One of the great paradoxes in Survivor – an element of the game that makes this show truly fantastic and always enjoyable – is that to make it far you must build a strong alliance with a numbers advantage, but a strong alliance that has the numbers almost always means that the alliance will need to turn on itself at some point, often times the weaker members taking out the strong. In many ways, you’re penalized for playing the game too well. If you form an alliance that is too strong, too large, you may wind up eating you own tail. And frequently, this happens just after the merge, which is why this junction in the Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit is so critical. It could be the last chance to dump some dead weight – or a significant threat – before getting too deep. With some players on the outs looking to get back in and other Survivors feeling vulnerable in their alliance, this is the time when loyalties shift, and when the permutations sometimes feel endless. This is why you can watch this show for twenty-three seasons and still see something new.
However, before we get to a merge the BeKool tribe, still not sure if actually voted out some person named Julia or just busted the myth of her existence, returns to camp from Tribal Council and Stealth ‘R’ Us CEO Former Federal Agent(?) Fillip immediately calls a board meeting. “Conference room, now!” Stepping into his executive chambers (a completely visible space four feet from the shelter), Fill clings to the tall tale he spun to Cochran last week, explaining to S’R’U Senior VPs Dawn and Corinne that he deliberately threw the Immunity Challenge in order to vote off that person who may or may not have existed (Gulia was it?). Of course, Dawn and Corinne know this is an absolute lie that Fillip absolutely believes, and, through some feat of herculean strength, play along with FFAF’s delusion. But they know that he’s living in a fantasy world, and Corinne is starting to find it really embarrassing.
Ahead of the premiere of the twenty-eighth (!) season of The Real World, set somewhat curiously in Portland, MTV has scheduled a weekend marathon of three “classic” seasons of the trailblazing reality show. Starting Friday night at 8pm MTV will air the first entry in the series, the groundbreaking Real World: New York, followed by the booze and sex soaked Las Vegas season Saturday at 2pm, and rounded out by the Puck and Pedro-fronted season three, Real World: San Francisco, beginning 8am Sunday. While we applaud the selection of NY and SF as 66.6% of the marathon, we cannot support the further promulgation of Las Vegas, especially at the expense of more worthy, important, less debaucherous seasons like Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle, or even the underrated Miami.
Choosing New York to lead off the marathon is a no-brainer. It was not just the first season of the long-running series, it defined what the series would be. Like Richard Hatch on the maiden season of Survivor, The Real World: New York set the mold for what this show would be, and, in many ways, set the course for Reality TV for the next twenty years. It’s cultural relevance and impact cannot be understated. Likewise for San Francisco, which was even more captivating and controversial for its inclusion of Pedro, an HIV positive Cuban-American, and Puck, a bellicose bike messenger with questionable hygiene and even more questionable social skills. This season – with its portrayal of a gay man (living, not dying) with AIDS and the caustic, boorish punk who alienated his housemates to the point of eviction – truly launched the show, and as well as awareness of the deadly disease, into the public consciousness, establishing The Real World as an MTV institution and a cultural phenomenon with immense significance. Nearly ten years later, Las Vegas began to undo everything that San Francisco and its peers has established.
Yesterday Ben Folds Five, in conjunction with Nerdist and the Fraggles, released the video for “Do It Anyway,” the first single from their new and apparently much-anticipated album The Sound of the Life of the Mind, and it’s awesome. It’s just awesome.
Let’s just run down a quick list of why this is awesome:
1. Fraggles. Duh. Obvious #1.
2. Specifically Uncle Traveling Matt. Or, as you may know him, Tarzan from Survivor: ONE WORLD!
3. Rob Corddry, doing general Rob Corddry things (the smarmier the better).
4. A pretty rocking Ben Folds Five song. In fact, it’s so good that we’ve been forced to reassess our whole perception of Ben Folds Five. Thanks to his service as a judge on the Sing-Off, Ben Folds had already endeared himself to us as perhaps the one and only genuinely polite, affable and respectful judge among all reality competitions. But that was specific to his personality and gratitude, his completely unironic earnestness and enthusiasm. It did nothing to make us think of “Brick” as anything other than an okay song that we periodically remember is about abortion which VH1 used to play every morning just before or just after the video for Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough,” a song we much preferred. Nor did his positivity and humor suggest to us that we should go back and give Forever and Amen a listen, that perhaps when we surmised that Ben Folds Five was for the other guys, we were mistaken. No, we just grew to really like the guy. However, this video completely calls into question everything we thought we knew about Ben Folds Five. Perhaps we had them wrong all along.
There’s literally nothing we like more than Saturday Night Live retrospectives. Okay, well, maybe we like pizza, beer, the Muppets, 1986 Mets retrospectives and maps more. But really that’s about it. And it’s close. Which is why we were so extremely disappointed in last week’s “new” two-hour prime-time special SNL Backstage. We were eager for the broadcast all week, making sure to set our DVRs before heading out to Philadelphia for the weekend. We were far more excited about it than any regular episode of SNL all season, save for Jim Carrey’s return. And from those great expectations came a great letdown.
The show was billed as, or so it seemed to us, a look behind the scenes at SNL, which we thought meant going beyond the origin of sketches and past cast changes and instead delving further into the process of the show, bringing us stories and details not found in the previous behind the scenes specials (SNL in the 80s: Lost and Found, SNL in the 90s: Pop Culture Nation, SNL in the 00s: Time and Again). Indeed, judging from the promo, we were going to be treated to some new never heard before insights and, most intriguing to us, a glimpse at how they pull up a live show with so many set and costume changes. What we thought we’d be getting was a truly illuminating look under the hood of SNL, an expose on all its moving parts.
We’ve admitted to having a soft spot for Gallagher, having vivid memories of watching his stand up specials that were replayed on Vh1 in the early 90s, and, in fact, seeing him live when he played Westbury Music Fair in the late 90s (and he was totally generous about autographing the t-shirt we had our parents buy us). While we certainly don’t agree with his politics, or really any of his views in general, we still think he’s gotten somewhat of a raw deal, at least in terms of the perception of his career. He might be hanging on now, truly a lion in winter, and his act might have gone off the rails, but there’s no denying he was a star for a time, and that few comedians have achieved the degree of success that he did. And, in fact, his most popular bit was his undoing, as the watermelon smashing Sledge-O-Matic routine has unfortunately come to define him (well, maybe until now), obscuring the more creative, cerebral parts of his act.
It’s doubtful we’ll ever witness a full-fledged Gallagher comeback. By now he seems to have lost or screw or two. Or perhaps he was always missing a couple, but their absence just manifested itself in less crazy and bitter ways. But at least we know that if our car ever gets stuck on a bridge that Gallagher has our back.
This past weekend’s SNL could have been the funniest of the season and it probably wouldn’t have mattered. That it wasn’t the funniest of the season also will not matter years from now. No, what this episode is being talked about for, the reason that it will ultimately be remembered, is that it featured the first public meeting between Jesse Eisenberg and the social network magnate he portrayed to the tune of a Best Oscar nomination. It was a worlds colliding, fabric of the universe fraying, I’m seeing double (four Zuckerbergs!), moment (although Andy Samberg’s presence as a tertiary Zuckerberg carried much less weight and meta-significance). It was awkward, sure, but that was by design, as the two ‘bergs, Eisen and Zucker, seemed rather comfortable with each other, indeed, giving the sense that they may, in fact, be bros. The tone was less confrontational and more self-congratulatory, as if Eisenberg and Zuckerberg had successfully pulled the wool over our eyes, that the real Zuckerberg is not an unnaturally focused, perennially scowling, monotone misanthrope, but a laid back, dorky, goofball visionary, and that perhaps Zuckerberg was in the on the joke the whole time. Now, that’s not the case, but if there’s any sense of animosity between the two ‘bergs, then Zuckerberg is a far greater actor than anyone is giving him credit for (and by all accounts he’s a terrible, terrible actor).
Okay, well, this doesn’t even approximate the level of Boston Rob vs. Russell, but it’s intriguing nonetheless, as the new season of Celebrity Apprentice will pit the original Survivor winner against one of our guiltiest pleasures (they’ll also be competing against La Toya Jackson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGrath, David Cassidy, Dionne Warwick and (gulp) Gary Busey, among others). Truth be told, we didn’t get into Survivor until the second season (The Australian Outback), so we have no particular allegiance to Hatch (in fact, we somewhat resent “the snake” because we think he gets too much credit for defining how the game is played; people would have figured out to lie and manipulate sooner or later), but the presence of Meatloaf might just be enough to get us to tune in (briefly). When Jumped the Snark was young we had an obsession with “I would do anything for love” (thanks, in large part, to the videos frequent play on VH1), and we soon played out both sides of Bat Out of Hell 2: Back Into Hell on our Walkman. In fact, we once cleared a basement at a friend’s birthday party by belting out a rendition of the tune (perhaps we shouldn’t have done the female parts too). But we loved that song, and we loved that album, and until we entered our prolonged Billy Joel phase in middle school Meatloaf was our favorite (along with Weird Al). And we still include”See Meatloaf live” on our list of things to do before we (or he) die.
Admit it. You love it.
Oh, and our prediction: Mark McGrath will NOT win.