leaving. The channels’ marketing executive, Courteney Monroe, takes over as CEO, and 21st Century Fox’s David Hill becomes chair of the U.S. channels. The Hollywood Reporter’s analysis says last year “ratings surged to 12-year highs” but “growth stalled, and no truly viable unscripted hit has been produced.” (Uh, Brain Games?) But Deadline notes that the channels’ high ratings following the executives’ “makes the executive housecleaning puzzling” but “follows speculation about a discord between Hill and NGC’s leadership team of Lyle and Owens who turned the network around in the past three years.” Variety confirms that by reporting “Lyle and Owens at times clashed with execs on the Nat Geo Society side.”
  • Last weekend’s edition of The Hollywood Reporter magazine explores Race and Reality: The Quiet Success of the Black Unscripted Boom, says that it’s “one of the biggest trends in television” that reality series with mostly black cast members—such as The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Basketball Wives—are hits but their networks don’t mention that they have largely black audiences, perhaps because “there long has been a disparity between advertising revenue for white viewers — black audiences still command smaller rates for networks.”
  • Bravo announced last week that its summer series Top Chef Extreme will be retitled Top Chef Duels and hosted and judged by Curtis Stone. Of course it will. And that significantly reduces my interest in the show. I do not understand the obsession with him at Bravo; he was perfectly likable on Celebrity Apprentice but is grating as a host/judge, inserting himself way too often on Top Chef Masters. The other judges are better: Gail Simmons appears to be the other permanent judge, with appearances by Wolfgang Puck, Hugh Acheson, and others.
  • If you want to make yourself sad, read all the other reality series Bravo is working on, such as Friends to Lovers?, Manzo’d with Children, and Euros of Hollywood.
  • Bravo’s Princesses: Long Island was quietly cancelled.
  • Piers Morgan’s cancelled show will be replaced by reality series and documentaries, including what essentially is the revival of Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs and what is essentially the revival of Lisa Ling’s cancelled OWN series Our America (the new show is “a gritty, breathtaking journey to far corners of America, immersing herself in sub-cultures that are unusual, bizarre and sometimes dangerous,” kind of like her old show). Other series include The Hunt with John Walsh, which “will tell stories of ongoing international criminal investigations in which the suspect is a fugitive at large.”
  • Jersey Shore production company 495 Productions, which was recently acquired by Fremantle, is the target of a class-action lawsuit filed by a former editor who claims 495 had “unfair business practices and saying they failed to pay for overtime work, violated minimum wage laws and acted improperly in other ways.”
  • The GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Program went to Fuse’s Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce.
  • So You Think You Can Dance host Cat Deely is starring in Hulu’s series Deadbeat; she told Emmy magazine, “I get to play a real baddie” but the switch to this kind of role “terrified me.”
  • The “surprising laid-back process” of auditioning for The Bachelor.
  • Bachelorette couple Trista and Ryan Sutter are among the reality star couples who will appear on WEtv’s Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars.
  • The trailer for Lifetime’s upcoming True Tori “looks uncomfortably real,” which is a surprise after all the scripted crap that Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott produced for Oxygen.
  • Middletown, New Jersey, is “discussing requiring TV and movie crews to obtain film permits because of the explosion of reality TV home-rebuilding shows since superstorm Sandy,” The Asbury Park Press reports. Jersey Shore The Situation’s new show The Sorrentinos will film in the town soon, though officials said this new ordinance is unrelated.
  • Why Neil deGrasse Tyson was selected to host Fox and National Geographic’s COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey.
  • Time suggests Five Pop Culture Documentaries That Hollywood Should Make
  • The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real is an annual “nonfiction showcase” that this year “features new work from around the world alongside retrospective selections by both known and unjustly forgotten filmmakers. It is a platform for filmmakers and artists who have given us a wider view of nonfiction cinema and at the same time brought the form full circle, back to its early, boundary-pushing days.” The New Yorker describes it as “extraordinary” and discusses its evidence that “documentaries have always been fake.”
  • Lindsay Lohan told David Letterman that her OWN show Lindsay was “a really interesting experience” and but said things were “taken out of context,” and said “I don’t have control of the editing.”
  • There’s a new The X Factor knock-off coming (HA) called The Sex Factor, which calls itself “a reality competition where eight guys and eight girls will compete for porn stardom and a ONE MILLION DOLLAR PRIZE. None of the sixteen contestants have been filmed before and America will vote to decide the winners.” It’ll be hosted by Duke University porn star Belle Knox.
  • An injury suffered by the person behind a “reality pub” in Buffalo, NY, means that it won’t open for now. The bar, Fat Augie’s, is a “bar and live music venue that had planned to film willing employees, patrons and performers for a YouTube reality show,” The Buffalo News reports.
  • Pawn Stars Chumlee, aka Austin Russell, who did not die last month, but has lost 75 pounds.
  • This short film, “An & Ria’s First flight,” follows two 70-something women who take their first flight. (You may have seen Ria on a roller coaster.) It’s sponsored by Vodafone—hence all the product integration, never mind the private jet—but it’s incredibly moving for an advertisement.
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