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

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Episode 15 – Toddlers & Tiaras

 

This week’s discussion: Toddlers and Tiaras, Season 7, Eps. 1-5. Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Judge Faith, Season 2, Eps. 1-4, 7-10.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video. Watch it on YouTube.

This week we tackled the infamous TLC show Toddlers & Tiaras.  JS begins with an apology to our listeners and declares it the worst show he’s ever seen, whereas Mike offers a somewhat qualified defense of the show (though definitely not the people – who are the worst).

After our recriminations and the usual recap of concept and structure, we delve into the show’s point-of-view and how it is reflected in its editing choices.  We also discuss the topics of beauty and gender standards, how these pageants sexualize minors, ritualistic nature of beauty pageant culture, the links between beauty pageantry and social conservatism, and the role of social class and economics.  Of course, we continually return to how troubling this is as well as finishing up with an exploration of whether this show has any redeeming social value or is merely wallowing in salaciousness.

Show Notes and Links

1:31 / Introducing this week’s show (with bonus apology from JS)

2:21 / JS thinks this is the worst show he’s ever seen

2:52 / Mike explains why he didn’t think this was the worst (although the people are); mentions Monica the Medium and Keys to the VIP

4:41 / The concept of the show

7:08 / This isn’t the first ‘rodeo’ for many of these families

8:08 / Talking about the exception: single dad at first pageant

9:28 / Covering the awards ceremony (and the ridiculous award names)

10:40 / These parents don’t accept second place

12:00 / Delving into the pageant judges and directors

14:15 / Segueing into the show’s point-of-view; Mike mentions Bridezillas

14:52 / The editing choices were revealing

16:41 / Money is a frequent topic

17:13 / The motif of bribing kids with sugar and caffeine

19:33 / Parsing the difference between disapproving of the parents and the pageant

20:36 / Mike was rubbed the wrong way by many of the judges’ comments

22:27 / Mike’s theory of why the pageant footage is edited differently

24:02 / Talking about the intended audience; see our Finding Bigfoot episode for our take on the decline of educational cable channels

25:09 / Show possibly geared towards mothers; contrasting the appeal of the show to Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude

26:53 / How this show could potentially appeal to ‘pageant moms’

27:19 / Transitioning to a discussion on what this show says about beauty and gender standards

28:08 / The artificiality of the beauty standard was revealing

29:04 / The problematic message of adult beauty pageants is even more amplified when it involves children who cannot meaningfully consent

31:24 / The two objections to child beauty pageants: consent and sexualization

34:12 / The ritualistic aspects of child beauty pageantry; Mike makes a possibly melodramatic comparison to ‘female circumcision

36:17 / JS poses a question to Mike

37:38 / Coming back to traditionalist gender roles and the Southern regional aspect (Correction: one was also in California, but the larger point stands)

39:07 / The relationship between social conservatism and beauty pageant culture

41:45 / Talking about our (limited) experience with (adult) beauty pageants

43:24 / Discussing the role of social class and economics

44:40 / Mike noticed a positive correlation between wealth and winning

45:15 / JS begrudgingly gives the show his one kudos

46:06 / Returning to the vast amounts of money spent on the dresses

46:47 / Seems to be no real monetary return for these pageants

49:03 / Speculating (somewhat baselessly) into the economics of holding a beauty pageant

51:08 / We’d call it a con, but these parents seem to have no illusions of wealth

52:02 / Exploring the parents’ motivations: validation, living vicariously, and ‘winning’ (not ‘confidence’)

54:57 / Participation trophies are ‘ruining society’

55:45 / Does this show have social value or is it wallowing in titillation?

57:15 / JS thought the social value was held back by the fact that there are bigger problems in the world

59:40 / Mike wonders whether this dichotomy is so strict (Is there inherent tension between sensationalism and exposé?)

1:01:17 / Mike imagines the response to this show would depend on the viewer, which has disturbing implications

1:01:55 / Mike found the show both more interesting and more depressing than he expected, even if it wasn’t Edward R. Murrow; thought the show would be light-hearted camp

1:02:53 / Comparing this show to America’s Next Most Smartest Model and America’s Next Top Model; JS found how it puts children into an adult setting objectionable

1:05:12 / Announcing the next episode (You can refresh yourself on our Divorce Court episode here)

1:08:50 / The usual: email us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 14 – Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude

 

This week’s discussion: Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude, Season 1, Eps. 1-12, 39-40. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Next week’s discussion: Toddlers and Tiaras, Season 7, Eps. 1-5. Watch it on Hulu.

Our Listener’s Choice poll results are in and we listened to the masses (all two of them) who decided they wanted us to watch the Jersey Shore spin-off Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude, a webseries that originally appeared over the go90 streaming service.

We begin by discussing the show’s interesting ‘YouTube’ style form factor and whether it worked for us.  Then we segue into the show’s relationship with its famous progenitor and how the personas of the two hosts has evolved, linking that evolution to broader themes of aging and maturity.  We also talk about the show’s interesting blend of traditional domesticity with an MTV ‘edge’ as well as its relationship to its target demographic of ‘millennial moms’ and how its themes of parenthood and family life connected with us.  Additionally, we discuss issues of social class and praise the show’s minimalist production and apparent unvarnished nature, linking it to earlier discussions of the appeal of authenticity in reality television.

Show Notes and Links

1:30 / Introducing this week’s show

2:46 / Our experiences with Jersey Shore

4:20 / Talking about the history behind the show (Mike mentions the MTV Snooki and JWoww and go90)

6:32 / The concept and different episode types

8:52 / Talking about the show’s form factor

10:47 / Mike compares show to the ‘YouTuber’ phenomenon

11:46 / Discussing the minimalistic production (Article about the webseries that Mike mentioned)

13:49 / Returning to the form factor (Our Monica the Medium episode is here)

15:37 / Segueing to the target demographic for the show (Awestruck Entertainment; the JWoww and Roger webseries)

17:22 / Talking about the show’s aesthetic (‘not a mothering show for your mother’)

18:52 / Our view of the hosts and their evolution since Jersey Shore

21:55 / Discussing whether you should curse in front of your kids

23:01 / Coming back to the hosts and how they’ve changed since Jersey Shore

24:46 / This show’s relation to the previous one; acknowledgement mixed with distance

25:45 / Mike tries to explain Jersey Shore’s relationship to other reality shows to JS (We mention TOWIE and The Real World; Snooki’s arrest)

27:45 / How this show is indicative of shifting depictions of millennials as they age and settle down

29:02 / Why Mike thinks the perennial complaint of ‘kids these days’ is misguided

30:15 / Show also chronicles the cultural shifts around parenting that have occurred as millennials have become parents

30:44 / The show was stronger because they didn’t try to rehash Jersey Shore and showed the maturity and change of the hosts

32:36 / Briefly touching on the affluent lifestyle depicted in the show

33:35 / Does this show connect with fathers as well as mothers?

35:45 / Discussing the show as a ‘feminine’ space and how its views on gender roles and domesticity are actually surprisingly traditional

37:50 / The ‘non-traditional’ nature of the hosts made the show interesting

38:28 / Mike appreciated the depiction of family life, which managed to be a nice portrait that didn’t feel like a Hallmark card

39:12 / Segueing into the authentic nature of the show (We mention the ‘Facebook wall phenomenon’)

41:03 / Mike’s nostalgia for the characters, returns to idea of reality TV as ‘hanging out’ (our Keys episode is here, NYT profile of Snooki during her Jersey Shore days)

41:57 / JS appreciated the lack of product placement and their honesty in their product reviews

43:07 / Returning to the topic of social class and its relation to the show’s target demographic

46:17 / Closing with discussion of the appealing nature of the show’s authenticity

49:01 / The fact that this wasn’t done by a huge MTV production crew made the show feel more authentic and less produced

50:25 / Introducing the next show

52:08 / Announcements: contact us, rate and review us, and subscribe (Also, we have a Facebook page that Mike forgot to mention)

 

Episode 13 – Alaskan Bush People

 

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

Next week’s discussion: Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude, Season 1, Eps. 1-12, 39-40. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Due to some (still ongoing) technical difficulties, Mike travels to his folks’ place in order to bring you another episode while the initial portion of JS’s audio has a ‘special guest’ (our apologies).  However, we soldier on with this week’s show, which was a lot more enjoyable than the last couple.

After doing the usual rundown of concept, cast, and episode highlights, we discuss this show’s troubled – to put it charitably – relationship to reality and use that as a segue to try to further define reality TV, particularly in comparison to the documentary, and figure out what makes reality TV unique.

We then dig into the show’s worldview of self-reliance, rugged individualism, and the virtues of living ‘off-the-grid’ as well as the interesting way in which the show positions the Browns – and, implicitly, Alaska itself – as avatars of both exoticism and traditional (white, Christian) American values.

Finally, we wrap up by locating the show’s appeal in its display of the virtues of rural living and community in an increasingly urbanized and impersonal modern society.  Also, we announce the results of our Jersey Shore spin-off listener’s choice poll – since the world has been waiting with bated breath.

Show Notes and Links

1:08 / We rue our poor luck

2:02 / Introducing this week’s show

3:27 / Running down the high concept

5:00 / The cast of characters

8:11 / JS was a big fan of Bear

8:46 / Moving into the episode recaps

10:03 / Really playing up that flat tire

11:18 / Theme of first season is race against winter

13:34 / Talking about ‘Rick the Lumberman’

15:04 / The fingerprints of producers are all over this show; JS mentions Monica the Medium

16:18 / Talking about the ‘junkman’ and whether show is playing up the ‘roughness’ of these characters

18:22 / Delving more into the bartering ‘goose chase’

19:15 / JS drops some research about DVDs and rural Alaska

20:10 / The emphasis placed on barter as emblematic of bush culture

20:30 / Wrapping up the cabin-building arc

21:50 / Briefly summarizing the ‘boat’ episode

22:45 / The ‘clip’ episode aka ‘No, it’s real!  Really!’

23:23 / Talking about the dentist’s office

24:05 / Our differing reactions to the believability of hospital care for barter

26:06 / How authentic we thought the show was prior to doing our research

28:11 / We start delving into the gossip on the show

28:40 / Talking about the family’s residency fraud charges

30:00 / Matt’s DUI in a Walmart parking lot

30:39 / Talking about the family’s history with technology (Billy’s book, YouTube video)

31:52 / The evolution of the show’s authenticity (living in hotels, etc.)

32:18 / Mike wasn’t surprised at the inauthenticity, but the level of fakery was beyond what he would have guessed

33:00 / Our final thoughts on the family’s ‘bush skills’ in light of the ‘revelations’

33:47 / Talking about the definition of reality TV vis-à-vis the documentary

34:34 / What is the line between documentary and reality TV?

35:02 / JS defines the line as the level of producer involvement in the action as it is happening; mentions the Heisenberg Principle

37:38 / Mike talks about the early documentary Nanook of the North; director’s involvement in staging some scenes

39:45 / Mike’s defining line is in the marketing and purpose (low/mass culture, entertainment-oriented, profit-driven vs. high culture, education-oriented, prestige-driven)

40:54 / Discussing how important ‘reality’ is to ‘reality TV’ (Our Bridezillas episode is here and our Survivor: Borneo episode is here)

43:15 / JS thinks even the ‘fake’ reality shows qualify because they are at least setting up the expectation of reality, even if the execution is obviously poor (*cough* TOWIE *cough*)

45:00 / Segueing into the worldview and themes of the show

45:21 / Mike noticed a theme of self-reliance and freedom juxtaposed to civilization; mentions Dual Survival, the other Discovery reality show we watched

46:20 / JS thought the inauthenticity of the show undermines this message of ‘freedom from society’

47:33 / Mike wonders if freedom from civilization is really freedom or just subjugation to the whims of nature

49:10 / The show’s idealization and romanticization of ‘bush culture’

50:05 / Mike was struck by the masculine focus and tone of these ‘outdoor’ oriented shows

51:13 / JS inserts a brief digression on Billy’s marital history and history with Ami’s family

52:55 / The interesting blend of familiarity and exoticism in the portrayal of the Browns

53:53 / Alaska’s place in the US mental geography

54:22 / The importance of the Brown’s whiteness to the show’s appeal

57:28 / Mashup between 1850’s nostalgia and 1950’s nostalgia

57:55 / Show sells an image of rugged individualism, but there are cracks in that image

58:50 / Relating this image to Alaska’s reality (oil fund, federal subsidies)

59:56 / JS talks about the appealing aspects of the show

1:01:05 / Mike thought this show could have been an interesting look at rural life without the hype (and fakery, obviously)

1:01:40 / The appeal of Gemeinschaft in an era of Gessellschaft

1:03:15 / Mike brings up Frederic Jameson’s essay ‘Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture’ (Mike also briefly mentions our Paris Hilton episode)

1:06:25 / The relationship between reality TV and subcultural communities (Amish Mafia, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding)

1:07:23 / Announcing the results of our listener’s choice poll

1:08:45 / The boilerplate: contact us, Facebook, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 2 – The Only Way Is Essex

 

This week’s discussion: The Only Way Is Essex, Season 18, Eps. 1-3.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Finding Bigfoot, Season 11, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Animal Planet. (cable sub required past first episode) Purchase on Amazon Video.

This week your intrepid hosts take a (somewhat unplanned) trip across the pond to take in the ‘scripted reality’ drama The Only Way Is Essex.  After venting about our hatred of this show, we analyze the pacing of the show and how its one-track focus on petty relationship squabbles might have left a sour taste in our mouths.  We then explore the definition of reality TV on a broader level and decide whether the concept of ‘scripted reality’ fits.  Finally, we look at how this show treats British stereotypes and grapple with our cultural unfamiliarity before ending with a discussion on why this show has been so popular despite the fact that it did not connect with us personally.

Show Notes and Links

1:03 / Introducing this week’s show

1:53 / The high concept of the show (Flub 1: Essex is in Southeast, not Southwest England)

2:25 / A quick peek behind the scenes of 42 Minutes of Reality

3:52 / The locale of the first two episodes: resort town of Mallorca; Mike mentions Season 4 of Jersey Shore

4:45 / Back to the high concept

5:33 / Quoting The Guardian’s TV Critic

6:11 / We hated this show

7:55 / The ‘Waiting for Godot’ of reality TV

8:35 / We summarize the only non-relationship parts we remembered from the first 3 episodes of Season 18

9:40 / Mike thinks there are too many people on this show, compares it unfavorably to Jersey Shore

10:11 / The Wikipedia page for Season 18

10:23 / JS talks about the rapid and formulaic editing structure

12:16 / Mike talks about ‘padding’ – concept borrowed from MST3K

13:40 / ‘Plot’ summary of the first 2 episodes – such as it was

15:26 / JS notes only one holdover from first season – but archetypal continuity

16:29 / Mike thought the sound mixing was awful

17:00 / We both needed closed captioning

17:25 / Mike did like the ‘montage’ style intros of some of the episodes

18:23 / JS finds a synthesis of our views on the pace

19:18 / We briefly discuss the virtues of swears v. bleeps

20:12 / We get into definitional issues – this is an edge case

20:45 / ‘Scripted reality

21:24 / Mike thinks the term ‘reality TV’ is ironic, because it isn’t truly real, but how far is too far?

22:08 / Comparing the structure to Curb Your Enthusiasm – is this a ‘bad soap opera’ with no script?

22:44 / Mike compares to Cheaters, which is even more fake, but actually entertaining

23:13 / A pro wrestling analogy

23:29 / Are the producers next leveling us?

23:39 / The camerawork is quite good – perhaps TOO good…

24:40 / Comparing camerawork to Jersey Shore

25:18 / Goes against the most clearly artificial reality TV conventions – living in same house and the confessional booth – which paradoxically made it seem less real; Mike mentions the granddaddy of modern US reality TV, The Real World

26:47 / JS talks about Arg and Lydia’s break-up scene and some suspicious audio

28:47 / The abortion that was TOWIE Live

29:40 / JS thinks the barometer leans towards ‘not-real’

30:10 / Some of the people in this have been on other reality TV programs

30:52 / Even with all these caveats, is this still reality TV?

31:25 / JS gives a hard ‘no’

32:37 / Mike thought it was the horseshoes of reality TV – close enough

33:57 / JS believes that there should be something authentic, even if there is some manipulation behind the scenes

35:46 / This show lacked that authenticity

36:28 / Mike thinks there is possibly some authenticity ‘beyond the camera’, but mostly thinks this because the show is so boring and obviously faked stuff is more exciting

37:13 / JS would have bought it more if there was more variety in the subject matter

38:05 / Mike says there is a bit more variety beyond the third episode, which might be influencing his opinion

38:35 / Maybe not real in the literal sense, but ‘based on a true story’

38:52 / How did these people all get off work at the same time to go on holiday?

39:42 / The people on this show seemed to be living in an invisible bubble. Where are all the other people in Essex? (Flub 2: Essex has 1.5 million people but not millions – the point still stands)

40:50 / Moving on to popular stereotypes of Essex

41:09 / Different from America’s Most Smartest Model, but both share a worldview that plays on stereotypes

41:46 / Controversy and pushback from Essex residents

42:15 / Mike thinks ‘breaking down stereotypes’ works for Sundance documentaries, but not successful reality TV

42:52 / Mike busts out his Wikipedia research and has JS play a guessing game

43:07 / ‘Essex girl’ stereotype

44:52 / ‘Essex man’ stereotype

46:44 / Mike’s Theory of the Week – are these stereotypes connected?

47:33 / JS wonders if there is a ‘nouveau riche’ component to Essex stereotypes – even in Season 1, these people seem to have no jobs, but lots of disposable income

50:14 / Mike mentions that there were a few people who seemed to own businesses

51:33 / Piggybacking on the last episode’s discussion – why has this gone on so long?

52:28 / A clarification on ‘seasons’ in the UK (?) context

53:08 / A doomsday scenario

53:36 / TOWIE in the context of the genre of ‘soap opera

55:09 / JS drops some soap opera knowledge

56:31 / Mike noticed a pattern in the Hulu ads – is there a gender component to the target demo?

57:17 / JS thinks the main component is age (and class?)

59:10 / Mike wonders if the banality of the show is the key to its popular appeal

1:03:05 / JS observes that with age, you are more likely to encounter weightier issues in life

1:04:46 / Mike wonders if some portion of the audience has problems, but watches for escapist reasons – part of the appeal is that there is a lot of drama, but nothing serious behind it

1:06:06 / It often seemed that there were more interesting things going on off-camera than on camera

1:07:24 / Announcing next week’s show

1:09:00 / We are on iTunes and have an email address: 42minutesofreality AT gmail DOT com