Episode 11 – Monica the Medium

 

This week’s discussion: Monica the Medium, Season 1, Eps. 1-4.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Keys to the VIP, Season 2, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

This week your intrepid hosts descend into the Ninth Circle of Reality TV Hell for Season One of the ‘millennial’ oriented ‘Freeform’ network’s ‘medium’ show (so many airquotes): Monica the Medium.  After venting their suffering via overwrought similes and mocking skits, Mike and JS discuss the show’s hybrid concept, production values, and cast of characters while asking themselves the question that is always foremost on their minds – Doesn’t anybody realize that there is a camera crew following these people all over the place?

They then discuss millennial stereotypes and the branding strategies of the network this show aired on as well as delving into the various techniques of so-called ‘psychics’ and ‘mediums.’  Finally, they finish on the appeal of medium shows and this particular show’s outlier emphasis on wholesome depictions and the promotion of a narrative of emotional uplift.

Show Notes and Links

1:05 / We commiserate about our love for this show (our TOWIE episode is here)

2:48 / Introducing the show

3:28 / Mike crafted an overwrought simile to describe the experience of watching this show (References here, here, and here)

4:16 / The concept of the show

6:10 / 42 Minutes of Reality Masterpiece Theater

10:32 / These ‘spontaneous’ readings happen everywhere

11:02 / Talking about the ‘eerie’ FX

12:00 / The cast of characters

12:50 / Monica’s best friend, Krista

14:23 / How authentic are these conflicts?

15:27 / Ann and the role of the ‘skeptic’

17:08 / Discussing the different roles of Monica’s parents

18:27 / Why doesn’t anyone seem to notice the cameras?

19:27 / A questionable blind date

20:44 / Some producer magic at the ‘necktie party’

21:38 / Does her mediumship really scare off the guys?

22:34 / Even Monica’s friends get in on the camera obliviousness

23:19 / Monica’s reading in the clothing store

24:14 / Did Monica actually need a job or was she doing this for the show?

25:06 / Two pillars of the show: readings and college life

26:05 / The readings are so repetitive and make the show a chore to watch

26:43 / Mike’s strategies for making it through

27:37 / The college life aspects were a little bit more bearable (and more ethical)

29:00 / The strongest segments of the show

30:21 / Discussing the network and its target demographic

30:52 / The Wikipedia page for the network where Mike got the quotes

32:45 / JS goes on a rant about inane marketing speak

33:45 / The ‘wholesome’ nature of the show’s depiction of college life

35:50 / Are millennial stereotypes gendered?  (The Emoji Movie, the AFLAC ad that Mike mentioned)

37:30 / The avocado toast reference is explained here

38:02 / Show plays on both the extraordinary and the familiar (It’s ‘relatable’)

40:42 / The unsung hero of this show

42:30 / Transitioning from college life to the medium aspect

43:33 / We thought readings were cold, but arranged in advance

46:15 / The two different types of readings

47:17 / The idea of ‘cold reading

48:55 / Pondering what it would really be like if this stuff was real (Where Mike stole his Jimmy Hoffa thing from)

50:10 / Motivated reasoning (Mike couldn’t find the dark room study he referenced, but here is a report of a similar study about fake séances and table levitation)

52:40 / ‘Shotgunning’ and other common cold reading techniques

55:05 / Discussing ‘hot reading’ (although we didn’t use the term) – JS mentions John Edward and televangelist Peter Popoff (aka the earpiece guy whose name we couldn’t remember)

56:43 / Talking about the role of TV editing and how it emphasizes the ‘hits’ of cold reading while culling out the ‘misses’

58:47 / The caveats of Monica’s medium mentor aka ‘You don’t want to be the next Sylvia Browne

59:53 / Transitioning to the appeal of this show and of mediums in general

1:01:24 / Mike discusses the tragic stories of many of the clients and his conflicted feelings

1:02:06 / The difficulties of processing sudden and/or premature death

1:03:08 / Comparing to religion – a desire for rationality and order (‘People aren’t suffering for no reason’)

1:04:32 / Mike talks about the role of emotion in belief (Mike mentions the ontological argument for God)

1:05:27 / The quote is here (second one down)

1:06:26 / The ethics of mediumship (or lack thereof)

1:09:10 / Discussing Monica’s motives and our take on her – delusional or duplicitous?

1:10:22 / Talking about the hybrid format of the show

1:11:30 / How much did the particularity of the college milieu contribute to the show’s success (and ultimate failure)?

1:13:00 / The show’s extreme emphasis on uplift was interesting and distinct for reality TV (although we didn’t like it)

1:14:50 / Is there a dichotomy in reality TV between uplift and humiliation?

1:15:36 / Introducing the next episode

1:17:12 / Last call for our Jersey Shore spin-off Facebook poll (Also, do us a solid and like the page so that Mike can feel better about himself)

1:18:17 / You can contact us, rate us, or subscribe

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Episode 10 – Survivor: Borneo

 

This week’s discussion: Survivor, Season 1.  Watch it on Hulu.  Watch it with Amazon Prime Video.

Next week’s discussion: Monica the Medium, Season 1, Eps. 1-4.  Watch it on Hulu.

This week we celebrate our 10th episode with a revisit of one of JS’s ‘Reality TV First Loves’: the debut season of the granddaddy of reality TV competition – Survivor!  With Mike having never seen the show before and JS watching it for the first time since the show originally aired back in 2000, we discuss our impressions of the show and how it foreshadowed the explosion of reality TV to come as well as the significant ways in which it differs from the shows that came in its wake.  We then move into a discussion of the Orientalism of the show’s faux-tribalist aesthetic and locate it within a larger tradition of Western narratives of travel to exotic and deserted locales before finishing on a discussion of the show’s bleak view of human nature and society and the pros and cons of various reality TV competition models.

Show Notes and Links

2:30 / Belatedly introducing this week’s show

3:15 / The concept of Survivor

6:31 / Going further into the jury process (and the awkwardness)

7:48 / Moving on to the cast of characters

8:26 / Richard Hatch – the ‘villain’

9:24 / Bringing up the ‘alliance’

11:08 / The show’s treatment of Richard’s gay identity – a revealing time capsule into the early 2000s

13:30 / Kelly Wiglesworth – the ‘hero’ (?)

15:25 / A digression into age and sex (a disadvantage in physical challenges?)

16:50 / Sonja – the first elimination

17:39 / Rudy – a bit of a bigot, but an affable – and quotable –  bigot (Mike mentions Archie Bunker)

19:00 / Susan – the Wisconsin ‘redneck’

20:43 / We thought the show did a good job of putting together a cross-section of different social backgrounds

22:15 / Sean – the real villain

23:08 / Dirk – the religious archetype

25:00 / The importance of making friends and being helpful early on

25:45 / Weight and preparation

27:10 / The contestants on this show struck JS as being much more ‘innocent’ as opposed to ‘mercenary’

28:27 / The early innocence begins to fade as the show progresses

29:10 / Talking about how the formation of the alliance was much more spontaneous and contingent than Richard may have let on in his confessionals

30:47 / The emphasis on age and ‘generation gaps’ stuck out to Mike in comparison to other shows we’ve watched, which emphasize youth

31:52 / The enduring stereotypes of youth vs. experience

33:00 / JS doesn’t like the ‘mercenary’ aspect of reality TV, appreciated its relative absence in this show

34:36 / Stay tuned for future 42 Minutes coverage of Survivor

35:00 / Mike thinks the innocence and lack of careerism is a function of the show’s historical position as the birth of mass-market reality TV; JS agrees and thinks he might never enjoy another reality show like this one

36:07 / Mike takes a bold pro ‘fame whore’ position

36:20 / Talking about the continuities as well as the disjunctions in Survivor’s relation to future reality shows (product placement, leading questions, misleading, out-of-context soundbites)

37:45 / A possibly scripted moment?

38:57 / Mike loves the confessionals – whenever someone says ‘it’s not X’

39:31 / Moving back to the differences: the editing style and presentation

40:58 / Mike’s totally uninformed opinion – the influence of ‘MTV’ (and music videos) on the quick-cut montage editing and sound production of future reality shows

42:03 / The differing demographics of youth-oriented cable and mass-market broadcast television may have also played a role

42:18 / The ‘surprise factor’ of Survivor’s success – it was originally a summer slotted show

43:17 / The novelty factor of reality TV and over-explanation

44:20 / Did you know that ‘fire is life’? (and a laugh-out-loud moment in the rain)

45:00 / Jeff Probst, Shit-stirrer in Chief

45:47 / Segueing into the ‘Orientalist’ faux-primivitist aesthetic of the show

46:20 / Orientalism as mish-mash of loosely related Western stereotypes

48:08 / Talking about a revealing moment in the closed captioning (‘primal chanting’)

49:15 / The appeal of ‘the Other’ to Western audiences (How much does this contribute to the show’s success?)

50:57 / Mike thinks the show is carried by the format, compares to other competition shows (The Apprentice, Paris Hilton BFF)

51:57 / Mike thinks the importance of the tribal motif was to give the show a needed consistency

52:38 / JS clarifies his position on the relationship between the tribal motif and ‘exotic’ foreign locale to the show’s success

54:15 / Mike thinks that once the location was decided upon, it was only ‘natural’ given the worldview of reality TV, that the show would incorporate stereotyping

54:40 / JS locates the roots of this show and its aesthetic in the ‘Robinson Crusoe’ tradition of Western narratives

57:14 / Mike thought the one time where the local people are featured was interesting in comparison to a similar encounter we discussed during our Dual Survival episode

58:20 / JS thought it was odd that the local people are largely absent, but that it fits with the narrative the show is trying to sell us

59:15 / Discussing the show’s construction of a Hobbesian and Machiavellian ‘human nature’; Mike mentions Lord of the Flies and in-group favoritism

1:00:20 / A revealing quote from Richard shows how the scenario of the show differs from ‘real life’

1:01:05 / How differing incentives would have led to different behavior on the part of the contestants

1:01:45 / How the show’s view of ‘human nature’ relates to the show’s appeal; the show seems to have evolved to emphasize ‘villainy’ and ‘back-stabbing’

1:02:35 / The appeal of seeing the worst in people (J.G. Ballard quote)

1:03:15 / JS thinks the show’s appeal is double-sided; emphasizes both competition and cooperation, uplift and deceit

1:04:10 / The first season stuck out once again in terms of the ‘innocence’ of the contestants; perhaps could never be replicated

1:05:42 / Mike enjoyed the show, but wondered whether it was entirely successful in navigating the tightrope between authenticity, merit, and strategy

1:06:38 / What Mike thought was the fulcrum point of the show, after which the drama became a bit anticlimactic

1:07:33 / Discussing whether the format of the show could be tweaked and whether later shows had a more ‘level playing field’

1:09:08 / JS thinks the incentives of the show work best when the contestants are separated into tribes

1:10:20 / Mike goes back to an anecdote he forgot to mention about the first show we watched to demonstrate the importance of merit in reality TV competitions and how the competition can be less satisfying when the merit is absent

1:11:30 / Mike feels the show falls short when an alliance is so firmly in place that the competition aspect seems arbitrary

1:13:20 / Even though the alliance made things less dramatic, JS thought the novelty of seeing it come into formation was interesting in of itself

1:13:34 / More brainstorming of how the show’s format could be tweaked to increase the drama and merit

1:14:20 / The strengths and weaknesses of different competition models (group vote v. neutral arbiter)

1:15:15 / Announcing our next episode – in which Mike brings JS down

1:17:28 / Go vote in our Facebook poll! Jwoww & Snooki v. The Situation (You could be the deciding vote…since no one has voted in it yet)

1:18:45 / The announcements you know and love: contact us, rate us, and subscribe