Episode 6 – Dual Survival

 

This week’s discussion: Dual Survival, Season 3, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: The Millionaire Matchmaker, Season 5, Eps. 6-11, 13 (+ Season 2, Ep. 6; Season 3, Ep. 3; Season 4, Ep. 8).  Watch it on Hulu.

This week Mike and JS put aside their fundamental differences in podcasting philosophy to make the show’s first foray into the world of survival reality TV – Dual Survival!  (Also, apologies to Cody Lundin, as we repeatedly botched the title of the show in the episode, calling it Dual Survivor.)

We begin with a discussion of the main theme of the show: the two hosts and their different backgrounds and philosophy as they attempt to survive for 72 hours in harsh wilderness conditions, specifically identifying the topic of risk vs. reward as the animating center and attempting to determine how much of a hand the production crew has in determining the level of risk in each of these missions.

We then delve into the individual episodes and talk about particular highlights and themes: the level of choreography versus spontaneity in the scenarios, the level of discomfort and physical risk to the hosts, and the tension between its desire to educate and to entertain.  Mike even included a bonus rant about the media’s coverage of poaching.

Finally, we wrapped up with a discussion on the demographics of the survival TV audience and the overall appeal of this sub-genre of reality TV, rooting it in an extension of the romanticization of the ‘frontier’ in American culture – with a dash of pointless gossip about the behind-the-scenes drama of the survival TV world.

Show Notes and Links

1:30 / Introducing this week’s show

2:08 / Breaking down the high concept

3:18 / Cody Lundin – our barefoot hero

4:08 / Joe Teti – our military badass

5:13 / JS had some prior knowledge of this show

5:44 / How the hosts’ differences defied Mike’s expectations

6:42 / The main difference in the two hosts’ philosophies was risk-reward

7:40 / To what extent are the producers influencing decisions?

8:20 / 72-hour scenarios (Cody Lundin Interview)

10:06 / Mike wonders if the military aspect is essential or an appeal to a demographic for TV

11:30 / JS thinks the military is actually pretty good training for a situation like this, even if not as thorough as a survival school

13:47 / Mike often found the risks that Joe took to be questionable for a real survival situation as opposed to a TV survival situation

14:56 / The choreography of survival TV – what’s spontaneous and what’s being presented by the producers?

15:50 / Mike gives an example of clear producer intervention

18:32 / A clarification on Joe’s background (Military Times article)

19:45 / Many of these clips were re-used for the behind-the-scenes special

20:36 / Each episode is a structured loosely around a background scenario (lost hiker, stranded glider, etc.)

22:01 / The merits (or lack thereof) of drinking your own urine; psychology v. physiology

23:26 / The educational nuggets – ‘Art of Self Reliance’

23:59 / The introduction of risk v. reward – go up for water or go down for better air?

24:57 / A rare instance where Mike found Joe’s risk-tasking realistic

26:14 / JS doubted the authenticity of the poachers

26:49 / Mike’s rant about ‘white savior’ conservationist narratives

27:42 / Poachers (at least those on ground level) driven by poverty and lack of economic opportunity, not love of killing endangered species

28:30 / Mike found Joe’s comments about the poachers insincere (An article on President Dumbfuck’s ‘hard power’ budget, which was mercifully ignored by Congress)

30:14 / JS’s doubts about the genuineness of the poaching paraphernalia resulted from a steady accumulation of disbelief

32:06 / Mike thinks the camps might be legit, but probably had been abandoned for some time

32:34 / Mike thinks the show misunderstands the role of violence in organized crime (Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader For A Day)

34:06 / Discussing the role of safety in the series as a whole

34:51 / A rescue of questionable authenticity

36:22 / JS’s LOL moment

37:05 / Mike compares the hosts to Hollywood stuntmen

38:14 / The main risk is mechanical injury, but not dehydration or starvation

38:40 / Mike found the heightened stakes detracted from the spontaneity compared to less dangerous reality shows like Paris Hilton BFF

40:02 / JS liked the show, would watch it outside the confines of the podcast (Finding Bigfoot without the bullshit)

41:30 / Discussing the hosts’ disagreement over the rotting steer

43:14 / If the lesson was to do something uncomfortable to survive, why not show Joe using the hide?

44:48 / Discussing the boar hunt – in both its authentic and fabricated aspects

46:42 / Mike found the crew’s masculine hero-worship over the top; JS was impressed by the technical skill (our different backgrounds in hunting may have shaped our reactions)

48:25 / Talking about the staged nature of the rescue sections

50:15 / Segueing into the allure of survival TV

50:44 / Mike found the gendered appeal noteworthy in the overall context of reality TV

51:27 / The appeal of survival entertainment to those ‘divorced from the land’ and living comfortably

52:33 / Mike thought the show’s aesthetic would appeal to the suburban/rural over the urban

54:01 / Frederick Jackson Turner – “The Significance of the Frontier in American History

54:36 / The overall appeal of the survival genre – vicariously overcoming physical hardship and adversity; We mention several shows (Man Vs. Wild, Survivorman, Survivor, Naked and Afraid)

55:39 / Discussing the tension between the show’s educational and entertainment mission

59:30 / Cody Lundin’s criticism of survival TV (TV Guide article on Survival TV that Mike mentions)

1:00:20 / The ‘behind the scenes’ drama (Cody’s lawsuit; Joe’s dismissal; other Joe-related lawsuit)

1:02:10 / Mike found it interesting that the behind-the-scenes tension never cropped up in the final product

1:03:33 / Introducing the next show – impromptu style

1:04:36 / Signing off with the usual deal – contact us, rate and review, and subscribe

Episode 5 – Divorce Court

 

This week’s discussion: Divorce Court, Season 17, Eps. 1-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Dual Survival, Season 3, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Hulu.

This week your esteemed hosts show up for their first stint of jury duty – reality TV style – and JS is not thrilled.  Nevertheless, we gamely tackle the first seven episodes of Season 17 of the long-running court TV franchise Divorce Court.

We begin by running down the typical format of an episode, discussing the constructed nature of the TV courtroom and how both Judge Toler and the show as a whole compare to the other shows in the genre.  Then we delve briefly into each individual episode and give our thoughts, paying particular attention to the rather stark variation in the show’s tone, and wrap up our recap by touching on some of the overall motifs common to the episodes we watched.

We then analyze the economics of court TV, as well as the heavily disproportionate representation of black claimants on the show and what it means.  After analyzing to which degree this is a product of the show’s audience or it’s producers, we take a look at the appeal of the show’s worldview and Mike offers some criticism of its take on social class and the overall ‘justice’ of the world at large.

Show Notes and Links

1:07 / Introducing the show

2:26 / High concept (WARNING: Title may not be fully accurate)

3:16 / The first of many mentions about the vast tonal variation

4:24 / The fabricated nature of the ‘courtroom’

5:08 / The format of a typical episode

6:00 / Beginning our discussion of Judge Toler

6:36 / Comparing her to other TV judges (Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown)

8:00 / Judge Toler’s optimism

9:00 / Comparing the rulings (or lack thereof) to other courtroom shows

10:11 / This show could easily be called ‘Relationship Counselor’ instead of ‘Divorce Court’ (with the bonus deep cut about constitutional legal theory that our fans all love)

11:04 / Discussing the qualifications of a judge to give relationship advice

13:40 / Mike thought her background as a judge made her pretty fair-minded

15:14 / A brief primer on the show’s history (and format iterations)

16:11 / Judge Toler’s intros

16:38 / Episode 1 – Anger problems and familial chaos

17:45 / This episode is pretty realistic – set our expectations accordingly

19:15 / Actual money on the line – a rarity in this series

20:04 / Why Mike had JS keep watching until Episode 7

20:55 / The difference in the intros and outros in different seasons

21:18 / Even Judge Toler’s optimism has limits

22:05 / Episode 2 – Alcoholism and social class

22:45 / Stuck out to Mike as optimistic – marriage could be probably be salvaged if husband could get help for his drinking problem

23:43 / Episode 3 – Body image and small difficulties

24:40 / JS thought this was the most realistic episode

25:10 / JS praises Judge Toler’s advice to this young couple

26:07 / The couple’s youth stuck out to JS – perhaps they be may not be as cynical and jaded (as Mike)

26:38 / Episode 4 – Cohabitation and animosity

27:19 / Judge Toler indulges in a bit of apophasis (For more of Mike butchering Greek terms, check out Episode 3)

27:56 / The role of sex (and other personal issues) in the show

28:29 / Stood out as a couple who will not work things out

29:23 / Episode 5 – ‘Redbones’ and bingo

30:51 / JS needed to consult Urban Dictionary for this episode

31:36 / Does this couple even want to split up?  Or are they there for the exposure and the paycheck?

32:09 / ‘Ghetto’ stereotypes and the ‘pull up your pants’ speech

33:11 / A brief digression into appearance fees

34:12 / The role of embellishment in some of the wackier episodes

35:15 / If we had only watched Episodes 1-4, this podcast would be completely different

35:59 / The relationships covered are all over the map

37:43 / Episode 6 – Colorful claimants, realistic problems

38:13 / ’30 cents of extra cheese’

39:25 / The husband’s brother and his $1400 shoes

40:05 / How social class may have influenced the claimants’ different attitudes towards money

40:35 / We didn’t quite know what to make of this couple’s future prospects

41:58 / Episode 7 – Crazytown

42:20 / Judge Toler’s odd intro

43:31 / This couple just wanted to be on TV – openly cracking up on the stand

44:47 / The animosity is very put on – lots of joking and laughing

45:02 / Candy house, ‘nuff said

46:28 / ‘He’s wrong and I’m right’

46:57 / If you watch one episode, watch this one

47:14 / The role of social media and smartphones

49:48 / Instagram handles of the claimants in Season 18

50:30 / The prevalence of traditional views on gender roles (men are breadwinners, women do housework)

52:06 / Judge Toler’s response to the airing of these views (article on Judge Toler’s background)

53:28 / The social class of the claimants – not a lot of middle-class professionals

54:21 / The economic incentives of the show attract a working-class demographic, but aren’t enough to attract a middle-class demographic

55:22 / Middle and upper class families have more to lose in a real divorce court

56:42 / Delving further into the economic incentives (article on the economics of Court TV)

57:30 / Court TV can often be a win-win situation in an open-and-shut small claims court case

1:00:08 / JS thought the structure of the show made this weaker than other reality court TV shows

1:00:48 / A final note on what ‘fame’ people might hope to gain from reality TV

1:01:31 / Taking a look at the demographics of the show’s claimants (quote from the article linked above)

1:02:48 / Comparing the percentage of African-Americans in the US population to the percentage of African-Americans on the show (stats from the 2010 Census via Wikipedia, natch – you can look up the articles on the individual cities) (Census Statistics on poverty)

1:04:45 / Why Americans Hate Welfare; overrepresentation of African-Americans in media in stories about poverty

1:06:30 / Race and ‘implicit bias

1:07:16 / Transitioning into an exploration of the show’s audience

1:08:25 / Chicken or egg situation?

1:09:13 / Hulu algorithms and audience demographics; Mike mentions Black-ish and Empire, as well as the show’s Facebook page

1:11:24 / The starkness of the show’s racial demographics confounded our expectations

1:13:28 / Probably many causes, but seems difficult to get to 70% w/o some type of bias

1:14:07 / Social distancing – amplifying negative stereotypes to reassure a target demographic similar to show’s participants (My Big Redneck Wedding)

1:16:41 / The show’s optimistic core – idea of being able to fix any marriage with enough heart; Mike mentions The Secret (100% accurate!)

1:17:10 / The paradoxical (?) appeal of conservatism to the poorest Americans (Jill Leovy interview)

1:18:04 / Mike’s view on the appeal and limits of such a philosophy

1:20:00 / How social class impacts how much someone is ‘punished’ for their bad decision-making; Mike mentions the book Floating City

1:20:55 / Mike wished this show would acknowledge that fact

1:22:09 / Wrapping up with our differing reactions to the show’s mediocrity

1:23:33 / Introducing the next show

1:24:33 / The usual rigmarole aka Rate us! (And subscribe!)

Episode 4 – Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai

 

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

Next week’s discussion: Divorce Court, Season 17, Eps. 1-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

First of all, apologies for the slightly reduced level of audio quality on this episode.  JS was having difficulty hearing the microphone and Mike overcompensated by cranking up the gain – and forgetting to look at the test recording in Audacity (oops) – which led to a great deal of clipping and what ended up being a salvage project.  However, unlike the producers of the show we are reviewing this week, we didn’t just throw in the towel and say fuck it.  Instead, Mike worked up some elbow grease and tried his best to get this episode to an acceptable quality of audio fidelity, so hopefully the final product is at least somewhat tolerable.

As for the episode’s contents, we took a virtual trip to the United Arab Emirates for the last (and possibly saddest) installment of Paris Hilton’s My New BFF franchise.  After discussing the structure of the show and the wealthy and cosmopolitan (mostly) Middle Eastern contestants, we turn to the show’s tangled legal history and how it may or may not have led to its bottom of the barrel production quality.  We then analyze both sides of this rather ‘unique’ mashup, discussing both its representation of the Middle East, good and bad (but mostly bad), as well as the history and background of the show’s rather infamous host, Paris Hilton, and her seminal place in the history of reality TV and 21st century ‘celebutante’ culture.  Finally, we end with how this show may have actually held the promise of being something worthwhile, if only its host and production team had cared enough to film something beyond a glorified infomercial (or hell, even cared enough to hire a camera crew for an entire day of filming).

Show Notes and Links

1:39 / Introducing this week’s show

2:30 / The show’s high concept – which should be pretty self-explanatory (Paris Hilton quote)

3:15 / JS breaks down the particulars

4:34 / Mike sampled the entire BFF oeuvre

6:00 / The ‘little star’ aka the snitch

6:18 / This show is actually quite brilliant at getting these contestants to go at each other’s throats

6:45 / The show’s lexicon – ‘real and fake’, ‘hungry tigers’

8:26 / The ‘Real and Fake Challenge’ (Reality TV Ouroboros)

9:28 / Mike has a confession to make

10:03 / We begin discussing the contestants – mostly from Middle East and come from wealthy backgrounds

12:12 / Bassant – at least she’s honest

12:55 / Mike found these women to be pretty bland and interchangeable

13:24 / Amy – was not here to make friends

13:54 / Dina – Mike couldn’t figure out why the others hated her

14:46 / Reem – seemed to be most ‘traditional’ of the contestants

14:57 / Discussing the ‘cosmopolitan’ backgrounds of the contestants

16:33 / JS discusses the physicality of the contestants and how Branka and Reem departed from the mold

17:15 / Mike belatedly mentions what episodes we watched

18:30 / Reem stuck out to JS as someone who seemed more authentic than the others

19:35 / Mike breaks down the troubled legal history of the show – seems to explain a lot about it

20:58 / Why the hell weren’t the cameras in the house more often?  Lots of discussion in the show of contestants acting different on and off camera

23:19 / Talking about the INSANE level of product placement in this show – not just the Paris Hilton line, but other sponsors (the credits looked like a high school yearbook)

24:54 / Comparing Paris Hilton’s level of involvement to the other seasons of the show

26:28 / A brief digression into the font world

27:32 / Starting our discussion of the show’s ridiculous ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ stereotypes

29:05 / Edward Said’s Orientalism

29:18 / Part of the reason Mike picked this show (other than the absurdity) was an intellectual interest in cross-cultural contact

29:44 / Talking about the role of local authorities in the production of the show and how the show had to change to be compatible with local cultural mores (no alcohol or risqué clothing)

30:35 / Contrasting the Dubai version to the US version

31:06 / Mike talks about how his views on the often fraught relationship between Western and non-Western cultures have evolved since college, the book title he forgot is Modernity At Large

32:20 / Mike’s theory of why Reem was the winner

33:44 / JS hoped that this show would have more interaction between Paris Hilton and the broader Middle Eastern culture

35:21 / Paris is in less than half of each episode – mostly just shows up for challenges and eliminations

36:43 / Mike does praise the show in one respect – gives people a better view of Middle East beyond crude stereotypes of religious fanaticism

37:14 / Mike talks about his experiences with different types of Muslims in Kenya

39:25 / This show gives a view of Middle East that goes beyond a monochromatic depiction of war and suffering

40:14 / Shows the cosmopolitan side of Middle East: many contestants would fit right in to any city around the world

41:41 / The cosmopolitan emphasis is both a strength and weakness of the show

42:34 / Focusing on those in the Middle East who are ‘more like us’ might have been the only entry point for this show’s audience (and is also conveniently the target audience for Paris Hilton’s line)

43:34 / JS hoped the show would be more like ‘An Idiot Abroad

44:08 / This show does once poke fun at Western stereotypes even as it relies on them

45:32 / Paris Hilton’s background and career history

46:52 / The Simple Life

48:23 / Discussing the temporal specificity of her fame

48:58 / Paris Hilton as a seminal figure in reality TV

49:44 / Mike compares her rise and fall to the subprime housing boom (Hilton interview in GQ)

50:21 / ‘One Night in Paris (Hilton): Wealth, Celebrity, and the Politics of Humiliation

51:20 / Does her fame come from love or hate?  Who is doing the loving and hating?

52:41 / Trying to pin down her class appeal; Mike thinks she reminds him of (pre-politics) Trump

53:48 / JS argues that, at least in international terms, her appeal is to an upscale audience

54:50 / We stumble around in the dark trying to figure out where her merch is sold (Mike did post-podcast research: You can at least buy her fragrances at Walmart)

55:20 / Moving from humiliation to adulation and the cult of celebrity; this series represents that

57:20 / Paris Hilton as an icon for ‘new money’

57:35 / This show seemed a little North Korean – particularly with the penthouse décor

58:58 / Trying to figure out the motivations of the contestants – no tangible grand prize

59:30 / Paris Hilton has no real accomplishments – what’s the motivation for getting to know her?

1:00:28 / JS thinks most of these contestants went in with no illusions – and maybe the hope for a few connections or a good word in the future

1:02:12 / What the show is selling the audience in terms of being Paris’ BFF

1:02:38 / JS mentions that some contestants might have been overconfident and ‘caught up in the moment’

1:03:32 / Wrapping up with how this show could have been better

1:04:08 / Yet another digression into the shoddiness of the post-production

1:04:50 / Mike wishes this focused more on the contestants’ backgrounds; wonders how much the production problems played a role

1:06:05 / Even those outside the Middle East could have had interesting backgrounds

1:06:55 / The ‘story challenge’ gave a quick glimpse into the backgrounds of some of the contestants and gave them a little more depth

1:07:35 / JS wonders if the similar backgrounds of the contestants was a weakness

1:09:03 / We both agree they should have been filled out some more (the press release I mentioned)

1:09:41 / Mike thinks the most interesting thing about these women are their hybrid backgrounds and having to navigate between ‘traditional’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ sides

1:10:50 / The show touches on ‘Americanization’ a bit with Dina, but doesn’t really go into great depth

1:12:40 / We are on Stitcher (please rate us!) and have a website on WordPress (you are already here)

1:13:30 / Introducing next week’s show, Divorce Court: Feel free to email us any particularly good episodes from Seasons 16-18: 42minutesofreality AT gmail DOT com

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