Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jason and the Baby-Mamas

Jason Mesnick and His Harem

The time has nearly arrived. ABC premieres it's latest edition of The Bachelor, next Monday, January 5th. This time, former MeAnna Pappas reject, Jason Mesnick is going to romance some babes and look for true love on his own. For those of you who have not already spoiled yourselves (yes, most of the top sleuther sights are now commenting that the winner has indeed leaked out even before the show airs) I present:

Barbarossa's First Annual List of Shit to Look For!

Now if you're one of those people who saves screen captures and voice recordings and then goes over them with an electron microscope and a seeing-eye dog, this list is not for you. This list is for people who actually just watch the stupid show...you know, like normal human beings. Ok, first up is Night One. That may seem obvious but the truth is that Night One shows you who the final 4 are if you just pay attention. Here's how: On the first night there are 25 women all running around getting bombed, playing the clarinet, eating beer cans, singing, twirling batons, and taking turns stealing The Bachelor away from each other. That is the part of the show that most people watch for: the bimbo parade. But that isn't where the your real competitors are hiding. With 25 women, one guy, and about an hour and a half, the truth is that there is only so much time for talking...you know, like on a real date.

With such a small amount of time and so many women for the viewer to get to know, producers/losers Mike Fleiss and Lisa Levenson have only a narrow window of time to introduce the women who are important for the arc of the season. Fleiss camouflages this under heaping layers of Circus Activity designed to both entertain and confuse, but do it he must. Viewers have no emotional stake in the show's outcome if the don't feel like they're sharing the journey with the contestants, and nobody would feel that if we were never shown anything about them. And that becomes the clearest marker as to which girls will be around for a while. Yes, I know, I know, Jason will talk with a heap of women; just don't let yourself be confused. Fleiss is like a magician--a half-trained, half-assed clown of a magician you wouldn't hire for a child's birthday party, but a magician nonetheless. He relies on distraction to divert the attention of the audience away from the real contenders by showing desperate women, who have already been fingered as losers, actress wanna-bes, and psychotics , turn themselves into Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not freaks to divert your attention from the girls who actually have a chance.

The key is simply to pay attention to any girl shown talking to Jason (not in a private interview) that sounds sweet and sane. She may relate a personal anecdote about her life, childhood, parents or some other relevant experience. Fleiss just handed you a contender on a silver platter. He took the time from a tight edit to show you someone you can relate to. (Note: this does not include girls showing Jason their bunions or an "I Got Hammered in Key West" tattoo. Only personal anecdotes.) They should be fairly easy to spot since the rest of the women will be behaving with the decorum normally seen in a chimp cage at the local zoo. That alone should give you a handful you can follow. Now, there's no guaranteeing that the girl you spot is going to be in the final 2, but it's a reasonable marker that she is going to go deep into the final 6 at least. Also, anyone seen behaving as if they need a 12-step program, dancing lessons, music lessons, a pro bono visit from Dr. Phil, or their very own Restraining Order can be summarily dismissed (or better yet, enjoyed for pure entertainment value). They won't make it into the top 8.

Remember, pay absolutely no attention to what order Jason calls out the girl's names at this or any other Rose Ceremony. This, even the soul-less Producers admit, is all rigged for maximum drama. Also disregard any bachelorette who grimaces, scowls, sneers, or pulls a face during the ceremony when a competitor gets her name called for a rose. These girls have been standing around in high heels with hangovers and aching feet for twelve hours while they filmed this bullshit; of course they sneer and grimace.

The Season Previews

Ok, if you're still confused as to which women are worth watching at this point, Fleiss is about to help you. At the end of each and every Night One Episode, they show a series of Highlights from the upcoming season. Most homes in America are now equipped with High Definition TV's and video recorders of some sort (Tivo, DVR). If you tape the previews and watch them in slow motion you will see a good number of the women you just saw survive Night One on a variety of dates with Jason. And if you watch very carefully, you'll see a few in more-exotic locations, one-on-one with Jason. There's your top 3 or even top2. Now I warn you: this is a slippery slope. You see, Fleiss wants you to buy an electron microscope and a seeing-eye dog. He knows this crap can be addictive and habit-forming, that's why he gives out the answers if you really want to look for them. He knows some people will get hooked on cracking the case and will spend their free time discussing and pimping his worthless reality show to others (like I do). Bachelor Sleuthing becomes a sport that has virtually nothing to do with the show. A new generation of Sherlock Holmes' run around examining screen captures, serial numbers on helicopters, calling potential Final 3 date location hotels and pestering the staff for information on filming dates. For people who have no life (like me) and have no interest in Star Trek Conventions, this is how we wile away our limited time on Planet Earth. Beware, you don't want to become one of us.

If All Else Fails:

Well, if you truly can't stand the suspense you can go out onto the internet and find out who won. "Barbarossa, do you mean they already know????" Uh, yeah, it would seem so. Normally sleuthers pick the winner from the methods stated above, but sometimes the sleuthing itself is spoiled because someone spills the beans. The National Enquirer used to bust it sometimes and off-shore gambling sites used to get flooded with the real winners and had to halt gambling on Reality Shows because of it. But some years some idiot just talks out of turn. Relax, dear readers, your Faithful Ship Captain won't reveal the secret here or in any other future columns. First of all: they may be wrong, (It's happened before.) but most importantly you, dear reader, may not wish to be spoiled. Far be it from me to take away your joy and delight at seeing true love develop on National TV.

Besides, you really want that electron microscope and seeing-eye dog, don't you?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"He's In Love! He's Engaged!"....OK, whatever you say, Chum.

ABC just released the pre-show press release assuring fans of Jason and of The Bachelor, that the show formula worked and Jason is head-over-heels in love with the "girl of his dreams." Ok, ok, whatever you say. But before the partying begins in earnest, my friends, it's time for a quick reality check before any of you start confusing Reality TV with Reality. I can hear some of you grumbling already. Oh, Barbarossa! We just got the news! Let us enjoy it a while before you take a giant crap on our romantic dreams! It's just a show, after all! Sorry, my friends. I can see and practically hear the swooning going on in online Bachelor-land and before that gets too far out of control it's your friendly Captains job to piss directly into your porridge. I am already hearing disturbing rumblings about people picking "favorites" and the girls pics haven't even been officially released yet. I'm also hearing (even from veteran fans) that this time is different because "Jason is really sincere!" Besides, as a veteran watcher and writer about this particular crapsack, I am charged with dousing your unrealistic expectations with a bucket of ice water. It's for your own good after all. Trust me.

An article has recently resurfaced that was originally written five years ago (complete with insider interviews of shocking honesty) that definitely should be reviewed. I'll save you the time by quoting from it directly. This article, written by Alessandra Stanley of TV Watch, was written in 2003, when the first spate of Reality TV programs were becoming astoundingly popular. It's a rare look behind the curtain of just what it is we're all still ingesting. I'll start the review with this quote, which should put your romantic ideas into proper perspective:

''We wanted to shoot the show like a soap opera,'' explained Lisa Levenson, the co-executive producer of ''The Bachelor'' series and a former producer of ''General Hospital,'' an ABC daytime soap opera. ''The principal ingredient is developing characters that viewers can relate to, or watch and think, 'At least I am not as screwed up as that person.' '' (Ms. Levenson also worked on the ''Jerry Springer Show.'')

If that last bit doesn't warn you about the nature of what we're all watching, I'll be damned if I know what will. That's right, Lisa Levenson, Bachelor co-producer, used to spend her time arranging onstage fist fights between incestuous families, trailer-trash lesbians, and perverted dwarfs. Jerry! Jerry! Quite a resume builder that is. Especially when you're also producing a dating show that requires everyone to swallow what they're seeing wholesale. Soap Operas and Springer--god, what a combo! This folks, is the same person who is trying to get you to buy that Jason Mesnick, average joe from Kirkland, Washington, has found love on her TV show and it's the real deal!

True, people have fallen in love on The Bachelor and it's sister show, The Bachelorette. But unfortunately for Levenson, and her partner in crime, Mike Fleiss, it's been a while. What this article makes so clear is just what the focus and point of this show is. (Hint: It's not people falling in love) Fleiss made it clear, they could care less about that

''If the couples break up, viewers will find that interesting, too,'' said Mike Fleiss, Ms. Levenson's co-executive producer on ''The Bachelor'' series. ''It's storytelling, and viewers are more satisfied when we work the spin.''

"The spin". Yeah. They are producing a Soap Opera-like piece of entertainment. Their goal is to craft a story that draws you into the emotional journey about the quest for love, not to pair up lonely singles. In other words, it's about as real as a pro wrestling match, and if anyone falls in love during rehearsals, well, that's just fine. But if they don't, that's fine too, just as long as they produce good drama and ratings. Barbarossa, that's fine. But this is about the people, people like Jason, and he's really sincere! Maybe, maybe not. Let's see what the icon of the this series has to say about sincerity. Trista Sutter is the poster child for this franchise. She married Colorado fireman Ryan Sutter in her own incarnation of the Bachelorette and she is the lone peg on which Fleiss and Levenson hang their coat and point to every time someone tells them their show is a pile of faked shit that never works. Let's see what Trista has to say about those smashed and broken hearts every Bachlor(ette) contestant invariably leave in their wakes:

Ms. Rehn, perhaps having snapped out of ''The Bachelorette'' trance, had a prosaic explanation for why she appeared so enamored of Charlie, the man she rejected for the poetry-writing fireman, Ryan, in the finale. ''They need to make the audience believe it is going to go a certain way,'' she told reporters on Thursday, ''so they can have a shocking ending.''

Yikes! Even saintly Trista, who followed through and actually married her fireman and procreated with him just admitted she led some poor shlub along and make sure he got blind-sided so the producers could have some drama. Holy crack smoking, Batman! You mean Trista shamelessly led some poor bastard on and then trashed him on national TV just to make the producers happy? Yep, that's exactly what that means. And that's exactly what Jason Mesnick is going to do too. He's going to encourage a set of women to fall for him, so he can slam them down. Oh, Barbarossa, not Jason! He wouldn't do that! He has a son! Really? Have they changed the premise of the show? The press release says he's gonna' start out with 25 women all trying to be the last one standing. That means that 24 women are going to be unceremoniously dumped by Mr. Wonderful. But Barbarossa, Jason will be kind about it. He won't give those bad old producer's what they want. He has too much respect for women!

Uh huh. Ok, lets see what the producers say about that:

Ms. Levenson explained that even the most unpracticed contestants go into what she calls ''The Bachelor bubble.'' Isolated from newspapers, friends, television or any other distraction from the show, participants develop ''Stockholm syndrome,'' and identify with the producers' goals. ''They do not want to screw up, and they want it to be as dramatic for the viewers as it is for them,'' Ms. Levenson explained

Hehehe. Yep. They deliberately isolate the contestants so the can promote a Stockholm Syndrome among them. No wonder Jason always grimaces like he's making a hostage tape; he is. If Jason has so much respect for women (and himself) why is he doing this show? So he can fall in love--squeeee! Uh, no. He can do that at home. Jason has chosen to do this on national television with about 7 million people watching. He is no rube either. As a previous contestant on the MeAnna Pappas Bachelorette, he knows the ropes. He has agreed to take part in a show that you have just seen the producers refer to as a Soap Opera. He knows most of his fellow cast members want careers in show biz and that they came on the show for exposure. What does Jason hope to gain by this? I have no idea, but the fact there is more to this than just falling in love is what I just called it: a fact! What his true motivations are, I neither know nor care. I just know he has them and the fact he is going to drag his three year-old son into this is nothing short of loathsome, in my opinion...but that's his business.

I'm not trying to put people off watching this show. As you all know, I'm about as sanctimonious as someone on death row. If Jason wants to run his life this way fine by me. I'm just trying to make sure that my faithful readership (that would be both of you) keeps in mind just what we are watching. If this thing works at all, it will be as a happy byproduct of the process of creating Soap Opera quality entertainment. And know that many of you will soon sour on Jason Mesnick. You will start to like some contestant and then see Jason dump her. Popularity as a contestant on this show is one thing; popularity as the Bachelor himself? Ah, that's another. Meanwhile, caveat emptor, my friends.