I do not feel safe in the world.
I don’t have health care, because it’s expensive. I can barely pay for college, because it’s expensive. Three months ago, I got doored while riding my bicycle, so now I wonder if I’m going to get hit again every time I head out on my wheels. The local paper ran an article about gangs attacking men in their 20s between midnight and 2 AM last week in my neighborhood, and I’m a man in my 20s who comes home between midnight and 2 AM last week in my neighborhood. I suffer from gout. Alright, not really – - I don’t even know what gout is. But anyways, I’m also afraid VH1 is trying to brainwash the way I think.
This is not a Klostermanian segue into a witty pop culture thesis from my own boring personal life. This is something that wracks my brain, albeit only under certain conditions, because I think it might be happening to you and me and everyone we know.
Let me explain — I’m going off memory here. In 2002 or 2003, Flavor Flav was on The Surreal Life, a show where washed-up celebrities congregated in a single house to be dramatic and washed-up together. As Flav seemed to be suffering symptoms of early dementia, this of course means he was given his own spin-off show with Brigitte Nielsen, the 7-foot Amazonian temptress who has bedded everyone who might have been hung up on a teen boy’s bedroom wall in the ’80s. The name of their show escapes me — I think it must have been something like Double Trouble, or Fear of a Brigitte Planet, but that can’t be right.
Anyways, that show ended and Flav had another show, Flavor of Love, where a bunch of aspiring actresses or models competed for the right to give Flav a blowjob on camera. I think this must have happened a lot. Anyways, there was a notable contestant on that show, Tiffany “New York” ______, a loud woman who looked like a Muppet and had a fine set of fake breasts, who achieved notoriety for being that girl on the reality show, the only contestant who was ready at any moment to head tantivy into any embarrassing or uncomfortable situation while being as tactless as possible. I’m sure you all know this, but anyways, after the show ended, Tiffany got her own reality show, entitled I Love New York, and eventually, I Love New York 2.
Are you following me? When those shows ended, another show started up that is currently running right now: Real Chance of Love, which follows two of the outcasts from I Love New York named Real and Chance as they really try to get some aspiring models to give them blowjobs on camera. If anything stopped Flav from getting as much pseudo-groupie slobber as he could, it might have been the shred of self-respect he had as a man in his late 40s, realizing, Hey, I’m the hype man for one of the best rap groups of all-time, I don’t need to whore myself out on TV to get something I can easily get already. The man has like seven kids; he’s not that hard up for action. But Real and Chance? Oh, they definitely needed this attention from the ladies; if not, it was back to Z-list Celebrityland. So their show is going on right now, and it’s a train wreck.
This is the family tree that has sprouted up from this affair, and the thing that is going to kill me: The Surreal Life –> Don’t Brigitte The Hype –> Flavor of Love –> I Love New York –> Real Chance at Love —> ???. If we think about this chronologically, it means that the contestants on Real and Chance are fifth generation reality TV stars, with their 15 minutes being traceable back to Jordan Knight and that unremarkable girl from American Idol with pretty hair. And the thought that kills me is that this cycle is going to keep on happening; eventually, the fifth generation reality stars on Real Chance are going to get their own series, and we’ll get the sixth generation and beyond.
It happens elsewhere on VH1, but with less complexity: There was Brett Michaels’ Rock of Love, which branched off into both Daisy of Love and Megan Wants A Millionaire. It gets more complicated if you consider the I Love Money series, where contestants from all the shows compete with each other. As Real, Chance, Daisy, and Megan competed on these shows together, it makes them interconnected, so that contestants on Real Chance can be traced all the way back to the guy who wrote “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” even though the stars they’re directly descended from never tried to touch Michaels’ dick.
This is probably unremarkable by itself: Studio produces crappy shows, what else is new. But VH1 is both a) getting people to tune into all these shows, as Real Chance averaged 2 million viewers per episode despite being about two contestants on the reality show of a contestant who was on the reality show of a real celebrity, and b) making these shows good. If you watch them, you will be entertained, especially if it’s in the haw haw what a bunch of idiots way. The editing is tight, the characters are all ridiculous (my favorite guys are the two best friends on Daisy of Love, one an emo scenester who remembers Pink’s cyclist ex-boyfriend, one a guido Steve-O who’s five feet tall), and even if you don’t care (because you don’t), you will sink your Saturday afternoon getting high and watching all this shit.
I scribbled down a note when I was watching TV – “Do the people who make Daisy of Love recognize the shitty product they’re making and not care, or do they totally want to kill themselves, or do they actually think they’re making valuable TV?” I don’t know the answer – I suspect it lies somewhere between the first and second explanation – but right now, VH1 has perfected the ability of making us watch crap we don’t care about, but will totally be entertained by, and they’ve found an endless way to keep reproducing the success by reproducing the contestants in as many spin-off shows as they want. It’s the bare iota of creative output right here; while it took some tiny level of ingenuity to think, “Hey, let’s throw a bunch of washed-up quirky celebs in a house together,” or “Hey, let’s watch Daniel Baldwin try to lose weight!” (or not), all VH1 has to do now is keep eating its own tail, like Jormungandr, the Norse serpent that circles the world. The emo/guido BFFs on Daisy of Love I mentioned? They’ll probably get their own show soon enough, and the cycle will continue, until once day VH1 does a reunion show of all of these casts and reveals the Wizard behind the curtain. “You idiots,” they’ll say, “It was all recycled! None of it was new!” But by then, you’ll just sink your teeth into the new show and grab a handful of Froot Loops out of the box, ready to stop caring and start watching.
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