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Reality Steve

"EX ON THE BEACH" EPISODE 1 -- IN THE UNDERWORLD, EXES EMERGE FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE OCEAN)

"EX ON THE BEACH" EPISODE 1 -- IN THE UNDERWORLD, EXES EMERGE FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE OCEAN)

Welcome to MTV’s Ex On the Beach, a social experiment the founders of television could never have expected to transpire, not even on the days they drank straight scotch until they saw only static.  This program brings reality stars and “social media stars” – and if you’re not already sighing heavily, we can never be friends – into a gorgeous villa in Hawaii so they can be manipulated while cameras film every second of their inebriated time.  Join me from the comfort of your sofa (where, hopefully, there’s nary an ex in sight) as we witness fitness models, a DJ, and former contestants from shows like Big Brother, The Bachelor, and Are You the One as they head to what they pretended to believe would be paradise until the producers revealed the real plot: that their exes would eventually wash upon the shores like debris and subsequently scatter the senses of every single person present.

THE DAYS OF WHINE & ROSES & VICODIN

THE DAYS OF WHINE & ROSES & VICODIN

Last week, before actually important news saturated the airways (I’m speaking, of course, of the atrocities aimed at innocent civilians in Paris that shocked everybody and Charlie Sheen’s tragic medical diagnosis that shocked nobody), Bravo updates were appearing in the press constantly.  For a few days there it was impossible to go online and not see that two new Housewife shows are heading our way like an Earth-shattering comet and that Brooks, the smarmiest man ever to walk the streets of the OC, admitted to doctoring the documents he waved in front of cameras on his I Have Cancer press tour in a misguided effort to prove (through falsified medical records) that he indeed has been stricken with a deadly disease.  But before anyone can say anything, let’s just all go ahead and accept that fine, Brooks might have fabricated those documents, but he’s totally not lying about anything else and he obviously has a disease (I think it must be the disease that causes his unceasing smirk that I’d love to kick off his face with a stiletto) and if you believe anything else, you’re just an asshole.  Either that or you’ve got yourself some working synapses.

The thought of two new Bravo shows appearing on my television brought on a strange combination of excitement and terror and I think it’s because I’m starting to be aware of the lengths the participants of these shows are willing to go.  In fact, I sat back and contemplated some of the craziest moments we’ve already been privy to and they include, but are obviously not limited to, the following: 

o   Kim Richards drunkenly proclaimed sobriety before being arrested – for public intoxication.

o   The husband of one of the Housewives committed suicide and, before he was even embalmed, his wife wrote a book about the abuse he’d allegedly leveled her way before, during, and after production.

o   A woman wearing a red sari crashed a White House dinner.

o   An electronic-cigarette-puffing psychic sneered that she wouldn’t help someone locate an abducted child.

o   A self-proclaimed MILF suggested that her son get a fellow Housewife “naked drunk” and then looked the other way while the two almost banged in a bathroom during a dinner party.

THE CAVALRY UNITES!

THE CAVALRY UNITES!

Like anyone with a hint of a pulse and a semi-decent attention span, I was quickly drawn into the first season of Mr. Robot.  Even the commercials for the show were intriguing; they gave away almost nothing about what the eventual plot turned out to be, but there was a style to them that I responded to immediately.  The show looked like it was going to be gritty, like it had been shot by some genius in 1973 before the studio system decided to sign him to a binding contract and then required that he trade in his testicles and his taste for some pure mainstream appeal that came with pure mainstream profit.  

Only two minutes into the pilot, Mr. Robot managed to remind me of Taxi Driver and Fight Club in terms of having an unreliable but charismatic antihero protagonist and the lush wide shots, off-kilter pacing, and Elliot’s voiceover that came out like a drug-numbed drone settled deep within my head.  I focused on the characters and their interactions and I was swept away to a very dark place that I happily crawled back to week after week.  As with many series that have interwoven plots and mounds of developing characters and questions that have been alluringly dangled like a bunch of bright green grapes over the course of a season to ravenous viewers who just want something to chew, it was the penultimate episode of the first season that felt the most rewarding to me.  Answers were offered and theories were somewhat resolved and so the actual finale fell a little flat for me because it would have been nearly impossible to follow up the gripping hour that preceded it.  Still, there was something eerily magical about the conversation Elliot had on the street with Joanna in that last episode.  The whole thing was shot in a hushed kind of manner and so much was not being said between them and all of the empty and dense space behind them in the frame managed to look almost menacing and it was just about perfect.  For me though, the most perfect part of the entire episode was not that street scene, but a line spoken by Elliot in voiceover when he saw the mania created by the repercussions of his choices and his actions:  “So this is what a revolution looks like.”      

I couldn’t help but think about the Mr. Robot revolution line as I watched the latest episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County because it certainly seems like a battle is about to burst forth, one that will be fought on the expansive grounds and inside the tacky parties thrown by women who should really know better than to expect normality to govern their lives anymore.  I think maybe that’s what actually offends me – that any Housewife still has the audacity to feign surprise that 1) the other Housewives are talking about her and 2) that they are saying only very shitty things.  What does surprise me, though, is the darkness this franchise as a whole has descended into.  The conflicts used to revolve around lies rich women told one another for sport or people showing up to events for which they had never sent an RSVP or any other minor calamity from which an hour (or seven) of dramatics could be squeezed, but we are not in that place anymore.  The conflicts have been upped and the fallout has become massive.  Now our Housewives face things like incarceration.  They fail publicly and spectacularly in alleged quests for sobriety.  They are embroiled in lawsuits for screaming across the airwaves that another Housewife’s vagina smells like rotten fish.  Depositions are actually scheduled for some of the other Housewives to comment on the record about what they have heard about the alleged scent of another woman’s vulva. 

REALITY STEVE & ME

REALITY STEVE & ME

Many full and crescent moons ago, I stayed overnight at a hotel in Albany.  I was there with two of my friends to attend a conference for New York State English teachers – and I think I would have rather been at the dentist having my gums drilled without anesthesia than sitting in lecture after lecture about exciting new ways to teach Shakespeare. 

It’s not that I don’t think that there is, in fact, some new fun way to teach Shakespeare.  Of course there’s a way to spin it so the kids reading it for school credit can get into the play and won’t get so easily dissuaded by the language that doesn’t sound in any way normal or current to their tender ears, ears that are so used to hearing the word “motherfucker,” that insults like “starveling” zip right by without a shred of comprehension.  But I can’t honestly say that I was all that fascinated by any of the lectures that took place during that frigid day I spent in Albany.  I was there for one reason: to win an award as a Teacher of Excellence (suck it, all you starvelings!), and I was humbled enough that I was chosen to receive the honor that I happily made the trek upstate.