Episode 18 – Celebrity Paranormal Project

 

This episode: Celebrity Paranormal Project, Season 1, Eps. 1-4.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next episode: Blind Date, Season ???.  Watch it on YouTube.

Since Halloween is coming around the bend, we decided to do an appropriately spooky themed show for this episode.  This week we discuss the zany mélange of celebrity and the paranormal from VH1, Celebrity Paranormal Project, where D-list celebrities stumble around haunted institutions with EMF meters and séance scrolls, talking to ghosts of people who have never existed.

After discussing the concept and structure of each half of the mash-up, we talk about the fakery on behalf of the production team and parse out the differences between the authenticity of the paranormal activity and the authenticity of the cast’s reactions.  We then move into whether the idea of ghosts is plausible in general and the scanty nature of the ‘evidence’ involved.  Finally, we examine the role of gender and the show’s interaction with broader horror tropes before ending with a comparison of this show to other paranormal reality shows we’ve watched and theorize why this show failed when it had such a broad appeal in the abstract.

Finally, we’re going to be taking a break for the holiday season to get a couple episodes in the bag and we’re going to be releasing less frequently next year, unfortunately.  It was just a case of JS having significant career and family obligations and Mike realizing the weekly grind of podcast post-production wasn’t terribly sustainable.  (We were a bit naïve going into this about the work that would be involved, obviously.)  That being said, we are hoping that having more time between episodes will lead to a higher quality podcast and we are kicking around some ideas between us on what we can do to facilitate that, so if you, the listener, have any ideas on that front that you’d like to see implemented, this would be a great moment to get in touch with us.  Thanks for listening so far and have a wonderful holiday season!

Show Notes and Links

1:28 / Introducing this week’s show (eventually); Mike mentions America’s Smartest Model, The Surreal Life, and Flavor of Love

3:20 / Based off an earlier reality show, MTV’s Fear

4:12 / Running down the concept and episode formula

7:28 / Talking about the ‘Heart of the Haunting’

8:17 / This show borrows heavily from horror tropes and narratives

8:41 / Briefly comparing the tone to other ‘ghost hunting’ shows

9:18 / Transitioning to the ‘celebrity’ aspect of the show

10:29 / We never see the production crew, but they are out there (unlike the ghosts)

11:08 / Many of these ‘celebrities’ seemed to be there as product placement for other VH1 reality shows (and Baywatch)

11:51 / Discussing how the types of celebrities on the show differed by gender

12:32 / They really dug deep on some of these credentials

13:38 / Segueing into the perennial authenticity question

14:00 / Many of the narratives in this show appear to be invented

14:42 / Discussing the shenanigans of the ‘ghosts’ (aka the PA’s)

17:15 / Our favorite obviously producer-planted ‘relics’

19:12 / The questionable physics behind the ‘ghost catcher’

20:13 / The show relies heavily upon re-enactments

22:20 / Comparing the tone to other paranormal shows we’ve watched (Finding Bigfoot, Monica the Medium)

23:20 / Discussing the authenticity of the celebrity reactions

24:32 / There was a strong correlation between celebrities already believing in the paranormal and finding ‘evidence’ of paranormal activity; Mike mentions Casper the Friendly Ghost

25:25 / Concept of ‘heightened suggestibility’ – Some of the fear has a rational basis (fear of the dark, fear of being alone)

26:00 / Mike’s storytime – freaking out at a ‘haunted house’

27:52 / JS had a ‘jump scare’ moment watching the show

28:40 / A few of the celebrities express skepticism or ambivalence

29:37 / Segueing into the plausibility (or lack thereof) of ghosts in general

30:54 / JS has the answer; Mike brings up Last Thursdayism

32:05 / JS discusses the odd cultural specificities of American ‘ghost stories’

33:40 / Nobody suggests that we look for ghosts in Auschwitz

34:11 / The Finding Bigfoot Problem: Shouldn’t we have better evidence than ‘whispers’ on digital voice recorders or thermal blips?

35:48 / The gendered nature of the ‘freak-outs’ – Did the selection process play a role?

37:23 / A couple of examples of women behaving against the grain

38:28 / Mike brings up an episode where a male celebrity is called a ‘little girl’

39:05 / Discussing the objectification of the female celebrities, the objectification is reminiscent of many horror flicks

41:00 / Comparing this show to Monica the Medium (uplifting vs. frightening – sincerity vs. cynicism)

43:52 / Unlike Monica, you don’t need to buy into the existence of the paranormal to be entertained

45:00 / The show was entertaining in small doses, but the formula began to get repetitive

45:34 / The high points of the show depended on the specific celebrities, but too many celebs were just there to look good

47:45 / Comparing the failure of this show to the (relative) success of its predecessor

48:45 / JS pitches a CPP All-Star reunion show

49:36 / Closing with the appeal of the show

50:33 / JS was surprised this show only went for eight episodes

51:01 / Mike thought it might have been viable if the editing was tighter and the celebrities were stronger

51:58 / We discuss the production costs and fantasize about the production company going the full Bridezilla

53:38 / The logistical difficulties of maintaining the show in terms of having enough different locations to explore

55:30 / An announcement for our listeners: taking a holiday break and a new release schedule for next year (aka podcasting was more work than we had originally bargained for)

56:45 / Talking about our first episode of the next season: Another First Love, this time from Mike

58:18 / The usual stuff: contact us, like our Facebook page, rate/review and subscribe

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Episode 4 – Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai

 

This week’s discussion: Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai, Eps. 1-3, 8-9.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next week’s discussion: Divorce Court, Season 17, Eps. 1-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

First of all, apologies for the slightly reduced level of audio quality on this episode.  JS was having difficulty hearing the microphone and Mike overcompensated by cranking up the gain – and forgetting to look at the test recording in Audacity (oops) – which led to a great deal of clipping and what ended up being a salvage project.  However, unlike the producers of the show we are reviewing this week, we didn’t just throw in the towel and say fuck it.  Instead, Mike worked up some elbow grease and tried his best to get this episode to an acceptable quality of audio fidelity, so hopefully the final product is at least somewhat tolerable.

As for the episode’s contents, we took a virtual trip to the United Arab Emirates for the last (and possibly saddest) installment of Paris Hilton’s My New BFF franchise.  After discussing the structure of the show and the wealthy and cosmopolitan (mostly) Middle Eastern contestants, we turn to the show’s tangled legal history and how it may or may not have led to its bottom of the barrel production quality.  We then analyze both sides of this rather ‘unique’ mashup, discussing both its representation of the Middle East, good and bad (but mostly bad), as well as the history and background of the show’s rather infamous host, Paris Hilton, and her seminal place in the history of reality TV and 21st century ‘celebutante’ culture.  Finally, we end with how this show may have actually held the promise of being something worthwhile, if only its host and production team had cared enough to film something beyond a glorified infomercial (or hell, even cared enough to hire a camera crew for an entire day of filming).

Show Notes and Links

1:39 / Introducing this week’s show

2:30 / The show’s high concept – which should be pretty self-explanatory (Paris Hilton quote)

3:15 / JS breaks down the particulars

4:34 / Mike sampled the entire BFF oeuvre

6:00 / The ‘little star’ aka the snitch

6:18 / This show is actually quite brilliant at getting these contestants to go at each other’s throats

6:45 / The show’s lexicon – ‘real and fake’, ‘hungry tigers’

8:26 / The ‘Real and Fake Challenge’ (Reality TV Ouroboros)

9:28 / Mike has a confession to make

10:03 / We begin discussing the contestants – mostly from Middle East and come from wealthy backgrounds

12:12 / Bassant – at least she’s honest

12:55 / Mike found these women to be pretty bland and interchangeable

13:24 / Amy – was not here to make friends

13:54 / Dina – Mike couldn’t figure out why the others hated her

14:46 / Reem – seemed to be most ‘traditional’ of the contestants

14:57 / Discussing the ‘cosmopolitan’ backgrounds of the contestants

16:33 / JS discusses the physicality of the contestants and how Branka and Reem departed from the mold

17:15 / Mike belatedly mentions what episodes we watched

18:30 / Reem stuck out to JS as someone who seemed more authentic than the others

19:35 / Mike breaks down the troubled legal history of the show – seems to explain a lot about it

20:58 / Why the hell weren’t the cameras in the house more often?  Lots of discussion in the show of contestants acting different on and off camera

23:19 / Talking about the INSANE level of product placement in this show – not just the Paris Hilton line, but other sponsors (the credits looked like a high school yearbook)

24:54 / Comparing Paris Hilton’s level of involvement to the other seasons of the show

26:28 / A brief digression into the font world

27:32 / Starting our discussion of the show’s ridiculous ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ stereotypes

29:05 / Edward Said’s Orientalism

29:18 / Part of the reason Mike picked this show (other than the absurdity) was an intellectual interest in cross-cultural contact

29:44 / Talking about the role of local authorities in the production of the show and how the show had to change to be compatible with local cultural mores (no alcohol or risqué clothing)

30:35 / Contrasting the Dubai version to the US version

31:06 / Mike talks about how his views on the often fraught relationship between Western and non-Western cultures have evolved since college, the book title he forgot is Modernity At Large

32:20 / Mike’s theory of why Reem was the winner

33:44 / JS hoped that this show would have more interaction between Paris Hilton and the broader Middle Eastern culture

35:21 / Paris is in less than half of each episode – mostly just shows up for challenges and eliminations

36:43 / Mike does praise the show in one respect – gives people a better view of Middle East beyond crude stereotypes of religious fanaticism

37:14 / Mike talks about his experiences with different types of Muslims in Kenya

39:25 / This show gives a view of Middle East that goes beyond a monochromatic depiction of war and suffering

40:14 / Shows the cosmopolitan side of Middle East: many contestants would fit right in to any city around the world

41:41 / The cosmopolitan emphasis is both a strength and weakness of the show

42:34 / Focusing on those in the Middle East who are ‘more like us’ might have been the only entry point for this show’s audience (and is also conveniently the target audience for Paris Hilton’s line)

43:34 / JS hoped the show would be more like ‘An Idiot Abroad

44:08 / This show does once poke fun at Western stereotypes even as it relies on them

45:32 / Paris Hilton’s background and career history

46:52 / The Simple Life

48:23 / Discussing the temporal specificity of her fame

48:58 / Paris Hilton as a seminal figure in reality TV

49:44 / Mike compares her rise and fall to the subprime housing boom (Hilton interview in GQ)

50:21 / ‘One Night in Paris (Hilton): Wealth, Celebrity, and the Politics of Humiliation

51:20 / Does her fame come from love or hate?  Who is doing the loving and hating?

52:41 / Trying to pin down her class appeal; Mike thinks she reminds him of (pre-politics) Trump

53:48 / JS argues that, at least in international terms, her appeal is to an upscale audience

54:50 / We stumble around in the dark trying to figure out where her merch is sold (Mike did post-podcast research: You can at least buy her fragrances at Walmart)

55:20 / Moving from humiliation to adulation and the cult of celebrity; this series represents that

57:20 / Paris Hilton as an icon for ‘new money’

57:35 / This show seemed a little North Korean – particularly with the penthouse décor

58:58 / Trying to figure out the motivations of the contestants – no tangible grand prize

59:30 / Paris Hilton has no real accomplishments – what’s the motivation for getting to know her?

1:00:28 / JS thinks most of these contestants went in with no illusions – and maybe the hope for a few connections or a good word in the future

1:02:12 / What the show is selling the audience in terms of being Paris’ BFF

1:02:38 / JS mentions that some contestants might have been overconfident and ‘caught up in the moment’

1:03:32 / Wrapping up with how this show could have been better

1:04:08 / Yet another digression into the shoddiness of the post-production

1:04:50 / Mike wishes this focused more on the contestants’ backgrounds; wonders how much the production problems played a role

1:06:05 / Even those outside the Middle East could have had interesting backgrounds

1:06:55 / The ‘story challenge’ gave a quick glimpse into the backgrounds of some of the contestants and gave them a little more depth

1:07:35 / JS wonders if the similar backgrounds of the contestants was a weakness

1:09:03 / We both agree they should have been filled out some more (the press release I mentioned)

1:09:41 / Mike thinks the most interesting thing about these women are their hybrid backgrounds and having to navigate between ‘traditional’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ sides

1:10:50 / The show touches on ‘Americanization’ a bit with Dina, but doesn’t really go into great depth

1:12:40 / We are on Stitcher (please rate us!) and have a website on WordPress (you are already here)

1:13:30 / Introducing next week’s show, Divorce Court: Feel free to email us any particularly good episodes from Seasons 16-18: 42minutesofreality AT gmail DOT com