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

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