The best new reality TV series this fall is not actually on a television network: It’s on Hulu, and it is Behind the Mask, Josh Greenbaum’s documentary-style reality series that follows four mascots and the people behind them.
The show smartly follows four different mascots: Rooty from Lebanon High School, Hey Reb from UNLV, Tux the Penguin from a minor league hockey team, and Milwaukee Bucks’ mascot Bango. There is plenty of footage of the mascots in character, performing for crowds large and small, and the series has a lot of insight into their jobs, but it’s mostly about the people behind the costumes, as the show’s title makes clear.
Despite being people who live in the spotlight, these are not typical, self-aware, camera-hungry, Bravo-style reality show cast members. They are people who struggle with small but important problems, who say “time to make the donuts” with no irony or make you laugh with their wry observations. These are people you want to spend time watching.
NBA mascot Kevin does insane stunts but also performs with his family, and is loving with his own kids yet also tries to make a kid cry by scaring them while in an inflatable version of his costume at a mall. Michael is an awkward teenager who suffers indignity after indignity, such as having to cheer for the bowling team, but comes alive when he’s in the mascot costume. Chad has ambition to be more than a minor-league mascot but is also remarkably innocent in his play as his character—and in his life. Sixth-year college student Jersey finds so much meaning in his job that you feel the pain of his impending separation from it.
There is no fake conflict, no bullshit, just life, such as it is for these mascots.
That said, there are several instances of the show’s four primary cast members reading obviously written/fed/scripted lines, which attempt to fill in narrative gaps and also establish stakes. But those highly unfortunate scripted lines stand out in their awkwardness—especially because their in-the-moment insights are so much better.
Consider the episode-one interview when UNLV’s mascot, Jersey, shocks himself when he says that, since he’ll be giving up the mascot at the end of the school year, “I’m losing a friend.” He realizes, “I’ll cry on graduation day” over that loss. In a later episode, he says his time on the court is a religious experience. This is his life.
The series is surprisingly emotional, and there are moments in several episodes that are rather small but so powerful, even devastating. The mascots’ anonymity makes for an interesting dichotomy, and the anonymity of the costumes allows them a combination of freedom and constriction.
The series touches on some interesting ideas, such as how education can take a backseat to athletics, and just how much our society values athletics, never mind our identification with teams and their mascot representations. That said, while the series arrives at a time when there’s renewed conversation about racist mascots, there isn’t really an attempt to look at mascots on any kind of critical or historical level. (There is possibility for that, though: UNLV’s Rebels have a mascot, Hey Reb, whose origins are in a Confederate soldier character.)
Too many web-based reality series have little attention to craft, but this is a series worthy of an HD TV, from well-framed shots to the time-lapse opening sequence. That said, despite being online, the show still has those annoying, insecurity-drenched pre-episode previews that give away what’s coming in the episode. Worse, Behind the Mask constantly uses hard cuts to create suspense, both before commercial breaks and mid-act. Cutting in the middle of action to create suspense just feels cheap.
But those really bad decisions are overpowered by the strength of the people the series follows, and spending time with them in and out of costume makes for incredibly satisfying television.
Behind the Mask: A
In the preview of Todd Herzog’s appearance on Dr. Phil, the footage of the Survivor China winner was horrifying and also sensationally presented. Was his appearance on the show exploitative or critically necessary?
After the broadcast yesterday, the answer is clear: It was both.
The basic details of his appearance were covered in an audience member’s messages to me, including how his problem with alcohol started at Survivor-related events following his win. Todd said, “I had never had a drink until I was 22,” which is when he won the show.
During the episode, I was particularly interested to see Todd being confronted by his family, interventionists, and the show’s cameras at his Utah condo, when he clearly had no idea what was going on. He finally said, “What is this? Can someone please tell me?” When he found out it was for Dr. Phil, he asked, “Dr. Phil? Why the fuck would he want to help me?”
A good question, and we’ll get to that in a moment.
However, it was also extremely clear that Todd’s family needed help to intervene in his life, and they were not there to seek publicity for themselves or their son. They were devastated and helpless, since Todd has refused to return to rehab, and instead was trying to detox by himself which left him at risk of death.
He was in bad shape: Todd’s family finds him “soaked in urine,” we were told; his stepfather said Todd’s apartment looks like “an episode of Hoarders”; Todd said “I crap black,” referring to possibly bloody feces. He was unable to walk into the studio unassisted, though he did still joke about the tall chairs: “Why do you guys have nine-foot chairs?” (Unbelievably, some people still insist he was faking.)
Slurring his words, Todd admitted that being on Dr. Phil was critical: “I’m so stubborn that I wouldn’t be willing to come out here if it wasn’t for you to help me and show me what to do and help me with what I have to do, and here I am.”
Ultimately, Todd left for a rehab facility in Austin, apparently for at least 90 days. That outcome makes everything that preceded it worthwhile, I think.
Yet Dr. Phil frequently seemed more interested in hitting the necessary beats and bits than actually listening to Todd or even his family. I think it would have been a far better hour of television if it had been more of a conversation, with actual listening and follow-up questions. Sure, Todd was incredibly drunk, and perhaps in an intervention, listening to an addict’s answers to your questions really doesn’t matter.
From start to finish, Dr. Phil’s priority seemed to be using Todd to create an hour of television—not to educate, not to help Todd, though both those things happened.
Daytime talk shows are meticulously produced down to the minute, and that was extremely evident the entire episode, when Dr. Phil would interrupt or move to the next sensational thing instead of actually responding to an answer or diving deeper into the reasons for Todd’s addiction. At one point, Dr. Phil had people bring out vodka bottles to illustrate Todd’s insane consumption (24 gallons of vodka a month!), and at another, stood dramatically next to empty chairs where the intervention specialists were going to sit, saying there was an unexpected crisis with Todd and they were helping him, as if the show couldn’t have just paused taping to wait for them.
Survivor winner Sandra Diaz was virtually bowled over, and it almost seemed like she wasn’t even going to get to speak after hugging Todd and being directed back to her seat by Dr. Phil. But like most everyone else, she got a brief moment to say something and that was it for her.
The entire episode felt like a series of boxes being checked off, from the sensational to the promotional, such as the images of the rehab center’s facilities that were shown like they were a prize during the Showcase Showdown on the Price is Right.
Only at the very end did reality intervene as Todd upstaged Dr. Phil, waving at the intervention specialists sitting next to him and saying “these two, they’re wonderful…and Sandra…,” and Dr. Phil was nearly laughing as he put his hand on Todd to try to quiet him down so he could wrap up the show.
Yes, Dr. Phil’s sensationalism did serve a purpose, such as when he dramatically asked Todd’s mom how she’d feel throwing handfuls of dirt on Todd’s coffin. It was both awful and necessary to illustrate just how dire the situation was. Other moments, such as having Todd basically be carried into the studio (instead of just doing that off-camera) felt sensational but were excellent illustrations of the seriousness of alcoholism, and hopefully will help educate viewers who either have a problem themselves or know someone who does.
Dr. Phil said that, after at least 90 days in treatment, he’ll have Todd back to check in on his progress, and I hope that we see the old Todd again then. There were moments of his humor, such as when he realized he’d be gone for Christmas and his birthday, never mind the Survivor Blood vs. Water finale red carpet event: “Oh shoot, dog. Seriously? 90 days? … Shoot dog, is all I have to say.”
The now-cancelled series Dirty Jobs was hosted by Mike Rowe and produced by Pilgrim Films and Television for the Discovery Channel; the new series Jobs that Bite is hosted by Jeremy Brandt and produced by Half Yard Productions for NatGeo WILD. Yet the new series is such a blatant rip-off of the cancelled series that it’s almost a remake: It even features Brandt watching the exact same camels breeding that were featured on Mike Rowe’s show in 2009, and has the exact same name as 2006 special Shark Week episodes of his show.
The similarities don’t end at reshot scenes and Rowe and Brandt’s similar appearances and demeanor. Jobs that Bite’s executive producers, Sean Gallagher and Abby Greensfelder, happen to be former executives at Discovery where they worked on Dirty Jobs: Gallagher is a former VP of development for Discovery whose bio points out he was an executive producer of the Discovery series, while Greensfelder’s bio is far more direct: It says “Greensfelder was senior vice president of programming and development for Discovery Channel. Under her direction, Discovery launched a number of successful series that have become signature programs for the network, including Deadliest Catch, [and] Dirty Jobs…”
Incredible. Their description for the new series even has the audacity to say that “Nat Geo WILD found a small sliver of Americans…” as if some of those exact same Americans, including the camels’ owners, weren’t discovered by other producers for a show on another network.
Dirty Jobs was officially cancelled one year ago, and back then, Rowe pointed out that “over two-dozen separate programs have evolved from Dirty Jobs.” But he wasn’t referring to the one that would so shamelessly rip off his old show; the primary difference is that the new show focuses only on jobs related to animals.
Jobs that Bite is so much of a clone that, as a viewer observed in a question to Mike, Brandt “not only does the same jobs you’ve already done, he goes to the same places! He works with the same animals! Even the same people!!! WTF???” She adds, “To say this show is a rip-off of Dirty Jobs is an insult to the word ‘rip-off.’”
That would be an understatement—this is really insane—and it would seem Mike Rowe agrees, though he admits he has not seen the show. His response on Facebook is hilariously sarcastic and droll. While he starts by saying “there’s no way my friends at the National Geographic Channel would engage in the behavior you describe. I’ve always known Nat Geo to be a place of great integrity and originality,” he adds several post-scripts that are a must-read:
“PPPPS. Reading further into the origins of this project, I see now that the producers of ‘Jobs That Bite’ on National Geographic used to work as executives at the Discovery Channel. In fact, they are the exact same people who greenlit Dirty Jobs back in 2003. But so what? Does that mean they were attempting to deliberately reengineer Dirty Jobs for National Geographic without me? Of course not.
Look — just because the same two people who originally greenlit Dirty Jobs for Discovery have hired another ‘everyman’ (who does NOT wear a ball cap) and sent him out in the world to have random encounters with random animals in a brand-new show that just so happens to have the same exact title (with a totally different font) as another show I used to host on a network that has always competed directly with the network now airing the new show with same title and the similar host — is no reason to assume that anyone is acting in a way that’s inconsistent with the prevailing standards in today’s topsy-turvy world of nonfiction cable programming. I believe that’s called a ‘coincidence.’
As anyone in my industry will tell you, there are only two or three ideas that have ever worked in the history of television. It would be unreasonable to expect producers to ignore the success of past programs, especially ones that they themselves had a hand in making successful! I see no real harm in revisiting a proven formula, as long as the content and the format aren’t identical to the prior project.
PPPPPS. Well, I must confess — this is a bit disconcerting. According to Nat Geo’s website, ‘ostriches, camels, worms, shrimp, oysters, giraffes, bears, lions, hawks, mules, horses, bees, and monkeys’ will all be featured on ‘Jobs That Bite with Jeremy Brandt.’ Hmmm…
To your point, Lindsay — these animals were also featured on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. But surely not the same exact animals. Remember, there are only so many species on the planet, and I can’t really fault National Geographic or Half-Yard Productions or Jeremy Brandt for seeking out those creatures that make the best television. Besides — I’m sure they did so in a way that reflected a tenor and tone unique to their specific program. But to suggest — as you have — that they would revisit the ‘exact same locations’ and reshoot the ‘exact same scenes’ with the ‘exact same animals’ and the ‘exact same people present,’ well - that’s another issue altogether, and one that I simply can’t take on faith. I would have to see it to believe it.
PPPPPPS. Alrighty then. I have just seen a video of Jeremy watching two camels having sex on National Geographic. http://on.aol.com/video/jobs-that-bite—-when-camels-mate-518002658
And I’ve just compared it to a video of me watching the same two camels having sex on the Discovery Channel five years earlier. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LJzBqnRy1Y
Obviously, both scenes were filmed in Ramona, Calif., at the Oasis Camel Dairy. My old friends Gil and Nancy Riegler are on hand in both versions, as are the same two camels — Goldie and Storm.
I must confess, I am gratified to learn that Gordie and Storm are still going strong, but I was frankly surprised to see them fornicating on the National Geographic Channel. I would have thought the producers would have insisted on new pair of Dromedaries, or at the very least, a new position, especially since Dirty Jobs has so clearly dominated the camel-humping space. I suppose that camels are limited in the ways they can copulate, but it would have been refreshing to see something a bit spicier in this particular sequence. Something less … predictable. In any event, the two scenes — while admittedly similar — are far from identical. Even though the camels continue to hump in the traditional way, and even though Jeremy has apparently added a ball cap to his wardrobe, I would like to point out that it is NOT the SAME cap that I was wearing on the day I was there. I appreciate that. Thanks, Jeremy.
PPPPPPPS. Upon further reflection, Lindsay, I can see how — at a glance — the casual viewer might conclude that Jobs That Bite on Nat Geo is mildly derivative of Jobs That Bite on Discovery. Personally, I do not. However — I did do another special for Discovery after Jobs That Bite, called Jobs That Bite…Harder. It’s true, you can look it up. http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Jobs-That-Bite-Harder/dp/B00CPU1HSM
Now — let me be absolutely clear. If The National Geographic Channel were to follow ‘Jobs That Bite’ with another show called ‘Jobs That Bite…Harder,’ well, I might have something to say about that. But seriously — I can’t imagine such a thing coming to pass. No way.
So let’s get past all these petty complaints, and join me in wishing Jeremy Brandt, Half-Yard Productions, and everyone at National Geographic every possible success with their brand-new show. According to their site, it’s on this Wednesday.”
The Amazing Race 24 started filming Saturday, and teams identified at the airport and elsewhere confirm that this is yet another season of returning cast members, though there are several differences from the cast list that surfaced last month.
There additions to the cast are Margie and Luke Adams, the Globetrotters, Mallory and Mark, Leo and Jamal, and John and Jessica; Mark is now racing with Mallory instead of Bopper. Teams that were previously identified that are not racing are Bopper and Mark, Andy and Tommy, Pam and Winnie, and Tim and Marie.
Reality Fan Forum has team photos and a race summary, including a picture of an actual clue, in addition to photos of host Phil Keoghan and someone who appears to be executive producer Betram Van Munster arriving in China. There is also play by play in China, including of the first elimination, from a Survivor Sucks poster named JasonTennisFan.
Here’s the full, updated cast:
- Margie and Luke Adams, mother and son, seasons 14 and 18
- Herb “Flight Time” Lang & Nate “Big Easy” Lofton, Harlem Globetrotters, seasons 15 and 18
- Jet and Cord, cowboys, season 16 and 18
- Rachel and Brendon, annoying Big Brother couple, season 20
- Mallory Ervin and Mark Jackson, seasons 17 and 18 & season 20
- Natalie and Nadiya Anderson, twins, season 21
- Caroline Cutbirth and Jenn Wayne, country singer friends, season 22
- Dave and Connor O’Leary, father and son, season 22
- Joey Graceffa and Meghan Camarena, YouTube friends, season 22
- John Erck and Jessica Hoel, engaged couple, season 22
- Leo Temory and Jamal Zadran, cousins, season 23
The Writers Guild of America East says that reality TV show producers and crew members are owed an average of $30,000 a year for unpaid overtime and a lack of breaks, which totals something like $40 million a year in the industry.
This new survey “found that 84% of nonfiction TV producers and writers work more than 40 hours a week almost every week, while 85% never receive overtime pay. More than 50% of the 315 people who responded said they had worked 80 hours or more in a week,” The New York Daily News reports. The story cites one example, Pawn Stars whose producers and writers—again, how that is defined is not clear—were paid $2,136 a week, and it compares that to the $6,712 a week that those who work on Royal Pains earn.
It’s not clear how “producers” or “writers” are defined here, though the Writers Guild has for years been trying to get those who work as story producers and editors classified as writers. It previously attempted to unionize them, and sued in 2005, a lawsuit that was settled in 2009, with networks paying more than $4 million.
recently on Twitter
Two new reality series for the Wahlbergs: TVGN’s Rock the Boat, which takes fans on a cruise for a week with their favorite band, will feature New Kids on the Block first; that’ll be produced by Donnie Wahlberg. Meanwhile, A&E has ordered Wahlburgers, a documentary series that watches as “Mark and Donnie head back to their hometown to join forces with their professed ‘most talented sibling,’ Paul, in their tasty business venture.”Netflix’s first acquisition of an original documentary is Jehane Noujaim’s film The Square, which is about the Egyptian revolution, and which HBO reportedly wanted to air in the U.S. but filmmakers rejected so they could have more distribution via Netflix.The success of Blackfish (the must-watch film about SeaWorld’s killer whale) and other documentaries means that CNN will put “heavy emphasis in acquiring unscripted shows by outside producers” and expanding its unscripted programming. Capital New York reports that, as part of that, Anthony Bourdain may have a talk show in addition to his series Parts Unknown. CNN exec Amy Entelis talked to Vulture about the network’s investment in documentaries. Amish Mafia star Esther Freeman’s boyfriend Imir Williams, aka Mirkat, was arrested for aggravated assault on her and sent to jail after not being able to make $250,000 bail. The Patriot News reports that police said the “6-foot-4, 210-pound Williams … repeatedly punched her, fracturing her face and breaking her nose and several teeth, at their North Decatur Street home early on Oct. 31.” Because of all this, Chuck Miller of the Times-Union argues that “the show needs to stop. Right now. Take a break, a hiatus, some time off. Esther needs help to get into a better and more stable home life. She needs to break free from this clown I’Mir Williams, and she needs to do so in a court of law. Don’t do this as part of the show, don’tt film this and make it a plotline for the series. That’s not appropriate. Do this without the cameras. Do this for your life and for the lives of your loved ones.”Here’s Tim Gunn’s new $1.5 million penthouse. He has Project Runway artifacts in his bathroom.Tim Gunn will examine politicians’ fashion for Politico, because what politics in America definitely needs is more superficiality.Lisa Vanderpump insists she’s staying on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but after just one season, Lydia McLaughlin is leaving.Doug Phillips, who’s connected to TLC’s the Duggars (from 19 Kids and Counting) and an advocate relationships where men control women in relationships, resigned over a “a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman,” though he said “did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense.” The organization he led, Vision Forum Ministries, is closing. He’s also a proponent of not using birth control.The fourth season of VH1’s Couples Therapy will feature Farrah Abraham, Ghostface Killah, and Jon Gosselin, among others. It airs in January.Bravo partnered with Spotify to create playlists for each episode of shows such as The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and Vanderpump Rules.Travel Channel has ordered a show with a working title of Resort Recon that sounds exactly like that shitty fake series Restaurant Stakeout; the network describes it as resort owners who “watch multiple camera feeds as he exposes bad customer service, out-of-control guests and dysfunctional employee-owner dynamics.” It’s produced by the exact same production company, RelativityREAL.Reality TV productions generate at least $7,500 a day for Suffolk County, New York, which is central and eastern Long Island.Omarosa basically campaigned for Hillary Clinton at a super PAC event: “I saw her fight for breast cancer awareness for women. I saw her fight for opportunities for children. So now as we prepare to see her take the helm as the first female president of the United States, all of us have to get together and get behind this sister.”Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak offers his theory of why reality TV exists: “They’re celebrity factories, where you can make new celebrities that you can cover, and they become celebrities, and then you have a reason to have your celebrity show.” That’s interesting, but then Pat has to go and say this: “Wheel of Fortune is more reality TV than reality TV. We don’t know what’s going to happen. They know what’s going to happen. They make it happen. And that’s fine. I’m not putting it down. But I laugh at the name of the genre because if anything, there’s almost nothing better planned than reality TV.” Some reality TV, Pat, only some.Remember MTV’s The Paper? (If not, you can watch the series.) Someone GIFed the show, turning it into a list called (Almost) Everything I Learned about Journalism I Learned From “The Paper.” And if you want to know what the cast members are doing now, Romenesko checked in on them back in August.Harry Connick, Jr., is taunting Mariah Carey on Twitter, saying it “must’ve been hard to judge in hell,” calling this upcoming season “heaven.” He also insisted he has “no hate for that sweet lady - i just feel bad that she didn’t have what we have - the best @AmericanIdol ever!”
Judge for yourself: Fox released four minutes of footage from American Idol auditions, which show off the new panel of judges: Harry Connick, Jr. Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban. One auditioner tells the judges, “This is what I was looking forward to: you guys laughing and having fun.” Based on that and the clips here, the show is absolutely going for a Voice-like friendly and playful vibe between the judges, instead of the absolute mess of the last few seasons. But it’s otherwise the same show.
Survivor China winner Todd Herzog is now in treatment for alcoholism following an appearance on Dr. Phil last week, which was essentially an intervention by his family, as he was not aware he was appearing on TV until confronted by cameras at home.
I’ve learned details about his appearance from a member of the studio audience at last week’s taping. The episode will be broadcast sometime this month; a show publicist did not respond to a request for a specific broadcast date. Second update: The episode will air Monday, Nov. 18.
First, though, Survivor cast member Mike Skupin posted a note on Facebook he says was written by Todd from treatment:
“To all of those sending support and love to me, thank you! I am currently in treatment and doing fantastic and look forward to a healthy and sober life when I leave. This is the only time I will have access to the internet or phone for a while, but I am receiving and reading all of the emails sent to me. I am unable to respond but will read all! If you’d like to send a message you can at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you again and I’ll update you in a few weeks.
As the domain on the e.mail makes clear, and as an audience member confirmed to me, Todd is in a residential treatment facility in Austin, Texas, that advertises itself as a “proud addiction treatment provider for Dr. Phil.”
Cast member Coby Archa posted a note of support on Facebook Facebook that also answered a question that some had: “Spencer and Todd have broken up. And Todd is in a very sad rabbit hole of addiction and darkness with alcohol.’
Here are details about what happened during the Dr. Phil episode taping that an audience member shared with me. These things may or may not end up on the edited version of the episode, of course:
- Todd was trying to detox on his own, having not had success with rehab facilities; however, doing that on his own in the past resulted in seizures. His family appeared on the show first, and talked to him on the phone, and because of his current attempt at self-detox—which can be fatal—family members and addiction specialists ended up rushing to give him a bit of alcohol, in order to step him down.
- Todd let addiction specialists and the show’s cameras in, but previously was not aware that his family had sought Dr. Phil’s help for an intervention.
- In the studio, around 11 a.m., he blew around a 2.5, perhaps 2.6, when his blood alcohol level was tested. It was also revealed that he’d had a 5.5 BAL when he was last hospitalized. The audience member said that those who think he’s faking are “inhuman and cruel” because he was so clearly intoxicated.
- He’d also had blood in his feces and his organs were failing, so his death was truly imminent. He was drinking about two bottles of liquor a day.
- Todd was concerned about getting to a red-carpet Survivor event in December he was invited to—likely the finale for Survivor Blood vs. Water—and that’s why he wanted to get sober. Later, he kept insisting he needed to be out of treatment by Nov. 22 for the release of the second Hunger Games movie. Dr. Phil told him rehab would last at least 90 days.
- However, he agreed to go to rehab, and went there directly from the set; the audience member said that when first confronted, he insisted to his family he wouldn’t go to rehab again, but the audience member was convinced that being on TV—the attention he was getting, which he responded to in part by being funny even in his intoxicated state—helped convince him to go.
- Another Survivor cast member was in the audience and identified as a friend of Todd’s; the audience member, who wasn’t familiar with the show’s cast, thinks the person was Sandra Diaz-Twine, who won both Survivor Pearl Islands and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.
- Todd said that he didn’t abuse alcohol until after Survivor, when he started drinking heavily because he took advantage of the free alcohol available at cast events.
Survivor Blood vs. Water sped through two episodes in a single hour, re-stocking Redemption Island and also getting through two inevitable votes, who were both kind of bitter and who the tribe was anxious to spit out.
Despite the editors’ best efforts, Vytas, Tina, and Katie’s fates seemed clear after last week’s awesome blindside of Aras. The only twist came when Katie won immunity, holding a sword steady long enough to keep herself around for another week. Both Vytas and Tina had less-than-collegial reactions to losing their power. Vytas went from telling Tyson the blindside was “awesome” to actually saying that what he wanted to say was, “I’m gonna fuck you up.” Charming. Tina, meanwhile, was bitter and threatening people with jury votes, at least until she discovered everyone was in an alliance with Aras.
With no Redemption Island, we did not get reward challenges thanks to the double-Tribal Council episode. The first of the two immunity challenges, the gross eating challenge, delivered once again, from Gervase’s apparently involuntary response of jumping up and down to the regurgitation and then re-consumption of pre-chewed meal worms, all to the sound of gagging. It was spectacular, and something I watched through my fingers. It also gave me material to create this mean thing.
Gervase made it to the final round—having successfully eaten both 40 mealworms and three ounces of pig intestines—and had to eat grubs just like in Borneo 13 years ago, which was pretty amazing/coincidental.
Alas, he was defeated by Monica, who the tribe can clearly not be more excited to get rid of once they expel the couples. That, or they’re keeping her around as a pawn for the final three, someone who is so annoying and paranoid that she will never get jury votes.
Before Gervase ate grubs, Jeff Probst couldn’t resist narrating in the moment to make sure we didn’t miss its Significance to the Story, which he also did during Jeff Probst Produces the Survivor Episode He Wants segment, formerly known as Tribal Council, and Jeff Probst Tells You How to Feel segment, formerly known as the pre-episode recap, during which he called Aras being voted out a “vicious blindside.” (Vicious, really?) Paging old Jeff Probst; you’re needed on Survivor.
Unhelpful commentary was also provided by Tina, who coached Katie to victory at the second immunity challenge by being the most annoying Survivor stage mom ever: “Katie, take your time”; “Good job, sweetie. Atta girl.” Considering Tina had earlier—and very smartly—told Katie to distance herself from her mother, this was roughly the equivalent of releasing a dove and saying, “Fly away, little bird!” and then shooting it out of the sky.
Next week’s preview showed more mother-daughter issues, this time between Laura and Ciera, but even though they’re a couple, I’d guess Katie and Monica are in more trouble than they are. But with the exception of this episode, this season has continued to surprise, and I’m curious how this will play out, especially once the inevitable eliminations are gone.
MTV announced this afternoon that the next season of The Real World will have 12 cast members, bringing in the ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends of the usual seven-person cast to ambush them and create crazy drunken stupid drama.
How creatively bankrupt is The Real World? It is using the 10-year-old twist from Big Brother 4, then called “ex-factor,” as a way to respond to the threat of impending cancellation for the dying franchise.
The network confirmed it will be filmed in San Franciscon and said the season will actually be called The Real World: Ex-Plosion, hyphen and all, and here is how MTV describes it:
“In what is sure to be the most intense season yet, the series returns to the iconic city of San Francisco where the show starts off with seven strangers living, partying and hooking up in a beautifully designed loft space in the Polk Gulch neighborhood. Things take a dramatic turn when the exes of the original seven roommates surprisingly take the house by storm and move right in. In the midst of new relationships that started to brew before their exes arrived, the roommates find out very quickly that things can get complicated as loyalty is tested, tempers flare and romances sizzle and fizzle.”
Executive producer and co-creator Jon Murray, who is actually one of the two people responsible for all modern reality television yet is producing this crap, said in his press release quote that this is “a fresh dynamic to the relationships in the house,” which he says “spurs drama, humor, excitement, unpredictability and many incredibly real situations that will resonate with our viewers.”
I’m not sure what viewers those are. Variety reported earlier this year that this, the 29th season, “will be a make-or-break season for the series.” It sounds broken already.
Update and correction: EW’s version of the press release does have additional details: Only five of the seven exes agreed to join the cast, so that makes the full cast 12 people, not 14 as this post initially said. It also adds that, in another first, cast members “were given smartphones for the first time,” so they could text and make calls, though their social media posts won’t go live until the show airs.
Ruben Studdard left The Biggest Loser last week, after losing just five pounds and being eliminated automatically. But he returned to the competition this week. Instead, Jillian Michaels says that was a set-up by the producers to bring Ruben back.
At the end of last night’s episode, Alison Sweeney said—and by said, I mean dragged out with pauses in which the show could have fit an entire commercial for some awful product—“Jillian broke the rules and gave caffeine supplements to each member of her team without the doctor’s permission. Because of this rules violation, Jillian has been penalized” with a one-pound penalty for each person on her team. “For fairness reasons, the last weigh-in is invalid, so tonight, the blue team will have the immunity they won the previous week, and the eliminated player will return to the ranch tonight,” Alison said.
Jillian looked, shall we say, annoyed, and the only thing she said that made it into the episode was, “I stand by my opinion, a caffeine supplement is significantly healthier than unlimited amounts of coffee. My only regret is that my team—they’re the ones suffering the consequences of my professional opinion.”
But on Twitter, Jillian confirmed with three words that this was basically a set-up by producers who just used the caffeine pills as a convenient excuse to create drama and bring back Ruben:
The first time she quit the show, Jillian complained about the editing and how it allowed producers to construct “whatever kind of BS story they want to create” and said she “started to feel limited by the portrayal.” She’s since returned twice.