Reality Bites

Mark Burnett is a genius. When Survivor announced its 13th season this summer people were up in arms over the premise – dividing the contestants into white, black, Asian and Hispanic tribes. Critics howled racism, advertisers pulled out and executive producer Burnett was accused of putting together a cheap publicity stunt.

It was a publicity stunt for sure, but it was hardly cheap. People talked about the show, mostly negatively, but they still tuned in. And at the end of the run, the show was in the Top 20 for the season and Sunday’s finale toped the night when Yul Kwon won the title of Sole Survivor. I would have given it to Ozzie, but what can you do?

For all of the concerns that the show was trading in racist stereotypes, the issue didn’t really rear its head beyond a lot of posturing about “representin.’” The gimmick played out for a few episodes before the merge returned the show’s usual scheming and backstabbing. I’ve been watching Survivor since a fat, naked, gay Machiavellian named Hatch schemed his way to a million dollars and this season held its own with the best of them. That is impressive for any show of this longevity, let alone a reality show.

I can’t say the same for the recently concluded Amazing Race. I haven’t been watching the series, but this year decided to give it a try. While it was entertaining enough, I couldn’t help noticing how contrived the whole production was – more so than Survivor. Every time a team got a head start they were inevitably sent to some store or attraction that was closed for hours, allowing the other teams to catch up. And when a favourite team was about to be knocked off, they oh-so-luckily happened to be in a non-elimination round. (I’m looking at you, blonde beauty queens.)

But my current guilty pleasure reality show is a Canadian production called The Big Flip, airing on HGTV. Two guys attempt to renovate and resell as many Toronto homes that they can in a year. It may not sound exciting except for one thing – they keep screwing up. It’s not that they don’t do good work, but they assume everything will be simple and it keeps biting them in the ass. Homes cost too much, they sell them for too little, they tear down load bearing walls and they ruin heritage homes. I watch it purely for the schadenfreude.


  1. I was one of those those folks who thought the race thing was all phooey but I don't really watch the show so in the air, I didn't care. If people still enjoyed it, good for them!

    I haven't seen that HGTV show yet and I LIVE for HGTV, I gotta check it out.

  2. Yeah, I bitch and moan about it, but I'll probably watch the next season again anyway. So take my criticism for what you will.

    As for The Big Flip, did I mention it is on the Canadian version of HGTV? I don't know if you'll be able to find it in NYC. Fun though - just watched the two guys getting into an argument and tossing rolls of sod at each other.

  3. I find it amazing that anyone still watches that show. Talk about a tired, one-trick pony.

  4. Millions do watch though. Sure, it may be repetitive, but what show isn't, especially after multiple seasons? Look at it as comfort food.