Grantland Reality Fantasy League: Scouting the Low Minors for Promising Young Talent

MTV The Challenge

I’m not going to lie to you: This is the GRTFL offseason. Normally The Challenge is the tentpole that shelters us all from the reality that there isn’t much reality in August, but this week was uncharacteristically snoozy. No one killed it, no one coitused, no one was found guilty of possession of a concealed erection. It was such a down episode that they did the whole “We know this episode was flat, but here is what’s in store for the rest of the season just to remind you that this show is bitchin’” montage at the end. More on that later.

But just because The Challenge is the only show I’m scoring with our foolish rules, it’s not the only show I am watching. So, I would like to take a second to toss out a few other lowbrow options for your viewing pleasure. None of these shows is going to make you smarter, enrich your life, or benefit you in any way beyond an hour in which you don’t have to use your brain. And let’s be honest, using your brain sucks:

Below Deck

Network: Bravo
Why You Should Watch It: I have no idea why this television show is so enjoyable. No one on it is particularly likable, no one is really all that attractive, and nothing happens — but when I see this fucker on my DVR it gets clicked on immediately. One of the most appealing things about this show is that it marries the story lines of something like Real World with the serial episodic appeal of something like Law & Order because of a new charter guest every episode. Oh yeah, and there is a chick named Kat who is constantly slammered and takes her shirt off from time to time — that helps a bit.

Why You Shouldn’t Watch It: Look, if you come to reality TV for, ya know, reality, this might not be your thing. My partner in podcast Juliet went deep on the Internet research on this one and found some interesting tidbits that prove this show might not exactly be vérité documentary filmmaking. Shocking, I know.

Breaking Amish

Network: TLC
Why You Should Watch It: Betsy. I am going to assume that you were too lazy to click that link, so let me go ahead and transcribe for you what our friend Betsy has to say. Buckle the fuck up:

“I know witchcraft freaks a lot of people out, but it is a part of my past and it is a part of my life. When the demons come to me, they don’t scare me. I just have to listen. I can feel the spirits in me, and sometimes I just have to light the candles to try to focus on what they are trying to tell me.”

Oh yeah, this whole thing looks like this:

Why You Shouldn’t Watch It: Betsy. This chick is haunting. I am honestly a little scared she will read this and tell the demons to attack me. A couple episodes ago the two other girls were talking shit about her and she threw a mug at them. She threw the mug at them using her demons. She wasn’t even in the room.

Couples Therapy

Network: VH1
Why You Should Watch It: I just witnessed Flava Flav apologize to Dustin “FratPad” Zito about laughing while watching his gay porn, then I watched Chingy talk about how hard it is breaking up with the one you love, and then I watched Joe Francis throw water at Heather from Real World Las Vegas … actually, you shouldn’t watch this show. Really, don’t.

OK, now let’s finally get to breaking down the scores from this shockingly unshocking The Challenge episode:

Jordan (Challenge, Litman), 10 points: OK, Jordan got into a big ol’ argument with Theresa (5 points) because he went back on his word when he voted her into elimination:

“As the rookies, we have come in here and we have played our game straightforward, but we also knew that we would have to be the asshole at some point, and today is that day. We are breaking our word. I am very, very sorry, but we are going with Theresa … ”

When Theresa confronted him about the transgression, he yelped, “I did NOT say I was breaking my word” and then Theresa responded with, “When you go against someone and you lie to them, you will have repercussions. IN THIS LIFE OR THE NEXT, YOU WILL GET IT!”

I love how she went straight reincarnation on him. Somehow, in the event that reincarnation is really a thing, I don’t think they keep tabs on slights in silly reality shows when they are balancing the delicate cosmic forces by doling out tragedies for past life transgressions. I hope not, at least.

Oh yeah, Jordan also made out with Jonna a bit (5 points). That’d be the same Jonna who was in love with Zach last season. Jonna is to seasons of The Challenge what Theresa’s repercussions are to future lives — stick around the show long enough and IN THIS SEASON OR THE NEXT YOU WILL GET JONNA!

Jemmye and Camila (Challenge, Simmons and Yoshida), 10 points: Despite being the team with lesser chemistry, athletic ability, and intelligence, Jemmye and Camila won the elimination challenge (10 points). This was mostly because of Theresa and Jasmine’s inability to do two things at once. Theresa had little trouble running on a treadmill and throwing …

… but Jasmine had A LOT of trouble running on a treadmill and catching:

Are you one of those people who laugh inappropriately hard when people fall over? Me neither.

Jonna (Challenge, Lisanti), 5 points: Jonna made out with Jordan (5 points), but that doesn’t even interest me. Here’s what does: WHY ARE PEOPLE CONSTANTLY RUNNING AROUND ON THE DECK AT NIGHT?

See those fuckers on the left side of the screen? This is easily the GRTFL Questionable Moment of the Week:

How large is this deck? Does it go in a circle? Do they know that Frank told us there are flying cobras out there? How many loops do you have to run to get a workout? Doesn’t that deck look slick? Why are they following each other around? Is this a race? Where the hell is the house in this shot? Behind them? Ahead of them? Is it so sweaty during the day that they only do this at night? What else do they do with their time besides fall in water, work out, and drink? Is all that horticulture natural or is that all landscaped? If that’s natural, why don’t we all live in Thailand? Oh yeah, flying cobras.

Theresa (Challenge, House), 5 points: Theresa argued with Jordan (5 points) and lost in the elimination challenge to Jemmye and Camila, who lost in the earlier challenge. The earlier challenge was one of those pot-stirring “what offensive thing can we make your partner say about you or the rest of the cast to get you in trouble?” challenges. It’s kinda like The Newlywed Game meets Basketball Wives. When the question was “what body part does your partner think is your best body part?” both “hair” and “smile” were given as body parts.

This was a shitty episode and all, but it still had those “I love The Challenge” moments. Challenge episodes are like hamburgers: They vary greatly in quality, but they are pretty much always good.

Cooke (Challenge, Litman), -10 points: Cooke wore someone’s name on his shirt or whatever to score 10 points, but who cares? THEY AIRED THE MIDSEASON TEASER! This week’s GRTFL Top Five is the Top Five Screen Grabs From the Midseason Trailer That Give Me a Boner About the Rest of the Season, listed from “That looks cool” to “I am going to find the editor of this show and hold their family hostage until they send me the rest of the season on DVD”:


This shot just looks like fun. Also, don’t sleep on how boring the actual challenges are in The Challenge and how it gets all serious and shit toward the end. Also, it reminds me of Below Deck.


There is no other image that could better capture the essence of Camila.


Oh wait, I was wrong about Camila:

Nope, wrong again. This one is perfect: two parts rage, one part nip slip. Glad to see Camila is back to her old form. I was starting to get worried.


I have no idea how intense the altercation is, but I love how casual the onlookers are. On The Challenge you watch fistfights like normal people watch butterflies flutter by.


Bananas, say it ain’t so. SAY IT AIN’T SO!

No lie, in the middle of writing this column I just saw a promo for a show in which Vanilla Ice rebuilds homes with the Amish. I think cable TV is just fucking with us at this point.

Enjoy your weekend. Rest assured that The Challenge will be back with the appropriate amount of inappropriate next week. Until then …

Filed Under: Bravo, Breaking Amish, Couples therapy, Mtv, Reality TV, Reality TV Fantasy League, The Bachelor, The Challenge, The Decline and Fall of American Civilization, TLC

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

Archive @ djacoby