Occasionally large, heavy objects fall on both my wife and our remote control, simultaneously turning on the TV and immobilizing The Queen, leaving her no choice but to watch some of the worst television programs ever aired. Or so she would have me believe when I wander into the living room and find her riveted to The Swan or American Idol. When she notices me she’ll sort of start guiltily and exclaim “I was trying to find Nova! And I completely accidentally came across this! And then I … I, uh … uh …” and then she trails off and her eyes drift back to Extreme Nanny Makeover Swap III.
I think the low point came when I caught her watching Colonial House, a reality show on PBS. Yes, you heard me right: PBS has reality shows. But they’re public television, so they have to be all educational and dignified and shit, right? So instead challenging contestants to eat centipede feces or whatever, they do the sixth-grade play “The First Thanksgiving” writ large. In the case of Colonial House they stuck all a bunch of people in a remote community and made them pretend like they were living in 1628, which they did with remarkable verisimilitude except, possibly, when (1) one of the indentured servant announced that he was gay and the whole community pelted him with accolades for his bravery instead of cobble, and (2) one of the colonists walked a few miles to the nearest modern town for a cheeseburger and beer (really).
“It’s a bunch of people dressed in itchy clothes and pretending like they live in ye olde olden tymes?” I asked, when The Queen explained the premise to me. “Good lord, you’re watching a televised LARP!” I continued to mock her for several more seconds, until it dawned on me that, of the two people in the room, only one was geeky enough to know what “LARP” stands for. (And, let’s me honest: when PBS holds Seattle auditions for Gamma World House, the guy at the front of the line in the mutated badger costume will be me.)
But there’s one terrible, terrible reality show that The Queen doesn’t even try to hide her addiction to. She enjoys it so much that she gets excited about it days in advance. On Sunday afternoon we’ll be in the middle of a discussion about whether cauliflower should be refrigerated, and she’ll suddenly gasp and say “My trashy show is on in three days!” “Trashy show” are her words, not mine. Although they are also mine now, since last Wednesday I was conscripted into watching the show with her.
Yes, dear readers: I watched America’s Next Top Model.
The Queen has been trying to get me to watch it for ages, and I caved when she upped the ante by adding yet another “really” to her description; as in “You should watch it: it’s really, really, really, really bad.” (Curiously, this advertising technique always seems to work for me.)
I figured, what the hell: even if the show sucks, at least I’ll get to look at hot girls for an hour, right? Bzzzzzzt, wrong. First, it looks they cast the show by going to a local high school and herding the drill team into a van. Second — how do I put this diplomatically? — I like curves, and these girls are about as curvy as a yardstick. Regardless of who wins, America’s Next Top Model will have to visit the Old Country Buffet every day for a month before I’ll ever steal furtive glances at her in the Old Navy catalog.
Thirdly — and this is what makes the show entertaining, or so The Queen assures me — you get the distinct impression that none of these ladies are exactly mathletes, if you catch my drift. One of the reoccurring features of the show is that the host, Tyra Banks, sends the contestants cryptic little notes hinting at the next event they’ll be asked to participate in. They are like the puzzles that the Riddler is always sending, except, instead of solving the enigma and charging off to apprehend the villain, imagine Batman and Robin reading the riddle and then just sort of staring off into the middle-distance for a while, befuddled, before wandering off to touch-up their roots.
Yep, it was an atrocity, all right. Some of the more cringeworth moments:
- In one scene, a girl (I don’t know which, I didn’t bother trying to keep them straight. The skinny one.) complained “This competition is getting so competitive!”
- In another, one of the girls went to an event wearing this t-shirt:
- They did a photoshoot based on the seven deadly sins. Afterwards, while evaluating the photos, the judges bad-mouthed the girl who got stuck with “gluttony” because she looked fat.
- Also, not ten minutes after they had reminded us that “pride” is a sin, one of the judges gave a long and unironic speech to one of the contestant about how crucial it is that we all be filled with pride in ourselves.
- And in the big, final, “who is going to get kicked off the show” climax, one of the girls got criticized for not having “a good face for makeup.” I DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND THAT WTF AMERICA??!!?
When the show ended, The Queen and I had the following exchange:
Q: See? Awful, huh?
M: Even worse than you promised.
Q: So now you’re as addicted as I am.
M: And that’s where you’re wrong.
Q: Oh c’mon. How can you not watch it? It’s like a train wreck.
M: Tell you what: if the next episode features those girls in an actual train wreck, I’ll watch.
Q: Whatever. You’ll make a big show of not watching next week, but as soon as it’s over you’ll be asking me who got kicked off.
Pffft. I’ll so totally be not asking her who got kicked off. Not when I can just search Google and find out for myself.