Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Why I’m Going To Hell: VH-1’s Celebreality

Months ago, I vowed that I would not watch the fourth season of VH-1’s THE SURREAL LIFE. I’d had enough of cohabitating C-listers and has-beens. I mean, I’m a reasonably smart guy. There are better uses for my time.

When I heard that season 4 would anchor a block of reality shows featuring the once famous and almost famous, my resolve did not waver. Much.

So Sunday night rolls around. I’ve read the paper. I’m looking to unwind. The season premiere comes on. Why not check out the new crop of houseguests? Watching a few minutes can’t hurt.

The first arrival is Joanie “Chyna” Laurer, former professional wrestler and current adult film star. She shows up wearing a bikini, clear stilettos, and a fur coat. She immediately takes the only single room. This in spite of the fact that the fixtures and furniture have clearly been designed to accommodate one of her roommates, the two-foot-eight Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer.

It’s at this point that I decide I’ll be watching the entire episode.

The other houseguests arrive, among them ex-Brady Christopher Knight and former Go-Go Jane Wiedlin, now a habitué of fetish clubs. Mini-Me gets drunk, then wakes up in the middle of the night to tool around the house on his scooter naked, pausing only to relieve himself in the corner. To quote Milhouse van Houten, “I fear to watch, yet I cannot look away.”

Also in the line-up is CELEBRITY FAT CAMP. Sorry, Fit Club. Fit Club. FIT CLUB. Wherein eight overweight personalities pledge to drop those unsightly pounds.

The definition of ‘celebrity’ is extremely loose here, as evidenced by the fact that the show’s host (Ant) and one of the participants (Ralphie May) are refugees from another reality show, LAST COMIC STANDING. Most of the other contestants I don’t recognize - a plus-size model, the judge from DIVORCE COURT. Wendy Kaufman’s name is followed by the honorific “The Snapple Lady” throughout the show, even during the closing credits. I don’t remember her until they show one of her ads.

Truly, a showbiz Rubicon has been crossed with this series. On other reality shows, you could see how celebrities could delude themselves into thinking it was a good career move, even when it clearly wasn’t. With CELEBRITY FAT CAMP – sorry, FIT CLUB – that pretense has been dropped. This isn’t about the next job. It’s about being on TV, plain and simple. And it’s catching on, too. There’s a UK version in the works, as I learned from this article about darts champions.

I told Rosemarie that I could see checking back in to see who was losing weight. Flabbergasted, she asked why. I told her about the giant scale that could weigh all eight celebrities at once. She said, “Thanks a lot. Now I have to see it, too.”

The third show in the lineup is STRANGE LOVE, following the romance between Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav and dipsomaniacal Amazon Brigitte Nielsen. I haven’t seen a minute of it. Believe it or not, I have my standards.

Random Observation: Andrew Lloyd Webber

A class at my gym was working out to the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA soundtrack. I hope no one was hurt.