Episode 23 – Highway Through Hell

 

This episode: Highway Through Hell, Season 1, Eps. 1-5, 10.  Watch it on Netflix.

Next episode: The Fashion Hero, Season 1.  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

This month Mike and JS take their inaugural voyage into JS’s favorite reality TV subgenre with the Canadian show, Highway Through Hell, which follows the travails and triumphs of a ‘heavy rescue’ towing company that works a particularly treacherous yet important stretch of highway in British Columbia.

We go into the usual topics: concept, characters, authenticity, appeal, etc as well as discussing JS’s love for the ‘blue-collar’ genre and his experiences in a blue-collar workplace.  Mike, on the other hand, has some criticisms regarding the lack of interpersonal heft in some of the workplace scenes that take place away from the crash sites and the show’s overall worldview.  We also analyze the show through the lens of an article covering the linkage between ‘hegemonic masculinity’ and ‘occupational reality TV’ and discuss the role of nostalgia in the appeal of ‘men’s soaps’ as well as the shifting nature of masculinity in the post-industrial service economy.  Finally, there are some asides on the prominence of ‘car culture’ in North America and the interesting role that the ‘omniscient’ narrator plays in shaping the worldview of the show.

[Also, as a minor coda, Mike’s audio is a touch choppy in a couple parts for some reason.  Apologies and hopefully it will not be too distracting.]

Show Notes and Links

1:17 / Mike apologizes to our two listeners for the delay on the last episode

1:56 / Introducing this month’s show with some Wikipedia humor

2:49 / Does JS have a soft spot for this sub-genre?  (We mention the show Dirty Jobs)

4:03 / Our personal feelings on the show

4:45 / The concept for the show

7:37 / Discussing Jamie Davis, the owner (and implied POV character)

9:52 / Moving into the main employees

12:01 / Going over the ‘bit players’ and Jamie’s son, Brandon

15:27 / The tractor trailer drivers are a secondary character in the show

16:28 / Two modes of the show: Crash sites and workplace politics

17:18 / Mike thought the relationship aspect of the show was weak because the people seemed too one-dimensional for him to invest in (our episode on TOWIE is here)

19:08 / JS had different expectations, didn’t mind that it was focused on the work and the business

19:56 / JS’s experience with blue-collar workers and his theory as to why the show didn’t delve into the personal lives of the workers

21:53 / Delving into the authenticity of the show; there seemed to be a dichotomy between the crash scenes and the ‘office’ scenes (our Alaskan Bush People episode is here)

24:08 / Mike wasn’t convinced by the confrontation between Kevin and Jamie or the rivalry between Jamie and Al

25:33 / JS agrees the rivalry was exaggerated, but thought Kevin’s reaction jived with his experiences in a blue-collar workplace

26:56 / Mike can’t imagine having an outburst like Kevin at his job

28:03 / JS thinks that a good blue-collar worker can get another job fairly easily in the worst-case scenario of getting fired

28:56 / Are these types of outbursts just associated with blue-collar work or is Mike just very cautious in his disposition?

30:18 / This show hit the predictable narrative ‘beats’ in terms of a typical ‘blue-collar’ reality show (JS mentions Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers)

33:17 / Segueing into the article for this month: “The working class heroes: analyzing hegemonic masculinity in occupational reality TV”, Nathan Blair, The Plymouth Student Scientist, Vol. 6, Issue 1, 2013 (analyzing the UK show Trawlermen)

34:45 / Talking about the concept of the ‘retributive man’ and how these shows recast working-class identity in terms of an individualistic masculinity (Mike mentions socialist realism)

36:52 / These shows praise working-class men in an abstract sense, but not in a way that would challenge the socioeconomic hierarchy

38:00 / JS thinks there is a certain ‘blue-collar mentality’ of wanting to ‘get things done’ without ‘asking questions’ that dovetails with the worldview of ‘blue-collar TV’

39:06 / Jamie as an ideal of both blue-collar worker and scrappy entrepreneur

40:21 / Jamie as someone who can appeal to both blue-collar and white-collar people as well as both the ‘retributive’ and ‘new’ man

41:44 / Mike was disappointed in how the show dealt with the emotional fallout of this line of work, thought the show pulled back when things got interesting (our Paris Hilton BFF Dubai episode)

44:00 / Brandon’s earrings: A subversion of traditional masculinity or an evolution of it?

46:06 / Blue-collar men and cultural conservatism

47:11 / The show’s unrelenting emphasis on stoicism

49:00 / Is the ‘retributive man’ ideal more closely linked to blue-collar men in the globalized, white-collar, post-industrial economy?

50:31 / Getting even more meta: How watching this for the podcast affected Mike’s viewing of the show

51:06 / The specificity of ‘car culture’ to North America (Although the amount of vehicles in the US and Italy is apparently much closer than we thought)

54:22 / How the highway-centric transportation system relates to the ‘heroic positioning’ of the show’s narrative

55:26 / Mike was struck by the visceral and spectacular nature of the crash footage, mentions J.G. Ballard’s Crash

56:45 / This show’s nostalgic appeal reminded Mike of Dual Survival

58:17 / Comparing and contrasting this show with Dirty Jobs

1:02:14 / Jamie as a modern version of the Jeffersonian ‘yeoman farmer’

1:03:20 / Circling back to the article: the linkage between the decline of traditional masculinity and the rise of the post-industrial service economy

1:04:50 / Discussing the role of the narrator and comparing the narrative voice to Bridezillas and Blind Date

1:08:46 / Circling back to the show’s appeal and our personal reactions

1:09:38 / Mike found this less offensive than certain other masculine reality shows, but brought some baggage that was shaped like a certain Orange-American

1:11:55 / Mike’s own worldview about work is the opposite of this show

1:12:43 / JS thinks there is a different sort of pride and tangibility associated with physical labor

1:14:39 / Introducing the next couple shows: Fashion Hero and The Four: Battle for Stardom (seriously, though, don’t watch the Four – it’s terrible)

1:16:45 / Sending us out with the customary announcements: contact us, rate/review us, and subscribe

 

Advertisements

Episode 22 – Behind Bars: America’s Toughest Jail

 

This episode: Behind Bars, Season 1, Eps. 1-8 (or just Ep 9 if you want to save time – and your sanity).  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Next episode: Highway Through Hell, Season 1, Eps. 1-5, 10.  Watch it on Netflix.

[Many apologies for the unannounced delay, which was 1/4 having to record late because JS had a cold and 3/4 Mike having a severe case of “procrastinitis” when it came to the editing.  As a heads up, the release schedule going forward might be a bit more variable than the strict ‘first Sunday of the month’ schedule we’ve been on, but we are definitely not going anywhere and will be back each month for an episode.  Now on to the episode recap…]

This month we took a field trip to Joe Arpaio’s infamous ‘Tent City’ for a ‘unique experiment’ (not really) featuring 10 British ‘punks’ who get whipped into shape by Sheriff Joe’s lackeys for 10 days to put them on the ‘straight and narrow’ (again, not really).  JS found the experience to be bearable enough as entertainment, whereas Mike was left feeling as miserable as one of Sheriff Joe’s inmates.

Other than the usual recaps of structure, concept, and cast, we discuss the show’s worldview and the stagecraft of the ‘scared straight’ experience.  We also situate this show both within the larger ‘scared straight’ phenomenon and the overall relationship between the justice system and reality TV, go over the cultural differences in penal practice between the US and Europe, talk about the appeal of punishment versus rehabilitation in spite of its ineffectiveness in reducing crime, and explore the ‘gonzo rhetoric’ of both Joe Arpaio himself and this show.

Show Links and Notes

1:11 / Mike opens with an apology and a correction

1:55 / Introducing this month’s show; JS mentions another Behind Bars show, Mike mentions Spike TV

3:24 / Our initial thoughts on the show’s enjoyment factor (Our Keys to the VIP episode)

4:23 / Why Mike picked this show, he mentions COPS

4:52 / Our background with ‘scared straight’ shows; Mike mentions Scared Straight ’99 (he thought it was 96) and Beyond Scared Straight

7:15 / The concept and structure of the show

9:24 / JS runs down the recap episode; Mike mentions Kitchen Nightmares

10:37 / Our main takeaway from the show

11:26 / JS goes on a brief tangent about Star Trek: The Next Generation

12:30 / Discussing Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his (infamous) record; Mike mentions Al Capone getting busted for tax evasion

15:27 / Talking about Sheriff Joe’s lack of presence in the show

16:31 / JS breaks down the difference between jails and prisons

18:01 / Mike just has to talk about Sheriff Joe’s dumb parade and the yokels that show up at it

18:57 / Transitioning to Sgt. Irby – the institutional center of the show

20:12 / The show didn’t do a good job of giving us differentiation between the ‘inmates’

21:23 / There are also American inmates featured in short, snippet interviews

22:23 / This narrator failed the UK version of the SAT Analogy section, but gives you a good idea of the show’s worldview

23:35 / Delving into the cultural differences between the UK and US – idea of ‘Tent City’ as being related to ‘frontier, Wild West justice’

25:14 / Talking about the stagecraft involved in the ‘scared straight’ experience

28:44 / The show emphasizes the controlling, totalizing nature of the prison regime but paradoxically also expects us to accept these events as authentic and spontaneous

29:23 / Mike was struck by how much the show emphasized common stereotypes about prisoners and prison life, even down to the way it was shot

31:25 / The mission statement of the show – is it accurate? (A: No.)

31:51 / Mike talks about the link between harsh prisons and recividism (the papers Mike mentions are here, here, and here)

33:00 / Comparing US prison practices to Norway

34:10 / The history of ‘Scared Straight’ and how it doesn’t work

35:45 / Talking about cultural questions of punishment vs. rehabilitation

37:02 / The appeal of punishment in American culture – is support for harsh punishment linked to belief in the ‘American Dream’? (the papers Mike mentions are here and here)

38:58 / A final coda – the ‘Bloody Code’ in the UK failed at deterrence

39:32 / Talking about Joe’s record in detail (lots of lawsuits and scandals)

41:10 / Segueing into the article: Crime Control as Mediated Spectacle: The Institutionalization of Gonzo Rhetoric in Modern Media and Politics, R.J. Maratea and Brian A. Monahan, Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 36, Issue 3, 2013

42:27 / The five-part definition of ‘gonzo rhetoric’ in the article

44:36 / Joe Arpaio as a symptom of broader media and political practices

45:45 / ‘Gonzo rhetoric’ is effective because it is simple and swims with the broader cultural tide

47:40 / Our ‘bonus’ article: Punishing images: Jail Cam and the changing penal enterprise, Mona Lynch, Punishment & Society, 2004

48:16 / Returning to the heart of the appeal of harsh punitive practices: despite the lack of evidence, they are a simple solution to a complex problem

49:26 / The idea of ‘willful nostalgia’ in penal practice – comparing ‘Tent City’ to ‘Make America Great Again’

50:32 / A brief aside on Sheriff Joe’s botched ‘Jail Cam’

50:58 / Criminal justice reality TV as commodity/spectacle; JS compares this to other reality shows (COPS, Dog the Bounty Hunter, and court TV shows like Judge Faith and Divorce Court)

53:52 / Mike recaps the fleeting instances where this show stops being propaganda and actually gets real

55:01 / How this show fits into the larger ‘scared straight’ genre

55:40 / JS’s theory of the show’s specific appeal to the UK audience

56:05 / Returning to the topic of our enjoyment (or, in Mike’s case, lack thereof)

57:41 / Mike actually would have liked this more if it was shot like Toddlers & Tiaras

58:08 / This show would have been better if it was shorter, less repetitive

1:00:14 / Our official endorsement: Don’t vote Joe Arpaio to the Senate

1:00:24 / Introducing the show and article for next month’s episode

1:01:54 / Our usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 21 – 90 Day Fiance

 

This episode: 90 Day Fiance, Season 4, Eps, 1-6, 14.  Watch it on TLC.com (cable sub required).  Purchase it on Amazon Instant Video.

Next episode: Behind Bars, Season 1, Eps. 1-8.  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

[A brief note from Mike: I had replaced my mic – fruitlessly, it turns out – and since I’ve had to record at my parent’s house with no immediate access to Audacity, due to a technical problem with my brand of mic and the Win 10 Creator’s Update, I didn’t realize my gain was too high.  I was able to more or less fix it in a similar fashion to our episode on Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai when I had a similar audio issue, but like that episode, the audio is a little shaggy at points.  My apologies.]

We are back with yet another reality TV extravaganza about the topic of love and romance (albeit a conception of ‘love and romance’ that may be a little bit more mercenary), this time with the infamous TLC show 90 Day Fiance.  With the assistance of an excellent article on the figure of the ‘mail-order bride’ in popular culture, we situate the different couples from each storyline within the dominant stereotypes of commodity, victim, or victimizer (or how, in some cases, they run counter to them).

We also discuss larger issues of different cultural definitions of marriage as either a vehicle for romantic love or as a straightforward legal and economic transaction, the show’s ‘male gaze’, and the show’s depiction of foreigners and foreign cultures.  Finally, we return to our usual staple topics of the show’s authenticity, worldview, and appeal, along with a brief discussion of the role of technology in facilitating (and ‘nurturing’) these long-distance relationships.

Show Notes and Links

1:15 / Mike floats an idea for a spin-off

1:52 / Introducing this month’s show

3:20 / The show concept and episodic structure

6:25 / Mike wasn’t bitter about purchasing this one (Mike mentions two lowlights – Monica the Medium and TOWIE)

7:23 / Our previous experiences with the show

8:36 / Introducing this month’s article: ‘Mail-order brides’ in popular culture: Colonialist representations and absent discourse, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Volume 15, Issue 4, by Bonnie Zare and S. Lily Mendoza

11:02 / The stereotypes mentioned in the article: commodities, victims, and victimizers

12:07 / JS makes an amusing Freudian slip (the idiotic conspiracy theory Mike is making fun of is covered here by Snopes)

12:36 / Jorge and Anfisa’s storyline (Amy’s Baking Company is covered on our episode on Kitchen Nightmares)

16:44 / Jorge’s anti-feminism made him much less sympathetic

18:05 / This was the most stereotypical of the storylines

19:07 / Returning to the article – Russian women as “victimizers”

20:21 / Russian sex ratio imbalances (Wikipedia article and article on Russian-Chinese marriages)

22:02 / Discussing Jorge and Anfisa on the tell-all episode

23:24 / Matt and Alla’s storyline

27:31 / Contrasting cultural differences around marriage between Alla and Matt’s family

29:37 / Is Alla a “victimizer” stereotype like Anfisa or is this different?  Is the “victimizer” stereotype rooted in anxieties about the modern conception of marriage?

31:40 / The presence of the child makes the couple more sympathetic

33:20 / Chantel and Pedro’s storyline

35:40 / This storyline runs counter to the traditional ‘mail-order bride’ narrative

37:03 / Mike makes a brief digression to their storyline’s continuation on Happily After Ever

37:37 / Discussing the show’s ‘male gaze’ (particularly in regards to Chantel)

39:30 / Are we more sympathetic towards this couple because of our cultural bias toward romantic love?

42:15 / Returning to the article – this storyline runs counter to the racial and gender ‘script’ that the article references

44:06 / Although this storyline goes against the grain in many ways, the couple is still traditional in their conception of gender and marital roles

45:53 / Nicole and Azan’s storyline (we mention the websites OkCupid and Omegle)

50:34 / Mike was surprised that Azan was surprised about Nicole’s weight; JS has a personal story about online dating

52:44 / We thought Azan wasn’t someone who came off as “eager for a green card”

54:15 / Talking about the cultural differences regarding religion, public displays of affection and the role of husband and wife

56:17 / Contrasting the show’s depiction of their families

58:23 / Mike praises the show’s portrayal of Morocco and how it countered stereotypes of foreign countries as (to use the parlance of our racist prez) “shitholes

58:57 / Transitioning to the eternal question of authenticity; Mike contrasts the visual style of the tell-all episodes of the main series and Happily Ever After (the article Mike mentions about the ‘scripted’ line is here)

1:00:12 / Chantel’s meltdown on Happily Ever After (check the outro for the clip) and other over-the-top moments made Mike question some of the authenticity of the main series

1:01:32 / JS’s instinctive read on the show’s authenticity

1:02:44 / Mike gives some examples of possible producer manipulation (The reality TV deal Jorge and Anfisa supposedly inked is here and the $45,000 dress is covered here)

1:03:58 / Mike’s Grand Unified Theory on the show’s authenticity (Our episode of Bridezillas is here and an article providing more fodder for Mike’s theory on Jorge and Anfisa is here)

1:04:57 / A brief discussion of technology on the show, particularly the role of FaceTime and other video chats

1:07:32 / Closing with the usual discussion of the show’s appeal and our personal reactions

1:08:32 / JS thinks the show’s appeal lies in its generally authentic portrayal of both success and failure

1:10:35 / Mike thought the most interesting portions of the show were when the relationships were more ambiguous than the straight success/failure dichotomy

1:12:01 / Does this show have a message regarding these kinds of marriages?

1:15:58 / Debuting our totally original rating system

1:16:11 / Our upcoming episodes (our episode with Dave on Hell’s Satans is here and our first episode on America’s Most Smartest Model is here): The Fashion Hero and Behind Bars: America’s Toughest Jail

1:18:49 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review us, and subscribe

Episode 20 – Blind Date

 

This episode: Blind Date, Season ???.  Watch it on YouTube.

Next episode: 90 Day Fiance, Season 4, Eps, 1-6, 14.  Watch it on TLC.com (cable sub required).  Purchase it on Amazon Instant Video.

We make our triumphant return for Season 2 with another First Love episode, this time from Mike – Blind Date.  However, the love might not be mutual this time, as JS is left a little bit cold.  We delve into the usual topics: structure, concept, etc, before looking at the show’s humor and its reliance on stereotypes (with an assist from an excellent cultural studies article that examines how the show’s humor enforces cultural norms).  We then end with a discussion of the show’s appeal and how our differing expectations and dispositions may have shaped our enjoyment (or lack thereof) of this one.

Show Notes and Links

1:15 / Mike gets in one last joke about the dumb ‘War on Christmas’ while it is still seasonally appropriate

1:30 / Introducing this month’s episode

2:39 / Mike’s memories of the show as a kid (callback to Episode 1); here’s a ‘review’ of the porn site Mike mentioned for all you pervs (NSFW, obviously)

4:01 / JS had not experienced this show before, his first impressions

5:12 / A brief digression into the quality of the recordings on YouTube; Mike mentions the Fox Reality Channel and the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News

5:54 / The concept and structure of the show

6:50 / Mentioning the host, Roger Lodge

7:47 / The main strategy of the show – setting up incompatible couples; Mike mentions the dating service eHarmony

8:45 / The big draw – the animations and graphics

11:36 / The length of the segments and discussing the actual structure of the televised show (as opposed the curated YouTube version we watched)

13:29 / Transitioning into the humor of the show and its reliance on various stereotypes

15:25 / The stereotypes are often shorn of context – heavy amount of editing in these dates

16:36 / The people on this show are damned if they do, damned if they don’t by the producers

18:25 / Discussing the show’s usage of racial/ethnic stereotypes

19:05 / A lot of these jokes would get someone fired today

19:35 / JS lays out his main problem with the animations – too heavy-handed and intrusive

21:00 / Mike enjoyed the animations, but agrees some of the humor was problematic and offensive

22:22 / We liked the humor more when it made fun of people for what they did rather than who they were

23:52 / Mike was surprised by how many personal questions came up on these dates

24:55 / Talking about the heteronormativity of the show; Mike mentions Jerry Falwell and the term metrosexual

25:45 / Segueing into the article – Pop (Up) Goes the Blind Date: Supertextual Constraints on “Reality” Television by Justin DeRose, Elfriede Fürsich, and Ekaterina V. Haskins

26:47 / JS gives a quick summary of the article’s thesis, which references the concept of cultural hegemony

28:02 / Mike thought this article did a good job honing on the relationship between the stereotypes and the production humor

29:08 / Other stereotypes mentioned by the article beyond gender and race, how it narrows expectations to the median of a standard bell curve

30:40 / JS selected two lines he enjoyed from the article on the role of consumerism in the show

32:41 / Even with the consumerism, the show comes back to the idea of conforming to the norm (don’t be gaudy or a ‘gold-digger’)

33:39 / JS thought humor was too obvious or easy to be funny, but Mike offers a (qualified) defense of the humor as being a channel for genuine anxieties

35:32 / Delving into the specific dates and how they depart or conform to the mold

37:56 / JS goes into his favorite segment – was OK with show making fun of people who seemed terrible

39:54 / Talking about the selection of the contestants; we mention Survivor: Borneo as a contemporaneous reality show

41:45 / One episode where the ‘racial’ humor kind of worked – the Asian who thought she was ‘hood’

42:42 / Transitioning to the appeal of the show and why it was successful

44:07 / Mike thought the ‘lowest common denominator’ aspect of the show was a strength; gives additional context in the form of the show’s original time slot (aka not primetime)

45:00 / Comparing the humor of the show to Bridezillas

48:10 / How our different expectations shaped our enjoyment of the show (or lack thereof)

48:52 / Revisiting the success/failure dichotomy – Does JS gravitate more towards shows that celebrate success as opposed to relishing failure? (JS mentions America’s Most Smartest Model)

51:03 / Mike is probably the opposite – more forgiving of the trashy, mean-spirited humiliation fests

51:50 / Pitching the article again – we are hoping to incorporate something like this going forward (although we may not find specific articles for the likes of Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai)

52:35 / Introducing next month’s episode

53:52 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 19 – Year in Review

 

This episode: Year in Review, 2017.

Next episode: Blind Date, Season ???.  Watch it on YouTube.

An early Christmas present from your friends at 42 Minutes of Reality.  We originally planned on wrapping until January, but after recording the season finale, we decided to do a ‘year in review’ episode.  We reflect upon what we have learned about the genre after 18 episodes and what has held true.  Then we hand out some awards for our Top 3 and Bottom 3 shows, as well as our over and underachievers and our favorite Podcast Discussion.  We then end on a brief announcement about the format and release schedule for next year.

Episode 19 Show Notes and Links

1:05 / Introducing a very special episode

2:00 / Revisiting our conception of reality TV (Episode 1 is here)

2:31 / Mike’s takeaway: Even less reality in reality TV then he thought, some shows are out-and-out staged (We discuss TOWIE and Bridezillas, but Alaskan Bush People also fits into this bucket)

4:25 / JS’s takeaway: He was surprised by the diversity of the genre, but thinks his general analysis from Episode 1 still holds

5:57 / The tone of reality TV reminds Mike of melodrama, he was also surprised by the variety beyond drunken, trashy antics

7:47 / JS didn’t expect to have such strong reactions to the shows we’ve watched (both good and bad)

8:45 / Starting with the Top 3 shows we watched this year

9:13 / JS’s #3: Kitchen Nightmares

10:45 / Mike’s #3: Survivor: Borneo

12:42 / JS’s #2: Dual Survival

14:25 / Mike’s #2: Kitchen Nightmares

15:14 / JS’s #1: Survivor: Borneo

18:09 / Mike’s #1: Bridezillas

19:30 / This was also tied for JS’s best Podcast Discussion

20:30 / Time to move on to the Bottom 3

21:19 / JS’s #3: The Only Way Is Essex

22:25 / Mike’s #3 was the same

24:33 / JS’s #2: Monica the Medium

26:40 / Mike’s #2 was the same (perhaps appropriately?)

29:24 / JS’s #1: Toddlers & Tiaras

30:35 / Mike’s #1: Keys to the VIP (Mike was so filled with rage he forgot to summarize: it’s a competitive ‘pick-up artist’ show)

33:38 / Mike’s overachiever: Toddlers & Tiaras (JS reacts with dismay); Mike mentions the spin-off Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

37:39 / JS’s overachiever: Snooki & JWoww: Moms with Attitude

39:05 / Mike’s underachiever: Celebrity Paranormal Project

40:08 / JS’s underachiever: Finding Bigfoot

42:24 / JS’s pick for Best Discussion: Judge Faith

43:32 / Mike’s pick for Best Discussion: Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai

44:45 / Talking about the format and release schedule for our next season

47:11 / Our usual announcements: contact us, rate and review, and subscribe

Episode 18 – Celebrity Paranormal Project

 

This episode: Celebrity Paranormal Project, Season 1, Eps. 1-4.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next episode: Blind Date, Season ???.  Watch it on YouTube.

Since Halloween is coming around the bend, we decided to do an appropriately spooky themed show for this episode.  This week we discuss the zany mélange of celebrity and the paranormal from VH1, Celebrity Paranormal Project, where D-list celebrities stumble around haunted institutions with EMF meters and séance scrolls, talking to ghosts of people who have never existed.

After discussing the concept and structure of each half of the mash-up, we talk about the fakery on behalf of the production team and parse out the differences between the authenticity of the paranormal activity and the authenticity of the cast’s reactions.  We then move into whether the idea of ghosts is plausible in general and the scanty nature of the ‘evidence’ involved.  Finally, we examine the role of gender and the show’s interaction with broader horror tropes before ending with a comparison of this show to other paranormal reality shows we’ve watched and theorize why this show failed when it had such a broad appeal in the abstract.

Finally, we’re going to be taking a break for the holiday season to get a couple episodes in the bag and we’re going to be releasing less frequently next year, unfortunately.  It was just a case of JS having significant career and family obligations and Mike realizing the weekly grind of podcast post-production wasn’t terribly sustainable.  (We were a bit naïve going into this about the work that would be involved, obviously.)  That being said, we are hoping that having more time between episodes will lead to a higher quality podcast and we are kicking around some ideas between us on what we can do to facilitate that, so if you, the listener, have any ideas on that front that you’d like to see implemented, this would be a great moment to get in touch with us.  Thanks for listening so far and have a wonderful holiday season!

Show Notes and Links

1:28 / Introducing this week’s show (eventually); Mike mentions America’s Smartest Model, The Surreal Life, and Flavor of Love

3:20 / Based off an earlier reality show, MTV’s Fear

4:12 / Running down the concept and episode formula

7:28 / Talking about the ‘Heart of the Haunting’

8:17 / This show borrows heavily from horror tropes and narratives

8:41 / Briefly comparing the tone to other ‘ghost hunting’ shows

9:18 / Transitioning to the ‘celebrity’ aspect of the show

10:29 / We never see the production crew, but they are out there (unlike the ghosts)

11:08 / Many of these ‘celebrities’ seemed to be there as product placement for other VH1 reality shows (and Baywatch)

11:51 / Discussing how the types of celebrities on the show differed by gender

12:32 / They really dug deep on some of these credentials

13:38 / Segueing into the perennial authenticity question

14:00 / Many of the narratives in this show appear to be invented

14:42 / Discussing the shenanigans of the ‘ghosts’ (aka the PA’s)

17:15 / Our favorite obviously producer-planted ‘relics’

19:12 / The questionable physics behind the ‘ghost catcher’

20:13 / The show relies heavily upon re-enactments

22:20 / Comparing the tone to other paranormal shows we’ve watched (Finding Bigfoot, Monica the Medium)

23:20 / Discussing the authenticity of the celebrity reactions

24:32 / There was a strong correlation between celebrities already believing in the paranormal and finding ‘evidence’ of paranormal activity; Mike mentions Casper the Friendly Ghost

25:25 / Concept of ‘heightened suggestibility’ – Some of the fear has a rational basis (fear of the dark, fear of being alone)

26:00 / Mike’s storytime – freaking out at a ‘haunted house’

27:52 / JS had a ‘jump scare’ moment watching the show

28:40 / A few of the celebrities express skepticism or ambivalence

29:37 / Segueing into the plausibility (or lack thereof) of ghosts in general

30:54 / JS has the answer; Mike brings up Last Thursdayism

32:05 / JS discusses the odd cultural specificities of American ‘ghost stories’

33:40 / Nobody suggests that we look for ghosts in Auschwitz

34:11 / The Finding Bigfoot Problem: Shouldn’t we have better evidence than ‘whispers’ on digital voice recorders or thermal blips?

35:48 / The gendered nature of the ‘freak-outs’ – Did the selection process play a role?

37:23 / A couple of examples of women behaving against the grain

38:28 / Mike brings up an episode where a male celebrity is called a ‘little girl’

39:05 / Discussing the objectification of the female celebrities, the objectification is reminiscent of many horror flicks

41:00 / Comparing this show to Monica the Medium (uplifting vs. frightening – sincerity vs. cynicism)

43:52 / Unlike Monica, you don’t need to buy into the existence of the paranormal to be entertained

45:00 / The show was entertaining in small doses, but the formula began to get repetitive

45:34 / The high points of the show depended on the specific celebrities, but too many celebs were just there to look good

47:45 / Comparing the failure of this show to the (relative) success of its predecessor

48:45 / JS pitches a CPP All-Star reunion show

49:36 / Closing with the appeal of the show

50:33 / JS was surprised this show only went for eight episodes

51:01 / Mike thought it might have been viable if the editing was tighter and the celebrities were stronger

51:58 / We discuss the production costs and fantasize about the production company going the full Bridezilla

53:38 / The logistical difficulties of maintaining the show in terms of having enough different locations to explore

55:30 / An announcement for our listeners: taking a holiday break and a new release schedule for next year (aka podcasting was more work than we had originally bargained for)

56:45 / Talking about our first episode of the next season: Another First Love, this time from Mike

58:18 / The usual stuff: contact us, like our Facebook page, rate/review and subscribe

Episode 17 – Hell’s Satans

 

This week’s discussion: Hell’s Satans, Season 1, Eps. 1-5, 7-8.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next week’s discussion: Celebrity Paranormal Project, Season 1, Eps. 1-4.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

As promised last week, we have a special guest host, our friend Dave, who requested that I curate a shortlist of shows for him to pick from, so I went to the smorgasbord of reality television known as Tubi TV, and he settled on the show Hell’s Satans, about a misfit moped gang from the college town of Richmond, VA.

After discussing the concept, characters, and episodes, we segue into our main discussion of just how constructed this reality show is and how the mockumentary that inspired the show informed our views on the show’s structure and message.  We also discuss issues of the show’s worldview, whether reality TV needs villains to be compelling, and return to some of the podcasts’ favorite hobby horses, like stereotypes, ‘hanging out’ and Mike name-dropping Jersey Shore.

Show Notes and Links

1:10 / This week’s guest host

2:03 / Introducing this week’s show

2:53 / The high concept; Mike does the Sons of Anarchy and Jackass comparison again

4:10 / Our impressions of the gang members

4:35 / Travis – comic relief

6:00 / Discussing the ‘One-Eyed Turtle’

7:00 / Pat – the leader of the group

8:21 / Jessie – the enforcer

10:04 / Rachel – the wild child

11:05 / Discussing the ‘lost episode’ (at least lost by Tubi TV)

12:41 / Chance and Brooke – friends with benefits

14:46 / Quick hit summaries of Episodes 1 and 2 – intro and initiation

15:37 / Episodes 3 and 4 – job hunt and party

17:03 / Episode 5 – ‘Survivor’ style camp-out

17:58 / Episodes 7 and 8 – Puerto Rico trip

18:56 / How constructed are these narratives?

19:44 / Dave thought it was a strange mix of the real and the manufactured

20:30 / Mike thought the narratives seemed a little too clean, compares the show’s structure to a sitcom

22:25 / Discussing how real the ‘college party’ in Episode 1 was

23:23 / The implausibility of the Puerto Rico trip

24:24 / Travis’ ‘nude modeling’ session

25:02 / Mike brings up Jersey Shore (again)

25:46 / Dave thought this show was less manipulative than something like Toddlers & Tiaras

26:36 / Discussing the confessionals

27:08 / Talking about the antecedent for this show, Satan Since 2003

28:00 / Dave’s impressions of the mockumentary

28:38 / A synopsis of the mockumentary

30:08 / Mike’s impressions of the mockumentary (the quote from the producer is here)

31:17 / How the mockumentary informed our reading of the reality show

32:55 / Returning to the topic of stereotypes and reality TV (Mike’s ‘theory’ was stated in Episode 1)

33:47 / Dave thought the mockumentary complimented the show well, made him think more about the intent behind the structure

34:39 / Mike thought the mockumentary confirmed his feelings about the behind-the-scenes manipulation

35:12 / How (sub)cultural specificity can inform what reality TV producers are and aren’t able to do

35:56 / This show lacked the ‘villain edit’ found in many reality shows

36:42 / The optimism of the show, Mike compares it to Snooki & JWoww

37:00 / The positive portrayal of this group is reflective of broader cultural changes

38:10 / Segueing into the show’s target demographic and worldview

39:05 / It was interesting that much of the show’s content cut against the ‘carefree’ worldview the group is selling

40:40 / Comparing the show to our (admittedly hazy) recollections of Jackass

41:50 / Talking about moments where the show touches on social class

42:43 / Does this show have the legs for a second season?

44:42 / We thought the show was entertaining, but a little bit generic

45:40 / How much overlap would there be between an interesting second season and a marketable second season?

46:13 / The show was pretty tame and inconsequential despite the antics and squabbles

47:00 / Does a reality TV show need a villain to be entertaining?

48:05 / Would the missing episode have contained a fight with actual consequences?

48:50 / Mike gives his opinion on ‘villain edits’, mentions Jersey Shore (take a drink) and the first season of Project Runway

50:19 / Coming back to the idea of reality TV as ‘hanging out’ once again, Mike mentions the loathsome Keys to the VIP

51:17 / Introducing the next episode

52:41 / Ending with announcements: contact us, like our Facebook page, rate/review, and subscribe