Friday, October 04, 2002

HAS THIS COUNTRY gone this bad this fast, or is it just bad casting?

I don't watch all the "reality" shows, but I've been with MTV's "Real World" from the start and Jacqueline and I have always enjoyed "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race." These programs are always populated with their share of unappealing characters, but the trick is that you pick one or two redeeming ones to root for. (Bring back Colleen!)

This season, suddenly, there isn't much to root for. The "Real World" cast is all sluts, all the time. Promiscuity always becomes part of the story, but this time the Bunim-Murray gang decided to skip the preliminaries and go all-phreak.

The "Survivor" cast is pretty much dull old people and anything-but-dull (but even less interesting) young people. Particularly offensive are Rob (excuse me -- "Robb"), the in-your-face, Ritalin-starved piercing aficionado, and Erin (had to look the name up, so memorable is she), the vacant-faced woman with the obligatory above-the-butt mural tattoo and a thin build, apart from a set of artificial knockers the size of Neptune.

Robb somehow manages to combine the younger contestants' laziness with the older contestants' foaming-at-the-mouth anger about others' laziness. He's one of those people who are always talking about kicking someone's ass but never come close to following up on that talk. (I know what you're thinking, so shut up! Want me to come kick your ass?) Erin hasn't pitched forward into the campfire yet, but it's bound to happen.

Robb's occupation: bartender. Erin's occupation: Real-estate agent. Oh, and part-time bartender.

Clue from a veteran viewer: When "bartender" is given as the occupation of more than one contestant on any given reality show, you're in trouble. As Jacqueline pointed out, "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" have decided to choose "Big Brother" casts this time. Because we know how interesting "Big Brother" always is . . .

We've seen only one episode of "The Amazing Race" so far, but the cast intro might as well have been animated, the characters were so cartoonish. Southern Baptist dad and gay-cheerleader son! Identical-twin male models! Dumb blondes who -- wait -- might not be as dumb as they look and sound, because they're Harvard Law graduates! Fat, bald brothers with a twist: One's conservative and one's gay! The men who aren't part of such a cartoon couple tend to be from the modern school of white-boy rapper wanna-bes, the ivory skin belying the "Yo!" and the "Sup?" and the Afro hairstyle. Also, there is a man on this show named "John Vito." Do we need that?

For the record, on the off chance that you, too, watch this crap, my tentative rooting allegiances among the slim pickings are as follows:

  • "The Real World": Frank.

  • "Survivor": Shii Ann and maybe Ted. (A week ago I liked Ghandia. What a mistake that turned out to be.)

  • "The Amazing Race": Too soon to tell. Jacqueline and I liked the soccer moms (Gina and Sylvia), but they were the first team to be eliminated. The aforementioned father and son (Dennis and Andrew) and brothers (Ken and Gerard) have been kind of fun so far (not to stereotype or anything, but the flamboyant-queen demographic works pretty well on these shows), and I'm still holding out some hope for the hipster couple (the unfortunately named Aaron and Arianne).

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