Two-time Survivor cast member Michael Skupin was confronted by a local news reporter in Detroit and, in an incredibly long 12-minute segment, eviscerated for things like his foreclosed house, three marriages, traffic violations, and warrant for his arrest. The report focuses on his Pay it Forward system, which is described on his web site as “a financial sharing program wherein everyone benefits”; Mike even gives his bank account info for people to deposit money into. A post on its Facebook page said, “This is not a gimmick, a joke or an illegal pyramid scheme. YES it IS a pyramid, EVERYTHING is. YOUR JOB is a pyramid correct?”
Fox’s Detroit affiliate investigative reporter Rob Wolchek focused on Skupin for his Hall of Shame segment, and Skupin calls the business an “Internet cycler” and says “it’s not a Ponzi scheme,” and insists, “I’m helping hundreds and hundreds of people.” The whole thing is very awkward, to say the least.Jennifer Lawrence said her performance in American Hustle was inspired by Real Housewives of New Jersey: “I can’t tell where it came from because I just kind of started speaking in it, and I’ve been watching a lot of reality TV shows and those reality TV shows have a lot of New Jersey women, so I can’t say that it’s not from them. I wish I could, I really wish I could.”Britain’s Got Talent breakout star Susan Boyle revealed she has Asperger’s, saying that while some have suggested she has brain damage, “I have always known that I have had an unfair label put upon me.” Last year, she says she learned, “I have Asperger’s. It is a relief.”Dismissed US X Factor judge Cheryl Cole settled her lawsuit with producers out of court; she had previous sued for $2.3 million.
The incredible documentary Hoop Dreams has been restored and will be screened at Sundance in 2014, 20 years after it first premiered there. If you haven’t seen it, the pre-restoration version is free on Hulu.Survivor Amazon’s Heidi Strobel is profiled: she’s now Heidi Hamels, and runs a foundation that “saves the lives of children in a far-away country.”Amazing Race 21 contestant talks about his time on the show, including passport theft and the strings that come with the Travelocity prizes.The Sportsman Channel is giving Sarah Palin a reality series, kind of, with an April series called Amazing America with Sarah Palin; the network says it “is an anthology of stories that explore some of the most original, interesting — and sometimes inspiring — people, places and pastimes connected to America’s outdoors lifestyle.”Former So You Think You Can Dance judge Adam Shankman is in rehab.Three reality shows are being shot in Maine right now, including Animal Planet’s North Woods Law, which has brought the state to the attention of other producers.Discovery is considering buying Scripps Networks, which owns Food Network, Travel Channel, and HGTV. Asylum Entertainment, the production company that has produced reality series such as Beverly Hills Pawn and Maui Fever, has been acquired by Legendary Entertainment, which is best-known for producing scripted films such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman series and The Hangover films, among many others.An interesting comparison between two topically similar but very, very different reality series: Pawn Stars and Antiques Roadshow.A list from Australia of “five reality television shows that can actually teach you something useful.”Bio Channel is no more, as A+E Networks has changed it to FYI, which is described in a press release as a network that “embraces the way we really live our lives, proudly-hyphenated and not constrained by one passion or interest. It blends the inspiring personal creativity of our viewers and the emergence of powerful digital entrants to this space with a linear reach that will create a platform for new approaches to content.” And after reading those sentences, I still have no idea what the new network is about.Channel 4’s Bafta-nominated The Audience returned but was bumped to a different channel because of low ratings. The show follows 50 people advised someone who needed to make some kind of decision in their life.
Whale Wars returns tonight, and the two-hour special, “A Commander Rises,” concludes with an incredible confrontation that is more intense than most things I’ve seen on scripted shows this year. There’s also an online “episode”: Blood and Water, which is not about this season of Survivor but instead about the conflict that has fueled the series.
Where has the series been for the last year and a half, and why is it just a two-hour special? The answers are in my piece for The Atlantic Wire: the full story behind season six. Read it to learn about the new relationship between Animal Planet and Sea Shepherd.
Over its six previous seasons, including the fascinating one set in the Faroe Islands, Animal Planet has contracted with an independent production company, Lizard Trading Company, which has sent crews on board the ships. Not last year: it was filmed by crews hired by Sea Shepherd, who were supervised by a former Whale Wars cast member, who used her experience being filmed to film this season.
Tonight’s special focuses on the people who take over the vessels—including a new one named after The Simpsons co-creator who donated money so Sea Shepherd could buy a Japanese boat (brilliant!). (Sam Simon told USA TODAY that a cancer diagnosis stopped him from joining last year’s campaign, and that he loves the TV show: “the action is real and it’s spectacular.”)
Paul Watson was forced to step down as a result of legal action, so the four captains must lead, and together they are fascinating characters and case studies in leadership. Their actions range from incompetence (of course) to prudence to absolute insanity. The footage, which Sea Shepherd delivered to Animal Planet and executive producer Liz Bronstein edited into a two-hour episode, is surprisingly great.
As always, Sea Shepherd’s actions are morally and legally ambiguous—and the results are breathtakingly dramatic, far more intense than virtually anything else on television. The final confrontation in the two-hour episode is jaw-dropping, and is among the most intense things I’ve seen on television this year, reality or scripted.
Whale Wars: “A Commander Rises”: A
Two days before its 27th season finale, Survivor has been renewed for two more seasons by CBS, which will bring the show to its 30th episode in the spring of 2015. The network said the show was “a consistent ratings winner” in its timeslot, and noting that it is “the #2 reality series on broadcast television in adults 18-49.”
Jeff Probst is remaining as host and executive producer, and in his press release quote, says the show “has been blessed with incredibly loyal fans. We make this show for them and I am thrilled that we get to do it again.”
CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler said in her press release quote that “Survivor continues to set the bar for outstanding production values, compelling storytelling while delivering fresh new adventures every season. The show’s enduring success is a testament to the creativity and passion of Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst, and an amazing production team.”
One thing I love about this season is that it continually surprises, especially in terms of people and how they play. Ciera and Laura M. have proven themselves to be break-out star players, each in their own way (strategically and in challenges), and there are many other examples. Who knew that at this stage, I’d be rooting for a former Big Brother player and be impressed by his oratory abilities?
While yet another Tribal Council of intense lobbying did not yield the results the underdogs hoped for, it was, once again, unpredictable.
Hayden and Ciera had one option left: a “Hail Mary play” to convince Monica about how she’s viewed by Tyson and Gervase. What Ciera told Monica seemed both accurate and somewhat like deception, since they just piled on things we haven’t actually seen recently. Monica said that learning they viewed her as a pawn “hurt me.”
Hayden took a fascinating, emotionally manipulative approach at Tribal, playing to her sense of self: “You’re Tyson’s lapdog, and that he’s using you all the way to the end. Brad’s gonna see that, you’re kids are gonna see that. And right now is the time when you can show everybody you’re a strong, independent woman and put a stamp on the game.”
But Monica stuck with them, sending Hayden to Redemption Island and likely the jury. Despite her resoluteness, I read Gervase’s strong reactions at Tribal Council as nervousness that Monica would switch, since he and Tyson just went through a Tribal where Ciera switched on them. However, Tyson was confident enough to keep his hidden idol hidden, perhaps still in his crotch.
Ciera wasn’t voted out thanks to an insane immunity challenge win, solving the puzzle first even though every else was far ahead of her, which we knew because we saw that was actually the last to start working on her puzzle, and because Probst said it repeatedly before jumping into a plane and writing in the sky “CIERA IS IN LAST PLACE WAY BEHIND FAR AWAY FROM OTHERS NOT IN FIRST LAST NO CHANCE LOSER.”
I am starting to suspect that Probst’s stating of the obvious this season may actually be a contagious disease he’s picked up in the Philippines, because it seems to be spreading. Monica started doing it, too, narrating her own obvious position as the swing vote in the third person: “It’s up to Monica and what she decides.”
Redemption Island was the all-too-familiar stick/key/door challenge, and despite offering advice to her daughter, Tina still won. Watching her decide to win and not essentially give up to allow Katie to remain in the competition was a really emotional moment, one that was, as usual, completely blown by Probst over-narrating it, even repeating the subtitle of this season in case we forgot, or in case Tina forgot Katie was her daughter.
All of this takes us into Sunday’s finale with an underdog, Ciera, possibly being joined by her mother, though we’re still at a 2-3 split if Monica doesn’t change her mind. That sets up a likely final three of Tyson, Gervase, and Monica, though the way this season has been going, I wouldn’t be surprised to be surprised.
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RuPaul’s Drag Race returns in February, and the show has released the amazing teaser trailer below, in addition to the names of the drag queens who will be competing—one of whom previously appeared on American Idol. Also on this season: Australian Idol semi-finalist Courtney Act.
American Idol 7’s Danny Noriega would have been the Fox show’s first openly gay finalist, but was eliminated at the top-16 stage of the semi-finals. He’s now one of 14 Drag Race contestants, performing as Adore Delano. She introduces herself as being “two years old and I’m from the ocean.” Explaining the translation of her last name, she says, “I guess I’m a swampy anus at night.”
Logo’s bio for Danny says, “Notorious for sassing Simon Cowell on American Idol, Danny Noriega is now setting the Southern California drag scene ablaze as the infectiously charming party girl Adore.” Yahoo TV reports that he has been “performing in drag shows across Southern California” and “auditioned for ‘Drag Race’ last season, narrowly missing the cut.”
Here’s the promo that shows some of the queens in and out of makeup, set to HiFashion’s “Amazing.”
NBC’s The Sing-Off returned after two years last night, reminding us of the power of pure, raw, impressive talent from incredible a cappella groups—and the power of a network competition show that just celebrates and showcases singing.
Besides simple introductory packages for the groups and judging following the performances, there is minimal time-wasting or drama-creating crap. Mark Burnett came on board as executive producer this season, and while I did not stick with the show through its last, over-extended fall season, the only change under his watch that stands out is the fantastic new battle at the end between the bottom-two teams. The face-off, two groups singing “Bye Bye Bye,” was even more fun than the regular performances, which is remarkable since it was essentially a performance by the two worst-performing groups.
The Sing-Off is also brief: this season is just seven episodes over three weeks, which is actually more than it aired its first two December seasons, but still far less than other bloated singing shows. The last time it aired, in 2011, NBC gave it a full season so it could basically take over for The Voice, and that was a pretty big mistake, with ratings dropping significantly.
Most importantly, though, the talent is just awesome, with a diversity of groups and styles. Everything we hear comes from the contestants’ mouths, which is usually very impressive. Even the weaker groups are still pleasant to listen to, and there’s just so much joy that comes from people making music from their mouths. Even the group number was amazing—watch and try not to smile:
One of the biggest blindsides on Survivor Blood vs. Water was the result of a leading question Jeff Probst asked at Tribal Council, and the somewhat ironic result was that it sent home Brad Culpepper, aka Probst’s bro “Culpepper.”
At Tribal Council, Caleb Bankston announced to the other two men on his tribe, Vytas and Hayden, “I’m gonna write Brad’s name down.” That led to a tie vote, one that was broken by Vytas—had it not been, they would have drawn rocks, exactly what ended up happening later in the season.
What’s clear is that Caleb’s turn against Brad was the defining moment. Asked about this by Hitfix’s Dan Fienberg, Caleb says that it was a question Jeff Probst asked that prompted him to make the move:
“So I was thinking about it and Jeff, he kinda tends to ask the right questions and so Tribal Council went on and so Tribal Council went on and he asked questions, people were answering and the case came up of, ‘Well, tell me why Caleb shouldn’t be the one sent home because he’s the free agent and he could swing either way, why not go ahead and do that?’ So that was kinda like a wakeup call. I was like, ‘You know? I’m not gonna ride in the backseat until somebody tells me it’s my stop and he’s your exit, go ahead and go on.’”
When he says Probst “tends to ask the right questions,” I read that as Caleb understanding that Probst isn’t asking questions from ignorance, but as a producer clued in to both what’s happening and what will make good television.
To be fair to Probst, Caleb said he was already primed to think “Something’s up. Something’s different,” thanks to Brad’s behavior at camp combined with rain (really: “usually my mood, if I feel something’s off, the weather changes”). But the question made him realize he was the target and should make a bold move to save himself.
By the way, Caleb was asked repeatedly about Colton Cumbie, who he is inexplicably in a relationship with. In another interview, he defends Colton’s behavior as a result of Colton being uncomfortable, and says they’re getting married Oct. 11 next year. Caleb said, “He’s a sweet guy; I love him, and nothing anybody says will change my opinion.”
The third installment of Teen Mom has been cancelled, according to one of its cast members. The original was cancelled in 2012, but Teen Mom 2 is back for its fifth season Jan. 20.
This weekend, Briana DeJesus wrote on Twitter that the show had “come to an end,” adding, “Time to move on from MTV.” Alexandria Sekella confirmed that, writing, “Guess we weren’t enough of train wrecks for it to be interesting. America wants to watch crazies.”