MTV recently announced that they were revamping The Real World—this season, the seven strangers living together will be joined by their exes—and now we have the first trailer. For the most part, it seems like a desperate attempt to breathe fresh life into a series that has been steadily going downhill for years. But it also feels like the series is marching toward its natural conclusion. The original intent of the show is long gone and its recent seasons have been about nothing more than creating dramatic moments (see: punches) that will be easily turned into .gifs for the “5 Most Shocking/Crazy/WTF Moments From Last Night’s Real World" lists. Why learn more about yourself and embrace the differences of strangers when you could beat the shit out of someone with a hair dryer and achieve Reality Show Fame for days, maybe even weeks! But that’s okay, it’s what we’ve come to expect—and sometimes enjoy—from The Real World so hey, this season premiering in January has all you could want: fighting, fucking, and crying. Television!
On Sunday night, MTV aired a new episode of Catfish at a special time/night. It was a smart decision—packed in after a catchup marathon of previous Catfish episodes and before the VMA pre-show (the episode was interspersed with red carpet happenings)—and a great way to introduce uninitiated viewers into the weird world of Catfish. It was also, without a doubt, the strangest and most fucked up episode of Catfish thus far. “Artis & Jenny” starts off like most other typical episodes of Catfish: Artis “meets” a girl named Jenny via Facebook and the two begin talking, bond with one another, form a sort of romantic relationship (in the Catfish world, this means they have been sexting each other), and Artis decides he’s ready to meet Jenny and make that relationship real. Jenny is being shady, as the catfish always are, and refuses to talk to him via video or phone, her reason being that she has a very overprotective and controlling boyfriend. By the way, both Artis and Jenny are in relationships—Artis even has three children—but say they are each unhappy in them and would rather move on to each other. Nev and Max are hesitant to help Artis and urge him to talk with his girlfriend and set the record straight before pursuing another girl. Always the moral compasses, those two!
While Artis has the talk with his girlfriend, Nev and Max begin their investigation of Jenny. It’s worrying from the beginning. She works at Hooters, she doesn’t have a school listed, and though she’s friends with people from her town/high school, one guy informs Nev that no one in this small town has ever heard of her. She randomly joined Facebook and began friending everyone in town. Also, her Facebook photo (she only has one) is so obviously a fake photo that I can’t believe Artis believed for a second she was the real deal. Sure enough, the photo is lifted from a porn site. Artis reveals that he broke up with his girlfriend; Nev reveals that Jenny is surely fake. Great timing! But that’s not the weird stuff. The weird shit is when they go to finally meet Jenny (after twisting her arm) and instead of a buxom porn star, it’s a shaggy-haired bro that is batshit insane.
No, really, he steps out of the car with a slowclap (who does that??) and immediately picks a fight with Nev, Max, Artis—the whole lot. There’s a lot of macho posturing on his part (well, macho in that “I-wear-gym-shorts-and-listen-to-Dave-Matthews” way) and he refers to Artis as his “chocolate kiss” (??) and starts shit with Nev. It’s all very weird and very uncomfortable. With Artis out of the way and silently freaking out in the car, “Jenny” who is actually Justin explains that basically he’s some sort of psychopath who pretends to be a girl on the internet and starts relationship with men (“Obviously I’m not gay,” he tells Nev). His goal? To expose cheaters. Because that’s what normal people do: they create fake profiles to catch strange men e-cheating on their girlfriends. He says that his girlfriend is okay with this, he claims it’s because his father died and because he used to be homeless. Which is a logical progression, I guess? “My father died and now I pretend to be women on the internet.” Justin often comes off as some sort of drama student really playing it up for the camera. None of this makes any fucking sense and it’s all hard to describe without just yelling THIS IS FUCKING CRAZY over and over again. I’m pretty sure the only way Catfish can top this is if the next catfish is just three dogs on each other’s shoulders wearing a trench coat. MTV’s replaying the episode tonight at its normal time (10pm) so if you haven’t seen Catfish, I highly suggest this is where you start.
Can we talk about last night’s episode of Catfish? Just for a little bit? Jennifer, a high school senior, has been chatting online with Skylar, a junior in college, and is ready to meet him. Things go wrong, as you’d expect them to, and I know that I’m supposed to feel a little bad for her (Nev and Max sure do and definitely get mad on her behalf) but come on, Jennifer. Listen, sometimes the catfish are tricky online creatures that fool the best of the best but sometimes it is so painfully obvious that the guy is a fake and there’s really no point to call Nev. Just block the screenname and move on to a different chat room. I understand that Jennifer is young and naïve but this is just ridiculous. Let’s break this down:
- The guy’s name is Skylar Hazen. That is not a real name. That’s a name that pops up in a Find Your Catfish Name generator.
- He only sent her two photos and refuses to vidchat with her because he’s so busy with school. He’s in college. You don’t do anything in college but dick around on the internet. He has the time to vidchat.
- HE SAYS HE DOESN’T HAVE A FACEBOOK. Sure, there are some people who legitimately don’t have a Facebook, those who brag about it at parties in the same condescending tone they use when they say “Oh, I don’t own a television set.” But you know who does have a Facebook? Everyone in college. Every dude in college. Every dude in college who is studying “computer tech” and chats up girls on the internet.
- Jennifer never googled Skylar Hazen’s name. This is just lazy. I’m not saying that you’re supposed to do thorough searches of everyone you are remotely interested in (although yes, of course I do this) but if you’re worried that a guy you’ve been e-flirting with is lying to you, just google his name. It takes two seconds! You don’t need a camera crew from MTV to use google!
- Nev and Max basically tell Jennifer that Skylar is a total fake and probably an asshole and maybe she shouldn’t meet him. Jennifer wants to meet him. Just stop it, Jennifer.
So they go to meet Skylar and Skylar is Bryan, a complete dickhead with no remorse. Here’s the best/worst thing about this episode: I kind of like Bryan because he’s so terrible. He broke some poor high school girl’s heart but he’s kind of hilarious? I mean, when Nev calls to arrange a meeting Bryan calls Nev out and asks him to prove that he’s really Nev from Catfish. This is gold! He admits he doesn’t have any feelings for Jennifer. He admits that he does this to other girls. He basically admits that he only agreed to meet Jennifer so he could come clean to all of the other girls at once. There’s no doubt in my mind that he sent out a mass e-mail to all of these girls (and probably didn’t even BCC it) that just said “Watch Catfish tonight ;)” so he wouldn’t have to break the news to them individually. Nev and Max get increasingly mad (which is adorable because they’re Nev and Max) and Bryan just shrugs the entire thing off. He was brushing up on his game, he was giving Jennifer a gift. It’s the biggest pile of bullshit but he’s just so casual about being a prick that I couldn’t stop laughing. I sincerely hope that Bryan ends up in a later Catfish episode pulling the same scam on another girl.
It might sound insane to say, but TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is without a doubt one of the most honest pieces of television that’s ever been filmed. And it’s that honesty that has polarized and revolted its audience. There are four important “plot points” that happen on the last episode of Honey Boo Boo that very neatly and succinctly sum up that jarring conflict that has existed at the core of the show through its whole first season:
- First, Alana’s family (The Thompsons (Alana is Honey Boo Boo btw)) tries to take a family portrait on the bank of a local river. At least, it looked like a river. Essentially, all 6 of the family members get together on the shore of a large body of standing water and bicker at each other until they get a useable photo.
- Then in the next sequence Alana’s 18-year-old sister Anna gives birth to a baby girl named Kaitlyn. The family is genuinely ecstatic and wonderfully supportive of the new addition to the family. It’s important to note, though, that baby Kaitlyn was born with three thumbs, two on her right hand, totaling eleven fingers… because like of course she has eleven fingers, sigh…
- After that it is revealed that Alana’s father Sugar Bear, a beautifully kind and patient man who is never once seen on camera without a beaming smile and a mouth full of chewing tobacco, has a gay brother. The family loves their gay uncle and proudly and lovingly refer to him as Uncle Poodle. When the producers ask why, Alana’s middle sister Pumpkin quite bluntly explains that “Alana calls all gay people poodles.” The family then has a big grass fight in the backyard with their Uncle Poodle.
- Lastly, and probably the least important part of the finale covers Alana’s pageant. And really, the beauty pageant portion of this show is so completely not the point of this that it really isn’t worth talking about.
These four moments make no sense together. And most episodes follow this format. Alana is being fit for a prosthetic ass in one scene, in the next she’s watching Fourth of July fireworks on a lakeside sitting on her mother’s lap. And it’s safe to say that mainstream viewers have never seen a raw feed of the grossness, baseness, and undignified weirdness of a real family on TV. And in that same swing, most people aren’t used to seeing the real and downright fucked up-ness that comes with actually loving your family. A loving family is goddamn fucked up.
Alana’s family is a demented group of Walmart-brand Morlocks that chug liters of soda and actually at one point are seen EATING FUCKING MELTED BUTTER AND KETCHUP. And worse than that, the butter-ketchup sauce they wolf down like frenzied monkey-people is apparently a family recipe that goes back two generations.
That is real. That is the fucked up nightmare world that exists inside the walls of every American home, to some extent. It’s that really American swirl of rampant commercialistic detritus that we’re forced to mold around our lives around. The Thompsons live in rural Georgia, the heart of the post-Walmart wasteland that has eaten up our culture like some kind of HP Lovecraft monster, and yet they’re just trying to do their best. They live next to a gas station mini-mart where they do most of their shopping. Their mother is an extreme couponer with hoarding tendencies. That is the new American reality right there. And the horrible, sad, soul-crushing 21st century American culture of families just trying to go with it.
Alana’s mom June is the mother of all the girls in the house. She had her first daughter when she was 15. That daughter, Anna, is the 18-year-old who has the eleven-fingered baby. It’s then explained that June (or “Mama”) worked in a packing plant until an industrial accident gave her what she calls “Forklift Foot.” “Forklift Foot” is, according to Mama, a condition you get after a forklift mangles your foot beyond all recognition. She now cannot work and receives disability checks for it. I think. Pretty sure. Details are sketchy on it.
Alana’s father Sugar Bear works in — I kid you not — chalk mines. The man works in a fucking chalk mine. He is not married to June and is only the biological father of Alana. He does not say much, but anything he does say is usually a painfully lovely statement about how much it means to him that the girls treat him like a father.
The family lives simply and doesn’t think too much about anything outside their immediate world, but never maliciously. But we’re used looking at the xenophobic rural Americans that the news shows holding signs outside of abortion clinics. We aren’t however used to seeing these people as just people. The Thompsons aren’t branded as villains or even as particularly interesting or useful people like in similar shows like Swamp People. They aren’t loud-mouthed political pawns or diamonds in the rough gimmicks, they’re just a really normal and weird family that does weird shit together to pass the time.
It’s sad and amazing that something so genuine is so immediately gross to mainstream audiences. But it’s nice to know that Honey Boo Boo did so well in ratings. It should be a good thing that there was a show that showed a real family doing real stuff. Like a scene where a 40-year-old grandmother bottle-feeds her granddaughter, smiling proudly from the crowd, as her youngest 7-year-old daughter, on stage in a sparkly pink pageant gown, is surprised by her gay uncle carrying their pet pig up the stage steps. Yes, that happened.
In Little Miss Sunshine the main characters have a super mumblecore revelation that’s like “fuck it, man, like fuck like people who judge you and shit man.” And that’s great for movies, but in real life, things are way more complicated and stranger. In Honey Boo Boo, there’s a moment where Alana puts make up on her mother and then tells the camera that she was proud to make her Mama look beautiful. And that’s why Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is important.
Because if you think about it, the screen that sits in every family’s living room constantly tells you that you aren’t good enough, or pretty enough, or interesting enough. It shows you pretty “Modern” families having easily resolved problems and loving each other at PG-13 levels of intimacy that fucking suck. And the most messed up thing about Honey Boo Boo is that when a show finally attempted to get close to showing some sense of the nonsense-reality we all live in people were horrified. And that’s sad and poignant and something to think about I guess.
Guest post by Ryan Broderick who blogs here.
Three future episode ideas for Bravo’s Work of Art:
- Everyone is released into the wild with a pocket knife and a paintbrush. They have to create a work of art that’s representative of their relationship with nature and their knowledge of the novel Lord of the Flies by hunting and killing a wild boar and then using its carcass as materials. The winner gets a spread in National Geographic magazine. The loser is eliminated by death. (Possible crossover with Top Chef? They could create a wild boar dish over a spit).
- The contestants use a stack of pop culture related magazines to create a collage about their favorite Bravo show while simultaneously contemplating their unfortunate predicament. The final piece must express how they feel about the fact that they have always wanted to be an artist, spent years honing their craft and/or tens of thousands of dollars on schooling only to later find themselves stuck on a mediocre reality show where they make glorified paper mache projects that will be harshly judged, not by a fellow artist or intelligent art critic, but by an actress best known for her role on Sex and the City.
- Macaroni Mother’s Day cards.
Reality Blurred compiled an amazing list of Reality TV Marathons for Thanksgiving and the rest of the weekend, because let’s face it that’s what this holiday is all about: eating & watching TV.
- Extreme Couponing [TLC, Wednesday at 3 p.m. to Thursday at 3 a.m.]
- Mythbusters [Discovery, Wednesday at 9 a.m. to Thursday at 3 a.m.]
- Top Chef [Bravo, 6 a.m. to noon]
- Supernanny [Style, 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.]
- Cake Boss [TLC, 6 a.m. to noon
- America’s Next Top Model [Oxygen, 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.]
- Swamp People [History Channel, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.]
- The First 48 [A&E, 8 a.m. to 4 a.m.]
- American Guns [Discovery, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.]
- Braxton Family Values [WEtv, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.]
- Cake Boss: Next Great Baker [TLC, noon to 8:30 p.m.]
- The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills [Bravo, noon to 6 p.m.]
- Sons of Guns [Discovery, 2 to 6:30 p.m.]
- 2011 [Discovery, 6:30 to 10 p.m.]
- Say Yes to the Dress [TLC, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.]
- Storage Wars [A&E, 7 a.m. to 4 a.m.]
- American Restoration [History Channel, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.]
- Project Runway 4 [Style, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.]
- Top Gear [BBC America, 8 a.m. to Saturday at 6 a.m.
- Gold Rush [Discovery, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.]
- Auction Hunters [Spike, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.]
- The Glee Project [Oxygen, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.]
- Millionaire Matchmaker [Bravo, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.]
- Rocket City Rednecks [National Geographic Channel, 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.]
- Paranormal State [Bio, 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.]
Saturday and Sunday
- Pawn Stars [History Channel, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.]
- The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills [Bravo, Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.]
- America’s Next Top Model [Oxygen, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.]
- Deadliest Catch [Discovery, Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.]
- I Survived [Bio, Saturday, 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.]
- Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares [BBC America, Sunday, 6 a.m. to Monday at 6 a.m.
- American Pickers [History Channel, Sunday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.]
- Kourtney and Kim Take New York [E!, Sunday, 1 to 10 p.m.]
It’s time to catch up on some of the stupid things people say on Work of Art!
- The Sucklord is one of those boys who shouldn’t be attractive but I don’t know. I just think he’s cool.
- My idea is to make this FedEx truck except I want it to be titled FadEx.
- Yes, I’m single and lonely!
- I’m not making art just to make the judges happy.
- I could never make as lovely as a paint splatter as he made.
- It’s when I became a supervillian that I got a little better at getting girls.
Shot in a vivid, documentary style, “Brooklyn Crew” will follow the story of two groups of girls fighting a turf war to rule Bay Ridge. Who will win is uncertain, but the stakes have never been higher.
This is the best of the three, and it’s fucking awful, so it’s a good thing no one watches Oxygen!
America’s Next Top Model All Stars Recap (Ep. 1)
This current season of America’s Next Top Model (season premiere aired on 9/14) is an All-Stars version. I have been waiting for this to happen for so long now and I’m actually surprised that it took Tyra so long to get on this game. It must have been all that mail I sent her. Do you think when Tyra goes to the mailbox to get her mail she says, “Tyra mail!”? Tyra brought 14 of the most popular non-winning models to compete (we all miss Jade, I know).
I am really hoping this is not Tyra’s look for the whole season. You know she tends to stick to one style. Remember the jumpsuit season? I do. She is hardcore channeling Lydia Deetz this episode.