I'll be the judge of that.

Get In Touch With Reality: Winter 2015-Spring 2016 Reality TV Report

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The Bachelorette (Season 12, ABC)

ABC’s reactionary response to Kaitlyn Bristowe was an early failure. Conservative niceguy Ben Higgins turned in the most boring season in recent memory. Fearing a loose canon, producers found themselves with a block of wood.

However, they seem to have really nailed it with JoJo. She’s precisely what producers need to get the show’s evil little affective mechanism humming: equal parts beautiful, vacuous, and unassuming. A total blank slate, with practically no genuine characteristics to individuate her as a person. Yet, she’s still somehow just likable enough to maintain the illusion that she’s seriously worth being in a committed relationship with.

This season’s cast of single psychopaths has been fantastic. It’s an ideal mixture of meatheads and pencil necks. Early on, Chad emerged as a legitimate super-villain; snarling, insulting, he consumed endless piles of raw meat. Alex played his scrappy adversary, only to become just as cocky upon returning home from his victorious 2-on-1 date in the woods. Evan, the sniveling nebbish. Jordan, the charming adonis just perfect enough to raise doubts about his motivation. Wells, looking strung out and paranoid. Daniel, strangely charming in his quaint inhumanity and overall emotional detachment. Luke, somehow creepy and respectable at the same time.

From here, it’s clearly going to come down to Jordan and Luke. But let’s be honest: we’re all just waiting for Chad in Paradise.

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Real Housewives of New York City (Season 8, Bravo)

After an incredibly strong seventh season, RHONY has returned with mixed results. The first third of the season was electrifying. Dorinda continued to emerge as a fascinating, conflicted person. John’s love for her is apparently sincere, but is contaminated with an unsightly possessiveness and machismo that you just hate to see Dorinda deal with. The confrontations between Bethenny and John were heroic and legendary.

But as the season progressed, we also got to see some of Bethenny’s implicit, but largely concealed, “ugly side.” She feigned injury over Sonja’s pathetic Tipsy Girl project, but only as as a cheap pretext for beating up on her. (I felt so bad for Sonja in that takedown scene. Poor, sweet Sonja; when will you figure it all out?) Meanwhile, she dished it out to someone who could actually take it, LuAnn, with a totally unnecessary harangue in the Berkshires that accomplished nothing but upsetting Dorinda. Most recently, she’s treated Jules, the naive, odd, and vulnerable new girl, with a whole lot of unearned indignation that came across as nasty and defensive.

I’ll always worship at the altar of Bethenny Frankel but wow. She’s been harsh this season.

What else? Carole continues to maintain her title of chillest Housewife ever, slipping into only very mild hysterics when it comes to LuAnn, as The Countess herself floats through a pleasantly deLesseps-centric fantasy universe of her own making.

As we approach the tail-end of this season, the show is still a solid must-watch, but the season as a whole seems to lack meaningful conflict. The season’s early energy has tapered off into an episodic multi-focal collage of discreet health issues and low-stakes bickering, rather than developing a wider intersubjective narrative.

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Fit to Fat to Fit (Season 1, A&E)

I want David Cronenberg to direct an episode of this show. This is the program where superfit personal trainers gain shocking amounts of weight in order to “learn what it’s like to be fat.” Then, they train an overweight client to lose weight, with the acutely obese trainer losing the weight alongside him/her.

It’s designed to be human and inspiring, and on some superficial level, it is. Whichever end of the vulgar codependency the viewer happens to identify with (the trainer or client), there is a certain unifying synthesis that emerges from that dialectic, a shared morphological dynamic that speaks to our essential inner oneness.

But like many “weight loss” or “fitness” shows, there’s something more insidious lurking right below the surface. It’s deeply perverse stuff, content that trains on the dread and mystery of the human body and the radical alienation we as speaking subjects have from the material corpus.

It’s dark shit. The whole thing functions as a brilliant work of body horror, straight from the lens of David Cronenberg, Clive Barker, or Troma. Definitely worth a look.

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Southern Charm (Season 3, Bravo)

Coming back to this show was difficult. Minutes into the premier, I sensed that everyone was already starting off at their maximum level of repulsiveness, rather than building up to it over a three month season.

The big exception is Craig. Since he’s the only decent human being on the entire show, he’s naturally the subject of continual belittling and attacks on his character. His vague friendship with Kathryn is the only human relationship on the show that doesn’t turn my stomach. And, I guess, Thomas has the ability to appear halfway decent at least some of the time.

But Whitney, his mother Patricia, Shep; they’re all so ghoulish. It’s hard to take. Especially Patricia. She is rot; she is anathema. Please, Bravo, remove this bitter, petty woman from television!

The finale turned ugly, and the reunion got even uglier. It’s really a sad, sad, strange drama that has taken place on this show. I’m wondering how much longer this can go on. After a while this show is just going to look like a festering corpse.

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Real Housewives of Dallas (Season 1, Bravo) 

With apparently bad ratings and a cast that didn’t quite click the same way that Housewives have in other cities, I’m worried this will go down as a flop. It shouldn’t. This has been a hugely underrated season.

Cary and husband are delightfully weird. I hear a lot of negativity about about her husband, but I think he’s great. He strikes me as a mere harmless pervert, and I think that’s a great quality in a person.

Leanne is by far the most interesting subject; the twisted emotions and bursts of violence we’ve seen so far are only a peek at what lies behind her sad, icy eyes. I understand why people dislike her, both on the show and at home, but I really want to know more about this person. She’s very, very complex and has the potential of being one of the most interesting and emotionally layered Housewives ever, if given the chance.

Speaking of Leanne: the weird, unspoken friendship triangle between Leanne, Tiffany and Marie needs to be explored further. What’s going on here? Do you think they studied Greek and murdered their friend in college? Seriously, there’s something very Secret History to be uncovered here.

Please, please, Bravo Gods, let this go to season 2.

 

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