Episode 3 – Finding Bigfoot


This week’s discussion: Finding Bigfoot, Season 11, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Animal Planet. (cable sub required past first episode) Purchase on Amazon Video.

Next week’s discussion: Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai, Eps. 1-3, 8-9.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

We discuss JS’s first pick, the long-running Animal Planet series Finding Bigfoot.  We break down the component parts of the episodic formula, discussing our thoughts on both the hosts and the witnesses they interview, as well as their dubious night ‘investigations’.  Topics discussed include the genial and sincere nature of the hosts, the ethnic and cultural diversity of the areas they visit, as well as the larger-scale flaws of the methods they use in their pursuit of the ever-elusive Bigfoots they seek to discover.  We conclude with a conversation on the decline of educational television and the appeal of ‘unreason’ in contemporary American culture.

Show Notes and Links

1:04 / Getting our equipment ready

1:34 / Mike tearfully recounts his betrayal at the hands of Jimmy Wales (this will not stop him from being lazy and crutching on Wikipedia for these show notes, however)

2:18 / Introducing the show

2:52 / How to find the show online – with caveats

3:42 / We can’t believe that they still haven’t found Bigfoot after 11 seasons

4:01 / Brief episode synopses

5:11 / A quick warning on the length of some of these episodes

6:36 / If there’s something Bigfoot-related in the area, this show will find a way to shoehorn it in

7:11 / The typical episode formula

8:44 / Starting with the characters, in order of lucidity

9:39 / Bobo – possibly some drug use in his history?

10:58 / A note on our critique of the hosts – we aren’t questioning their sincerity

11:32 / Are these people really qualified?

12:06 / Bobo as comic relief

12:22 / Matt Moneymaker, founder of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization

13:25 / Two types of pseudoscientific practitioners: the genuine believer and the con artist

13:44 / Cliff and Ranae, the token skeptic

14:42 / Cliff as the most intelligent of the three ‘believers’

16:13 / Assessing Ranae’s motivation – Is she a force for good or a cynical veneer of credibility?

17:56 / JS praises Ranae’s social intelligence

19:46 / Mike has a story about lunch with a 9/11 truther

21:57 / Ranae’s family background as motivator for being on the show

22:25 / JS thinks they could have found someone more willing to toe the ‘company line’

23:05 / Our observations on the town halls

23:53 / Mike noticed the constructed nature of the town halls from the Hawaii episode

25:35 / The town hall demographics

26:30 / JS wonders how many people were there for entertainment purposes

27:35 / Segueing into the witness followups

28:08 / Mike discusses the ethnic and cultural diversity in the episodes he watched

28:59 / The Hawaiians seemed to be expressing the folklore of the area, the Navajos – maybe not so much (although Mike includes a caveat about his overall ignorance of Navajo culture)

30:16 / Discussing the overall sincerity of the witnesses on the show

31:10 / Some of the less credible witnesses were also Bigfoot ‘researchers’

31:48 / The terrible CGI in the docudrama reenactments

32:14 / JS discusses the witnesses that stuck out to him as particularly sincere or insincere

34:01 / Mike discusses the flaws in the testimonies of the witnesses that stuck out to him

36:27 / The most unbelievable testimony of all

37:42 / The ‘smartphone camera’ problem

38:19 / The unreliability of eyewitness testimony

39:45 / Eyewitness testimony related fallacies; Liar, lord, or lunatic fallacy

41:09 / The ridiculous night investigations

43:40 / Seemed to have no rationale for their methods – except maybe it’s good TV?

44:26 / Finding Bigfoot: Rejected Evidence

44:48 / The hosts’ willingness to interpret random noises as Bigfoot

45:49 / How they could do an actual investigation

46:21 / Making it up as they go along – Bigfoots attracted to music?

46:53 / The ‘fever dream’ quality of night vision

47:27 / A thought experiment on discovering a new creature

48:23 / The sine waves the producers throw up on screen

48:59 / No consistency in the methodology or interpretations – are Bigfoots trying to be found or not?

50:10 / Comparing squatching to hunting

51:00 / JS explains hunting methods for all you liberal coastal elites

52:27 / Mike reminds JS about all the witnesses

52:37 / All the theories about sasquatches presented in this show are based on assumptions

53:22 / No consistency in the eyewitness testimony or physical ‘evidence’

54:25 / Going crazy over ‘thermal blips’ – until they turn out to be something else

55:40 / JS thought the hosts were the real interesting parts, not the investigations

56:26 / The discrepancies on foot casts somehow make them more credible to Bigfoot researchers

57:03 / JS talks about why he picked the show and his interest as a child in stuff like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, as well as The X-Files

57:50 / The incredible nature of the claim of thousands of social animals living in groups across vast areas of the country and leaving no physical evidence

59:30 / The ecological diversity makes it more likely that these creatures – if they actually existed – would be easily found since they would have advanced intellectual and social capabilities

1:00:41 / JS gives a capsule review of the book Neanderthal: Piece of shit!

1:02:09 / Mike butchers his Greek: pareidolia (human tendency to see faces) and apophenia (human tendency to perceive patterns in random data)

1:03:17 / Mike baits the Internet cranks

1:04:33 / We are exposed as part of the Marxist conspiracy!

1:06:29 / JS takes a page from James Randi, minus the sweet prize money

1:06:54 / Discussing the decline of educational TV, particularly on cable

1:07:20 / Our memories of TLC and Discovery in the 90’s

1:08:00 / Is this an inevitable by-product of capitalism?  Is it supply or demand?

1:10:12 / JS makes the demand-driven case

1:11:04 / Prevalence of conspiracy theories in US (note the inevitable kooks in the comment section)

1:11:49 / Mike makes a qualified case for supply

1:15:02 / JS links the desire to believe to Western culture’s celebration of exploration and discovery

1:16:19 / Mike wonders if the increasing complexity of scientific theory contributes to the proliferation of these shows

1:18:22 / JS elaborates on his earlier remarks; cryptozoology is accessible and tangible to general audiences

1:20:03 / Is there a solution?

1:20:20 / JS is optimistic, perhaps pseudoscientific beliefs will decline along with traditional religion

1:21:20 / Mike is Debbie Downer, believes that religion isn’t disappearing but changing

1:22:05 / Wrapping up with L. Ron Hubbard

1:22:47 / Announcing the next episode – with a bonus advert for Tubi TV

Episode 2 – The Only Way Is Essex


This week’s discussion: The Only Way Is Essex, Season 18, Eps. 1-3.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Finding Bigfoot, Season 11, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Animal Planet. (cable sub required past first episode) Purchase on Amazon Video.

This week your intrepid hosts take a (somewhat unplanned) trip across the pond to take in the ‘scripted reality’ drama The Only Way Is Essex.  After venting about our hatred of this show, we analyze the pacing of the show and how its one-track focus on petty relationship squabbles might have left a sour taste in our mouths.  We then explore the definition of reality TV on a broader level and decide whether the concept of ‘scripted reality’ fits.  Finally, we look at how this show treats British stereotypes and grapple with our cultural unfamiliarity before ending with a discussion on why this show has been so popular despite the fact that it did not connect with us personally.

Show Notes and Links

1:03 / Introducing this week’s show

1:53 / The high concept of the show (Flub 1: Essex is in Southeast, not Southwest England)

2:25 / A quick peek behind the scenes of 42 Minutes of Reality

3:52 / The locale of the first two episodes: resort town of Mallorca; Mike mentions Season 4 of Jersey Shore

4:45 / Back to the high concept

5:33 / Quoting The Guardian’s TV Critic

6:11 / We hated this show

7:55 / The ‘Waiting for Godot’ of reality TV

8:35 / We summarize the only non-relationship parts we remembered from the first 3 episodes of Season 18

9:40 / Mike thinks there are too many people on this show, compares it unfavorably to Jersey Shore

10:11 / The Wikipedia page for Season 18

10:23 / JS talks about the rapid and formulaic editing structure

12:16 / Mike talks about ‘padding’ – concept borrowed from MST3K

13:40 / ‘Plot’ summary of the first 2 episodes – such as it was

15:26 / JS notes only one holdover from first season – but archetypal continuity

16:29 / Mike thought the sound mixing was awful

17:00 / We both needed closed captioning

17:25 / Mike did like the ‘montage’ style intros of some of the episodes

18:23 / JS finds a synthesis of our views on the pace

19:18 / We briefly discuss the virtues of swears v. bleeps

20:12 / We get into definitional issues – this is an edge case

20:45 / ‘Scripted reality

21:24 / Mike thinks the term ‘reality TV’ is ironic, because it isn’t truly real, but how far is too far?

22:08 / Comparing the structure to Curb Your Enthusiasm – is this a ‘bad soap opera’ with no script?

22:44 / Mike compares to Cheaters, which is even more fake, but actually entertaining

23:13 / A pro wrestling analogy

23:29 / Are the producers next leveling us?

23:39 / The camerawork is quite good – perhaps TOO good…

24:40 / Comparing camerawork to Jersey Shore

25:18 / Goes against the most clearly artificial reality TV conventions – living in same house and the confessional booth – which paradoxically made it seem less real; Mike mentions the granddaddy of modern US reality TV, The Real World

26:47 / JS talks about Arg and Lydia’s break-up scene and some suspicious audio

28:47 / The abortion that was TOWIE Live

29:40 / JS thinks the barometer leans towards ‘not-real’

30:10 / Some of the people in this have been on other reality TV programs

30:52 / Even with all these caveats, is this still reality TV?

31:25 / JS gives a hard ‘no’

32:37 / Mike thought it was the horseshoes of reality TV – close enough

33:57 / JS believes that there should be something authentic, even if there is some manipulation behind the scenes

35:46 / This show lacked that authenticity

36:28 / Mike thinks there is possibly some authenticity ‘beyond the camera’, but mostly thinks this because the show is so boring and obviously faked stuff is more exciting

37:13 / JS would have bought it more if there was more variety in the subject matter

38:05 / Mike says there is a bit more variety beyond the third episode, which might be influencing his opinion

38:35 / Maybe not real in the literal sense, but ‘based on a true story’

38:52 / How did these people all get off work at the same time to go on holiday?

39:42 / The people on this show seemed to be living in an invisible bubble. Where are all the other people in Essex? (Flub 2: Essex has 1.5 million people but not millions – the point still stands)

40:50 / Moving on to popular stereotypes of Essex

41:09 / Different from America’s Most Smartest Model, but both share a worldview that plays on stereotypes

41:46 / Controversy and pushback from Essex residents

42:15 / Mike thinks ‘breaking down stereotypes’ works for Sundance documentaries, but not successful reality TV

42:52 / Mike busts out his Wikipedia research and has JS play a guessing game

43:07 / ‘Essex girl’ stereotype

44:52 / ‘Essex man’ stereotype

46:44 / Mike’s Theory of the Week – are these stereotypes connected?

47:33 / JS wonders if there is a ‘nouveau riche’ component to Essex stereotypes – even in Season 1, these people seem to have no jobs, but lots of disposable income

50:14 / Mike mentions that there were a few people who seemed to own businesses

51:33 / Piggybacking on the last episode’s discussion – why has this gone on so long?

52:28 / A clarification on ‘seasons’ in the UK (?) context

53:08 / A doomsday scenario

53:36 / TOWIE in the context of the genre of ‘soap opera

55:09 / JS drops some soap opera knowledge

56:31 / Mike noticed a pattern in the Hulu ads – is there a gender component to the target demo?

57:17 / JS thinks the main component is age (and class?)

59:10 / Mike wonders if the banality of the show is the key to its popular appeal

1:03:05 / JS observes that with age, you are more likely to encounter weightier issues in life

1:04:46 / Mike wonders if some portion of the audience has problems, but watches for escapist reasons – part of the appeal is that there is a lot of drama, but nothing serious behind it

1:06:06 / It often seemed that there were more interesting things going on off-camera than on camera

1:07:24 / Announcing next week’s show

1:09:00 / We are on iTunes and have an email address: 42minutesofreality AT gmail DOT com

Episode 1 – America’s Most Smartest Model


This week’s discussion: America’s Most Smartest Model, Eps. 1-3.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: The Only Way Is Essex, Season 18, Eps. 1-3.  Watch it on Hulu.

Our very first episode!  We introduce the format and goals of the podcast as well as discussing our previous experiences with reality TV and our preconceptions of it going into the show.  We then get to the meat of the episode where we discuss the show’s humor, product placement, outdated technology, reliance on stereotypes, and gender/body politics.  We also speculate as to why this show failed to be renewed and delve into what makes a reality TV series successful.

Show Notes and Links

1:20 / Introducing our show’s format and goals

3:32 / Our experiences with reality TV and our reality TV touchstones

JS: Survivor (season 1), American Idol (season 5), COPS

Mike: Blind Date, The Jerry Springer Show, Jersey Shore, Mike’s Challenger moment and possible new reality TV show pitch

9:22 / Our preconceptions and stereotypes of reality TV

11:07 / Gender and Reality TV fights

12:23 / Our (not very extensive) experiences with America’s Next Top Model, Mike mentions Tyra Banks’ Oprah rip-off

13:11 / Concept of America’s Most Smartest Model

14:14 / The show’s judges

14:50 / The ‘point’ of the show

15:34 / Questions about the contestant interview process

16:10 / This is not a show about merit

17:00 / Issues with pacing and questions about timescale

18:23 / The show’s body politics

20:53 / Back on topic with discussion of the contestants

26:25 / Stacking the deck on gender and ‘dumb model’ stereotypes

27:37 / Mike’s theory on the dominant ideology of reality TV

28:47 / JS thinks the show is reminiscent of the movie Zoolander

29:20 / Celebrates modeling industry despite poking fun at stereotypes, Product placement

31:13 / Mean-spiritedness of show’s humor, fashion industry; is it a hallmark of reality TV?

33:24 / Mike preferred the meanness being channeled into zany challenges rather than mean comments (He also forgot to mention the commercials they had to film while taking an ice-cold shower, that was funny too)

34:41 / Being put off by some of the show’s gender politics, particularly Mary Alice’s dismissive response to a contestant’s concerns about being approached by male strangers (she’d get pilloried on Twitter if this show aired today) and Ben Stein’s leering

36:03 / They’d have to take the smartphones away if they re-did this show today

37:35 / Reveling in the shittiness of this show’s video post-production quality, Mike mentions the 90’s vintage VH1 show Pop-Up Video

39:20 / The show’s bipolar attitude towards the fashion industry’s relationship to sex, Mike thinks Mary Alice needs to get off her high horse

41:30 / Mike thought that the show’s attempt to change gears and get us to sympathize with the participants in the finale was a failure

42:06 / JS compares the narrative arc of reality TV competition to horror

42:57 / Discussing the finale

44:40 / Mike hadn’t seen a reality TV competition finals with two ‘designated villains’ (admittedly drawing from a limited sample)

45:15 / Who we found (kind of) sympathetic and our difficulties sympathizing with the contestants, Mike mentions the Grand Guignol Theatre

47:13 / Mary Alice’s myopic attitude towards non-modeling interests

51:05 / The Wikipedia page for the show

51:23 / Reality TV as a ‘springboard’ to notoriety

52:43 / The Calvinball-esque quality of the competition element and Mary Alice’s odd “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” attitude and strange judging criterion

54:31 / Mike has a grander theory about the show; JS is skeptical

55:14 / Discussing why this show was not renewed; JS thinks the lack of fairness in the competition undermined the show’s prospects

57:32 / Would playing it straighter have helped?

57:57 / The ‘Borat’ problem; if the show is successful, it’s harder to replicate because everyone is in on the joke

59:02 / Is the show too gimmicky to sustain itself beyond a season?

1:00:04 / JS thinks celebrating success is an integral part of successful reality TV competition

1:00:51 / Mike thinks the show lost steam because it became more of a ‘regular’ modeling show as it went on, but thought it had fun moments with the creative challenges

1:02:41 / JS thinks the most successful moments were the challenges that forced the contestants to be creative

1:03:50 / The answer to what would make this show succeed: America’s Next Top Model

1:04:30 / The ‘novelty Christmas album’ of reality shows; works best as a one-off

1:05:10 / Why people come back to new seasons of reality TV shows, JS mentions the show Chopped

1:05:55 / This show doesn’t celebrate success, but failure

1:07:13 / Mike liked this show more than JS because he likes watching people fail

1:08:06 / Comparing this show to Top Chef (or more accurately, Mike’s second-hand impression of Top Chef), Trade-offs of focusing on humor v. competition, accessibility vs. sustainability

1:10:01 / Failure can be sustainable, but needs variation

1:10:46 / Mike found some weeks of competition worked better than others on a merit-level, but the bogus competitions sometimes led to entertaining results

1:11:41 / Discussing the humor of the quirks of some of the contestants

1:15:02 / Reality TV humor and ‘creative editing’

1:16:09 / Mike goes on a tangent about Jersey Shore (get used to this)

1:17:10 / JS wraps up with a discussion of gender stereotypes and humor, picks on the poor women and their laughter

1:18:42 / Signing off and announcing next week’s show