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

 

Episode 9 – Kitchen Nightmares

 

This week’s discussion: Kitchen Nightmares, Season 5, Eps. 1-6, 16.  Watch it on Hulu.

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

This week Mike and JS delve into their first food-themed reality TV show – Kitchen Nightmares.  We mainly cover the US version, but also devote some time to discussing the original UK version as we were both struck by the many differences in the presentation of the shows and how they might reflect broader differences between US and UK culture.  Topics discussed include: our impressions of reality TV star Gordon Ramsay, the insanity of Amy’s Baking Company, the ‘disclaimers’ in the credit sequence of each episode, the centrality of food in Western social interactions, the harsh realities of operating a restaurant, and how the optimistic narrative the US version tries to sell us reflect a broader cultural view of American idealism.

Show Notes and Links

1:08 / The moral of this week’s show

1:58 / Introducing the show

3:30 / The concept of the show (similar shows include Bar Rescue and Restaurant Impossible)

5:06 / The optimistic narrative arc the show is trying to sell us

6:02 / Discussing the history of the host, Gordon Ramsay; JS mentions Hell’s Kitchen

7:45 / Emphasis on the ‘celebrity’ in celebrity chef

8:22 / The differences in Ramsay’s presentation in the US and UK versions

10:15 / The US version struck us as much more heavily produced

11:20 / Starting our detailed breakdown of La Galleria 33

12:50 / The general arc and themes that reoccur in each episode

14:35 / Returning to La Galleria

15:22 / Mike fills in a couple spots in the episode arc that JS missed

16:35 / A brief digression on the editing

17:07 / The afterword at the end of each show

17:38 / The show often implies the owners are chiefly at fault for the problems at the restaurant

18:00 / Talking about the restaurant shutdowns

18:40 / The episodes of the show are pretty similar; many blended together for Mike

19:02 / Discussing episode highlights from Mama Maria’s

20:05 / The motif of frozen vs. fresh that comes up again and again

21:24 / Nostalgia is a common refrain in these episodes; many of the owners who have been successful at one point are more stubborn

22:06 / The common dynamic of multiple owners who conflict over the changes Ramsay wants to implement

23:53 / Segueing into our summary of Amy’s Baking Company

25:19 / JS can’t contain his giddy excitement over this episode

27:40 / This episode breaks the typical narrative arc of the show

28:47 / Discussing the fallout of this episode on the Internet and how it affected the business

29:52 / The difference between Amy and other recalcitrant owners was that the others would at least temporarily ‘play ball’ with the show

30:40 / Segueing into this show’s placement on the spectrum of ‘reality’ in reality TV

31:40 / There are some notable disclaimers in the credits of the show

32:42 / The diners being brought in by the show and ‘playing to the camera’

33:25 / JS knows of a restaurant near him that went through one of these shows, discusses the process of collecting diners

35:23 / Mike mentions a lawsuit against the show; JS explains mandatory arbitration

37:05 / Despite the lawsuit, our feeling is that this show is probably not TOWIE or Bridezillas

37:37 / The narrative of hate-to-love of Chef Ramsay by the owners came off to JS as producer coached

38:12 / The rags-to-riches theme of the US version reminds Mike of a Horatio Alger tale

38:43 / The site that Mike got his information from

39:01 / The harsh realities of the restaurant business

39:38 / The message of the US show may not correspond perfectly with the real world; the UK version seemed more realistic

40:52 / The restaurant as a symbol of the American Dream – often an immigrant success story

42:00 / The US show is very focused on the personal and family backgrounds of the owners

42:53 / The different center of focus in the two versions: US version is owner-centric, UK version is kitchen staff-centric

44:00 / The American focus on individual success and responsibility; UK focuses more on the overall team

45:38 / A brief aside of the differing budgets of the shows, Mike mentions Rupert Murdoch

45:53 / Segueing into the appeal of food TV

46:12 / The centrality of food and ‘dining out’ in Western social interaction; JS alludes to the Food Network

47:09 / The combination of immediate accessibility and specialized behind-the-scenes insight

48:15 / The allure of reality television success and overcoming difficulties

49:38 / Many of these owners have gone in without specialized business training

50:38 / Mike preferred the realism of UK version to the idealism of the US version

51:42 / The contrasting afterwords of the two shows as an example of this

52:38 / How does the episode of Amy’s Baking Company fit into the idea that this show’s appeal is about success?

54:00 / Was Amy’s Baking Company really a failure?  Discussing the irony of the owners who tell Ramsay off doing better than many of the restaurants on the show who followed the instructions

55:20 / The capricious nature of the restaurant industry, even something as simple as lack of parking can doom a restaurant

56:10 / The high failure rate of restaurants in the first year (and an article Mike found that provides a counterpoint); this show perhaps looks at the industry through rose-tinted glasses

57:43 / We both discuss how will we never be opening a restaurant, even if we win the lottery

58:30 / This show, like other reality shows we’ve watched, is very focused on individual control and individual responsibility

1:00:48 / The appeal of the show’s Prodigal Son narrative, but how realistic is it for these businesses to dig themselves out of the deep holes they are in?

1:02:00 / Mike made a Facebook page: please go like the page and take part in our listener poll: Snooki & JWoww: Moms with Attitude vs. The Sorrentinos

1:04:02 / Announcing a semi-reoccurring segment for the next show: Reality TV First Loves

1:05:16 / Contact us, rate and review, and subscribe

Episode 8 – Bridezillas

 

This week’s discussion: Bridezillas, Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 19-20.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Kitchen Nightmares, Season 5, Eps. 1-6, 16.  Watch it on Hulu.

We are back with our usual twosome, after another close shave with our schedules, to bring our loyal listeners the long-teased episode on Bridezillas we’ve been talking about. To summarize the show in a sentence, it was, quite frankly, probably the most entertaining show we’ve watched for the podcast so far.

We start out by hitting the highlights of the individual episodes and reliving our favorite tears and tantrums before going into why we believe this show may not quite be a completely faithful representation of ‘reality’ and talk about its overall evolution from playing it relatively straight to going over the top.  We then praise the gonzo and hilarious sound design and graphics post-production as well as the snarky narrator, who has a near endless supply of catty one-liners.  Finally, we wrap up by going beyond the humorous aspects of this show’s appeal and explore what it has to say about our modern conceptions of gender and marriage.

Show Notes and Links

1:03 / JS makes his triumphant return

1:45 / Introducing this week’s show

2:46 / The ritual summary of the ‘high concept’

3:35 / The typical bride’s story is divided into two episodes (which we thought was brilliant)

4:37 / We were surprised that more reality shows didn’t adopt this format

5:35 / Identifying the larger tropes and stereotypes of the show

6:48 / Typical Bridezilla – is super demanding, but not in an efficient way, has to be incompetent as well to be on this show

8:05 / We both found this show highly entertaining

9:30 / Briefly covering Haley and her in-laws

10:16 / Summarizing Ariel and Brook

12:34 / Ariel and sexual ‘TMI’

13:40 / Talking about a questionable piece of ‘creative editing’

14:08 / A detailed breakdown of the episode as a template for the show

16:28 / Mike gives an example of a minor variation

16:56 / Transitioning into Dezjuan’s arc

17:26 / A ‘romantic’ dinner gone wrong when Mom shows up

19:00 / Talking about Dezjuan’s grandma – who we both thought was great

20:11 / Discussing Dezjuan’s trainwreck wedding

21:14 / The show’s tendency to try to tease us into thinking weddings will fall through

21:37 / Amanda from Texas – where JS began to suspend his disbelief

22:46 / She was pretty frank to the producers about faking an illness

23:38 / Making a jump to Episodes 19-20 and going over Angela’s arc

25:44 / The main theme of her story – conflict between the bride and the groom’s sister

26:13 / The highlights from the second half of Mai-Lee

26:55 / JS liked the more laid-back, carefree grooms on the show

28:02 / Mike’s favorite Mai-Lee moment

28:25 / Breaking down Adrienne and Waylon’s episode

29:15 / Waylon was a highlight – zombie weddings and waxing

30:18 / This show may not be meant to be taken at face value

31:09 / The interview with Angela that Mike references

31:48 / The show sets up moments and does retakes

33:15 / How the show has evolved since its perhaps more ‘realistic’ beginnings (We both mention a lawsuit)

34:45 / By Season 10, everyone is clearly in on it

35:52 / Discussing the financial compensation

36:46 / The weddings filmed for the show are based on the optics of the narrative being pushed (particularly around social class)

38:00 / Mike noticed a reoccurring character who shows up at opportune times

39:05 / The fights seem to be patched up rather quickly for ‘reality’

39:45 / A call back to our discussion of ‘scripted reality’ in Episode 2 (This is how it’s done, TOWIE!)

40:35 / Segueing into the topic of humor and the show’s post-production

41:10 / Going over our favorite sound production moments

42:45 / This show has an awesome narrator

44:10 / Mike relives his favorite quips

45:04 / The music and graphics are also really funny

46:50 / Discussing an unfortunate Bridezilla who got into legal trouble because of the show

48:27 / Mike found Angela’s reaction to the final product amusing

49:36 / Mike’s theory of this show’s appeal: It deals with our cultural anxieties about marriage

52:43 / By taking these insecurities and blowing them up in a humorous way, this show achieves a type of catharsis

53:25 / JS thought the relationship between bride and groom reminded him of the relationship between husband and wife in traditional sitcoms (JS mentions the show The King of Queens)

55:55 / Talking about how this show reflects real-life anxieties and stresses about wedding planning

57:20 / The sexist nature of the ‘Bridezilla’ stereotype and its relationship to our gendered expectations around weddings

59:13 / How this show both subverts and reinforces our idealized views of weddings

1:00:43 / Mike’s ‘wedding planning’ experience and JS’s actual wedding planning experience

1:02:07 / A perennial 42 Minutes of Reality observation: Watching these trainwrecks can make us feel better about our comparatively milder shortcomings (Is this a public service?)

1:03:39 / Introducing the show for our next podcast

1:04:55 / A quick scheduling announcement (actually posting more like Sunday evening, though Mike said Monday)

1:06:00 / The usual announcements: email, rate and review, (and also subscribe, even if Mike forgot to say it)

Episode 7 – The Millionaire Matchmaker

 

This 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.

Next week’s discussion: Bridezillas, Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 19-20.  Watch it on Hulu.

Unfortunately, we had to postpone our discussion of Bridezillas for another couple weeks due to some scheduling issues on both our ends (JS was busy last weekend and I’m busy this weekend).  However, my friend Ross was graciously willing to step into the breach on short notice in order to discuss one of his favorite reality TV franchises, Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker.

The format is a bit more freewheeling this week (a bit of a throwback to our first episode) but as we process our different takes – Ross’s veteran experience and unabashed enjoyment and Mike’s hot-off-the-presses gut feeling and conflicted opinion – we cover several issues, including: the show’s glamorization of lavish lifestyles, the host’s control-freak personality and strange old-fashioned worldview regarding gender and romance, the show’s ideology of individual responsibility, and the bizarre courtship rituals of the ultra-rich.  But don’t worry – we don’t forget to bash the inane douchebags, laugh at the ridiculous dates and awkward mixers, make fun of Patti’s stable of pseudoscientific ‘experts’, discuss awkward first dates and break down that moment when your crazy-eyed prospective ‘husband’ offers you that glass of fermented sea urchin with a side of duck embryos (mmmmm…tasty!)

Show Notes and Links

1:04 / Mike introduces his new sidepiece and they engage in some mandatory ballbusting of a certain absent co-host

1:58 / Introducing this week’s show

2:45 / The show’s high concept

4:10 / Summarizing the episodic formula

7:20 / Starting off with our impressions of the host, Patti Stanger

8:26 / Ross does his best Kellyanne Conway impression

9:28 / Mike was not a fan of Patti, didn’t think she was any good at her job

12:05 / Discussing the elephant in the room: the fact that these people have tons of $$$

14:00 / Akin to a high-end escort service – only for marriage instead of sex

15:03 / Patti’s old-fashioned worldview of gender and romance

16:45 / Some of her advice is good – but she never follows it!

17:50 / Discussing the show’s treatment of Patti’s personal life

19:42 / The show’s relentless superficiality – quite odd for a show supposedly based around ‘true love’ and marriage

21:33 / Patti emphasizes change: both superficial and personal, but there is no give in terms of meeting her clients halfway

23:16 / Ross makes the argument that Patti’s coaching, although off-base at times, can nudge the client towards a subtle positive change

24:43 / Is the show about fairy-tales or disasters?  (Hint: that’s a rhetorical question)

26:39 / A fairy-tale episode with a real-life prince

27:28 / Segueing into the structure and presentation of the dates themselves

27:40 / If a millionaire has an issue, their date will inevitably bring it up (perhaps some coaching?)

29:12 / The dates are often edited to emphasize that the failed dates fail because the millionaire doesn’t follow Patti’s advice

30:20 / Each unsuccessful date often has an ‘explanatory moment’ that shows why and when the date goes off the rails

31:36 / Two ‘hot tub’ moments, two different results

34:00 / Patti’s annoying self-righteousness about a client’s criminal past

35:05 / A brief comparison of the two openly religious clients

36:45 / The one time Mike liked Patti – making fun of Mr. ‘Bibles and Boobies’ (and why he didn’t like her more often when she acted similarly towards other douchebag clients)

38:50 / The two categories of millionaire clients

40:20 / Patti’s issues with introverted men

42:45 / Instead of personalizing her matches, Patti tries to push people into predefined roles

43:35 / Discussing awkward moments on first dates

45:20 / Patti has ‘a great relationship with the gays’ (just like Trump has ‘a great relationship with the blacks’ – Really!)

46:42 / These dates seem like job interviews (Also, why is there so much talk about marriage and kids on the first date?)

49:12 / The novelty of extended dating before marriage (which is also easier to do if you are younger)

50:18 / Ross offers Mike a nice pint of hemlock

51:02 / Patti’s philosophy is reminiscent of ‘The Rules’ (Mike also mentions its even dumber male alter-ego ‘The Mystery Method’)

52:56 / Mike loved the awkwardness of the fake smiles and applause at the mixers

53:47 / Pro-tip: Don’t ask the women you’ve just met how ‘sexual’ they are

54:09 / So much for karmic justice…

56:18 / Douchebag guys are portrayed as learning their lesson – but we’re skeptical

56:40 / Mike’s brief aside on the bullshit occupations on this show

57:10 / The awkward pool party mixer

58:28 / Patti’s gendered double standard about ‘gold-digger’ relationships

59:05 / Patti and her dumb ‘tests’ (Mike managed to dig up the abstract of the study he was referring to)

1:00:27 / Patti’s tests give her the opportunity to blame her clients for failure

1:00:50 / The cardinal sin of this show: challenging Patti

1:01:30 / Starting our discussion of Shauna the ‘crazy cougar’

1:02:30 / Some producer magic in Shauna’s entrance?

1:03:40 / Another tip: Don’t send your blind date a dress to wear

1:04:25 / Mike discusses his impressions of the ‘reunion’

1:05:57 / Ross drops his knowledge by summarizing the various tie-ins with other Bravo properties

1:06:48 / Mike thinks they’re both horrible, but at least Shauna knows how to do image management

1:07:13 / Ross goes on a tangent about Patti’s reboot, Million Dollar Matchmaker

1:08:21 / ‘A very special guest’ (who has something she wants to share with you about vaccination)

1:09:15 / Laughing about all the stupid shit that Patti believes in

1:11:20 / Talking about the creepy investment banker and his disaster date

1:12:42 / Getting all the freebies while you can

1:13:28 / Duck embryos…dude

1:14:17 / The satisfying comeuppance (which, according to Mike, Patti herself failed to deliver)

1:17:05 / These suitors seemed more interested in status than love and personality

1:18:58 / The ‘new money’ background of these millionaires

1:19:25 / Mike discusses the high-end escort service in Floating City (which he mentioned briefly in our episode on Divorce Court)

1:21:01 / The women on the show struck Mike as similar to the escorts depicted in Floating City (The TMZ article he cited)

1:22:39 / The façade of the ‘career woman’ in elite circles

1:23:35 / Show’s philosophy reflects American norms about individual responsibility

1:24:08 / Ross alludes to Pygmalion; Patti often tried to suppress people’s personality quirks

1:24:48 / Wrapping up with a discussion of the show’s appeal

1:24:57 / Mike had conflicted feelings about this show, wonders if this is Bravo’s brand? (Mike also mentions the show Vanderpump Rules)

1:26:00 / Ross explains what he found distinct about this show compared to Bravo’s other reality shows?

1:26:57 / Mike felt Patti was the millstone around this show’s neck

1:27:43 / What Mike would want from an alternate host of this type of show

1:28:54 / The show could have worked with Patti, but it needed more authorial distance and less taking itself so seriously

1:29:55 / Would a more sincere matchmaking show be as successful as this one?  (Our original conversation about success and failure in reality TV took place in our first episode)

1:31:07 / Mike found the episodes where the clients with potential seemed set up for failure to be unrewarding

1:32:23 / Bravo sells a certain lifestyle (Would the show have worked better if the show honed in more on clients who fit that image?  Or do you need the diversity?)

1:34:53 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate and review us, and subscribe

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!)