"His voice betrayed a craving for terrible things." -- Don DeLillo

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March 02, 2004

Adrift in a Sea of Reality TV -- OR --
Damn You, Larissa, You Heartless Bitch!


Watching reality TV has always been a toss-up. For every safe bet like the Survivors or the Celebrity Moles (and, dammit, Celebrity Mole is awesome and I'll hear no words saying otherwise), there are the wild cards of Temptation Island, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancee, Joe Millionaire, and countless others. Even stalwarts like Bachelor have up and down seasons: Bachelor Bob broke up with Estella practically before the camera finished zooming out on them at the final rose ceremony, but Meredith and Ian's recent pop-engagement was a suprisingly candid and spontaneous moment that reminds us why we watch this fluff in the first place (does it make me less of a man to write sentences like that? wait, no, don't answer). There were physical specimens Ryan and Trista, who had a charmingly innocuous courtship a year ago before making audiences wish to never, ever see either of them again after the contrived, pointless, and cavity-enducing Ryan and Trista's Wedding. These shows aren't the point here, though. I need to vent about one of the most horribly anti-climactically depressing reality show moments of my life: yesterday's finale of Average Joe 2.

For you lucky people who haven't subjected yourself to either of these shows, here's a quick catch-up (though if you've watched any TV, you've been bombarded by advertising so you likely know the deal). NBC picked a hot girl to star in a reality dating show. However, without her knowing, the men picked to join her are just "average," meaning you can toss around words like fat, balding, unemployed, just plain unattractive, et cetera, et cetera. She recoils in disgust, but over time, starts to grow to like many of the guys. They do all the usual dating show shit like competitions for "solo dates" and all seems well. However, NBC isn't done yet. Halfway through the show, they bring in the hunks. After endless teases of the men all shirtless and standing at the head of the boat looking like the cover for a gay porn film or an ad for a gay cruise line, they arrive and begin plowing through the average joes' dignities and insecurities. The hot girl ends up with one hot guy and one average joe and now needs to choose. As you might suspect, things don't bode well for the average joe. Last season, which I didn't watch, it came down to a vapid hunk who lives at home and an average joe who happens to be a successful millionaire. Can the hot girl see through the exterior? Can the beast win the beauty? Well...no. Unemployed vapid hot guy it is! Personality: 0, Shallowness: 1.

This brings us to the current season (NBC shrewdly filmed two seasons simultaneously). My girlfriend and I started watching a few weeks in out of some morbid fascination (and our immature enjoyment of the fact that one of the joes is named "Phuc" (fook)). The show repelled me, but like most reality shows, once it has its hooks in you, you can't look away. So, weeks passed and the joes and hunks were getting weeded out and it comes down to Gil and Brian. Let's take a quick look at their resumes: Gil is a contractor in Florida, is stunningly vapid and shallow, and has caused Larissa (the hot chick) to make comments like "I don't think he's doing this for me," "He doesn't seem able to open up," and you know, lots of other nice things women say about men they really want to start a meaningful relationship with. When, on their final date, Larissa asked Gil what he was in this for, he responds, "I'd like to be an actor." You'd think that, when you don't have much brain matter in between your ears that the warning alarms would be that much louder and clearer. Brian, on the other hand, is intelligent, thoughtful, has been opening up his heart to Larissa over the past few weeks, and genuinely wants to love her and take care of her. His demerits include only decent looks (though you couldn't call him ugly--he at least looks like he takes care of himself) and, probably most ingratiating, a horribly thick and jarring Boston accent. So jarring that it actually distracts you EVERY SINGLE TIME he opens his mouth. But I like Brian--he's endearing and I wanted to see him walk out a winner. Going into last night, it was looking very good for Brian. Larissa didn't seem to have any chemistry with Gil (besides the "boy we're both hot and would like to fuck each other" type) and seemed to harbor severe doubts as to his ability to actually settle down with her. On the other hand, she seemed charmed by Brian and enjoyed the attention he lavished onto her. I cared a little too much about this and last night, I really wanted to see Brian walk off with her.

At the end of the show, here comes Gil--the first to speak to Larissa, which is usually reality-dating code for going home ("first up is first down.") I was feeling optimistic. Larissa tells him that she liked spending time with him, but felt unsure of him and wasn't sure that he wanted to be with her. She's on the verge of dumping him when she says that she needs to go with her instinct...and her instinct is that he's the one for her. Wh-WH-WHAT?! (say it like Kyle's mom on South Park). He gets on the plane and the two get ready to jet off for some fun in the sun, but first Larissa needs to rip Brian's heart out, show it to him, and then incinerate it in a blast of fire from her shallow soul. I'm livid at this point. For weeks now it seemed that Larissa was going to buck the trend of going for beauty over substance. She was going to pick the average joe--I was SURE of it. Disgusted, I kept watching because, apparently, there was a twist coming--a secret in Larissa's past. Now, they've been hyping this for a week now and speculation has been rampant: she's married, she has children, she's had extensive plastic surgery, she used to be a man, she has a social disease. Lots of guessing fun. After three days of splashing around in the sand and ocean, Larissa tells Gil her deep dark secret. Because she wanted him to hear it from her and not anyone else, she needs to tell him that she, oh God I can barely get it out, used to date Fabio. Now go back and read that sentence again. God, I wish I were kidding. As if this isn't RIDICULOUS enough, it's also provided Gil a perfect excuse to run, run, run away before things get serious. He flips out about Fabio's tackiness (oh right, that wasn't you standing on that ship blinding people from the sun reflecting off your oil-drenched pecs), packs up, and leaves. Larissa is alone, Gil is alone, Brian is alone. Is this the first reality dating show that didn't even make it out of the finale before the breakup?

Things that pissed me off about this: okay, NBC really must have known that Larissa had dated Fabio before the show started. So, obviously, this ain't a girl who's experienced in looking beyond superficial beauty. Asking her to pick the less attractive guy is like asking Bobby Brown to choose coffee over cocaine. Not happening. Furthermore, it disgusted me because I could just picture Brian's reaction to that "revelation:" he laughs, makes a joke about how she's traded up, and hugs her. Next, it continued to bother me that NBC is even letting the hot chick have an out in this show. Without the hunks being brought in, it turns into whether the hot chick can really see beyond looks because she HAS NO CHOICE. It's not like they have to get married, but at least make her pick a guy and see what happens from there. She may not have been ready to tell Brian she loved him then, but was it impossible for it to ever happen? Bringing the hot guys in just creates a pre-packaged cop out for a shallow girl unable to even try to look past her shallowness. So what did NBC teach us in the end? That looks get you much farther than personality or intelligence? Hmm, thanks for the groundbreaking scoop.

Okay, what really, REALLY pisses me off is that I actually got this worked up about this stupid show. I've written far too much about it and now I'm not sure what disgusts me more: the show or myself for letting it bother me so much. I hate myself. Time to go watch American Idol!