Noun + “Wives” = Reality Show
Since 2006, this simple formula has brought us Real Housewives, Mob Wives, and Basketball Wives. The appeal of this “Noun + Wives” genre is complicated. If you asked viewers why they enjoy the “Noun + Wives” shows, they would answer, “They’re crazy,” or “I love it when they fight,” or “My wife watches and I got sucked in,” or “I have no idea.” All reasonable explanations, but methinks the attraction to “Noun + Wives” shows comes from a darker part of our psyche. Deep down we all love ridiculing the financially privileged. We bask in the schadenfreude of each addiction, divorce, foreclosure, argument, bankruptcy, and drunken mistake. Is this unfair? Is this shallow? Is it biased? Yes, yes, and yes. Does that stop us? No.
This week, VH1 debuted its latest “Noun + Wives” show, Baseball Wives. It checks all the necessary boxes: Are they rich? Yes. Are they crazy? Yes. Do they fight? Yes. Are they surgically enhanced? Yes. However, Baseball Wives does differ a little from VH1’s Basketball Wives LA. With Basketball Wives, what you see is what you get — the aggression, the repression, the depression is all right there in plain sight. Bill and I were discussing it (something we do more often than employed, married, and rational men should), and we broke it down like this: Finding the insanity center of a Basketball Wife is like biting into a tomato. It just squishes out of everywhere and ends up all over your face. Getting to the insanity center of a Baseball Wife is more like an onion — you have to peel back layer after layer of seemingly rational behavior until you’re in tears and regret the whole experience. There is another major difference between the Basketball Wives and Baseball Wives, but I just can’t quite identify it. There is something there just below the surface — or maybe on the surface — that I can’t quite put my finger on. Hmm.
As we always do when introducing new players into our dysfunctional GRTFL family, we drew up some rules:
- Baseball Wives Scoring:
- Plugging an entrepreneurial venture: 20 points
- Attending an event without an invitation: 10 points
- Using the word “classy”: 5 points
- Receiving any sort of elective medical (i.e., cosmetic) treatment: 15 points
- Accusing husband of cheating: 10 points
- Confirming husband’s cheating: 25 points
- Assaulting an inanimate object: 10 points
- Being accused of having financial trouble: 10 points
Then we divvied up the crazypantses via a draft:
- 1. Lane: Chantel Kendall
2. Bill: Anna Benson
3. Connor: Jordana Lenz
4. Jay: Erika Monroe Williams
5. House: Tanya Grace
6. Jacoby: Brooke Villone
The expectations for both Baseball Wives as a television show and Baseball Wife Anna Benson’s size were very low going into the debut. We underestimated them. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s have a look at the top scorers.
Frank (Real World, Connor): 60 points. A month ago I wrote this of the Real World’s resident alcopsycholic Frank and his new boyfriend, Michael: “Frank has a better chance of diving into a pool and coming out dry than not ruining this relationship in a drunken rage. If the two of them end up getting married, as they discussed just after meeting each other, I will chop off my right thumb.” Good news: I get to keep my prehensile digit. To be fair, predicting that Frank would drown this relationship in a toilet bowl of lemon-drop shots was like predicting that water will be wet, the sky will be blue, or after a lockout Raymond Felton will look less like an NBA point guard and more like M.O.P’s Lil Fame. Let’s follow these Jager-shot-crossed lovers through this episode:
- 1. The Honeymoon Period: We open with Michael and Frank making out in the hot tub (5 kissing points + 10 hot-tub bonus points). They are that overly affectionate couple you can’t stand being around because they are so happy.
If Their Relationship Were an NBA Team, Which One Would It Be?: The Celtics. Cohesive, consistent, boring at times, and on the verge of chemistry problems.
2. The Humpty Dance: Frank’s therapist told him to “curb his drinking,” and for the most part Frank had listened. Until this week. You see, when Frank has had a few (dozen) too many cocktails in him, he just wants to dance. His dancing technique makes those YouTube ottoman-humping dudes look like Fred Astaire. Frank cannot stop humping things. He humps Ashley, he humps Ashley’s hot redhead friend (can we get a storyline for this gorgeous ginger before she leaves, please?), he humps chairs, and he humps poles. After watching his monogamous boyfriend hump his way around the club for a couple hours, Frank’s boyfriend Michael leaves him mid-hump to grab some pizza.
If Their Relationship Were an NBA Team, Which One Would It Be? The Memphis Grizzlies. Inconsistent, enjoying fatty foods, clashing philosophically, and having communication problems.
3. Betrayal and Immediate Forgiveness: With Michael two and a half hours away (or so Frank thought), Frank hit the town. And the bottle (5 points). What does he hump this time? Some dude named Todd (25 points). Little does Frank know that boyfriend Michael is en route for a surprise breakfast visit. At breakfast, Frank has that sophomore-year-in-college-still-drunk-in-the-morning-and-not-yet-hungover-so-still-giddy vibe, which loosens his lips enough to tell Michael what happened. Michael reacts like anyone who just found out that his significant other was coitusing someone on the side: He snuggles up and forgives him immediately. That happened.
If Their Relationship Were an NBA Team, Which One Would It Be? The Lakers. Fine on the surface, exuding confidence, soft at heart but with doom on the horizon.
4. The Dumpty Dance: After Frank’s boyfriend Michael left, he did something I imagine a lot of people under 30 do: breaks up with him over e-mail. To be honest, it is a good play and shouldn’t be frowned upon. During the actual act, breaking up with someone is much harder than being broken up with. Breaking up with someone in person you have to watch them cry (20 points), which inevitably leads to sympathy, which will make you leave the door open for reconciliation. Also, most important, you just don’t have a natural way out of the conversation. If you’re going to break up with someone in person, you should have a bus, train, or plane to catch in ten minutes. That’s the only way it can go smoothly. “Look, babe, it’s not you, it’s me. I think we should see other people. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for the 4:37 to Ronkonkoma.”
If Their Relationship Were an NBA Team, Which One Would It Be? Any of them — during the lockout.
Nate (Real World, Kang): 35 points. Nate did some making out (10 points) with his boss, Michelle, and at 2 a.m. convinced her to come to the house to coitus him (25 points) with the following exchange:
- Nate: “Hey. Where you be?”
Michelle: “I be at my house. Where are you? At your house?”
Nate: “Oh, boo boo boo.”
Michelle: “I just got home. What do you mean? I was downtown.”
Nate: “Can I please have you at my house now?”
Michelle: “Not if you just expect me to come over there so you can get some action. I don’t think that sounds like … ”
Nate: “Oh, I thought it was going to actually be cute, because you would have, like, brought me a burrito and then blah blah blah.” [He actually said “blah blah blah.” That was not me paraphrasing.]
Michelle: “BWHAHAHAHAHAHA” [She finds this hilarious]
Nate: “I just wanted to see if you would come over so I could snuggle for a little bit, and then all of a sudden you’re an asshole.”
Michelle: “Um, yeah. I’ll come over.”
Nate: [Shocked that this is actually working]
Michelle: “I’ll be there in like 45 minutes.”
Nate: “I guess I will let you in.”
Nate: “Come on, can you spend the night?
Okay, let’s review. Nate booty-calls his boss at 2 a.m. and asks her to come over. She says she won’t if he just expects some action. He asks her to bring a burrito and calls her an asshole. She agrees to come over. He says, “I guess I will let you in.” She gives him some action. I have never understood or attempted the “act like a jerk to get what you want” game. Can someone explain this to me?
Brandon (Survivor, Lane): 25 points. Have you ever had a particularly evil, violent, or sexual thought and said to yourself, “Whoa, self! Where did that come from? You are one weird fella, self. I am glad no one else can hear these thoughts”? Yeah … me neither. But you know who this has happened to? Brandon from Survivor. Note how little prodding it took to make Brandon have a breakdown:
- Jeff: “Brandon, are you exhausted right now?”
Jeff: “What has tried you the most in this game?”
Brandon (in tears): “I want to do wrong things. I am human. But I … There is something stronger inside that won’t let me. Anything worth having is not going to be easy, so that is all I am going to tell myself in my head. Anything worth having is not going to be easy. That is all.” (20 crying + 5 tribal bonus points)
Expressing a desire to “do wrong things” is creepier than saying which specific wrong things you have in mind. If you ever see Brandon walking on the street, cross to the other side.
Chantel (Baseball Wives, Lane): 15 points. Baseball wife Chantel is a garage 1967 Mustang. She was better taken care of in a previous era, but she has a nostalgic appeal that is timeless. She is tattooed (“If you look closely you can see that it is my kids’ birthdays and a Bible verse”), scary skinny, and last night owned up to the least surprising past drug addiction in reality TV history. That may not seem like a great sell, but she has a relatable, working-class, been-there-done-that, I-don’t-care-how-big-your-house-is-I-am-going-to-be-myself-in-it quality that makes her appealing. Fellow Basketball Wife Erika did not find it so appealing. She called Chantel “the bottom of the barrel,” which led to a verbal argument (5 points) and, of course, tears (5 points). Then she accidentally exposed herself (5 points).
Anna Benson (Baseball Wives, Simmons): 10 points. Anna Benson is a force. We gave her 10 intoxication points simply because no one would say the things that she says without being intoxicated. This week’s GRTFL Top Five is the top five insane things that Anna Benson said on Baseball Wives, listed from 1 to 5 based on how many levels of wrong you can read into each statement. She said the following things without even a hint of humor or self-awareness:
- 1. “I am the most exciting thing to happen to the Mets since ‘86.”
2. “Everyone looks great in fur, except those poor little animals that don’t have their fur anymore.”
3. “If you are doing a kissing booth it needs to be like really good. Like, someone’s husband.”
4. “There is something called the food chain. We learn that in, like, third grade. The food chain where one animal eats another animal and it keeps the balance in life. And if we did not eat them or use them for furs they would take over the earth. They would be running out in front of cars. You would have cows in your yard. You would be getting attacked by all kinds of animals.”
5. “The lord says that a fear of weapons is an indication of sexual retardation.” (She either said “the lord” or “Floyd.” I watched seven times and still couldn’t tell. She slurs a lot.)
Brooke (Baseball Wives, Jacoby): 10 points. Brooke: “Not only am I a baseball wife, I am also a model” (10 points). I may or may not have Google Image-searched Brooke Villone.
Jordana (Baseball Wives, House): 5 points. Jordana is Nyjer Morgan’s ex-girlfriend. Let me give you a second to soak that in. Not only is she an ex-girlfriend, she is — well, let me just give you some examples of the type of ex-girlfriend she is.
- Jordana: “Nyjer and I broke up officially last year. He has moved on and I am still trying to.”
Jordana (leaving a voice-mail for Nyjer): “Kind of figured you wouldn’t answer but figured I would call. I am just waiting for the train. Just wanted to call and see how you are doing. Haven’t heard from you in a while.”
Jordana (after she tracks him to his hotel, waits there, during the playoffs, with a camera crew, and is ignored): “I didn’t even do anything wrong to be ignored.”
Jordana (after being ignored at said hotel): “I could probably find out what room he is in, because I have his room name.”
After waiting in his hotel lobby with a camera crew and being ignored, she broke down into tears (5 points). I do not know Nyjer Morgan, nor do I know anything about him aside from what I’ve seen on television, but I would guess that every time he checks his voice-mail he has a dozen similar messages.
Dawn and Whitney (Survivor, Simmons and Connor): 5 points. Dawn and Whitney both cried (5 points) when they lost to Ozzy in the elimination challenge. As I was watching this, I realized that they’re only crying because they haven’t eaten, changed clothes, or slept in a bed in weeks. I’m surprised they don’t cry more on this show. If I spill a drop of coffee on my shirt, I throw a tantrum like a 3-year-old.
Tanya (Baseball Wives, House): 5 points. Tanya made out with some random Arizona bro at the club (5 points). One early indication that this show might be better than we expected: The Baseball Wives got all gussied up and went to a club with a swimming pool in the middle of it. After four drinks, they were in their underwear, booty-shaking and jumping in the pool. I have probably been to four or five jabillion clubs and never once said to myself, “You know what you should do right now, Jacoby? Take your pants off and jiggle your butt cheeks around for everyone to gawk at.” Okay, fine. Maybe once.
Erika (Baseball Wives, Jay): 5 points. Erika notched five points for the whole “bottom of the barrel” argument with Chantel. Erika is the prissy one who’s going to be eaten alive: “This has never happened to me in my whole life. I have never been out to a dinner where people are yelling at the table. I was in shock. This doesn’t happen in my world.” Well, Erika, your world now includes camera crews, being forced to hang out with people who say things like, “a fear of weapons is an indication of sexual retardation,” and being mocked in Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League Scorecards. Enjoy it. No one will care about you in four months.
Previously: Reality Scorecard: Why Won’t Zach and Ashley Score Coitus Points?
Reality Scorecard: Worst Real World Cast Ever?
Reality Scorecard: Not With a Bang But With a Smush
Six Ways to Fix Jersey Shore