Survivor’s magnanimous, selfless queen graciously steps aside to let others play

Morgan may have been voted out during last night’s Survivor Cagayan Tribal Council, but her impact on the tribe was illustrated, literally, on the votes. Her fellow tribe members cared so much about her that they not only took the time to adorn her one of her votes with a portrait of her amazing body, but they also gave her the title she deserved: Queen Morgan.

Morgan exits the game as one of the best and most selfless players in its history. She graciously stepped aside and let other people take the spotlight. She never once tried to selfishly affect the outcome of challenges or make friends, but instead let others actively play the game they’d flown to the Philippines to play.

Morgan was such a powerful and well-liked player that she was able to be voted out despite Jeff Probst’s badgering of her tribemates to keep her and do something more interesting at Tribal Council. By explaining how she deserved to stick around until the very end where she could let someone else win, Probst enhanced her reputation so much that the majority of the tribe, in awe of her amazingness, was compelled to write her name down.

“I just want to say how proud I am of myself,” she said during her exit interview. Demonstrating how she places others first, Morgan added, “They can say whatever they want at tribal, that I was spiteful or that I was lazy, but I could care less.” That’s just so awesome: Morgan actually could do less caring, but she doesn’t! Whoever cast her deserves a bonus.

While Morgan was “used to things being easy for me and not having to work that hard to get things,” as she humbly confessed, her fellow tribe members were never aware of her position in life. They were instead so entranced by her luxurious softness and the comfort that Tony compared her to the very thing that gives him comfort for about one-third of every day: a pillow.

Of course Morgan’s team won the reward challenge and got to appreciate the labors of CBS’ ad sales department, because Morgan was there. Why did Spencer and LJ finish their puzzle so fast even though the other team were in the lead? Because Morgan was standing there, distracting the other team with her radiance and assisting her team by casting a glow onto their puzzle.

Because she is so fond of working with other people, Morgan even participated in the episode’s highlight (I mean, the highlight other than every moment when Morgan was on screen): a search for the Tyler Perry idol to make sure everyone understood the gravity of what was happening.

The clue Spencer found at the reward triggered by what was perhaps the most comical idol-searching series of events ever, all filmed exceptionally well: Woo stalking Spencer, Spencer leaving his clue on his pants, Woo running back to tattle to the others, everyone running around and shouting about the idol, Spencer eventually uncovering and stuffing the idol in his shorts while Kass stood nearby.

Morgan foreshadowed the events that would permit Spencer to discover the idol: At the beginning of the episode, she gave Kass a pep talk, using all of her rhetorical skills to help Kass’ self-esteem (yes, Morgan took time to do that: she’s just that amazing).

Of course, someone as attractive as Morgan never would have just stood by and let Spencer uncover an idol without her noticing; someone as attractive as Morgan would have told someone else to watch Spencer carefully while Morgan took on the difficult task of making sure the floor of the shelter remained firmly in place.

She excelled so much at doing nothing that she lasted a full 25 minutes in the immunity challenge, which involved standing completely still, which you may have noticed is one of her many strengths. She outlasted four people, but because she’s so gracious, she let four other people battle it out for immunity. Spencer finally won, making a face the whole time that clearly said, I am thinking about Morgan and winning this for her.

Without Morgan, I’m not sure where this season is going to go. I fully expect Probst to announce the return of Redemption Island next week, because if there’s anyone deserving of a second chance, it’s someone like Morgan.

Dancing With the Stars’ producer leaving for Fox show

Executive producer and showrunner Conrad Green will leave Dancing with the Stars at the end of this season to produce Fox’s Utopia. He’s been with the ABC show since its first season.

Green told Deadline—in a very press release-y statement—that the show he created at ABC “has thrived and become a cultural phenomenon. But after almost 10 years, the opportunity to take on a project with the immense potential of Utopia was simply too good to pass up. The ambition and scale of the challenge is thrilling. I’ll miss everyone I’ve worked with on Dancing With the Stars and look forward to this next exciting chapter.”

Of course, as Deadline notes, “the ratings for Dancing have come down and, starting last fall, the show went from two to one episode a week.” While it’s not exactly the Titanic he’s leaping from, it’s certainly no longer the cultural phenomenon it once was.

Utopia is a year-long show with elements of Big Brother and Survivor that’s being adapted from the popular Netherlands series. Green will produce along with Jon Kroll, who previously worked on Big Brother, The Amazing Race, and other shows, such as Amish in the City, which he created.

How do I become a Survivor Dream Team member? Survivor’s risks vs. Amazing Race’s staleness

I’ve been reading your articles pretty much daily for quite a few years now, and I came across one a couple weeks ago about how a Survivor Dream team member actually got his idea for a challenge on the air.

I know you said you’re not a producer, and I understand that. But I was hoping and wondering if you could at least give me an idea of where to turn or how I should go about this. I know you said you don’t have any one’s e-mails, but if you could just give me your opinion on how I should go about this, I’d be really appreciative because I have zero clue. —Josh

How to hired as a Dream Team member seems to be the greatest Survivor mystery. Dream Teamers work on building challenges in the art department, and help with camera and other equipment. Of course, there’s also the fun part: testing challenges and serving as stand-ins, especially for helicopter shots of the challenges.

The mystery of how to get hired is heightened because stories about how people became Dream Teamers can make it seem both easily accessible and impossibly difficult. Dream Team members have been hired because they knew someone on production, were hired locally where the show is being filmed, or managed to get the attention of challenge producer John Kirhoffer by sending a letter to production.

My best advice: Be creative but not annoying. Be persistent, but not annoying. Show how passionate you are but don’t act entitled. Don’t give up after not hearing anything immediately (this person heard back a year later).

I think there are many people who want to do this, but probably very few who want it bad enough to really do the work. Some people literally Google and then give up. What is that work? I honestly don’t know, and I think that’s because there is not one path to the Dream Team. Make phone calls. Look at what past Dream Teamers have done. Create something attention-getting. Try multiple things.

Whatever you do: Have fun, and good luck!

Survivor and The Amazing Race have both been on TV for over ten years, but in my opinion, one of these has managed to keep their show fresh while the other has grown stale. I suspect you might know which might be which.

Due to its restricted budget, after Heroes Vs. Villains, Survivor has been trying out new ideas and twists such as Redemption Island, two tribes on one beach, more returning players, Blood Vs Water and so on. The Amazing Race, on the other hand, is essentially the same every season with the exception of the rather boring Express Pass.

Do you think Survivor’s risk taking is the reason why it has been improving in ratings and recently beating American Idol for the first time? And do you think if it returned to its organic format, where every season featured 16-20 new players divided into two tribes with no new twists, would it still be as engaging to viewers? —Niall

I’m not so sure I can answer this so much as I can agree with it: yes to all of the above.

While more than one of Survivor’s changes have made me cringe and/or flip out, the constant innovation has ultimately kept the show interesting. The past few years have been consistently entertaining, even despite dark spots.

Meanwhile, I ultimately stopped watching The Amazing Race not because it needed to fix itself but because the show changed the wrong things. Worse, it was boring. Every season is the same thing over and over again. For a while, you could have said that about Survivor game play, but not any more.

I have barely watched this season of American Idol, because ultimately it’s still the same show that it was last year, just with different judges and different editing. The changes are ultimately cosmetic, and for an industry that’s risk-averse, that makes sense.

The brilliance of Survivor’s changes over the past 14 years is that it’s managed to keep its external appearance but alter parts of its DNA. The show is now like a Star Trek alien: still recognizably humanoid but with different physical features and values.

By keeping relatively the same structure and appearance, the production has avoided freaking out and industry that’s so risk-averse, but has also given itself a lot of room to play and see what works. Some of that is endemic to the format, and some of it is the decisions the producers have made. Together, they’ve kept the show alive long past anyone thought it might survive.

Have a question? Ask me! I’ll do my best to answer.

Weather Channel cuts reality TV to make DirectTV happy

DirecTV and The Weather Channel’s public spat over money has ended after three months, resulting in the network conceding by cutting its reality TV in half during weekdays. In a joint press release, the companies said “The Weather Channel agreed to reduce reality programming by half on weekdays.”

The network’s CEO, David Kenny really didn’t conceal who was making concessions here and who was running scared: “Our apologies to DirecTV and their customers for the disruption of our service and for initiating a public campaign. Our viewers deserve better than a public dispute and we pledge to reward their loyalty with exceptional programming and more.”

Variety reports that this “will not affect Weather Channel’s primetime lineup or future programming development, according to a spokeswoman for Weather Channel,” but has resulted in some weekday repeats being replaced with live weather.

Meanwhile, DirecTV’s chief content officer Dan York bragged how the changes: “I know this was frustrating for many of our customers, but their patience was ultimately rewarded with a better deal and a better product.”

DirecTV previously made a hilarious argument, insisting people didn’t “don’t want to watch a weather information channel with a forecast of a 40% chance of reality TV.” Apparently, a 20 percent chance of reality TV is a more acceptable forecast.


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Someone please help this man find a home for his Disney, arcade memorabilia

A man who previously appeared on Hoarders is looking for a home for his hoard, which is not what you’d expect (i.e. feces, dead things, or trash). Instead, it’s culturally, nostalgically, and potentially even monetarily valuable things: antique arcade games plus Walt Disney World and other theme park artifacts.

Randy Senna appeared on Inside Edition recently and besides admitting to his hoarding (“I am the good hoarder. Just because you hoard things doesn’t mean you live in filth and have all kinds of dead animals and buckets of urine. My hoarding classification comes from the fact that I have accumulated so much that it is life-encumbering”), he had a plea.

“If I were to find to the right venue where a museum could be created—whether it’s through a large organization like Disney or Universal Studios, or through a state or government agency—I would donate everything … to that cause,” he said. After 14 years in Wildwood, New Jersey, his awesome collection in a former Woolworths is still not open to the public due to never-resolved issues with the city. Randy described his memorabilia as “priceless to me and to most people who appreciate Americana.”

Randy was featured on the 2011 episode of Hoarders that I went behind the scenes for Playboy. Prior to Hoarders, Randy ran a boardwalk arcade, but closed it to take care of his parents.

“I need to get this stuff out before I go,” he told Inside Edition. “I need to get it set up so it can live on. So that once it gets donated to the museum, then I can set it up for them, document it for them, and the history of it. And then I’m free to depart.”

Hopefully, that heartbreaking plea will reach the right person somewhere.

Nick Cannon booed trying to fake a shot for America’s Got Talent at Knicks game

America’s Got Talent’s host Nick Cannon was repeatedly booed at a New York Knicks game last Wednesday at Madison Square Garden while trying to film a segment for the show during which he faked a trick shot. It’s unclear whether the crowd was booing his faked shot or the way it was being used to film some unnecessary crap for an NBC reality competition.

In the video below, before Cannon hands off the mic to a producer, he is booed so loudly that he’s virtually inaudible. The producer tells the crowd that “when his shot goes in, everybody’s going to go crazy”—telling the crowd to lie, basically. Then, Nick Cannon returns and says “America’s Got Talent, I’m your host…” and the crowd’s loud booing returns.

In the clip below, filmed by someone in the crowd, judges Howard Stern and Howie Mandel are visible when Cannon has to re-shoot his intro to the faked shot and the crowd boos again. They’re standing on the side of the court with someone who looks like judge Heidi Klum from the back.

ESPN reported that:

“Cannon told the crowd he would pretend to make a trick shot and asked fans to cheer when the shot was supposed to go in. Cannon explained that through the magic of TV, the trick shot is supposed to go in to make him look like a good basketball player even though he cracked that he’s not. … Of course, Knicks fans didn’t seem to be in a cooperating mood as they booed Cannon the majority of the time. When they were supposed to cheer after he throws up his trick shot and it goes in, some did cheer.”

It’ll be interesting to see if any of this impossibly stupid bunch of bullshit makes it on the show, and if it does, whether editors who help Nick Cannon make the faked shot also replace the booing with fake cheers.

Biggest Loser Rachel gains weight; Naked and Afraid butt maggots; game jam reality show walk-out

  • Biggest Loser winner Rachel Frederickson previously defended her disturbing weight loss by only saying that her “body is going to balance and find its rhythm with maintenance and it’ll be perfect,” and Rachel now says she’s reached that perfection: “I’ve gone up about 20 pounds. I think I’m at my perfect weight!”
  • Naked and Afraid’s March 23 was set in Madagascar, and one of its participants, Jeff Zausch, blogged “14 ‘secret’ behind the scenes facts.” Most horrifyingly, he reveals that a wound on his butt crack had unexpected consequences: “flies laid eggs in my wound and they grew into maggots!” He also reveals that the head of the lizard he bit off ended up on a spear, where it mocked a camera operator: “I named him after ‘Joe’ the cameraman, who was a jerk!”
  • The Hollywood Reporter’s editors chose 2014’s top 25 reality players; $1 is Mark Burnett, followed by Gordon Ramsay and Ryan Seacrest.
  • Animal Planet Canada cancelled its broadcast of the third season season of Call of the Wildman, following the horrifying revelations that the show’s shameful practice of staging scenes with trapped animals led to injuries and/or death, though the network insisted no animals were hurt. The Canadian network only said the show “has not been resonating with Canadian audiences.”
  • The production company behind Lindsay Lohan’s series, Lindsay, asked Toronto Mayor Rob Ford about doing his own show. The Globe and Mail reports that a Pilgrim Studios exec wrote on an e.mail, “I’m writing because I’m interested in speaking with you and Mayor Ford about the possibility of developing an unscripted television project together.”
  • Following a live jump off Everest in May, Discovery will broadcast Skyscraper Live with Nik Wallenda in the fall, during which he “will attempt to cross the Chicago skyline, untethered,” like he did over the Grand Canyon last year.
  • One of A+E Networks channels will air a show called Married at First Sight, on which six people meet each other and get married that very second. Later, they’ll decide whether or not to stay together. If that seems backwards, well, yes.
  • Relativity Television is producing a reality series that follow players in the women’s tackle football league Legends.
  • Game Jam, a Mountain Dew-sponsored show, was supposed to follow independent game developers, but instead its cast walked off the show following sexist questions from a producer. Polygon has a detailed report that includes links to blog posts by contestants about it, and a link to a report by a journalist who was on location: How The Most Expensive Game Jam In History Crashed And Burned In A Single Day.
  • New Yorkers will film themselves for an AOL series called Connected, an Israeli format.
  • The Taste judge Nigella Lawson wasn’t allow to fly from the UK to L.A. because she admitted to cocaine use during a recent trial; the United States embassy now says she can apply for a visa and that “these matters are generally handled routinely and expeditiously.” Her fellow ABC reality show judge, Anthony Bourdain, tweeted: “I am absolutely mortified with embarrassment over the cruelty and hypocrisy of US actions re: #Nigella travel. Unbelievable.”
  • Sometimes reality shows become more about advertising than actual show content—NBC’s American Dream Builders, I’m looking at you—but sometimes pure advertising is worth sharing. Honey Maid’s new graham cracker ad—which features families including a single father, an interracial family, and two fathers with a kid—received a lot of predictable reaction online, and they responded in a really interesting way. Get out your tissues:
  • Try not to be inspired by this man’s amazing passion and patience

    I haven’t seen a film as simultaneously charming, inspiring, and thought-provoking as Tim’s Vermeer in a long time, perhaps ever. While the documentary details Tim Jenison’s quest to discover and reproduce how Johannes Vermeer painted in the 1600s, and explores ideas about art and technology, it’s ultimately just absurdly fun.

    Tim’s Vermeer is directed by Teller, whose partner in magic and other TV shows, Penn Jillette, narrates the film and appears in it; Tim Jenison is a friend of the magicians, so Teller was there with cameras from nearly the start of his experiments, showing Jillette how he painted a portrait of his father-in-law despite never having painted before.

    But it’s Jenison himself who carries the entire thing. He’s a made-for-TV personality, and I say that as a compliment: articulate, funny, passionate. I’d watch a weekly series during which he tinkered with things. When I watched, the theatre audience simultaneously gasped and said “wow” multiple times at the things he was doing and accomplishing.

    The film is just 80 minutes long but covers about eight years, and both Jenison and his project are presented via terrific camera work and editing that captures and condenses his process exceptionally well. The painstaking process of creation—and oh, the patience he has—is conveyed without the movie being slow itself.

    Teller talked about the film with NPR, and it’s worth a listen, but since a lot of the film is discovery, I’d say that the less information you have, the better. So, if you’re not yet convinced, watch the trailer below, or maybe just go see it: it’s now in theatres and opening in more throughout April.

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