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 30 – My Super Sweet 16

 

This episode: My Super Sweet 16: Season 1, Eps. 1, 3, 5-6, Season 5, Eps. 1, 7, 9, and Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 5-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Catfish, Season 1, Eps. 1-4, 7-8, 13.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month JS is taking a breather, but we’re excited to have our returning guest, Dave, on the podcast to discuss the all-time ‘classic’ MTV show My Super Sweet 16.

We start with our own reminiscences of our unglamorous 16th birthdays before tackling the usual topics of concept and structure – of what ended up being two different shows with the same name, as we also viewed the 2017 reboot.  Then we discuss the show’s worldview and debate whether it is meant to condemn class inequities in America or whether it is a comfortable salve for viewers who would like to believe that they are immune to the behavior displayed on the show because they have superior ‘values’ imparted to them.  We also talk about how the ever-present categories of race and gender play a part in the stereotypes of class being disseminated by this program and wonder just how authentic the narrative of this show is in light of an interview and article we found – is it played fairly straight or going into scripted territory?

Our final through line is an ongoing comparison and contrast between the positive vibes and group hugs of the reboot and the temper tantrums and exclusive guest lists of the original – we speculate as to why MTV decided to change up their successful formula and decide which version of the show we personally prefer.

Show Notes and Links

1:28 / Your hosts’ memories of their ‘Super Sweet 16’

2:14 / Does Dave have any experience with ‘Sweet 16’ culture?

3:48 / The spread of episodes we watched and why we picked them

6:57 / The concept and structure of the show

9:10 / Many segments tended to reoccur, particularly as the formula became more established

15:11 / Hitting the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) for Ava and Audrey – our most stereotypical celebrants

18:44 / Discussing the role of the parents in the show

20:59 / The formulaic nature of the show and how the first episode of Season 1 hadn’t quite established it yet

22:10 / Comparing the original to the reboot – microcelebrities and positive vibes

25:27 / Returning to the worldview of the original run – is it celebrating or condemning wealth?

27:13 / Did the original series give its participants the ‘Villain Edit’?

30:08 / This show is part of a larger cultural narrative around gender and wealth (Dave mentions the movie Mean Girls)

31:15 / The role of diversity in the show – is it progressive or does it give a false impression of class in America?

34:11 / How race and gender plays into the show’s worldview and popular reception – focuses on safe critique of ‘values’ and ‘spoiled teens’ as opposed to structural conditions

35:24 / Some narratives in the show run counter to the ‘lax parenting’ critique

37:02 / The show both stokes envy and resentment of the upper class – encourages viewers to think they would be ‘better’ in the same situation rather than condemning the situation itself

37:45 / Contrasting the original worldview to that of the reboot (the Guardian article Mike mentioned is here; our episodes on The Fashion Hero and America’s Most Smartest Model)

39:52 / How compelling was the reboot compared to the original? (More compelling participants and narratives, but also lacked some dramatic tension and the rubbernecking entertainment value.)

44:07 / The reboot felt more authentic and less manufactured in its narrative

45:58 / Mike apologizes for his second ‘academic article’ fail

47:00 / Analyzing the original’s authenticity (or possibly lack thereof) – the Babe.net interview is here and the Houston Chronicle newspaper article is here

48:31 / Our previous experiences with the show and initial impression of its authenticity (Our TOWIE episode)

50:58 / Dave was struck by the lack of diegetic dialogue and fast cuts from one segment to another

52:06 / Mike was a little surprised by the claimed extent of scriptedness, etc; expected it to be more on the Survivor end of the spectrum than the Bridezillas end

53:07 / Is there a ‘damage control’ aspect to the accusations of fakery?

58:05 / Final conclusion – there is some inauthenticity, but not full-on scripting

58:45 / Discussing the appeal of the original show

59:27 / Mike notes that this show stopped running when the recession hit in 2008

1:00:36 / What is the appeal of the reboot and why did they change the formula?

1:01:35 / Mike thinks this is a conscious attempt by MTV to cater to the worldview of a younger, diverse, culturally liberal audience

1:04:00 / Which version did we prefer? (We come down of the side of evil over niceness – in true reality TV fashion)

1:07:03 / Ending with our favorite motifs – the exhausted boredom of the adults and mundane nature of it all

1:09:19 / Reminding our listeners about the next show Mike is covering with JS – continuing the MTV train with Catfish: The TV Show

1:10:05 / The usual spiel: contact us, rate/review, subscribe to us (or at least tell your friends!)

 

Episode 29 – Maury

 

This episode: Maury, “Greatest Hits” according to the Nosey app curators.  Watch it on Nosey.

Next episode: My Super Sweet 16: Season 1, Eps. 1, 3, 5-6, Season 5, Eps. 1, 7, 9, and Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 5-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month ‘THE RESULTS ARE IN!’ for our listener’s choice poll on trashy talk TV and the masses (all one of you) cried out for us to discuss the long-running and infamous Maury Povich show.  It was particularly fitting as JS had some teenage nostalgia, but will it carry through?

Turns out after opening the envelope that the answer is no…as JS found the show to be crushing whereas Mike channeled his deep-seated reservoir of inner cold-heartedness and stunted empathy to more or less manage to enjoy the spectacle.

That being said, we had a pretty lively discussion about the show’s tone and worldview, particularly in comparison to its contemporaries like Jerry Springer, and how this show uses ‘science’ in an interesting way to center its conflicts over paternity and infidelity (and what that may say about its place in our overall culture).  We then discuss an interesting graduate thesis outlining the genre’s history and its particular emphasis on social class, both regarding its participants and its viewers (and which also has your humble podcast hosts dead to rights).  Finally, we end on an analysis of the various chicanery the production team utilizes to cajole its audience and guests into their preferred narratives and discuss the show’s viewership demographics and offer a theory of its overall appeal.

Show Notes and Links

1:14 / Giving our podcast a paternity test

1:53 / Introducing this month’s show

2:38 / The episodes we covered and their unclear provenance

4:36 / The “very, very high” concept and structure of this show

7:40 / Asking JS about his ‘Maury Memories’ (we repeatedly reference Jerry Springer, here and throughout the episode)

8:42 / How JS’s experience for the show differed from his recollection

10:05 / JS didn’t enjoy himself as much the second time around

10:41 / Mike’s impressions of the show (he had never seen it before)

11:38 / The epitome of a ‘guilty pleasure’ for Mike and an uncomfortable experience for JS

12:37 / Comparing this to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in terms of its repetition

13:30 / Does this have a narrative?  Opinions differ.  (The Grantland article Mike mentions throughout the show; Mike also mentions the Greek playwright Aristophanes)

14:24 / How the tone of the show evolved over time (Mike mentions The Phil Donahue Show)

15:39 / Comparing the tone of this to Jerry Springer (some clips from the I Married A Horse episode in this YouTube reaction video, the episode with Justin Pearson)

17:11 / What is and isn’t authentic in this show

18:11 / Talking about the ‘Double DNA test’ segment

19:30 / There was a correlation between how authentic the show got and how uncomfortable it was

20:10 / Coming back to the worldview and comparing it with Springer – small ‘c’ conservatism in a tawdry package (our discussion of this in Episode 1)

22:45 / JS was shocked at the longevity of this show, went in thinking that he was going to watch something from the 90’s

24:24 / Mike thinks there’s something about daytime television that lends itself to long-running formulas (mentions a bunch of shows: Divorce Court, Geraldo, Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Steve Wilkos, Trisha Goddard)

25:47 / Segueing into the role of polygraphs and paternity tests – ‘moment of truth’

27:11 / Discussing the reliability (or lack thereof) of polygraph tests – in contrast to their presentation on the show

29:35 / People don’t want to hear about uncertainty and probability – they want ‘The Truth’

30:10 / Mike goes on a digression about the fetishization of DNA in modern American culture (he mentions recent cold cases in DNA testing, a lawsuit over ancestry and affirmative action, and Spotify DNA playlists – this was before Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test or else we probably would have mentioned that too – guess she should have listened to this segment!)

31:44 / The difference between ancestry and culture and how we often blur the distinction

33:02 / Mike segues to a comparison in terms of paternity DNA tests not being ‘family relationship’ tests

34:23 / JS pushes back a little, mentions that nature as well as nurture can be an influence on someone even if identity through DNA has been fetishized

35:20 / JS found the ‘paternity’ segments easier to stomach given the more solid foundations of the science

36:11 / Mike agrees that you have some heritable qualities, but not much outside of certain medical conditions can be discerned from a test – his critique of the show’s use of them is its implication that the ‘truth’ of paternity will necessarily lead to the building of a social relationship

37:41 / Mike’s difficulties in finding an article and our continuing plunder of the free labor of graduate students

38:52 / Introducing this month’s thesis: “Hate Watching Trash TV: Intersections of Class and Anti-Fandom” by Milena Stanoeva of York University (Ontario), which was submitted in August 2016

39:58 / The origin and evolution of the ‘talk show’ from social issues to ‘trash TV’ (Mike mentions “freak shows” and Oprah Winfrey’s show)

41:10 / Talk show as meeting between middle class values and lower class emotionalism; how different viewers process the shows based on social class

42:04 / The host as the stand-in for the white middle class – calm, rational, objective, interested in ‘the truth’ – as opposed to the mostly African-American and lower-class guests

43:20 / Applying this analysis to Maury and the larger ‘therapeutic’ scaffolding of the ‘show experts’ (Mike namedrops Foucault obligatorily)

44:52 / JS thought the ‘carnival’ comparison was compelling (Mike mentions the Jerry Springer movie Ringmaster).

46:02 / Mike mentions the audience demographics (low-income, 50% African-American) and theorizes that this show functions as a form of social distancing in addition to being a conduit of middle class respectability

48:00 / Mike describes the process for recruiting participants and how this gives producers the ability to shape the narrative (A round-up of all the dirt is here)

48:47 / How the production crew manipulates the audience and the guests to respond in predetermined ways (One blogger describes being in the audience here)

50:38 / The guest monologues reminded Mike of Divorce Court

51:40 / JS brings us back to our success/failure dichotomy and our Diners comparison

53:51 / Mike enjoyed the show, even though he knew it was horribly unethical, because he’s a terrible person

54:32 / JS thinks being a parent has made him more emotionally vulnerable, which made him more negatively affected by this show (Our Toddlers and Tiaras episode)

56:16 / Mike’s weak justification – they all signed up for this

57:08 / Updates to availability for shows from previous episodes: 90 Day Fiance and Foxy Ladies

58:34 / Another episode with Dave is on the way: My Super Sweet 16!

58:59 / JS’s next pick – Season 1 of the MTV show Catfish

1:00:27 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 28 – Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

 

This episode: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Season 22, Eps. 2-6, 8.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Maury, “Greatest Hits” according to the Nosey app curators.  Watch it on Nosey.

A dramatic reversal on this episode on 42 Minutes of Reality as JS has a nice time and Mike grumbles about the terrible show he had to watch.  However, once the grievances are out of the way, we dig into the concept and structure, as per usual, and discuss our impressions of the show’s flamboyant and boisterous host, Guy Fieri, and his overall place in the constellation of ‘foodie’ cultural politics.

We then jump off into the ‘meatier’ portion of the discussion (sorry – was channeling the ‘dad jokes’ from this show’s host) as we delve into what this show has to say about the relationship between food and social class, the evolution of our relationship to food in the ‘industrial’ era of food production, and what constitutes ‘authenticity’ when it comes to the creation of dishes.  Finally, we get down the usual topics of authenticity (as it pertains to the show’s production) and appeal, which is lost on Mike, but which must exist as this has gone on for a billion and a half seasons already.  (Also, we announce the results of our listener’s choice – note the placement of the apostrophe – poll!)

Show Notes and Links

1:06 / Back to the usual Internet recording setup (our Foxy Ladies episode and ‘Fox Bros Bar-B-Q’)

2:14 / Introducing this month’s show (our Hell’s Satans episode)

3:30 / Mike takes his seat on the “complain train” and JS luxuriates in the payback for all the terrible shows Mike made him sit through (the usual lowlights get a mention)

3:58 / The concept and structure of the show

7:24 / Our impressions of the host, Guy Fieri, and his rise from show contestant to show host

9:50 / Guy’s background in cooking and restaurant management, lack of chef ‘pedigree’ or Michelin stars

10:38 / Guy Fieri as an icon of the populist ‘everyman’ (Mike mentions the late and lamented – at least by him – The Opposition with Jordan Klepper: the specific segment is here, coverage of the scathing NYT review of his Times Square restaurant)

12:12 / Cultural politics of food – haute cuisine vs. ‘real food for real people’ and the relation of food to politics (Obama’s Dijon mustard ‘gaffe’, John Kerry’s cheesesteak)

13:19 / Mike tells some stories about his lack of appreciation for fancy food (Little Caesars Pizza)

15:18 / Why JS picked the show – interest in the relationship between food culture and social class

17:10 / We thought the first two episodes (in Italy) of this season cut against the grain of the rest of the show

18:48 / The flak that Fieri has received (Mike’s take: over-the-top, but he’s kind of grating. JS’s take: LEAVE GUY FIERI ALONE!)

20:46 / Revisiting the dichotomy of success vs. failure in reality TV (Kitchen Nightmares, Horatio Alger)

22:40 / This show is lacking in narrative entirely, which was a problem for Mike, but not necessarily for JS

23:30 / Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives as advertisement (Mike mentions the late Billy Mays)

25:20 / This show did suffer due to the format we watched it in – not a show recommended for binge-watching

26:11 / Introducing this episode’s article: “Southern Barbeque: Fabricated Authenticity in the American South” from Kaitland M. Byrd’s 2017 dissertation “Culture on a Plate: The Social Construction of Authenticity in Food Culture

28:24 / Authenticity rooted in nostalgia and tradition, defined in opposition to the ‘industrial’ food system – emphasis on ‘fresh and local’ and ‘from scratch’

31:58 / The evolution in prestige of ‘industrialized’ food and how ‘fresh and local’ unifies the different ideologies of foodie culture (JS mentions tomatoes and Mike mentions Butterball turkeys)

35:11 / This show also taps into the appeal of the underdog ‘mom-and-pop establishment’ vs. the corporate ‘chain restaurant’

36:01 / ‘Authentic’ versus ‘Fusion’ paradigms – issues of demographic change, marketing, and cultural appropriation

40:24 / Transitioning to the authenticity of the show

41:51 / JS makes the distinction between ‘inauthentic’ and ‘authentic, but produced’

42:31 / How the tapings work and how that impacts the authenticity of the show

44:23 / Why this show fell short for Mike and how it could have been more interesting (Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown)

46:40 / JS gives the positive case for the show’s appeal and we discuss the role of gender in said appeal (The Great British Bake-Off)

48:25 / The segment on KC’s Steakhouse: another appeal to tradition in the show

49:34 / Our poll results – congratulations to our one voter!

51:36 / The usual stuff: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 27 – Foxy Ladies

 

This episode: Foxy Ladies, Season 1.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next episode: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Season 22, Eps. 2-6, 8.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month we have a special episode as Mike made the trek across the country to visit JS and we decided to do a ‘live-in-studio’ episode (aka recorded on a mic sitting between us on a card table), so there’s a bit more ambient noise than usual, but hopefully the quality should suffice.

Anyway, this month’s show provoked quite a bit of divergence in opinion as Mike more or less enjoyed it for what it was and JS had to bottle up his disdain for a month and has some grievances to get off his chest.  That being said, we eventually get into the usual talk of concept and structure and give our opinions on the rather large cast of characters and their personal travails.  Then we discuss how this show interacts with class and gender, particularly in comparison to the other ‘occupational’ reality show we reviewed, Highway Through Hell.  This discussion then leads us to our article, which analyzes the relationships between masculinity, sex, and work.  We apply the theories of the article to the two different shows and delve into how the occupations they depict differ both in their ‘cultural cache’ and in the narratives that unfold for their different reality television audiences.  Finally, we end with why we believe this show failed to be renewed and how its attempts to straddle two different audiences might have fallen short.

Show Notes and Links

1:04 / Welcoming you all to a very special live-in-studio episode

1:51 / Introducing this month’s show

2:30 / Our personal differences on the quality of this show

4:40 / The concept and structure of this show

6:08 / A brief diversion into JS’s favorite scene

6:55 / A low-rent Vanderpump Rules

7:35 / Our previous knowledge of the ‘bikini barista’ phenomenon

8:33 / What’s the appeal of a ‘bikini barista’ joint?

10:10 / A digression into food and their excellent website (no nudity, but prepare for some side-eye if you click on this at work or in front of Grandman)

10:51 / Mike’s experiences with Olympia, WA (Mike mentions Evergreen State College)

11:50 / Going over some of the themes for the various episodes

12:35 / JS makes a pitch for a new sponsor

13:27 / The owners of the chain are listed as executive producers

15:28 / Segueing into the cast of characters

15:43 / Kallai – single mother, veteran, manager, recovered addict

16:56 / Dalilah – other manager, relationship issues, history of DUIs

17:45 / Arielle – pastor’s daughter, single mother, boyfriend in jail

19:33 / Mike’s two cents on the characters mentioned

21:00 / A common thread (?) – questionable judgement

21:34 / Why Mike found Dalilah less sympathetic than the other characters

23:41 / Chrystal – recovering alcoholic, cosplayer, Etsy entrepreneur

25:40 / Arianna – newlywed, aspiring manager, most stable

27:53 / Paul and Yulia – owners (K-1 visas are a reference to our episode on 90 Day Fiance)

29:20 / Their story hits the typical beats of the ‘business owner’ narrative (our Highway Through Hell episode comes recommended as a companion to this discussion)

31:00 / The business expansion subplot

32:15 / Stephanie – operations manager, victim of a hatchet-job (?)

33:38 / Jaslin – the one whose name we couldn’t remember, put someone in a coma at 16

34:52 / Ashley – outlier, educational aspirations

36:42 / JS’s plausible theory on the transition from Ashley to Jaslin as the ancillary barista

37:13 / Mike enjoyed Ashley ditching Dalilah during the ad contest

38:02 / The photoshoot as an example of the disconnect between Ashley and the others (future orientation vs. orientation to the here-and-now)

40:42 / The social ties and the divide between ‘education’ and ‘here-and-now’ struck Mike as an authentic representation of this type of entry-level service-sector workplace

41:20 / Bringing Highway Through Hell back in – how representations of occupational reality TV are affected by gender

44:05 / JS would have liked this more if it did focus on the occupational aspects

45:04 / The issue of class (and financial compensation) in the level of ‘openness’ to having personal issues on television (ex. Ashley)

46:50 / We had a suspicion that the personal issues in both shows were similar, but that gender and audience shaped the narrative in terms of depictions of ‘work-life balance’

49:10 / Coming back and looking at the narrative in the finale in more depth

51:15 / The relationships that seemed more long-lasting and authentic worked much better in the finale’s narrative

53:32 / Transitioning to the article, “Masculinity, Labor, and Sexual Power”, Ann C. McGinley, 2013, Scholarly Commons at UNLV School of Law (Article mentions Hanna Rosin’s book The End of Men)

56:51 / Delving more into the topic of post-industrial transition (although Trump is going to bring back all the jobs!)

58:36 / The gendered nature of different occupations; discussing orthopedics and its connection to sport

1:00:44 / The idea of ‘head of household’ and ‘protector’ as last refuge of hegemonic masculinity

1:01:16 / Bringing it back to the show – huge contrast in both gendered aspect and cultural cache of jobs depicted in both Foxy Ladies and Highway Through Hell

1:03:27 / Disentangling the ‘bikini’ aspect from the ‘barista’ aspect in our cultural expectations; discussing the link between sex and work for working-class women (Mike forgot to mention it, but this even goes into ‘professional’ women – think of all the sexualization in pop culture around nurses, secretaries, etc)

1:04:41 / The double-edged nature of sex work (freedom to sell what you have on the market vs. commodification of women’s bodies)

1:06:25 / Returning to the idea of cultural cache of different occupations

1:08:15 / The skills involved in being a (bikini) barista – the ‘taste test’ segment of one episode (JS also briefly mentions his past working at good old Dunkin’ Donuts)

1:11:10 / Why wasn’t this show successful?  Bad luck or bad show?

1:12:28 / Vanderpump Rules as an example of this formula being successful

1:13:46 / Show likely was intended to be televised episodically, but doesn’t seem to have been picked up

1:14:19 / Where JS thought they went wrong – tried to straddle the audience of a ‘male gaze’-oriented show and a more ‘feminine’ show about women’s personal issues

1:16:14 / Mike thought the second-half shift to the personal was what made the show interesting to discuss

1:17:33 / Returning to gender and Highway Through Hell – imagining an attempt to pitch it to a more ‘female’ audience

1:18:04 / Final thoughts and last-minute grievances (our episode on Blind Date)

1:18:38 / Announcing next month’s episode

1:19:49 / Last call for our apathetic listeners to go vote on our listener’s choice poll

1:21:09 / The usual stuff: contact us, rate or review, and subscribe to us

Episode 23 – Highway Through Hell

 

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

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

This month Mike and JS take their inaugural voyage into JS’s favorite reality TV subgenre with the Canadian show, Highway Through Hell, which follows the travails and triumphs of a ‘heavy rescue’ towing company that works a particularly treacherous yet important stretch of highway in British Columbia.

We go into the usual topics: concept, characters, authenticity, appeal, etc as well as discussing JS’s love for the ‘blue-collar’ genre and his experiences in a blue-collar workplace.  Mike, on the other hand, has some criticisms regarding the lack of interpersonal heft in some of the workplace scenes that take place away from the crash sites and the show’s overall worldview.  We also analyze the show through the lens of an article covering the linkage between ‘hegemonic masculinity’ and ‘occupational reality TV’ and discuss the role of nostalgia in the appeal of ‘men’s soaps’ as well as the shifting nature of masculinity in the post-industrial service economy.  Finally, there are some asides on the prominence of ‘car culture’ in North America and the interesting role that the ‘omniscient’ narrator plays in shaping the worldview of the show.

[Also, as a minor coda, Mike’s audio is a touch choppy in a couple parts for some reason.  Apologies and hopefully it will not be too distracting.]

Show Notes and Links

1:17 / Mike apologizes to our two listeners for the delay on the last episode

1:56 / Introducing this month’s show with some Wikipedia humor

2:49 / Does JS have a soft spot for this sub-genre?  (We mention the show Dirty Jobs)

4:03 / Our personal feelings on the show

4:45 / The concept for the show

7:37 / Discussing Jamie Davis, the owner (and implied POV character)

9:52 / Moving into the main employees

12:01 / Going over the ‘bit players’ and Jamie’s son, Brandon

15:27 / The tractor trailer drivers are a secondary character in the show

16:28 / Two modes of the show: Crash sites and workplace politics

17:18 / Mike thought the relationship aspect of the show was weak because the people seemed too one-dimensional for him to invest in (our episode on TOWIE is here)

19:08 / JS had different expectations, didn’t mind that it was focused on the work and the business

19:56 / JS’s experience with blue-collar workers and his theory as to why the show didn’t delve into the personal lives of the workers

21:53 / Delving into the authenticity of the show; there seemed to be a dichotomy between the crash scenes and the ‘office’ scenes (our Alaskan Bush People episode is here)

24:08 / Mike wasn’t convinced by the confrontation between Kevin and Jamie or the rivalry between Jamie and Al

25:33 / JS agrees the rivalry was exaggerated, but thought Kevin’s reaction jived with his experiences in a blue-collar workplace

26:56 / Mike can’t imagine having an outburst like Kevin at his job

28:03 / JS thinks that a good blue-collar worker can get another job fairly easily in the worst-case scenario of getting fired

28:56 / Are these types of outbursts just associated with blue-collar work or is Mike just very cautious in his disposition?

30:18 / This show hit the predictable narrative ‘beats’ in terms of a typical ‘blue-collar’ reality show (JS mentions Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers)

33:17 / Segueing into the article for this month: “The working class heroes: analyzing hegemonic masculinity in occupational reality TV”, Nathan Blair, The Plymouth Student Scientist, Vol. 6, Issue 1, 2013 (analyzing the UK show Trawlermen)

34:45 / Talking about the concept of the ‘retributive man’ and how these shows recast working-class identity in terms of an individualistic masculinity (Mike mentions socialist realism)

36:52 / These shows praise working-class men in an abstract sense, but not in a way that would challenge the socioeconomic hierarchy

38:00 / JS thinks there is a certain ‘blue-collar mentality’ of wanting to ‘get things done’ without ‘asking questions’ that dovetails with the worldview of ‘blue-collar TV’

39:06 / Jamie as an ideal of both blue-collar worker and scrappy entrepreneur

40:21 / Jamie as someone who can appeal to both blue-collar and white-collar people as well as both the ‘retributive’ and ‘new’ man

41:44 / Mike was disappointed in how the show dealt with the emotional fallout of this line of work, thought the show pulled back when things got interesting (our Paris Hilton BFF Dubai episode)

44:00 / Brandon’s earrings: A subversion of traditional masculinity or an evolution of it?

46:06 / Blue-collar men and cultural conservatism

47:11 / The show’s unrelenting emphasis on stoicism

49:00 / Is the ‘retributive man’ ideal more closely linked to blue-collar men in the globalized, white-collar, post-industrial economy?

50:31 / Getting even more meta: How watching this for the podcast affected Mike’s viewing of the show

51:06 / The specificity of ‘car culture’ to North America (Although the amount of vehicles in the US and Italy is apparently much closer than we thought)

54:22 / How the highway-centric transportation system relates to the ‘heroic positioning’ of the show’s narrative

55:26 / Mike was struck by the visceral and spectacular nature of the crash footage, mentions J.G. Ballard’s Crash

56:45 / This show’s nostalgic appeal reminded Mike of Dual Survival

58:17 / Comparing and contrasting this show with Dirty Jobs

1:02:14 / Jamie as a modern version of the Jeffersonian ‘yeoman farmer’

1:03:20 / Circling back to the article: the linkage between the decline of traditional masculinity and the rise of the post-industrial service economy

1:04:50 / Discussing the role of the narrator and comparing the narrative voice to Bridezillas and Blind Date

1:08:46 / Circling back to the show’s appeal and our personal reactions

1:09:38 / Mike found this less offensive than certain other masculine reality shows, but brought some baggage that was shaped like a certain Orange-American

1:11:55 / Mike’s own worldview about work is the opposite of this show

1:12:43 / JS thinks there is a different sort of pride and tangibility associated with physical labor

1:14:39 / Introducing the next couple shows: Fashion Hero and The Four: Battle for Stardom (seriously, though, don’t watch the Four – it’s terrible)

1:16:45 / Sending us out with the customary announcements: contact us, rate/review us, and subscribe

 

Episode 16 – Judge Faith

 

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

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

This week your intrepid hosts return to the courtroom for the show Judge Faith.  We go into an in-depth discussion of several episodes, often directly comparing the show with our previous venture into courtroom reality TV, Divorce Court, which we discussed back in Episode 5.

We discuss the commonalities in structure between the two shows as well as their shared strange tonal variation, while remarking on the considerable differences, such as Judge Faith’s more distant and legalistic temperament and the more substantive ways in which this show actually interacts with the legal system.  There is also quite a bit of discussion about issues of socioeconomic class and education and how the ‘informal agreements’ common among the American ‘underclass’ are a poor fit for our legal system.  We end with a discussion about the problematic nature of ‘law as entertainment’ and the intersection between educational status and legal complexity, with Mike adding a postscript to his critique of how the classist perspective of courtroom reality TV often misses the forest for the trees.

Show Notes and Links

1:20 / Thankfully Christian numerologists were wrong for once

2:45 / Introducing this week’s show

3:40 / The concept of the show (our episode on Divorce Court is here)

4:43 / Mike takes JS for a trip down Memory Lane

6:48 / Our impressions of the host (You can see her Miss America talent routine here)

8:02 / The ‘expert witnesses’ made an impression on JS

8:55 / Mike was struck by the judge’s legalistic demeanor

10:08 / Mike thought her lawyerliness made her seem more distant than Judge Toler

10:59 / Why Mike hoped this would be more interesting and distinct (Judge Faith’s Twitter)

13:13 / What stuck out to JS from Episode 1

14:33 / Episode 2 – eviction dispute

15:41 / This episode had quite a bit of legal explanation

16:40 / The tonal variation of the show – this episode was much more realistic

17:23 / The motif of ‘informal agreements’

18:45 / Claimants often come from the lower socioeconomic strata

19:31 / Discussing the case ruling

20:28 / The difficult situation of the claimants

21:43 / Episode 3 – a serious look at a light-hearted matter

22:45 / Crossover exposure for the show LA Hair

24:40 / The economics of court TV payouts and reputational hits

26:20 / Blowing over the laptop case from Episode 4

27:18 / JS’s favorite case – the Tinder scam artist (Mike mentions the Cecil the Lion brouhaha)

29:29 / The plaintiff stood out for being a ‘doctor’ (but not a real doctor)

31:06 / A brief aside on demographics of the claimants

31:44 / Discussing the legal merits of the ruling

33:21 / The difference between arbitration and regular court

34:20 / Episode 7 – thefts and theatrics

35:12 / How much was the laundry case choreographed?

36:40 / The humorous tone of this episode

37:07 / The (possibly dubious) ruling; Mike mentions kabuki theater

39:01 / The second half – possibly sponsored by Nutri-Bullet

39:56 / The wrinkle to the case – criminal vs. civil

40:48 / Episode 8 – accident claim dispute

41:33 / The most interesting and realistic case

42:37 / Discussing the complexity of the ruling

44:00 / The show’s weird use of ‘my friend’

44:24 / Episode 9 – tent revival in a courtroom

45:12 / The class and educational background of the claimants

45:41 / This episode seemed like a weird outlier to Mike

46:38 / Did the actual case even matter?

47:30 / This episode seemed to be a strong reflection of what this show’s target audience craves; Mike mentions Tyler Perry

48:53 / Mike briefly goes over the ID theft case in Episode 10

50:43 / The problematic nature of ‘law as entertainment’

51:58 / JS compares this style of show to the ‘CSI Effect

53:03 / Is there any potential redeeming educational value to courtroom reality TV?

54:18 / The educational episodes seemed few and far between

54:51 / This show engages more directly with the legal system than Divorce Court, which might give it more potential to mislead the average viewer about the realities of the court system

55:30 / Does the inherent complexity of law subtly bias the legal system against those less educated?

58:32 / JS argues that the legal system does attempt to take into account those issues

1:00:35 / Does the law have potential to alienate poorer citizens who rely on ‘informal agreements’?  Can the complexities be fixed or is it just the nature of the beast?

1:01:54 / The law is often complex because society is complex and human relationships are complex

1:02:53 / A brief aside on class issues and the show’s ‘law-and-order’ perspective; Mike compares the ID theft case in Episode 10 to the Equifax breach (Mike didn’t mention his similar critique in the Divorce Court episode, but consider this a coda)

1:04:53 / JS wraps up with some reflections on how his barometer has changed

1:05:15 / Introducing the show for the next episode; Mike mentions Sons of Anarchy and Jackass

1:06:45 / Our announcements (for real this time): email us, rate/review us, and subscribe