Monday, September 06, 2004

Lost in Translation

The Surreal Life has lost something in its move from The WB to VH1. The first two seasons were – much to my surprise - among the most enjoyable reality series ever. I found that it didn’t matter how lackluster the list of “stars” was, what mattered was who they were in the house. Yes, the producers often tried to embarrass the “stars,” and yes, I often laughed at them – but I also grew to care about these real people who were once celebrities before they were punch lines. Surreal Life was one of the few reality series that could frequently make me laugh out loud, and get me emotionally involved – all at the same time.

Right off the bat, there appear to be several problems with The Surreal Life 3, now on VH1. First, they’ve gone graphics and sound effects happy, trying to put an extra layer of cheese on moments that don’t need them. Second, most of the cast members seem to have come into the house to perform, not be themselves. Part of the joy of the first two seasons was seeing people let their personas fade and just be regular (if slightly quirky) people. Third, they’ve overdone it with the irritating/unlikable cast members – sure Season 1 had Corey Feldman and Season 2 had Traci Bingham, but half of this house has already worn out their welcome – Jordan Knight, Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen. They're creating a mean-spirited vibe when in the past, the show has ultimately had a positive one.

Now, I may wind up eating my words by the end of the season. In the past, the series has gotten better and the “characters” have continually grown on me throughout as the producers have shown more dimensions to their personalities and the celebrities start letting their guards down with each other. But of the three season premieres, this one was by far the weakest.

Not to say that there weren’t many fantastic moments. I particularly enjoyed Dave Coulier’s response to Jordan Knight’s comment about getting in a hot tub with the Olsen Twins [but Dave, before you get all high and mighty, remember that Alanis Morissette was only 18 when she was going down on you in that theater, and Jordan’s the same age now as you were then, so, uh, cut… it… out, and while you’re at it, get a decent haircut, man, you’re on national television]. Oh, and Charo and Ryan Starr look to be developing a sweet relationship similar to Tammy Faye Baker and Trashelle’s last year – only with less Bible-thumping and more cha-cha shaking. So I’ll keep on watching and I’ll keep an open mind.


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