Reality Fantasy Scorecard: Goat-Head Blood, the Triumph of Johnny Bananas, and a New Show Scouting Report

MTV The Challenge

Every month, ESPN Research sends out an e-mail to producer types that summarizes the month in ratings on the ESPN Networks and gives a glimpse at what has rated well on cable as a whole. (Pretty boring way to start the column, I know — stay with me.) I don’t normally pay much attention to the finer details of this missive, but something jumped out at me this week when I looked at the top 10 shows on ad-supported cable in March … WHOA, PEOPLE LOVE THEM SOME WEIRDO HISTORY CHANNEL REALITY TV:

    1. Pawn Stars
    2. Jersey Shore
    3. Pawn Stars
    4. American Pickers
    5. Jersey Shore
    6. Jersey Shore
    7. Pawn Stars
    8. Swamp People
    9. Swamp People
    10. Pawn Stars

Jersey Shore I get, but Pawn Stars? American Pickers? Fucking Swamp People? I am familiar with all these shows. I knew that they were popular. But to be honest, I never would have guessed they secretly dominated the top 10 like this. Don’t sleep on the fact that all this was happening while March Madness was in full swing and the WWE was going hard on USA’s Raw heading into WrestleMania. Armed with this new data and in search of new shows for the GRTFL, I checked out some shows that aren’t in my DVR shame drawer:

Swamp People

Network: History Channel
Premise: Badass Bayou bros kill stuff that lives in the swamp.
My Take: This is a heroin show. What’s a heroin show? It’s a show that is so fun to watch at first glace that it sucks you in and the next thing you know you’re mainlining marathons against your will. Trust me, I know. I once went on a Dog the Bounty Hunter bender so disgusting that I will never be able to comfortably vacation on the Hawaiian islands.

What is so appealing about this show is that it exposes you to a tiny, delicious, burnt-crust crumb of the American pie that you never knew existed. You see, there is a bunch of Louisiana that is basically Water World, and the inhabitants of this water world are a fafillion times cooler than Kevin Costner’s bitch ass. These Bayou boys cruise around the swamp, tussle with alligators, professionally arm wrestle, and say gully shit like “give ‘em a headache” when they want a bullet in the brain of a gator. It would be easy to laugh at their clothes, accents, lack of shoes, and alien lifestyle — but that’s what Jersey Shore is for. There is something about Swamp People that is more “documentary” than “reality show.” The people on Swamp People are actual, ya know, people. They aren’t half-fictional characters acting the way that they think viewers want them to act — they’re just trying to kill as many reptiles as they can before the sun goes down. As Jacob Landry explains, “Loving the swamp is in our blood. It is in our family. It is something that we have always done. Hopefully, 50 years from now I will be an old and decrepit man, hopefully my son Rich will be teaching his kids and doing the same thing that I am doin’.”

There is something simplistic, honorable, and admirable about their lifestyle that makes the hour you spend watching them assassinate and then haul gator after gator into their boats tolerable. The problem is — like Dangerous Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers — there isn’t much there story-wise to maintain real interest from episode to episode, but you will find yourself watching regardless. That is why it is called a heroin show.
Will This Show Be Included in the GRTFL?: Nope. The season only has a few weeks left and we would definitely get into a fistfight arguing over who owns the rights to ZZ Toppelgangers and scene-stealers Glenn and Mitchell Guist.

Pawn Stars

Network: History Channel
Premise: Dudes in a pawnshop in Vegas buy old stuff from people that likely have crippling and depressing gambling debts.
My Take: This is Antiques Roadshow. That is all it is. Frankly, I have absolutely no idea how this show is out-rating Jersey Shore. None. The guys that work at the shop aren’t particularly likable — in fact, they spend the majority of the half-hour kinda sorta screwing people over. The only interesting aspect of this show is the “What is this thing and how much is it worth?” element, which grows old fast. I get Storage Wars. Storage Wars is about stuff — but the people are more important. Pawn Stars is just about stuff. I don’t care about stuff.
Will This Show Be Included in the GRTFL?: No chance. Who the hell are the four plus million people watching this?

[Ed. note: Who are you kidding, Jacoby? The GRTFL’s sweet spot is drunken misbehavior. Please find us more traditional alchopsychoholics in their natural habitat: MTV and VH1.]

The Pauly D Project

Network: MTV
Premise: Pauly D pretends he isn’t a gazillionaire and acts like he is excited to get a job DJ’ing at The Palms Casino.
My Take: Whatever.
Will This Show Be Included in the GRTFL?: See above.

Couples Therapy

Network: VH1
Premise: Celebrity Rehab – Drugs + Couples = Reality show that won’t bum us out because people from previous seasons are dying all the time.
My Take: The concept of this show is to have five “celebrity” couples live in a house together and the audience takes the journey with them while they go through couples therapy and find relationship bliss. Sounds great on paper. Whoever green-lit this show imagined Halle Berry and her baby daddy tearfully reconciling while Heidi Klum and Seal look on and nod in support. What they got was some dude from Next Food Network Star and that chick you don’t remember from Jersey Shore arguing because, instead of her, he’d rather rub down baby back ribs. The cast of this show is made up of Bachelor fame-crazies Kasey and Vienna, “Oh yeah, I remember him,” “Isn’t that Hulk Hogan’s wife?,” and DMX and his ex-wife Tashera. Nothing else about this program is worth discussing aside from the fact that Dark Man X is on it. Nothing.

DMX — rapper, barker, and impersonator-of-officerer — seems to have no idea how the hell he ended up on the show. It looks like someone told him that there was a Milky Way bar inside the house and they locked the door behind him. When he was informed that they were there to experience couples therapy he quickly responded, “But we’re not together!” Tashera explained to him why they were no longer together: “You have six other kids out of our marriage so, um, clearly you are bleeping a lot of girls. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.” DMX spends the first two episodes being therapized by Dr. Jenn (Jen with two Ns, mind you), reluctantly discussing his infidelity so openly and honestly that you end up convinced that open and honest communication is actually detrimental to a healthy relationship:

    Dr. Jenn: “If I could wave a magic wand and you could stop bleeping other chicks, would you want to?”
    DMX: “If you could wave a magic wand and do that? Um, yeah. I don’t see it happening, though. I don’t see it happening.”
    Dr. Jenn: “Why not?”
    DMX: “You see it is like this, say you love eggs, scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, eggs benedict … you just love bleeping eggs. You love ‘em. But every once in a while you are going to need a bowl of cereal. And once you have had that bowl of cereal, your love of eggs is renewed again.”

X wasn’t done there. This week’s GRTFL Top Five is the top five things that DMX said while raging against the Couples Therapy machine — listed from “He seems upset” to “I wonder if they will air it if he shoots his way out of the Couples Therapy house?”:

    5. “I honestly think we have a better relationship now that we aren’t together. I have a really hard time being faithful and I am just coming to know that that is who I am. And bleeping some other chick has nothing to do with my heart — she knows I love her.”
    4. “I mean, we all know what is going on. I didn’t sign up for this bleep, you know what I am saying? Me and her? We always going to be best friends, yo. I don’t know about anybody else, I don’t care about anybody else.”
    3. “I am not usually forced to deal with somebody I don’t want to bleeping talk to. So before I even get to this point, I will remove myself from the situation but you got me all surrounded by cameras and it is not going to be pretty.”
    2. “I DID NOT WANT TO BE MARRIED. I DID NOT WANT TO BE MARRIED! I am just going to go this way. I am just going to go this way. [Leaves room.]”
    1. “They got us on some lockdown bleep in this house. They just like on some real corrections officers bleep. Of course, I’m rebelling.”

Reading these quotes, it’s natural to conclude that DMX is being a jerk. In a way, he is. But consider this: Isn’t he just telling the truth? Isn’t he just being honest to his ex-wife about himself and his intentions in their relationship? What is he doing wrong? The whole evaluation swung in his favor when he asked Dr. Jenn a very simple yet poignant question: “What gives you the idea that we can be in a better place? Maybe we are at the best that we can be.” Dr. Jenn had no response. Game, set, match, Dark Man X.
Will This Show Be Included in the GRTFL?: Hell no. I don’t care how quotable DMX is, there is no chance I’m putting Hulk Hogan’s ex-wife and her über-creepy 23-year-old boyfriend on my TV screen every week.

Thus far in my searches I haven’t found anything worthy of GRTFL inclusion. If Swamp People was just starting up it would have a spot for sure, but it’s tough to work it in this deep into their season. I know I said that we would “100 percent” be including Brooklyn 11223 … but I 100 percent lied. I will continue this quest and look forward to the launch of Bachelor Pad 3 later this summer. Also, what happened to that “Mama Drama” show I was so excited about? VH1, how do you announce you’re going to debut a show on January 1 and here we are at opening day without even a teaser trailer? Methinks right now somewhere in Manhattan, VH1 lawyers are working diligently to clarify exactly what the legal ramifications are of airing mother-daughter body-shot makeouts.

But while we search for more shows, let’s not lose sight of our friends that are still here. So without any further ado, I present the resounding triumph of Johnny Bananas over a frozen mountain in Iceland, a field of tremendous competitors, and a stomach full of goat-head blood.

Top Scorers:

Johnny and Camila (The Challenge, Lisanti), 50 points: Congratulations, The Challenge: Battle of the Exes champions Camila and Johnny Bananas (50 points). I have no fucking idea how you pulled that off. If you missed it, in the final challenge the remaining cast had to: sleep on a glacier, jump in a frozen river, eat a goat head, run 12 miles up a mountain, solve four puzzles, dig themselves out of a snow hill, and endure Johnny Bananas talking shit the entire time … the latter being, by far, the worst of it.

The Challenge finale is not a reality show, it is a televised test of will. I would love nothing more than to watch the NBA All-Star roster attempt this final challenge just to see how “the greatest athletes in the world” react to this test. I don’t think Dwight Howard makes it through the night after running in the frozen river, I am almost positive that Kevin Love is not a puzzle person, but methinks crafty Canadian Steve Nash could give Mr. Bananas a run for his money. On the flip side, I also think CT would be a great rebounder/glue guy on a team trying to make a playoff run. That aside, the problem with the grueling athletic event that is the finale of The Challenge is that it is a grueling athletic event. There are no drunken hookups, no arguments, and no incidents of ill-advised blackface; it was only enjoyable if you have some sort of bizarre sexual fetish where you are turned on by frozen, exhausted alcopsychoholics.

After he was crowned the victor of The Challenge, Mr. Bananas took time out of his busy flip-cup-with-sorority-sisters schedule to tape a pod with me. During said pod he mixed in fascinating nuggets like: Camila may or may not have used drugs during filming, The Challenge pay structure is like the NBA, where veterans get better contracts than rookies, and Robin blamed him for all the evil in the world and put an actual hex on him. I would write more about Robin, but I stubbed my toe tonight right after posting the pod and am 90 percent sure it’s because she heard me call her crazy and put a hex on me. Robin is now officially more intimidating than CT.

As we come to a close on The Challenge: Battle of the Exes, I would like to once again extend Bill’s and my consulting services. MTV Suits, all we want is for you to pay for lunch and we will make the show better. Is that so much to ask? Here is a freebie pre-lunch idea: If Camila is involved next season, just make her eat a pepper. We’re available anytime.

Kenya (Basketball Wives, Kang) 5 points:
They should rename the show Basketball Wives Who Get Together and Argue ‘cause that is all they do. I feel like deep inside every basketball wife (since I am classy I am not making a “deep inside every basketball wife” joke here … but I am thinking it), there is a true struggle. Real talk, I think they are conflicted. They want to project an air of class, confidence, and elegance while they are in the spotlight, but they know that if they all enjoy each other’s company and create a respectful, drama-free environment then they have no television show. So they act a fool and we all point and laugh. They enjoy the spoils of their newfound notoriety, but it all comes at the cost of their reputation. I can’t say that I would act any different were I in their heels, but I imagine they struggle watching their behavior every Monday night. Case in point: Kenya.

This actually happened on this week’s Basketball Wives as new girls Kenya and Kesha are arguing at a lavish rooftop bar (5 points):

    Tami (in interview): “Kenya is getting all riled and it is starting to get intense and all of a sudden … the ultimate black move, she takes off the shoes.” [cut to Kenya removing her shoes]
    Kesha: “Do not let this girl touch me. Do not let this girl touch me.”
    Kenya: “Walk away.”
    Kesha: “This girl will not touch me.”
    Kesha: “You a liar, half-alien, half-man-lookin’ ho”

When Kenya watches herself call another woman a LiarAlienManHo with her friends and family, is she ashamed? Is she proud? Is she wearing shoes? I need to know this.

Kesha (Basketball Wives, Kang), 5 points: Kesha notched five points for a verbal argument but caught my eye for another reason: She is always working out in a sports bra. My wife noticed too, adding, “Sports bra wearers when they work out is always a weird phenomenon. Girls with great bodies don’t do it, it is a different type of confidence.” I think it is the I-Was-Left-At-The-Alter-By-Richard-Jefferson-And-Have-Never-Been-The-Same-Since type of confidence.

Evelyn (Basketball Wives, Kang), 5 points: Evelyn got dragged into the Kesha and Kenya beef (5 points) when Kesha had had enough and decided to air Kenya out with this exchange. Pay close attention:

    Kesha [to Evelyn]: “Kenya said that you were loose.”
    Tami: “Did you really say that?”
    Kenya: “No. I don’t know exactly what I said. It was something to the effect of … I don’t know exactly what I said. They, Royce, everybody was sayin’ you have been around.“

Kenya, Kenya, Kenya, I don’t care what you said, deny, deny, deny, and deny some more. Too bad you already took your shoes off, because you are going to need them to break your fall when Evelyn throws you off the roof next episode.

Filed Under: Mtv, Reality Television, Reality TV Fantasy League

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

Archive @ djacoby