In Which The Best and Worst of The Year In Reality Television Is Thrust Upon Us

A Year With No Name

by A.C. Hawley

There were many significant things and not so significant things that happened in television this year.

Family Guy blatantly jumped the shark with its Star Wars tribute, which was neither funny nor amusing. Top Chef, a show that I really like, became a continual advertisement for stuff like Tanqueray and Bertolli along with having a bunch of people who weren’t really that interesting and a predictable ending. Project Runway isn’t as compelling as it used to be either. And, Bravo’s attempts to build off these two franchises by expanding into other fields like interior design and hair made their shark jumping even more dramatic.

In addition to the shark jumping, people that we know for doing other stuff succeeded in getting high quality new programs on the map. For example, David Duchovny, the man who was the narrator in Red Shoe Diaries, put together and starred in the surprisingly entertaining yet emosogynist Californication.

A meta take on SNL, 2007 was 30 Rock‘s breakout year, culminating with Alec Baldwin getting mad awards, an actual comedy getting the comedy Emmy (Take that, Ugly Betty!), and Fey making a self-deprecating acceptance speech for said Emmy (the speech would have been worthless if it weren’t a joke) on top of giving us hilarious throwaway jokes by the boatload (Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, Muffin Top, Dennis among others).

Old shows like The Office, House, Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia did their thing but not enough to gain new viewers or disenfranchise past viewers. There were new shows that stood out like Chuck and Pushing Daisies.

did he just talk to me like i’m ugly?

For the most part, the new shows were like Bionic Woman: shows with good concepts that never quite reached their full potential. That good concepts idea (e.g., The Big Bang Theory) is questionable, but I’m getting away from my point. A lot of the shows were good, but they were not appointment television; they were shows you’d watch out of boredom or marginal interest like Gossip Girl.

More than anything this year, reality television made a gigantic impact on the idiot box. Unlike before where the nobodies developed into somebodies on competition shows like Survivor and, to a lesser extent, Flavor of Love, the nobodies are just being given shows from the jump without any attempts to endear the subjects to the public.

This phenomenon is present on E! right now. If you are unfamiliar with Sunset Tan, let me update you. Sunset Tan is based around the goings on of a tanning salon in Los Angeles where high name celebrities like Chris Kattan and Shauna Sand appear semi-regularly.

Yes, all that star power has me overwhelmed too.

When not dealing with such great existential crises as the former, Sunset Tan features a lot of people complaining about stuff and being boring. There aren’t so many ins and outs to tanning, and, even if I did care about tanning, I wouldn’t want to watch a show about it. I want innovation in my reality programming like a midget (Midget Mac on I Love New York 2). And, while this show is horribly cliché, it’s not the worst offender on its own channel.

That title of infamy goes to Ryan Seacrest. Yes, Ryan Seacrest. Seacrest is the worst offender not for the news show or American Idol, a show that turns out someone who is never the country’s next singing star (Ruben Studdard anyone? It’s obvious that losing is better). Seacrest should be held in contempt of America for foisting Kim Kardashian upon the unsuspecting, and frankly uninterested, American cable populace.

If you are one of the many, many people who does not recognize the name, Ms. Kardashian is the female Kevin Federline. Someone might say that is way too harsh, that Kevin Federline doesn’t deserve to be considered in the same breath with Kardashian. I’d agree, but, in terms of bumness (pun intended), Federline and Kardashian are on the same plane as they are both known for being connected to important people while having little outside talent.

Federline gave Britney Spears his super-sperm. Kardashian was spotted in some photos with Paris Hilton. Additionally, following the Hilton model to public celebrity, Kardashian released her own sex tape.

Unlike Paris Hilton’s sex tape where she got the press, Kim Kardashian’s sex tape resulted in Ray J (a.k.a the male and/or Brandy’s brother) getting more press than her (he got porn offers people!). Anyway, in a later attempt to get more press, Kardashian started showing up with a surprisingly large ass. The origins of the ass are unknown, but I know what I see. As TMZ is everywhere and she knows how to play that to her moderate advantage, Kardashian started to pop up in the gossip vocabulary as someone we should maybe sort of care about.

This was clearly enough for Seacrest, as he funded a reality show about Kim and her family. As you can guess, the action on this show is limited. It’s sort of interesting, but pretty worthless at the same time. I guess being kinda rich and moderately notorious isn’t as interesting as I thought it would be, as this show is atrocious, and it doesn’t cycle around like good camp movies or Next.

Kim’s not too bright, really boring, and talks way too slowly. In the end, watching this show actually makes me sad much in the same way that #1 Single did, but I feel no sympathy for Kim. Unlike Kim, I actually felt sad for Lisa Loeb because she should have been able to find a nice boy to love that wasn’t Dweezil Zappa.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians is the worst reality show possibly ever and that’s across all groups, real and fake celebrities. Still, Kim had competition. There was Katie and Peter, a reality show revolving around inflated British pinup girl Jordan a.k.a. Katie Price and her husband Peter Andre. All I remember of my one attempt to watch this show is matching Adidas jumpsuits, a karaoke machine, and a taxi in England. I don’t know what all of that means, but it was enough to keep me away.

In this trailing peloton is A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. I don’t know where to begin with this show.

There are reports coming out that she’s actually straight, not bi as advertised (of course, she’s proclaiming on her virtual home that she’s just as sexually confused as advertised).

My problems with this show start at the level of her. Yes, her. I know dudes and ladies like the small Asian girls. That’s cool, whatever floats your boat. That’s not my real problem though. My real problem is the way in which she is considered a “celebrity,” or at least enough of one to warrant a reality dating show. I know that Mark Philippoussis isn’t a real celebrity either, but did you really watch Age of Love after the first episode, if at all? If you did, you’d be me: a little worse for the wear and desiring those hours of time returned to you in full by NBC.

Mark Philippoussis, while not a real celebrity, is more of one than Tila Tequila (He’s a tennis player, a decent one). Tila Tequila is what the kids call a MySpace whore. She might be the first, but that doesn’t actually matter.

While not a technical definition, a MySpace whore is someone who tries to validate themselves through Myspace. It starts with someone who clearly spends way too much time on their page. If that sounds subjective, it isn’t; it’s like porn in the Supreme Court: you know it when you see it.

the lovely Tila

The obsession goes beyond this. It becomes adding up pointlessly high numbers of friends, people you will talk to once and then never again. This is usually achieved by the possession of a few different things, the most primary of which being a half-naked self-photograph or a very revealing photo (we all know what this means).

Some people consider gaining a lot of MySpace friends to be a huge achievement. There is a person who aspires to high levels of MySpace celebrity like Saigon, and they should be in awe of Tila Tequila and her (at current count) 2,423,006 friends. Frankly, I feel dirty for looking that up.

what man or woman is interested in that?

Some genius over at MTV thought that being a chick that’s on MySpace a lot was enough to warrant giving her a television show. To also add extra flair to the whole equation, Tila Tequila is also bi and will be looking for either a man or a woman. This was the catch for this show. Really, that was more of the novelty than Tila Tequila. Suffice it to say, this show is the textbook definition of guilty pleasure.

Terrible in quality, terrible in execution, awful lack of charisma from Tila Tequila (she’s boring and a slow talker, too), I hate and love this show at the same time. I roundly know that this show is awful, yet I can’t turn away from it.

With lesbians dueling with straight guys for the love of a small Asian girl, A Shot at Love is good times for all with extra catfighting thrown in for good measure; it’s as if they are culling the memory of Dynasty. Plus, it’s only setting women’s liberation back like five years maybe, a small pittance to pay in comparison to the amazing I Love New York/ Flavor of Love combo that is sending everyone back (Black people, white people, little people, people with weaves, strippers, rising comediennes, etc.) to the 50s where a woman’s place was the home and sexual harassment was considered a privilege. Yeah, I think the feminists are super jazzed on that prospect.

“Oh Timbaland” — Timbaland (mp3)

Just like for that last sentence, misplaced hyperbole is the phrase that can be used to discuss the arrival of the Beckhams in America. Firstly, I love soccer, but I’ve already conceded the fact that most people in the United States are indifferent to the sport if they don’t have an outright loathing of it.

Bringing a washed-up European star who still hasn’t lead his country to any real meaningful success on a continental or intercontinental level (He won stuff on the club level, but he also played for Manchester United and Real Madrid, which are the NY Yankees of England and Spain respectively) is not going to stir up the spirit of soccer in America.

The fact that his on-pitch game is for shit can be covered by the fact that he is a celebrity in England, which isn’t really all that impressive since anyone whose moderately famous (footballers included) can get into the tabloids.

While their only real American hit song was a very long time ago, Posh Spice has been keeping her name in the press and looking a little trippy. Most of the time, I feel like she was ripped out of an old Helmut Newton photo. Anyway, this tidal wave of celebrity magic was supposed to awaken the American public from its gossip-itis.

NBC tried to surf this tidal wave to success by giving Victoria her own show where she would presumably be a mother and jet set. Unfortunately, NBC forgot to actually ASK America if they would want to watch a show about Victoria Beckham being a mother and jet setting. The overwhelming answer was “yeah, sort of, not really. No, not at all.”

Once those enthusiastic answers came back from the public, NBC whittled the show back to one one-hour episode.

After watching Victoria shop for a house, hire an assistant, hang out with old LA women (who are totally awesome by the way. I want to hang out with them right now), and throw a baseball at a Dodgers game, I would have rather been kicking it in the Hollywood Hills, sipping champagne at the side of an Infinity Pool and having my sort-of friends do stuff for me. So, in short, I wanted to be more like Posh.

And those other reality shows were the ones who would make the largest impact during this year. As I’ve been thinking about some grand statement about how the year has been and some way to actually end this whole thing in a coherent way (seeing as it has been dripping coherence from word one), I keep drawing a blank.

There were no great moments or experiences that solidified this year in television. I mean, when the best experience from this year revolves around watching gag jokes from Spongebob Squarepants, I can’t say anything that profound. I do hope the writer’s strike ends with the writers getting the extra income they deserve as well as good shows not being cancelled prematurely, as always seems to happen.

With those hopeful wishes, I bid the fare reader adieu, happy surfing, and a happy kwanzaa. Umoja, bitchez!

A.C. Hawley is a regular contributor to This Recording. He lives in West Virginia, and blogs here.

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Rachael’s childhood was a doozy.

In the privacy of our love.

Love letter to Gilmore Girls, or as we shall now refer to it, the alternate ending to Juno.

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