Episode 32 – Doomsday Preppers

 

This episode: Doomsday Preppers, Season 3, Eps. 1-5, 9.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Flavor of Love, Season 1.  Watch it on Hulu.

This episode we hunker down in our cinder block fortresses, clutching our guns, gold, and MREs, for a good old discussion of the Nat Geo show Doomsday Preppers, which as the title suggests, focuses on mostly middle-aged and upper-middle-class white male Americans who are stockpiling food and water and devising gadgets and defenses to protect their families from ‘marauders’ and tyrannical government lockdowns.

We, of course, go into the usual stuff about the show’s concept and structure and go over our favorite moments from each of the episodes we watched, particularly expressing amusement at the ridiculous scenario in the season finale of a Russian invasion.  We also break down the prepper worldview, the role of class, and common themes in the show, as well as analyzing the coherence (or lack thereof) of many of the posited doomsday scenarios.  This leads into an article about the motivations behind the worldview and we have a lively discussion about whether the article’s critique of masculinity and prepping is right on the money or overly simplistic in its view of gender and culture.

Finally, we also have some HEATED DEBATE – OK, polite minor disagreements – about the authenticity of the show and discuss our differing reactions to the show and how we feel they relate to the show’s overall appeal to the larger general television-viewing audience.

Show Notes and Links

1:32 / Mike’s holiday gift for JS

2:20 / Introducing this month’s show

2:51 / The show’s concept and episode structure

5:59 / JS adds an important detail that Mike overlooked

7:42 / Episode 1 Highlights: Mike and Chad – ‘Mexican Muslim bioterrorist marauders’ and ‘democide’ (The ‘Kari Ann Peniche’ reference is from our previous episode on Catfish)

12:36 / Episode 2 Highlights: Curt and Rodney – questionable parenting skills on display in Oregon and Alaska

15:23 / Mike’s distinction between rational disaster preparation and ‘doomsday prepping’

16:08 / JS’s theory of the case: ‘playing Army’ for ‘big boys’

17:22 / Episode 3 Highlights: Tracy and Dan – Mad Max school buses and DIY solar cookers

21:24 / Episode 4 Highlights: Rob and Greg – ‘booby traps’ and ‘invisible tree houses’

22:33 / JS thought the way the show portrayed Rob as vulnerable and emotional despite his hyper-machismo was interesting and a little bit strange

25:04 / Episode 5 Highlights: John, Bret and Shane – dubious judgement, all the way around, even for these guys (Wikipedia article on Hurricane Ike)

27:15 / Mike’s quick hits for Episodes 6-8: civil wars, underground shelters, ‘alternative’ medicine aka bullshit, drones and domes, and yes…lots more killing of marauders

30:42 / Episode 9 Highlights: Joe and Mark – a wannabe dictator and ‘Red Dawn’ freedom fighters (JS mentions ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Road Warrior’)

33:48 / JS loved the ‘Trojan Horse’ plan to defeat the Russkies

34:32 / Mark, the protagonist, has his friends waterboard him, which was pretty amazing (Wikipedia helpfully points out that this is not to be confused with ‘wakeboarding’)

35:52 / If Mike watched this during the original airing, he would’ve thought it was an elaborate prank, but in a post-2016 world, he has to take crap like this seriously

36:40 / Debating how much the producers were egging on the protagonists and how authentic their beliefs were in the given scenarios

40:13 / Segueing into the worldview of prepping culture and the themes that cropped up in multiple episodes

42:37 / JS makes a comparison between the views of ‘extreme preppers’ and ‘conspiracy culture’

43:24 / Returning to the distinction between ‘normal’ disaster preparation and the ‘doomsday prepper’ identity depicted on this show

45:03 / Some other common themes – distrust of outsiders and foreigners and the incoherence of the scenarios (Hurricane Maria and the power grid, other hyperinflationary crises)

46:45 / JS thinks there’s a grain of truth to the ‘economic collapse’ scenarios and we debate a bit about the situation in Venezuela [A lengthy note from Mike on this section – just so we are clear: I didn’t do a good job foregrounding my argument – the claim on the show from many of these people who envision collapse scenarios is that it will basically be impossible to obtain any type of resources outside of what you grow and produce yourself and so the vast majority of people will have to resort to looting resources from others who kept stockpiles of food, etc – my argument was merely that no economic collapse could possibly be that bad, not that things were peachy keen in Venezuela or trying to minimize food shortages and production failings over there and say the govt was doing awesome]

48:04 / Mike thought the ‘Red Dawn’ scenario, even though it’s ridiculous, was actually one of the more plausible scenarios

49:42 / Mike was irritated by the show’s pandering – especially given that it was on National Geographic’s channel (He mentions scientific notation and Spike TV, which has apparently been ‘rebranded’)

50:42 / Segueing into the motivation behind the ‘doomsday prepper’ worldview – larger-than-life performance of traditional gender roles (Mike mentions our episode on Toddlers & Tiaras)

52:26 / These people are loaded with cash – which made Mike very unsympathetic (Mike compares this to Hurricane Katrina conspiracies)

53:44 / JS thinks that this is rooted in a ‘risk-averse’ psychology coupled with too much money

55:08 / Beginning our discussion of this month’s article: “The man-pocalypse: Doomsday Preppers and the rituals of apocalyptic manhood,” Casey Ryan Kelly, Text and Performance Quarterly, June 2016

56:18 / The thesis and themes of this article are similar to the one we discussed on our Highway Through Hell episode

56:53 / JS agrees with the main thrust of the argument, but disagrees with some of the specifics – thinks that perhaps these cultural qualities are not necessarily gendered in the way the author describes

57:59 / Mike’s defense and interpretation of the argument about gender this article (and cultural studies in general) makes and JS’s refinement of his counter-argument

59:21 / JS thinks that the prepper worldview is more rooted in economic conditions and the rise of the globalized economy, but Mike is skeptical of applying that argument to the people on this show

1:01:20 / Mike thought the article’s analysis of prepping as an expression of traditional fatherly authority was interesting

1:02:14 / JS picks up on an earlier thread about the centrality of self-reliance in the prepper worldview and we discuss whether self-reliance and dependence are gendered (Mike mentions the negative stereotype of the ‘welfare mother’)

1:04:12 / JS critiques the sub-argument about female preppers being ‘hysterical’ based on some counter-examples from the episodes we watched

1:05:55 / The article mentions some examples of questionable authenticity on the show (the examples are cited here and here) and we interpret what that means for the show’s authenticity overall

1:08:54 / Ending on the show’s appeal – is there a sincere appeal or is it entirely based in irony?

1:11:08 / Is JS the typical appreciative viewer of this show?  Is the typical viewer a prepper sympathizer or a rubbernecker? (Mike mentions Dual Survival)

1:12:28 / JS patiently listens while Mike goes on a rant about how living after the apocalypse would be pointless and how these preppers wouldn’t make it anyway

1:13:39 / JS announces next month’s episode

1:14:30 / Our usual announcements: contact us, rate and review us (and don’t forget to subscribe just because Mike forgot to remind you!)

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Episode 26 – Steven Seagal: Lawman

 

This episode: Steven Seagal: Lawman, Season 1, Eps. 1-8.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Foxy Ladies, Season 1.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

This month your hosts go down to Jefferson Parish, Louisiana and watch as 80’s action ‘star’ Steven Seagal fearlessly stands around and watches Louisiana cops harass young black men hanging out around past their ‘curfew’ while he assists with his slo-mo ‘hyper-vision’ and monologues about the importance of ‘Zen’ and how criminals ‘prey upon the weak’ while his chauffeur…er, co-worker drives him around and (presumably) swallows his tongue.

After the usual breakdown of the show’s concept (which is strangely reminiscent of another, more popular television show), we discuss Seagal’s background and long history of criminal behavior (that he has gotten away with because he is rich and powerful, unlike the people he ‘busts’ on this show) and the irony thereof.   We also delve into the show’s ‘law-and-order’ worldview and its treatment of race, as well as comparing its appeal to other crime TV narratives that have become popular in the past 20-30 years and how the presence of the camera and the pressure of ratings affects the quality of police work portrayed on the screen in this show and others like it.  Finally, of course, there are the requisite potshots at Seagal’s bloated ego and his hypermasculine persona, as well as a brief treatment of how that egotism and hypermasculinity might nevertheless appeal to a certain demographic.

Show Notes and Links

1:23 / Our resolution for this podcasting episode to be more like our show’s “hero”

2:05 / JS’s longstanding fascination with Steven Seagal

2:38 / Introducing this month’s show

3:21 / Our varying levels of enjoyment for this show (and the varying number of episodes we watched)

4:18 / The concept and structure of the show

6:30 / JS loved the show’s ‘slo-mo’ rendition of Seagal’s ‘hyper-vision’

8:04 / Mike didn’t catch the more serious cases that JS saw in the later episodes, which coloured his view of the show

9:02 / Discussing Steven Seagal’s background as an Aikido martial artist and action movie star (we mention Under Siege and Above the Law)

10:14 / Steven Seagal’s long history of allegations regarding physical and sexual assault (a rundown of his antics, from the possibly questionably reliable Internet page Looper is here)

11:19 / Seagal’s Putin and Trump fanboy-ism

11:45 / Taking a Google Image break to laugh at Seagal’s recent photos

13:00 / Seagal’s ridiculous Southern ‘accent’ and colloquialisms

13:49 / A further clarification on Seagal’s ‘credentials’

14:35 / Segueing towards the derivative nature of this show and our prior experience with COPS (our first episode is here, the COPS theme song)

16:00 / Comparing this to other police-themed television shows (the aforementioned COPS and fictional shows like Law & Order)

17:22 / The curated nature of this style of show – JS was surprised to see some of the more severe crimes that were responded to in this show (Mike mentions the low clearance rates for murders)

19:15 / Moving into the show’s Hobbesian and authoritarian law-and-order worldview

20:42 / JS mentions some instances that go against the grain and show some ‘community policing

23:20 / Why Mike wasn’t buying the ‘softer’ human-interest segments

24:38 / Delving into how the Seagal-specific segments differentiate this from other police reality shows in its implied advocacy of ‘vigilante’ self-defense

26:35 / Talking about the elephant in the room – this show’s (and others like it) treatment of race

28:11 / The show’s contradictory views on carrying guns (often according to the race of the person carrying it)

29:01 / A lot of the crimes (particularly in the first half that Mike saw) really didn’t seem to matter all that much

30:30 / The demographics of the criminal suspects portrayed in the show

31:50 / Mike discusses the police response to the fight in the parking lot and how he thought it could have been handled better

33:17 / Discussing the choice between force and diplomacy in these shows

35:01 / Steven Seagal is not calling the shots on these police calls – in case it wasn’t clear

35:48 / The question of authenticity and how the presence of the camera affects the actions of the participants

36:49 / The propagandistic quality of these types of shows (Mike mentions the Charm City series done by the NYT’s Daily podcast)

38:25 / Segueing to the article we read for this month:  “Armed with the power of television: Reality crime programming and the reconstruction of law and order in the United States” from the book anthology “Entertaining Crime: Television Reality Programs” by Pamela Donovan.

39:07 / JS thought the article’s emphasis on the police’s ‘lack of control’ was interesting

40:09 / Mike thought this show stressed that aspect even more with the ‘vigilante’ self-defense message

40:52 / Talking about the article’s treatment of Foucault and spectacle in relation to these shows

42:16 / Article even (appropriately) mentions the 80’s action angle (Death Wish) and how popular fictional media also dovetails with the ‘law-and-order’ message

43:15 / Why does this narrative persist in its appeals even as violent crime levels have fallen over the past 20 years?  (Mike mentions Trump’s lies about crime levels, shows like Lockup, which used to run weekends on MSNBC)

45:12 / JS highlights the role of media narratives in stoking fears of crime

46:14 / The appeal of crime fiction narratives in modern Western culture – gives the world a sense of agency

47:35 / The ‘comfort’ of ‘law-and-order’ scapegoating – there is a readily identifiable source of disorder and an easy remedy (Our Monica the Medium episode is mentioned)

48:38 / This show also taps into the popularity of the ‘vigilante’ narrative in American society

49:55 / Is there a genuine appeal to Steven Seagal outside the unintentional comedy?

50:50 / Discussing Seagal’s persona and how it relates to a traditional idea of masculinity

52:47 / Our final thoughts and recommendations

53:19 / Announcing (officially this time) our listener’s choice poll (Mike mentions the various shows on the new – at least to him – TV app Nosey and our Blind Date episode)

55:02 / Don’t worry, Springer will happen eventually, but go vote on Maury or Geraldo

55:21 / Announcing our next episode (You can bone up on our Highway Thru Hell episode here)

57:04 / The usual stuff: contact us, rate/review us, and subscribe

Episode 22 – Behind Bars: America’s Toughest Jail

 

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

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

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

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

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

Show Links and Notes

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

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

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

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

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

7:15 / The concept and structure of the show

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

10:37 / Our main takeaway from the show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

33:00 / Comparing US prison practices to Norway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 12 – Keys to the VIP

 

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

Next week’s discussion: Alaskan Bush People, Season 1.  Watch it on Hulu.

This week Mike and JS put on ten pounds of hair gel and don their fedoras and indoor-only sunglasses for some special VIP treatment, but Mike in particular is having regrets about what might have seemed like a good idea at the time (much like the women who gave these guys their numbers).

Nevertheless, there was much of interest to discuss.  We cover our usual topics: the show’s concept and our general impresssions, it’s authenticity (or lack thereof), and we revisit our beloved success/failure dichotomy to try and put our fingers on the show’s appeal.  However, we also discuss the show’s worldview about the relations between the sexes as well as its relation to the broader culture of pick-up artistry in general.  We particularly pay attention to some of the pick-up culture’s shaky intellectual arguments grounded in bogus notions of ‘neuro-linguistic programming’ and faux evolutionary psychology.  (WARNING: Foucault and chimpanzee sex both get mentioned prominently.)

[Also, as a postscript, Mike apologizes for the quality of a few of the sound clips.  One of the many terrible things about this show (and one that did not become apparent until post-production) was how fucking shitty the sound mixing was.  It’s almost as if even the producers of this trainwreck didn’t even care about it.]

Show Notes and Links

1:40 / Introducing this week’s show

2:20 / The concept of the show

5:08 / JS observes how mundane the intros were

8:09 / Discussing the four hosts – ‘the four corners of the male psyche’ (LOL)

10:02 / Sheldon did not seem to have a defined persona (the article Mike mentions is here)

11:20 / Mike criticizes the show for not having enough differentiation between the hosts

12:50 / Comparing the relative badness of this show to Monica the Medium

13:46 / Returning to the topic of differentiation and the show’s relation to pick-up artist culture

15:30 / Talking about the interludes and how the hosts’ ‘differences’ faded away

16:37 / The contestants for the show are also very similar (and all have dumb nicknames)

18:03 / JS talks about the episode with Mike the Magician and Hot Body Jason – ‘brains’ vs. ‘brawn’

21:00 / Mike agrees that this episode was more interesting, but thinks it still fits into the overall worldview of the show

21:33 / Mike talks about an episode that left a sour taste – ‘nice guy’ vs. ‘asshole’

23:18 / Segueing into the worldview of the show (and pick-up artistry in general)

24:31 / Talking about the idea of ‘negging

25:30 / JS did like the challenges that put the guys in a bind

26:02 / The perennial question – How real is all this?

26:33 / Mike kept seeing unsourced allegations of fakery, but no smoking gun (Wikipedia, IMDB)

27:18 / How did they get the audio to pick up so clearly?

28:10 / Not very many blurred faces in this show

29:07 / JS noticed the guys seem to be aware of the ‘hidden’ cameras

29:38 / Lots of women show up more than once – what are the odds?

31:05 / Mike was unconvinced by the kissing

32:08 / Talking about the evidence for some level of ‘authenticity’ (AMA, interview with Alen)

32:58 / Women may not be out-and-out confederates, but if they know the show is going on beforehand, how authentic are the actual reactions?

33:42 / Talking about how the multiple takes give the producers an opportunity to basically tell whatever story they want

36:40 / Mike’s theory of the week: Keys to the VIP as a Foucauldian educational institution (To be more clear, Mike was referring to Discipline and Punish, but Foucault also studied other things)

39:25 / Talking about the dated nature of pick-up culture and how this show was very much of its time; Mike mentions The Game

41:13 / Segueing into a discussion of pick-up artist culture more broadly

41:45 / Mike was talking about something like this    (He also mentions the vintage hosting service Geocities)  (the dumb website is here)

42:14 / Talking about all the dumb terms and acronyms (yes, they are all real) from the different ‘schools’ of pick-up artistry, such as Speed Seduction and the Mystery Method (Mike mentions the Konami Code)

43:59 / Discussing the influence of ‘neuro-linguistic programming’ (aka ‘the Force’)

45:53 / The Adorno quote is from aphorism 70 of Minima Moralia

46:19 / Why can’t horny women ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ hot guys into sleeping with them? (Discussing the assumptions of pick-up artist ideology)

47:44 / Mike makes a brief comparison between pick-up artistry and female-oriented cottage dating advice

48:21 / Even if this stuff worked 10 years ago, don’t you think women would have caught on to the dumb hats and canned lines?

49:04 / JS makes a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ argument for the value of pick-up artistry

50:05 / Talking about the ‘numbers game’ aspect of pick-up artistry, with a brief aside into the emergence of dating apps like Tinder and how they’ve changed dating culture

51:56 / What Mike thinks is actually behind pick-up artist philosophy (power not pleasure)

53:18 / Mike debunks the pop evolutionary psychology arguments underlying the philosophy (aka humans and other primates are not the same)

54:38 / Chimps and bonobos have entirely different social structures, despite being more genetically similar than either one is to humans

55:07 / A digression into chimp mating and the relation of sex to status in chimp society (Mike refers to the book The Origins of AIDS)

56:27 / Talking about the evolution of pick-up artistry over the last decade to its nastier current-day incarnations like The Red Pill and Gamergate

57:42 / Segueing into the appeal of the show

58:03 / Mike reads a quote from Alen on the show’s creation and JS responds

59:08 / Mike mentions another podcast that reviewed this show, Flight School Podcast (The specific episode is here)

59:40 / The show is not really about teaching people ‘what women want’, but is about reaffirming traditionally masculine worldviews

1:00:50 / Is this show about success or failure?  (We both come to the conclusion that it is ultimately about the latter)

1:02:57 / We never rooted for the contestants

1:03:25 / The educational emphasis of the show centers the narrative around failure

1:03:52 / Mike talks about how this show could maybe have been better (it takes a lot)

1:04:55 / A novel concept – have actual women on a show about impressing women

1:05:24 / The women in the show are always ‘targets’ and stereotypes

1:06:30 / Our final thoughts – Mike recommends only watching the goofy intros, JS puts in a word for Mike the Magician

1:07:46 / Introducing the next show (It can only go up from here)

1:08:38 / The usual announcements – Like our Facebook page and visit the website (Good job – you are here!) – Also: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe!

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