Everything that is wrong with reality television in general and THE GLASS HOUSE in particular can be summed up in one word: Alex.
From the moment he appeared on our screens, it was apparent that Alex — a 25-year-old from Dallas whose ABC bio indicates that he’s a bail bondsman with a penchant for “free-style rapping” — was after one thing and one thing only: fame. Now, it can certainly be said that anyone agreeing to go on a reality show is looking for their 15 minutes, but Alex and his ilk are people who grew up in what I like to call the A.P. era.
I believe that whether folks like Alex realize it or not, they owe their particular style of attention-getting to THE REAL WORLD’s Puck.
For the uninitiated, Puck was a young man named David Rainey who was featured during THE REAL WORLD’s 1994 San Francisco-set cycle whose infamously bad behavior led to his roomie evicting him from the house.
It’s worth noting that Puck wasn’t the first person to get the boot. That honor went to David Edwards, who was asked to leave the house following a controversial incident in which he pulled a blanket off an underwear-clad housemate. But whereas Edwards’ eviction was the result of one incident and the resultant drama, Rainey’s boundary-pushing antics began the moment he arrived and never really let up.
Since then, reality television has, in my mind, been broken into the B.P. (Before Puck) and A.P. (After Puck) eras.
Along the way, however, there’s been a not-so-subtle shift in the casting of reality television away from people like Puck, whose obnoxiousness one felt was a true part of his personality, and toward people like HOUSE’s Alex, who is simply putting on a good show. Even before America voted for him to become “the most epic villain in the history of reality” television, it was clear that this was a man with every intention of doing whatever necessary in order to be the break-out “star” of the series.
And therein lies the fatal flaw with folks like him: For the most part, the folks who truly stand out in our minds do so because their behavior is as ingrained as it is reprehensible. We find ourselves marvelling at their own inability to see themselves as obnoxious and hateful.
Take, for example, BIG BROTHER’s Rachel. The redhead’s incessant whining, beyond-bitchy brattiness and complete lack of self-actualization combined to make her a persona that America loved to hate even as we struggled to understand how her hunky housemate-turned beau Brandon failed to see these traits in her. (Only later did we realize that he seemed to have issues which made them a bizarrely perfect pairing.)
Unfortunately for HOUSE’s Alex, he came barging in with all kinds of put-upon behaviors designed to grab our attention, but lacking the obliviousness that leaves us asking “How do they not see themselves the way we do?” Where as Rachel and Puck fascinated us because of that lack of self-awareness, Alex’s desperate attempt to be the villain has left us with all the hate but none of the love.
If Alex manages to stay in the house (he is currently awaiting word of his fate), I suspect a good number of viewers might just be driven away by his antics. Early ratings indicate that the second half hour of last night’s premiere took a major hit… which is just about when Alex put his villainous plan into motion. Sadly for ABC, this isn’t a good sign given that even NBC’s AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR kicked their butt in the timeslot. The House of Mouse network — fueled by CBS’ legal attempts to block the show — advertised HOUSE as “the show they don’t want you to see!” Thanks to Alex, it quickly became a show we didn’t particularly want to see.
Richard M. Simms is the executive editor of Soaps In Depth magazine and the author of Crimes Against Civility who suspects he’d be the first person voted off of any reality show he was cast on.