Dispatches From The Couch: HOSTAGES, SURVIVOR, BREAKING BAD & More!

Want to know why PROJECT RUNWAY continues to be among the best reality shows on television? Not only is it focused on an actual skill, but unlike just about any other reality offering, it curtails drama rather than encouraging it. After Ken’s latest inappropriate outburst of anger this week, producers immediately stepped in and dealt with the situation. Whereas RUNWAY opted to create a situation in which Ken would be separated from the contestants with whom he’d been having issues, BIG BROTHER would have arranged for them to be permanent roomies to encourage further dust-ups.

Speaking of reality TV, SURVIVOR got off to a great start this week by immediately throwing a few curveballs at the contestants. Only minutes after the pairs — all of whom shared a familial or romantic connection — found out they’d be playing not together, but on opposing teams (which, honestly, they should have seen coming!), they were forced to vote two folks off! (Sure, the chosen were sent to Redemption Island instead of home, but nobody knew that as the votes were being cast.) Rupert’s sacrifice on behalf of his wife was unexpectedly romantic, and watching John struggle with his decision not to replace his wife on Redemption Island made for great drama. But who comes to SURVIVOR without having learned how to make fire? And why would Gervase return for a second time without having learned how to swim, knowing how crucial a part of the game water sports always wind up being?

CBS needs to stop running cycles of SURVIVOR and THE AMAZING RACE concurrently. For many viewers — myself included — it becomes a matter of choosing between them. While I’d love to watch both, I simply don’t have the time. And as SURVIVOR relies more on the always intriguing social aspect, it once again won when it came time to choose…

When the summer started, I was thrilled to see not one but two networks offering what they sold as “limited-run, event” offerings ala CBS’ chiller HARPER’S ISLAND a few years back. Fans of that show will remember that it told a complete story involving wedding guests gathered at a remote location where they were killed one by one until the final episode revealed the murderer. Both SIBERIA and UNDER THE DOME were sold as similar outings, selling us on the concept that these would be “one-and-done” shows offering a single season story with a beginning, middle and end. Instead, several weeks into DOME, CBS saw the ratings and announced, “Um, yeah, we’re gonna do a second and possibly third season.” While DOME ended the season with about 12 million viewers and will be back next year, SIBERIA’s jaw-dropping-ly disappointing finale only managed to trick less than 2 million into tuning in and is unlikely to return. Which means anyone who bothered sticking with the maddeningly unsatisfying show is unlikely to get any resolution to the various questions posed. Now, CBS is promising that this fall’s HOSTAGES will be a “15-episode event.” Anybody else feeling skeptical?

File this under P for “party, late to the,” but I’ve recently begun watching BREAKING BAD and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK since both are available for streaming on Netflix. And while both are good, I’m just gonna say it: I’m not getting why each are praised as being the best thing since sliced bread. I can’t help but wonder if the problem is that when one comes to something with such high expectations, fuelled by endless, fawning reviews, it’s almost impossible not to be disappointed. Anybody else find that to be true of these or perhaps some other show they came to long after it had become wildly successful?

  • lani

    I agree about breaking bad and orange is the new black, I found both of them overated. Orphan black however is truly worth the hype.