Episode 24 – The Fashion Hero

 

This episode: The Fashion Hero, Season 1.  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Next episode: The Four: Battle for Stardom, Season 1, Eps. 1, 5-6.  Watch it on Hulu.

Mike has been talking about it for ages, but the day has finally arrived for our friend, Dave, to come back on and discuss the Amazon-produced reality TV fashion (anti?) competition show, The Fashion Hero (aka America’s Woke Top Model).

After breaking down the unique structure and format of the show and discussing the principal players, such as the host, judges, contestants, etc, we do a deep dive into the relationship between the show’s ideology and structure with a particular focus on both the unique nature of its blend between reality TV competition and a ‘social justice message’ (touching on the good and bad sides of ‘message television’) and how much of the social mediation in the show is shaped by said message.  Throughout it all, we continue to return to the question of whether this is the future paradigm of reality television or a failed experiment that is weighed down by its contradictions (egalitarianism vs. capitalism/competition, utopian harmony vs. conflict-driven entertainment).

Finally, we situate the show within the broader ‘meta-genre’ of reality TV as a form of ‘advertainment’ and the cultural context of changing political and cultural attitudes among millennial women, who constitute the target demographic for the sub-genre of fashion competition reality TV before ending by asking, “Is some level of cattiness and trashiness necessarily always a bad thing?” (Mike says no.)  We hope you enjoy this episode because this is definitely the most unique and interesting show we’ve reviewed for this podcast.

Show Notes and Links

1:12 / Our returning guest host, Dave (Episode 17 on Hell’s Satans is here)

2:01 / Introducing this month’s show

2:30 / The concept and format of the show – a modeling competition with a twist

3:48 / Examples of the activities performed on the show

6:00 / The activities were microcosms for the overall journey

6:57 / The unique structure of the ‘competition’

8:47 / How the lack of eliminations affected our view of the overall narrative

9:39 / Discussing our impressions of the host, Brooke Hogan, and how the role of the host differed in this show (Mike mentions Kate Moss)

11:48 / Talking about the four judges and their role in the show (Dave mentions Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay as contrasts; Mike mentions Top Chef)

15:24 / The familial atmosphere of the show was striking (Dave mentions The Voice)

16:38 / Segueing to our overall impressions of the contestants as a group

17:27 / A striking focus on the collective as opposed to the individual that separated this from other reality competition shows

18:52 / The diversity of the cast in terms of nationality was notable, especially in comparison to other reality shows

19:52 / Lots of contestants who are outside the mold in terms of body type and age (Mike also brings in a brief compare and contrast to Season 1 of the ur-text of reality TV fashion competitions, America’s Next Top Model)

21:55 / Discussing the finalists – Stacey, Tanashay, Heidi, and Revic – and their narratives of overcoming their insecurities and challenges

26:52 / Is there a difference in how we view male models as opposed to female models? Perhaps our broad lines of male attractiveness are more permissive, but our ideas of the ‘male model’ are narrow? (Mike mentions Calvin Klein underwear models)

28:10 / Discussing the worldview more explicitly – ‘democratization of beauty’

28:56 / Is there a tension between the show’s egalitarian ethos and the relationship of the fashion industry to capitalism, competition, etc?

31:03 / Mike makes a call-back to our first episode and compares the two shows in terms of the relationships they fostered between contestants

33:06 / This show really illustrated the level of control that the production team has in enforcing the ‘reality’ in reality TV

34:10 / Dave thought this show really stood out for having an explicit ideological agenda that is normally not found in reality TV

34:53 / The tension between the show’s positive tone and the goal of entertainment – it often went to sometimes comical lengths in order to build drama

36:18 / Talking about the sincerity of the show through the guests that were brought on

38:14 / Mike calls back to Survivor and observes how this show actually meets many of the conditions of the hypothetical ‘cooperation’ show he mentioned during the episode

39:17 / Introducing the article we read for this episode, “Reality TV as Advertainment” by June Deery, from Popular Communication, 2004

39:52 / The main points of the article – Reality TV as hyper-commercialized documentary, voyeurism, ‘hedonistic’ and ‘spartan’ reality TV, product placement

41:36 / Dave noticed this show rarely peered into people’s private rooms or treated the contestants as commodities – with one exception that we delve into (the discordant DQ moment)

44:35 / Briefly touching on Brooke’s freak-out (and its possible connection to the DQ moment?)

45:05 / How Mike thought this was similar to conventional reality TV – focus on the therapy of the self, advertising for products – but with an activist message (Mike mentions our last episode on Highway Thru Hell)

47:28 / Dave observes that in absence of antagonist characters, the antagonism derives from personal insecurities and societal prejudices that must be overcome

48:09 / Can utopian harmony be entertaining?  Particularly within the context of reality television?

49:52 / This show often changed the rules at the last second and staged weird ‘mock eliminations’ to generate drama

51:14 / Mike thought it funny that all the contestants leaned on reality TV clichés in their confessionals during the final week of nominations despite the competition not appearing all that intense

52:12 / How cooperation was baked into the judging criteria and contestants often acted anti-competitively

53:01 / Transitioning into the demographic appeal of the show – Mike discusses a Pew research poll on political affiliations that came out recently

53:53 / The conflict between the reliance on stereotypes in reality TV and the burgeoning cultural progressivism of the millennial women who are the chief audience for these shows

54:36 / This show fits well into the current cultural zeitgeist – Trump, #MeToo, etc.

55:26 / Is there a conflict between the utopian positivity of this show and the base entertainment value one expects from traditional reality TV?

57:39 / Dave’s chief complaint: the heavy-handed nature of the show’s message

58:43 / Are we more forgiving of the exaggerations and heavy-handedness in relentlessly cutthroat shows like Survivor? (Mike also makes a comparison to Monica the Medium in terms of both shows’ relentless positivity)

1:00:03 / What would our advice be to the producers for improvements going forward?

1:02:01 / How drama and personal conflict could be incorporated into the show without stepping too hard on its ideological message

1:02:56 / Introducing the idea of ‘friendly competition’ between judges a la The Voice

1:04:17 / Despite the flaws, the sincerity and positivity of the show was refreshing, particularly because it differed so much from what we’ve come to expect from other reality TV shows

1:04:48 / Is it still OK to crave the cattiness and trashiness of reality TV? (Mike, for one, was definitely craving it)

1:05:45 / This show did change how Mike viewed the possibilities of fashion

1:07:18 / Announcing the next episode

1:08:06 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

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Episode 17 – Hell’s Satans

 

This week’s discussion: Hell’s Satans, Season 1, Eps. 1-5, 7-8.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next week’s discussion: Celebrity Paranormal Project, Season 1, Eps. 1-4.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

As promised last week, we have a special guest host, our friend Dave, who requested that I curate a shortlist of shows for him to pick from, so I went to the smorgasbord of reality television known as Tubi TV, and he settled on the show Hell’s Satans, about a misfit moped gang from the college town of Richmond, VA.

After discussing the concept, characters, and episodes, we segue into our main discussion of just how constructed this reality show is and how the mockumentary that inspired the show informed our views on the show’s structure and message.  We also discuss issues of the show’s worldview, whether reality TV needs villains to be compelling, and return to some of the podcasts’ favorite hobby horses, like stereotypes, ‘hanging out’ and Mike name-dropping Jersey Shore.

Show Notes and Links

1:10 / This week’s guest host

2:03 / Introducing this week’s show

2:53 / The high concept; Mike does the Sons of Anarchy and Jackass comparison again

4:10 / Our impressions of the gang members

4:35 / Travis – comic relief

6:00 / Discussing the ‘One-Eyed Turtle’

7:00 / Pat – the leader of the group

8:21 / Jessie – the enforcer

10:04 / Rachel – the wild child

11:05 / Discussing the ‘lost episode’ (at least lost by Tubi TV)

12:41 / Chance and Brooke – friends with benefits

14:46 / Quick hit summaries of Episodes 1 and 2 – intro and initiation

15:37 / Episodes 3 and 4 – job hunt and party

17:03 / Episode 5 – ‘Survivor’ style camp-out

17:58 / Episodes 7 and 8 – Puerto Rico trip

18:56 / How constructed are these narratives?

19:44 / Dave thought it was a strange mix of the real and the manufactured

20:30 / Mike thought the narratives seemed a little too clean, compares the show’s structure to a sitcom

22:25 / Discussing how real the ‘college party’ in Episode 1 was

23:23 / The implausibility of the Puerto Rico trip

24:24 / Travis’ ‘nude modeling’ session

25:02 / Mike brings up Jersey Shore (again)

25:46 / Dave thought this show was less manipulative than something like Toddlers & Tiaras

26:36 / Discussing the confessionals

27:08 / Talking about the antecedent for this show, Satan Since 2003

28:00 / Dave’s impressions of the mockumentary

28:38 / A synopsis of the mockumentary

30:08 / Mike’s impressions of the mockumentary (the quote from the producer is here)

31:17 / How the mockumentary informed our reading of the reality show

32:55 / Returning to the topic of stereotypes and reality TV (Mike’s ‘theory’ was stated in Episode 1)

33:47 / Dave thought the mockumentary complimented the show well, made him think more about the intent behind the structure

34:39 / Mike thought the mockumentary confirmed his feelings about the behind-the-scenes manipulation

35:12 / How (sub)cultural specificity can inform what reality TV producers are and aren’t able to do

35:56 / This show lacked the ‘villain edit’ found in many reality shows

36:42 / The optimism of the show, Mike compares it to Snooki & JWoww

37:00 / The positive portrayal of this group is reflective of broader cultural changes

38:10 / Segueing into the show’s target demographic and worldview

39:05 / It was interesting that much of the show’s content cut against the ‘carefree’ worldview the group is selling

40:40 / Comparing the show to our (admittedly hazy) recollections of Jackass

41:50 / Talking about moments where the show touches on social class

42:43 / Does this show have the legs for a second season?

44:42 / We thought the show was entertaining, but a little bit generic

45:40 / How much overlap would there be between an interesting second season and a marketable second season?

46:13 / The show was pretty tame and inconsequential despite the antics and squabbles

47:00 / Does a reality TV show need a villain to be entertaining?

48:05 / Would the missing episode have contained a fight with actual consequences?

48:50 / Mike gives his opinion on ‘villain edits’, mentions Jersey Shore (take a drink) and the first season of Project Runway

50:19 / Coming back to the idea of reality TV as ‘hanging out’ once again, Mike mentions the loathsome Keys to the VIP

51:17 / Introducing the next episode

52:41 / Ending with announcements: contact us, like our Facebook page, rate/review, and subscribe

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