Grantland Reality Fantasy League: Bachelor Lawsuits and Bikini Barbershop

Courtesy of VH1 Basketball Wives

Have you ever been watching The Bachelor or The Bachelorette and said to yourself, “Is it even legal for this show to have so few minorities in the cast?” Have you ever read one of these columns and said to yourself, “Is there a reality show so inherently evil that it will make Jacoby question his reality TV as a whole?” Have you ever watched Basketball Wives and said to yourself, “Is this show turning an entire generation of young women into cocktail-throwing, “You ain’t about this life” screaming crazypantses?” Never? Weird. Regardless, the answers to the questions are yes on all three counts, and the shocking/hilarious/terrifying/educationalizing details are about to be served up dripping in weird sauce. Buckle up.

[Yeezy Voice] The Bachelor Doesn’t Care About Black People:

Anyone who has ever seen even a single episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette has either consciously or subconsciously noted the lack of minorities. In the 23 seasons, there has never been a minority Bachelor or Bachelorette. Not once. Not only that, there have only been dashes of color among the hundreds of cast members that have wooed the Bachelor or Bachelorette on the program. The lack of minorities has been written about, debated, and defended, but not seriously legally challenged. Until now. Earlier this week, a group of Nashville residents led by Christopher Johnson and Nathaniel Claybrooks filed a class-action suit against the series alleging racial discrimination. When I first read about this suit, a slew of questions assaulted my consciousness: Who are these people? What happened that led them to file a lawsuit? Do they have a chance to win the lawsuit? What do they ultimately want? Am I going to have to do, like, actual work to get the answers to these questions? I hate actual work.[Ed. note: We know, Jacoby. Oh, we know.]

Who are these people?:
Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson are a couple of African American former college football players that live in the Nashville area. (No, not that Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson from the Simply Amazing flag football team. Huge drag, I know.) Nathaniel Claybrooks is a linebacker on the Nashville Storm, a team that plays with real pads and tackling and stuff. The best part about Claybrooks is that this 6-foot-3, 247-pound fella is nicknamed “Little Man.” Giggle.

(Big shout to GRTFL Senior Cyber Stalking Correspondent Caitlin Mangum for hipping me to all of this.)

What led them to file a lawsuit?
When I first realized that I was going to write about this case I was all, “I am just going to make a couple ‘Chris Johnson can’t score anymore’ jokes and call it a day.” Ya know, the usual. But a weird thing happened: I started to realize that this might be a real, like, thing. Maybe these folks were honestly discriminated against; maybe this case would shed light on unfair and biased casting processes of a show on a major network. The article I read mentioned the law firms, so I cold-called around and was eventually invited to join the press conference they were holding to explain their claim. It was during this call that Mr. Claybrooks detailed his experience during casting:

    Claybrooks: “Good afternoon. Well, I heard about the casting call. It was in the newspaper. So I came and wanted to check it out. I thought about it and said to myself, ‘I’m single. I’m not married. I’m looking for someone I can be compatible with and grow with in life. Just looking for love.’ So I went to the casting call at the hotel. I went to the second level and the ladies took me up. And I noticed, using chronological order, the white males in front of me took 45 minutes to an hour. But when I went up, it took me maybe 15 to 20 minutes. They kind of rushed me through. They had me doing 360-degree turns, and once I did that, my interview was over real fast. I was very upset about the situation. I just wanted an equal opportunity like everybody else.”

Um … Ah … That’s it? That’s what you’ve got? You were “rushed through” a casting? And how many 360 turns did they ask you to do? Seems like one would suffice. Anyway, I was reaching to throw my bullshit flag on this whole case when I said to myself, “Hold on there, fella, this is about race relations and equal opportunity and other super-important stuff, so before you throw this bullshit flag you should probably talk to someone with real legal knowledge and stuff.” This is going to come as a complete shock to you, but I have no real legal knowledge. Good thing Grantland’s Hollywood Prospectus Overlord and American Idol Senior Analyst, Mark Lisanti, knows someone who does. He put me in touch with the news director of The Hollywood Reporter and editor of its entertainment-law blog Hollywood, Esq., Matthew Belloni. [Ed. note: We can’t believe Jacoby didn’t link to this. Do we have to do everything around here, Jacobs?] Mr. Belloni is a delightful gent, has a law degree, and, most important, a GRTFL The Challenge fantasy team. He gave me answers to my last two questions.

Do they have a chance to win the lawsuit?
Mr. Belloni: “TV shows have leeway to cast whomever they want and whoever they think is best for the role. If you are African American and you want to be on Friends, the studio has the right to say, “No, this is about six friends that happen to be white.” You can’t argue that you are being excluded and that it is illegal for you to be excluded because you are African American. What they are arguing and what they have to show is that there is some systematic exclusion that it was beyond just bit casting here or there, that there is some sort of edict there that they will not have an African American Bachelor or Bachelorette. That is much more difficult to show. But, you never know, you start subpoenaing emails, you start talking to people, you get witnesses who worked on the show and said, ‘Yeah, we talked about it and they said, yeah ABC would never allow us to do that,’ something like that would be very helpful for this case.”

When you read about the suit, what was your initial reaction?
Mr. Belloni: “I think it is a tough case, but it will be very fact-specific. Meaning, a smoking gun in this case is the head of the network e-mailing the producers and saying, “Absolutely not. We will never have an African American Bachelor.” I doubt there is such an e-mail in existence, but absent of that type of evidence it is difficult to show that there is some type of systematic exclusion of minorities on a show like this.”

What do they ultimately want?
Mr. Belloni: “Well, I don’t know about the ultimate merits of the case, but I know that typically class actions are settled at some point. Many class actions are lawyer-driven, where the lawyer realizes there is a potential case and the lawyer will recruit lead plaintiffs. And what happens is, these guys will get a lot of press for the lawsuit being filed, then other people that didn’t get selected join the suit and the case is litigated for a couple of years, then there is a settlement of a couple million bucks because the studio just wants it to go away. The lawyers take 40 percent and all the people that are participating as plaintiffs get a few hundred bucks and the lead plaintiffs will get a couple thousand bucks. That is typically how class actions play out. Who knows if this one will go the distance?”

Now this is starting to make a lot more sense. Essentially, in the absence of “smoking gun” evidence, the lawyers and plaintiffs are on some mafia shit, extorting the network through the threat of bad press associated with the lawsuit. Sure, Mr. Belloni didn’t say that, but that is my read based on what we know thus far. Now, if you’re ABC, you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth years of lawyer fees, bad press, and hassle to fight this case all the way through trial?” That is one question that I don’t really care to know the answer to — this whole gathering of facts, reporting, recording, transcribing, thinking stuff gives me a headache. I just want to see more minorities on this show.

On to far more important matters.

Bikini Barbershop:

In my ongoing search for new shows to be included in the GRTFL, I came across a show that seemed tailored perfectly from the finest GRTFL fabrics, Bikini Barbershop. Deep on your dial on HDNet lies this television program that made me question everything. Watching this show I was so disgusted, disappointed, and disillusioned by what I saw I honestly considered resigning as Grantland’s Czar of Reality Television. No lie. [Ed. note: Lie.]

I understand how this show was green-lit. Someone walked into Mark Cuban’s office/helicopter/hot tub/endangered-animal petting zoo and said, “Marky, I have a show for your network. It’s Jersey Shore meets Hooters meets Cheers. Cool?” On paper, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea; in reality, it may by the butterfly wing flap that leads to the cultural tsunami that wipes out modern civilization.

Bikini Barbershop is the story of a barbershop on the Jersey shore owned by a subway-tunnel puddle of a man named Jeff who forces his employees to wear bikinis. It is basically an infomercial for misogyny. Watching this episode, I said to myself, “Is this what I celebrate every week? Are these the behaviors I am encouraging? Did reality TV create these people or did these people create reality TV? Should I slice my own throat open with a razor or should I instead make the GRTFL’s top five this week the most disgusting/depressing Bikini Barbershop quotes?” I went with the latter. This week’s top five are the most disgusting/depressing quotes from the one episode I watched, listed from “That isn’t how you are supposed to behave in the workplace” to “Maybe we should reconsider the death penalty”:

5. The barbershop owner is assisting his employee Natalie to get into a position so her bosom can be better painted with the barbershop logo.

    Jeff: “This is not sexual harassment because she is not on the clock.”
    Natalie: “Don’t touch my butt — he’s touching my butt.”
    Jeff: “I am not touching your butt.”

4. Alissa’s thoughts before breast augmentation surgery.

    Alissa: “I want to look like a porn star. But I am not a porn star. I don’t want to be a porn star, I just want to look like one.”

3. Jeff has lied to his employee Natalie and brought her to a hotel room where she finds a creepy fella with a bowl full of chocolate.

    Super Creepy Body Painter Guy: “Get naked.”
    Natalie: “Get naked?”
    Super Creepy Body Painter Guy: “It’s time to paint your body.”
    Natalie: “Jeff?”
    Jeff: “I wanted to surprise you because I knew you wouldn’t come if I told you what was really happening. But seriously, this is going to be very good promotion for the business. We are going to take this and we are going to paint the bikini barber logo all over your body. It is going to be sick. We are going to take photos of it, it’s going to be on the website, and we are going to pitch it to magazines like Maxim and that stuff …”
    Super Creepy Body Painter Guy:Playboy too.”
    Jeff: Playboy. I mean, you might be all over the Internet, like, you might become — ”
    Natalie: “Yeah, but what do I get out of this?”
    Jeff: “You know that day off you needed next week? You got it.”
    Natalie: “Paid?”
    Jeff: “You get one paid vacation day.”

2. Alissa is in the hospital recovering from breast augmentation surgery with her mother comforting her.

    Alissa “I’m gonna try out for Playboy again.”
    Mom: “OK.”
    Alissa: “I am like 100 percent sure this time, because that is what I was lacking.”

1. Ariana … Well, this just defies description:

    “650 CCs would look right on a bleeping black bitch who is bleeping huge. Not a bleeping white girl who’s fine. I mean. And then on top of what she already has she is already a C, you are going to add that on top? You are retarded. You are just bleeping retarded.”

I had to watch the last one twice. I was shocked that those words were coming through my television’s speakers and into my earballs. Shocked. Never watch this show. Ever. Shame on whoever produced it, whoever approved it for air, and whoever watches it. I refuse to even take the time to express how disgusted I am by it. It terrifies me. I am scared that I will be surfing channels, run into it again, and watch it. This must be how recovering addicts feel about heroin.

Basketball Wives:

This week, a gentleman by the name of Donald Neves reached out to Grantland via electronic mail describing the influence that exposure to the GRTFL and thus Basketball Wives had on the ladies in his small group of friends. I was skeptical about the tale, so I decided to track Mr. Neves down and have him recount it himself. The results were, well, you’ll see:

    Donnie Neves: “We followed the reality league last year and we thought it would be a great idea, so we started the league this year and we have all been playing. It was the first time we have ever gotten all the girls in our group to get into anything fantasy. They have all been going crazy about Basketball Wives — we didn’t watch until the articles came out. So one of these girls, Fei Li, she has been just going crazy about this show, literally watching it obsessively. So we are at this bar The Neighborhood … we are sitting there by the pool table drinking beers, and some guy walks up to her and asks her for some of her pizza. So she then says, “You ain’t about this life,” and throws her drink at his face. No joke. This girl also is four feet tall, little Asian girl, super-small. This guy is just a regular … picture the broest guy you can think of, and this is him.”
    Jacoby: “Did she do it in jest or in anger?”
    Donnie: “Honestly, I think she did it in drunkenness.”

Fei Li, about this life. This week’s scoring:

Jennifer (Basketball Wives, House), 55 points: Jennifer has been feuding with Evelyn for a while now and has thus far avoided getting impaled with a Louboutin heel due to security intervening in their altercations. Jennifer acts as if she is a tough girl on the show but deep down, as Evelyn so influentially pointed out, Jennifer is not about this life. This time it was Evelyn’s assistant/friend Nia’s turn to find out just how not about this life Jennifer was. Nia decided to confront Jennifer about — well, it isn’t completely clear, but she certainly confronted her (5 points):

    Nia: “You need to bleeping wake up. YOU NEED TO WAKE UP. What? Do you need to be smacked upside your bleepin’ face to wake up? Is that the situation?”
    Jennifer: “Yeah, I wish you would.”
    Nia: “You wish I would? Jennifer, come on, you gotta be bleeping kidding. You know how I am. Are you bleeping serious? You need to be smacked.” [Smacks her upside the head, as promised]

After getting smacked (25 points), Jennifer is held back by security staff (25 points) and has since filed a lawsuit about the incident. The best part of the article is her quote: “Violence used against any person is wrong, but when a woman hits another woman it sets a horrible example for young girls everywhere. I choose to use the justice system to fight back.” You hear that, Fei Li? Violence is wrong — just tell homeboy he can’t have a slice of your pizza without, ya know, assaulting him. I know you can do it, Fei Li, I know you can.

Royce (Basketball Wives, Jacoby), 30 points: If you are unfamiliar with Royce’s love life (weird), it goes a little something like this: Royce meets a guy, immediately makes him her boyfriend, coituses him on TV (25 + 5 = 30 points), introduces him to her parents, and then waits for him to propose. He does not. Rinse. Repeat. The latest fella is named Dezmon; he is “working on” getting her an engagement ring and also, according to the greatest website on the Internets, MediaTakeOut, working on getting it in with his baby’s mother. Poor Royce: She is to a wedding ring as LeBron James is to the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Evelyn (Basketball Wives, Kang), 5 points: Who would have guessed that Evelyn’s high-end shoe store wasn’t going to be profitable? Evelyn cried (5 points) as she shuttered the shop and gave the following reasoning:

    Evelyn: “The shoes aren’t selling the way I want them to sell.”
    Noe (Another Evelyn assistant/friend): “The economy is bad.”
    Evelyn: “Yeah. People can afford a thousand-dollar shoes. So you know I was thinking to just … go online.”

I went online to find out what I could about the store and ended up finding this video about a visit to the store from a woman named Trinity Newman, which then led to a 45-minute Internet hole watching Trinity’s other videos. Wait, there are more of these Basketball Wives review videos? Please excuse me while I spend the next seven hours YouTube spelunking.

Filed Under: Basketball Wives, Reality TV Fantasy League, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette

David Jacoby is an ESPN producer who somehow became a writer and editor for Grantland.

Archive @ djacoby