I’m a Celebrity, a Very British Vice

I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here is one of British television’s great success stories. The reality format sees twelve celebrities of one flavour or another roughing it in the Australian jungle for up to three weeks and facing all manner of unpleasantness as they do so. Audiences the world over simply cannot get enough of its combination of actors, retired sports stars, musicians and politicians all degrading themselves in the hope that it might win them some sort of popular appeal, or at least – in one of the buzz-words of the programme – a meal for camp.

British Fayre
In the UK the programme has just completed its 14th annual series, to the delight of British audiences for whom it has become something of a pre-Christmas ritual. Former motor cycle world champion Karl Foggarty was this year’s unlikely winner, having memorably downed glasses full of deer’s blood and live worms as well as having cavorted through the jungle in a giant wasp costume.

There are international versions of the format which have aired in the US, France,  Germany, Hungary,  the Netherlands, India, Sweden and Australia. Each version follows the same basic template as celebrities are routinely subjected to a series of tasks involving snakes and lizards, and rats, and any number of bugs of one sort of another in order to feed themselves, and to stay in the show. Indeed, seeing celebrities eating (and drinking) some of those aforementioned bugs as one of those challenges is perhaps of the programme’s signature scene.

US disinterest
The American version of the show was pulled by NBC in 2010, which makes the spectacular success of the British version all the more noteworthy. Fans of the US programme will remember it was won by Chris Judd in its first season and by Lou Diamond Phillips in its second. Those who were not fans may be forgiven for feeling somewhat non-plussed. After all, the message from this side of the pond seems to be that we just don’t get what all the fuss is about.

There must be something in the British character in particular that gets a buzz out of seeing a former Olympic athlete getting a cockroach stuck up her nose or a notoriously hard living musician shrug off the minor irritation of a prolonged snake bite as part of an elaborate challenge. It is drama – but not as we know it.

Commercial success
One of the astonishing things about the show is the way it has encouraged serious-minded politicians to take part. The season just finished saw the British Member of Parliament and former minister of state, Edwina Curry participating alongside Michael Burke, a distinctly high-brow radio and TV presenter whose upper class tones and cut glass credentials – you would think – would mean he would never go within a hundred miles of such a programme. Last year the participation of another MP – Nadine Dorries – caused a political mini-scandal when she refused to declare her fee for taking part. No doubt the highly confidential fees are quite persuasive.

Sponsorships
Inevitably, mention of fees does point to the commercial success of the programme which is said to have generated over £170 million over the past fourteen years. Serial sponsorships with organizations such as the 32Red casino and M and M Direct, the Iceland supermarket chain in addition to organic revenues derived from audience’s engagement via premium rate telephone votes and competitions all point to a huge money-spinner. And that is before you get to factor in the advertising revenue that follows on from topping the list of most-watched TV programmes in the UK on a nightly basis.

The enduring popularity of I’m a Celebrity in the UK suggests the Brits just can’t get enough of its of tongue-in-cheek slapstick sadism. Seeing the great and the good reduced to farcical levels of self-debasement is evidently something that particularly appeals to the British character. The fact that the show is fronted by two boyishly mischievous presenters who take evident delight in the farcical exploits of the show’s contestants is entirely in keeping with what is a very British set of cultural values.

British Humour
Seeing an MP scrambling around in the dirt dressed as a giant spider, or a senior broadcasting figure sporting a giant parrot costume whilst shouting out nonsense words from a high wire perhaps only makes sense to that weirdly paradoxical thing that is the British sense of humour.

There is no sign of the Brits tiring of this annual festival of celebrity cruelty. It is already contracted for another two years and there is every reason to suppose that it will simply go on and on. It is becoming one of those self-perpetuating parts of the annual cycle, like the Superbowl or an airing of It’s a Wonderful Life, that owe their popularity to tradition as much as any intrinsic merit. We will, of course, let you know as and when (and if) anyone gets round to making a Canadian version. For the time being – for all the international franchises – this does appear to be a particularly British speciality.

Dispatches From The Couch: Broken GLASS


 
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. [Read more...]

Dispatches From The Couch

 

Anybody who thinks we live in a “post-racial” society because there’s an African-American man in the Oval Office hasn’t been paying attention to the Trayvon Martin case… or, according to the men filing a class-action lawsuit against ABC, watching THE BACHELOR.
 
Nathanial Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson’s suit is based on the fact that in the history of THE BACHELOR and its sister series, THE BACHELORETTE, not a single one of the folks asked to choose among a bevy of would-be mates has been a “person of color.” They go on to claim that the show’s “refusal to hire minority applicants” is part of a “conscious attempt to minimize the risk of alienating their majority-white viewership” as well as the advertisers who pony up big bucks for the privilege of pimping their products during the show. [Read more...]

Today’s TV Addict Top 5: Ladyboys We Want Featured On RUPAUL’s DRAG RACE’s All-Star Season!

Given that the ratings for the gay-centric network Logo are so bad that they basically trying to butch themselves up with a yet-to-be-announced lineup of shows aimed at a more mainstream audience, chances are good that you’ve never seen that outlet’s one decent program, RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE. But if you’re among those who know the pleasure of hearing Mother Ru clapping her hands for silence or warning grown men in dresses that “the time has now come for you to lipsynch… for your life!” in such dramatic fashion that guest judge Lily Tomlin thought a literal execution was about to occur, then you’re no doubt giddy at the prospect of the recently-announced all-star season. So which queens are we most anxious to see return? Glad you asked! [Read more...]

Dispatches From The Couch

Okay, people, clearly we need to have a talk.

Now, I’ll admit to having watched the occasional housewife cat-fight, and I’d be lying if I said watching Colton be carted off SURVIVOR on a gurney didn’t fill me with a certain sense of schadenfreude. (I don’t feel good about it, but, come on! That dude was annoying!) There is, however, a line I’d like to think I wouldn’t cross when it comes to my relationship with reality television.

And that line involves paying $18 bucks an hour to chat on the phone with REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY “star” Danielle Staub. Or $12 a minute to find out what Nadya “Octomom” Suleman thinks of, say, the Republican frontrunners.

Yet some of you out there are doing exactly that according to TMZ, which reported on a site called dial-a-star.com where you can… well, the name is pretty self-explanatory. [Read more...]

Summer Scoop: EXPEDITION IMPOSSIBLE

No matter what you think about reality TV, the man who made it an art form is Mark Burnett. From SURVIVOR to ECO-CHALLENGE, he knows exactly what kinds of survival shows are eye-catching and addictive. His latest venture is EXPEDITION IMPOSSIBLE: KINGDOM OF MOROCCO in which he takes 13 teams of 3 on a one month adventure through the vast terrain of Morocco. Based on the idea that people would love to be a part of an “Indiana Jones” type adventure, Mark created the show to test their mental acuity and physical prowess back-dropped against one of the most beautiful and romantic areas on the world – and nothing was more perfect than Morocco which is not only feature-film friendly, it encompasses a wide range of vistas to draw from — there is the Sahara, camels, Bedouins (The Blue People of the Desert), canyons, mountains with snowstorms, plains, rivers –everything, including the ancient city of Marrakesh. [Read more...]

Today’s TV Addict Top 5: Lessons We Learned From This Week’s THE REAL WORLD

People are stupid
Somehow, despite having unprotected sex with each other for weeks — and his having slept with others (with her blessing) — it somehow came as a shock to Leroy and Naomi that she might be pregnant or have an STD.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander
Having dumped Dustin after his gay-for-pay past was revealed, Heather got drunk and had sex with Nany.

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Reality Break with CT

After sitting through another exhausting episode of BIG BROTHER — with its endless squabbling between the increasingly immature housemates — I realized that I never gave due praise to a little reality show that really deserved it: HERE COME THE NEWLYWEDS.

Airing over the past few months on ABC directly after THE BACHELORETTE, the woefully underrated NEWLYWEDS had something that few reality offerings do today: charm. The show appeared to be shot on a shoestring budget, had a laidback host and featured contestants who almost immediately defied the stereotypes which leapt to mind when they first appeared on screen.

During the first episode, I fell in loathe-at-first-sight with The Corliss’, who looked like a porn star and her meathead hubby. Yet by the end of the first hour, they’re wildly appealing senses of humor and down-to-earth nature had made them, against all odds, my favorites and the eventual winners. Thoughout the run of the show, each of the couples had their moments to shine and not a single one disappointed.

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THE MOMENT OF TRUTH Courts Roger Clemens

the moment of truth

In anticipation of tonight’s premiere of FOX’s newest reality TV show THE MOMENT OF TRUTH, the TV Addict recently had the opportunity to sit down with show creator and executive producer Howard Schultz. But before we get to the interview, this TV Addict must pause and reveal partake in his own moment of truth.

While I generally loathe reality television and blame most of the world’s evils on it, I will be giving this show a try (at least for ten minutes that is.) Not only is there absolutely nothing new/interesting on TV tonight (with the exception of CASHMERE MAFIA), THE MOMENT OF TRUTH is a train-wreck waiting to happen. The Columbian version already was cancelled after a woman confessed to hire someone to murder her husband (for a measly $25,000).

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, on to the interview.

What’s the premise of the show?
Howard Schultz:
The basic premise of THE MOMENT OF TRUTH is that it’s a game in which a contestant is potentially asked twenty-one questions. Naturally, each question gets increasingly more personal and private in nature to win a half a million dollars. The game is divided into six levels. There are six questions on the first level, than five, four, then three, two and one, adding up to twenty-one. Contestants can quit at anytime and take the money they’ve won thus far. But if they continue on and tell one lie, they lose everything.

I imagine the questions get a lot more personal as the show goes on?
Absolutely

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Channel Surfing with C.T.

Am I alone in thinking that the GOSSIP GIRL storylines involving the adults tend to be more interesting than those of our central teens? Sure, the kids get the good lines (“I don’t speak Ukranian, but I do speak envelope of cash, and he understood me perfectly.”) but they don’t always click as real human beings. Frankly, I might just be wishing that the characters were as well-defined as they are in the books upon which the series is based. That said, I have to admit that Ed Westwick’s Chuck Bass is one of the most deliciously vile creatures to slither onto the TV screen in ages. Far and away the best line of the night was young Eric intoning to his sis, “Mom looks about as happy as grandma at last call.” Speaking of whom, bring back CeCe, pronto! I miss the old gal!

I really loved LAW & ORDER: GOSSIP GIRL DIVISION this week. I mean, the beautiful, blonde rich girl murdered by the brunette socialite whose world she threatened to rock? It was pretty hard not to think about S and B and the rest of their Upper East Side co-horts, especially given the promos for the real GOSSIP GIRL which have been running for weeks and made it seem as if someone was gonna bite the bullet. This was the SVU that I once knew and loved… fun story, great actors and absolutely no personal info about the detectives. The L&O mothership, meanwhile, didn’t thrill me with its season premiere. First of all, two separate episodes does not make for a “two-hour premiere!” Then again, the first hour was so yawn-inducing that I’m glad it didn’t go on for 120 minutes (although it seemed twice that). Is it really the best idea for a show which once prided itself on refusing to get personal where its leads are concerned to kick off the season delving into the personal issues of new cop Jeremy Sisto? Worse, the plot was yet another retread of the tried-(or should I say tired) and true assisted suicide storyline the show has trotted out time and again. The second hour’s story was more interesting, although it was amazing how quiet Manhattan seemed during the blackout which played a crucial role in the unfolding drama, and they relied on yet another overused plot device by having the earnest attorney tell the cops to go ahead and execute a search warrant he hadn’t actually obtained. Wake me when they run out of new episodes and start rerunning the classics.

Why do bad people keep on winning? I’m tempted to quit watching THE AMAZING RACE now that Kynt and Vixen — aka the good-hearted goths — have been eliminated, especially since they lost to Nate and Jen. Nate’s got a bit of a temper, but who can blame him given the nasty piece of work he’s teamed up with. These two take the fun out of dysfunctional.

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