In its short six-week run, Syfy’s Opposite Worlds did not prove to be the opposite of Big Brother, nor even Glass House, which it strongly resembled. I’m not sure it has much of a future.
Broadcasting its live finale against American Idol and the premiere of Survivor was, shall we say, not smart. Only airing two episodes a week makes sense in a normal TV season, but for a six-week show, especially one airing against the Olympics (meaning most other shows are in repeats), there should have been three or more. If you want to tap into the rabid, obsessive reality TV fan base, give them more than two hours a week.
The reception appears tepid: Syfy’s post-debut press release pointed out that the show had 1 million viewers and was the network’s Syfy’s “highest rated series premiere” among women 18-34 since 2008, and also noted that the “hashtag ranked among the top 10 TV series hashtags across all of broadcast and cable with 19,000 tweets.” It was enough for the top 10, but just 19,000?
As with most first-season shows of this genre, it had strengths and weaknesses. There was a game that was both simple and confounding, with a barely social game that gave the players very little to do until the challenges; challenges that were alternately inspired, dumb, and brutal; live episodes that were excruciating bores with flat Q&As until the (sometimes) action-packed challenges; feedback for the cast about how they were being perceived, which only sometimes had any impact.
I appreciate what executive producer JD Roth told me he was attempting with the “constant battle between the haves and have nots in life”, and yes, the team that was in the past bonded a lot more than the future team. But it was still haves/have nots, and that creates such imbalance, it verges on boring. (Read more of his answers to questions about the show.)
How much mileage is there to get out of punishing one group? There’s not much beyond, Ha, you have to poop in a hole! And clean it! I really wish that it’d held more closely to an actual vision of the future, especially for a Syfy show. For example, why not give the future people only vitamins and powdered supplements for food while the past gets lots of food they have to prep themselves? (Oh no: I just suggested slop.) Or allow the past outdoor access but keep the future sealed off and dark, like it’s a spaceship or habitat on a polluted planet?
I also wish they’d made more of the social game, and given the teams more opportunities to interact other than those weird, forced one-on-one meetings. Some great stuff came from that, primarily Jeffry and JR’s alliance, their fake fight, and JR’s subsequent decision to bail on his alliance to make it more likely he’d win against weasel Jeffry.
The win went to Frank Sansonetti, which was close to a given when it came down to a single challenge for him. I did like that viewer votes sent one person to the final challenge automatically, but it also became nearly a foregone conclusion when that person was Frank; he wasn’t called a “beast” for nothing. That said, he was a satisfying winner since he had the most compelling arc, going from big dumb oaf who tore open someone’s face with a tomato to pawn to genuine member of the past team.
I’m not sure there’s a future for this show, but I hope Syfy gives the show another chance to see what it can become.
The 10 films nominated for Best Documentary Feature (20 Feet from Stardom, The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, and The Square) and Best Documentary Short Subject (CaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady in Number 6, and Prison Terminal) are all available to watch online.
CBS News has compiled a very helpful list of the films and where to watch them online, including Netflix, Amazon, iTunes. Some are on pay-per-view.
The Academy’s web site has trailers for the features and short subject films,
By the time Jeff Probst was calling the second Survivor Cagayan episode’s Tribal Council “nuts” and “crazy,” and calling the group “the oddest tribe I’ve ever seen,” he was, for once, not being insanely superlative and force-feeding us a narrative. Their WTF are you thinking behavior was baffling and thoroughly, wonderfully entertaining.
Working backwards, there was the exit of cocky poker player Garrett, who spent his interviews sprawled out like he was practicing for an eventual Playgirl photo shoot, and who actually said, “I don’t want to play survivor to survive in the wilderness.” Despite having been voted the weakest by someone who deemed him a threat, and despite having found a hidden immunity idol, and despite his tribemate J’Tia having dumped the rice out (sigh) after having single-handedly lost the challenge for them, he was still voted out.
After J’Tai’s immature and completely pointless behavior, I thought there was no way they’d keep her, but I guess they found Garrett and his insufferable open meetings to be more of a problem than someone who may be adopting her strategy from the DVDs of a previous season casting made her watch.
In the first Tribal, it was Marlins president David who left the game first, opening up all kinds of comparisons between their game play and his, which sucked, never mind how entirely annoying he was.
Both of them, along with J’Tia, made classic early-game errors, standing out in a bad way. J’Tia declared that she had “an idea for a shelter,” but I’m not exactly clear on what skills a nuclear engineer brings to the shelter-making table, unless they planned on using radioactivity as one of their materials.
There are some players on the brains tribe who are playing with some smarts: Both Kass and Tasha are honest and direct, both to us and others, in a way that’s interesting and not self-defeating. I don’t yet understand Spencer. Along with J’Tia and the two men who were voted out, that’s the entire tribe. I’m a fan of having three tribes at the start, in part because it makes the game play more like later episodes when there are fewer people. It’s not easy to hide.
The conceit of dividing the tribes by traits that Probst insisted they “rely on” in their daily lives (please) proved to be essentially pointless, except to 1) provide easier tribe names (I don’t even bother to learn the actual tribe names any more) and 2) give recappers the opportunity to write punny headlines. Kass even called out the producers when she referenced how the brains tribe was assembled: “I’d like to see that data.”
All of the forced decision-making/attempts to create drama in the first few minutes of the game—pick a leader! choose the weakest! the weakest gets a reward! and a choice!—paid off only in Garrett finding the idol and being voted out while in possession of that idol.
At the first challenge, a clever obstacle course that involved a lot of different parts, including disassembling and reassembling a cart, the brains tribe fell behind, and at one point, a chest with puzzle pieces spilled open, twice. Probst screamed, “Another disaster! Puzzle pieces all over the place.” Oh no! What will we do! The puzzle pieces are on the ground! Life is over!
But even though Probst was being a jerk/creating narrative, he was absolutely right when he said, “Whatever brains they had clearly evaporated 72 hours into this game.”
Most of the episode focused on the brains tribe, but I will say this after watching the scene when his boat capsized: I want Cliff Robinson’s laugh to win this game.
A brand-new type of idol will come into play after Survivor Cagayan’s merge, which gives someone the power to save anyone by playing it after votes are cast, was suggested by Tyler Perry.
Yes, the incredibly successful actor, director, and producer is also a Survivor fan, and texts Probst about the show. Probst explains that early in the TVGN preview below, in which he talks about the “special idol” that “not only after they’ve cast their votes, but after I’ve read them, so it is a true get-out-of-jail-free card—massive power, can shift the game dramatically.” I’m not sure if Probst’s serious when he says “we’ll call it the Tyler Perry idol.”
While I’d hoped that this power would be something more unexpected, such as giving the holder free makeup and fat suit to dress up as a hilarious older woman and thus be able to eavesdrop on your enemies’ conversations, the idol actually just allows its holder to play it after the votes are counted.
Yes, that pretty much changes the idol back to the way it was during Survivor Panama and Survivor Cook Islands, so this isn’t so much Tyler Perry’s idea as the thing many people hated back then because the idol was insanely powerful. Maybe Jeff Probst forgot about that?
Returning to this type of immunity idol will either allow its owner to bully everyone into voting like they want, or eliminate the need for any of that pesky pre-Tribal Council strategy, allowing its holder to save someone and thus decide who exits the game.
recently on Twitter
More than any other series, people ask why I’m not covering Logo’s competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race. There’s undeniable passion for and commitment to this series, and the superlatives never end: it’s not just the best competition show, it’s the best reality show for some people.
I haven’t watched since season one, which I didn’t like for several reasons. While its production values definitely improved over time, checking in periodically didn’t convince me to watch a whole season—or even a whole episode. At best, it came across like one of so many talent competition series, though one that was super-silly while also communicating powerful ideas about acceptance and being oneself.
A big part of my negative response, I think, is that I couldn’t get past how the drag part seemed to keep the audience at arm’s length. You might want to swallow any liquids you have in your mouth before reading this sentence so you don’t spray your keyboard or phone, but I watch reality TV for authenticity, to connect—on some level—with other people.
Drag presents a layer of performance and artificiality on top of the already performative reality TV cast member persona, which is further constructed by producers and editors based on what they choose to show. And of course, all of us have some kind of facade we present to the world and/or ourselves. Perhaps the show takes all of this to its logical extremes—but I found it to be quite annoying, like having hours and hours of small talk.
I’m watching this season because my significant other, who I’ll call Nick because that’s his name, is one of those fans. “This is like an adult Mister Rogers for me,” he said, referencing how formative that show was, “just with sequins instead of cardigans.” Another comparison we came up with was Real World, which had a profound effect on me as a teenager, introducing me to people unlike those I’d interacted with my whole life.
I thought about that a lot after watching, and tried to go into the first episode of the sixth season as open-minded as I could. Spoiler: The show didn’t win me over immediately. It may just not be my thing. But: there was a lot to like.
There were really absurdly fun moments: the sight gag of Gia and her huge purse; Vivacious screwing up the dramatic reveal of her actual head; the way some of them landed in the foam pit; Gia saying, “Is there no budget this time around?” when the queens realized there were only seven of them.
Dividing the cast in half for the first two episodes was smart, and something other competition series should emulate. It’s the opposite of what Top Chef Seattle attempted by having 21 people compete for 15 spots in a single episode, and instead gives viewers a chance to get to know the contestants better than if all 14 were introduced at once.
The first challenge in this episode was very Top Model, and the biggest laugh/surprise there for me was having the objectification-ready Pit Crew men sponsored by a hook-up app, whose name was on their underwear. The elimination challenge—creating outfits inspired by TV programs, many of them reality shows—only translated for a few of the queens, but I loved how some of them were able to sell their hot mess outfits with their personalities. That’s something that Project Runway designers and models can’t really do.
One of those contestants is former American Idol contestant Danny Noriega, who’s introduced himself by saying that other drag queens insist he’s “not polished enough,” he said, “I’m polish remover, bitch.” His panicked attempt to get his dress of a mannequin was great comedy.
I liked those moments best: the ones where you could sense that what was happening was surprising the person, such as when RuPaul laughed at one queen in the workroom and said, flatly, “I don’t have any idea what you’re going to do”—or, better, when Ru told guest judge Adam Lambert that he was praising the queen’s outfit just because Adam wanted to screw him.
There were a lot more of those moments than I expected, and I’ve been assured that as the season progresses, more genuineness will probably emerge, especially in the Untucked episodes. I’m particularly interested to see more of the cast out of drag, because those moments as they saw each other for the first time were a lot more interesting than when the queens were introducing themselves and performing. (Nick pointed out that “you’re not getting one character per person, you’re getting two characters per person,” and that could change the way I look at the cast.)
All of this will provide some interesting layers to unpack, I think, though a lot of the first episode remained very surface, that small talk/bitchiness that is more annoying than entertaining. Funny and bitchy is fine, even great; I probably even am sometimes. But especially when RuPaul or the queens were visibly showing off or saying predictable/planned things (“I really thought you’d be better at going down”), it’s was just exhausting.
During judging, RuPaul recalled watching footage from when she was younger, and said, “I’m trying so hard. I wish I could sit myself down and say, ‘Just be yourself.’”
That’s what I really want—from Ru and the cast—and hope to find as I keep watching this season.
Will the brilliant parody series starring Lisa Kudrow as a new reality star Valerie Cherish return to TV? Co-creator Michael Patrick King told EW, “Lisa and I actually have had a couple of lunches lately where we’ve been missing Valerie and wondering where she’d be. That’s just a creative exploration Lisa and I are doing. We care so much about Valerie and the work that we did that, in hindsight, felt so edgy. Lisa and I have been amusing ourselves, and maybe somebody else might be amused in the future.” He also said, “It was such a unique show, and remember there wasn’t a Real Housewife anywhere. … Even our weird camerawork — it was before The Office made that common.”
He’s right, and the first season was brilliant, but he’s produced such shit since then, including the Sex and the City movies, that I think I don’t want it to return out of fear that it wouldn’t even live up to the original.Celebrity Apprentice will start filming next month with Donald Trump at its helm, an NBC spokesperson told the Buffalo News. Considering NBC’s hesitancy about the show, I’ll believe it once it actually happens.Celebrity Apprentice winner Piers Morgan’s CNN show, which took over for Larry King, has been cancelled. He may be replaced by reality TV and documentaries. Piers was remarkably honest about the show’s end when contacted by the New York Times: “It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings. … Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarizing, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it. That’s run its course […]”A biting profile of Donald Trump that follows the writer with Trump on his plane and at his Florida resort; it didn’t end well, with Trump calling the reporter and Buzzfeed “true garbage” and a Trump aide resigning.How American Idol picks its lawyers and how the lawyers work with contestants.19 Recordings is suing Sony Music for more than $10 million, “claim[ing] that Sony Music has been systematically robbing them of millions of dollars in royalties,” THR reports. It’s a fascinating story because the lawsuit covers things such as streaming services, music videos, compliation albums, and advertising.Here’s a story about American Idol’s costs, including judge salary, that cites vague anonymous sources and reads like a middle schooler wrote it and then translated it back and forth from another language on Google Translate. As always, TMZ’s contributions to journalism are significant.The business run by the Duck Dynasty cast is now sponsoring a college football bowl game: The Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., will become the Duck Commander Independence Bowl for the next six years. It also just sponsored a Texas Motor Speedway race.RuPaul’s Drag Race is already casting for its next season.TLC is producing a spin-off of Breaking Amish that will air starting in June: The network says Return to Amish “follows Abe, Rebecca, Sabrina, Jeremiah, and Kate as they continue to acclimate to their new lives while still applying some Amish traditions to holidays and major life events. Mary, Katie Ann, and Andrew all return as well, and viewers are finally introduced to Chester (Mary’s husband), Chapel (Andrew’s girlfriend) and Kayla (Rebecca’s daughter).”A cast member on Channel 4’s Shipwrecked, Nadejah Williams, died from cancer; her mother blames the government’s decision to not approve funding for special treatement until it was too late to be effective.Anna Klassen tells the story of filming a pilot for a scripted makeover reality show, one where things were faked and she was heavily coached. It’s a fascinating read, though it’s sad that her conclusion is to generalize that all reality TV is similarly fake (“There is nothing real about reality TV”).Current The Bachelor star Juan Pablo appears in the commercial below for a local appliance store. Why would he do that? Rochester Appliance owner Dean Eaton explains: “Juan went to college with my brother in-law at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester N.Y. When I found out Juan was going to be the next Bachelor, I immediately tried to get him to be in a commercial for me. I’ve grown my business via word of mouth for years and this would be a great opportunity get more awareness of my business.” He adds that Juan “was surprisingly open to the concept” and shot the commercial before Christmas, even though “He came down with a sinus/head cold just before leaving for Rochester.”
The new co-host of Dancing with the Stars is 10th-season third-place finalist Erin Andrews. ABC is expected to announce that tomorrow, three days after unceremoniously firing Brooke Burke-Charvet, who was surprised to be let go.
USA TODAY’s Big Lead reports that “Andrews is not leaving Fox Sports” and “will continue her sports duties — sideline reporting, hosting — for Fox, and co-host Dancing with the Stars on ABC during the week.”
Update, 24 Feb. 14: ABC confirmed Andrews’ hiring this morning in a press release announcing that the cast will be announced March 4. The network said that she is “a pioneer in sports broadcasting” and so her “skills from the field are sure to be an asset in hosting a spirited dance competition.”
More than two weeks of Olympic coverage conclude tonight, and there’s a lot to criticize about the decisions NBC makes when covering the Olympics, and many people loathe the non-sports parts as unnecessary filler.
But I’d watch Mary Carillo’s work all day; her pieces have become one of the highlights of watching the Olympics for me.
Her Olympic reports are like tiny little documentaries that invite us to explore a fragment of history through the present. Nearly always, the pieces she and her NBC team construct are beautifully shot and interesting, and have fun characters. They’re not at all comprehensive investigative journalism—her story on Siberia didn’t even mention prison camps, for example—but for what they are, they’re terrific.
Frustratingly, NBC only has some of her pieces online, and only on its Olympics web site. But you can go there to watch her ride the Trans-Siberian Railway, learn how Russian vodka is made, explore the world’s deepest lake, or trace the history of curling. In these, Carillo invites you to see beauty and surprise in people and places, going beyond broad generalizations, although never going too deep.
Mary Carillo’s impressive resume includes working on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and work on documentaries, including co-writing HBO’s Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports, which won a Peabody.
Before the Winter Olympics conclude tonight, her documentary Nancy & Tonya premieres at 7 p.m. ET. Carillo’s interview with Nancy Kerrigan is perhaps the most notable difference from Nanette Burstein’s documentary The Price of Gold, which aired as part of EPSN’s 30 for 30 earlier this month and is also about the 1994 attack.
Carillo told TV Guide how she convinced Kerrigan to talk, and calls it “a fascinating character study.”
That could describe most of her pieces, as they’re character studies of people and places—but it could also describe Carillo herself, whose wit and authenticity are a significant part of why her segments are so engaging. Just watch her drink vodka with Bob Costas: she’s just a lot of fun to watch.