What I Need from the MST3k Reboot

One of my earliest memories was playing in my grandfather’s living room while he watched TV. I remember him laughing merrily at the screen, and I would occasionally look up. I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what the film on the screen was, but I distinctly remember three silhouettes sitting in the bottom right corner of the screen; A cylindrical object that looked like a gumball machine, a man, and a beaked creature with an unusually shaped head.

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This faint memory was lost to me until the age of twelve, when I sat down in my middle school uniform with a bowl of cereal balanced in my lap as I went channel surfing for a few moments before having to leave for school. I found the title of a movie that sounded familiar to me, but I didn’t quite know why. I felt as though my mother, or uncle, or grandfather had spoken of it before… So I clicked on the channel. I saw those same silhouettes at the bottom right hand corner of the screen. Two robot puppets and a man told jokes over a terrible B-movie from 1955 called, This Island Earth. That’s when my perspective on comedy changed forever. That’s when I discovered Mystery Science Theatre 3000; The Movie. 

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I recorded the rest of the film and watched it three times, sometimes laughing so hard that I was unable to breathe. I didn’t know then that Mystery Science Theatre 3000, or MST3k, was formerly a TV show. I didn’t know that the movie I had watched first was actually a dark mark upon the show’s history as a whole, their typical quality of jokes and production stifled beneath studio control. I didn’t know that it began as a small, local project in Minnesota in 1988, I didn’t know that it had a cult following on two popular TV stations, and I didn’t know that Mike Nelson wasn’t always the host of the show. As I rented more and more episodes of the show from the library, iTunes, and any other means by which I could get my hands on new content, I soon became weirdly protective of the show; Team Mike over Team Joel, Team Servo over Team Crow, Team Sci-Fi channel era over Team Comedy Central era, and Team “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die and Werewolf are the best episodes of the series” (BECAUSE THEY ARE.).

That summer, I was sitting in my local movie theatre with my mom, watching previews for upcoming theatre events. An announcement stopped all conversation between us when we heard, “From the team that brought you Mystery Science Theatre 3000 comes Rifftrax Live; Plan 9 From Outer Space!” 

Rifftrax? What’s that?

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Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was cancelled in 1999, and the cast and writing staff went on to other projects, including the short-lived series, The Film Crew,  publishing several books, and hosting a movie review segment on NPR. Creator and first host Joel Hodgson and most of his original MST3k team (J. Elvis Weinstein [the original Tom Servo], Frank Coniff [TV’s Frank], Trace Beaulieu [the original Crow/Dr. Forrester], and Mary Jo Pehl [Pearl Forrester]) reunited to make Cinematic Titanic, a live riffing group that would tour the country. The second generation host, Servo, and Crow (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) reteamed to make a riffing on a larger scale. Now they could do movies that were more mainstream, not restricted to public domain B-movies alone. Twilight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Roadhouse, Harry Potter…you name it! The way they got around legal issues was by recording their riffs in time with the movie and releasing them as MP3 tracks that could be synched up by each individual customer with the corresponding movie. Their live shows, broadcasted across the country through Fathom Events, were just a further extension of their comedy.

I went to the Plan 9 From Outer Space live show, Rifftrax’s first, and it stands out as one of my favorite movie theatre experiences of all time. These shows introduced me to performers like musician Jonathan Coulton and comedian Paul F. Tompkins, who have also aided in shaping my sense of humor. The Rifftrax team now have done twenty two live shows, one of which was a Mystery Science Theatre reunion, and have three more on the way, including their most recent, Samurai Cop, which I will be attending in a matter of minutes.

 

For almost a decade now, I have been a proud MSTie, trying my best to explain concisely a nearly thirty year-long history of these comedians to friends of a generation that has never seen the showBut then talk began of rebooting the show, bringing this unique comedy to an enitirely new audience…on NETFLIX no less!

But when Joel announced the reboot, I was worried. Which Servo would he use? Which Crow? Which HOST for that matter? Mike took Joel’s spot only when Joel left the show over creative differences with the producing staff. With Joel at the helm once more, what would this new project look like?

The answer that Joel arrived at was the best possible solution; An entirely new staff. For Crow, he chose comedian Hampton Yount, who is an absolute deadringer for the character and is himself a diehard fan of the original series. For Tom Servo (the love of my life in puppet form) he wisely chose Baron Vaughn, who I approve of wholeheartedly; He’s got Tom’s sarcastic wit and is an excellent singer, and that’s all I can really ask for! The new host is Jonah Ray, a brilliant writer, stand up comedian, and close friend of my idol, Chris Hardwick. So at least in terms of our lead cast, I very much approved.

I got a bit more concerned with casting of the new “Mads,” the show’s antagonistic dynamic duo or trio that sends our heroes the “cheesy movies” to monitor their minds. The characters themselves are a fantastic addition, as they will be the offspring of original Mads Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank. The performers were a bit more confusing…playing Kinga Forrester is internet icon Felicia Day and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank is Patton Oswalt. Both of them are established names with many popular projects under their belt, rather than the relative unknowns who originally performed these roles.

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The reboot’s fourteen new episodes drop at 12:01 AM tonight, and with new press coming out this week, my concern has grown significantly. Weinstein, Murphy, Beaulieu, and Corbett, the four previous “bot” performers always handled the puppetry themselves. Now, the bots are wrangled by professional puppeteers from the Jim Henson Studios. Vaughn and Yount only provide the voices and manipulate the mouths of their respective bot to match their movement.

Joel also said in an interview that the riff style has also changed from the original production, stating:

I think the biggest change for the new series is that we really collaborate with the movie more, in that we don’t really talk over the movie. We’re really careful about letting the movie deliver its dialogue. I think we were just a little sloppier before. Personally, I feel like the audience now listens faster and absorbs more so we really wanted the movie to show through and we used the negative space to collaborate with it.

This overall feels like a slicker, more professional presentation for the Netflix audience, but  I’m not sure that that’s a good thing. Call me a purist, but what made MST3k so great and gave it the cult following it got was how improvisational, inexpensive, and homegrown it was. The key performers weren’t established actors. Errors were made in the puppetry and in the joke delivery. It felt like a group of friends coming together to make a funny project. That’s what it began as, at least.

So I need this new MST3k to prove to me that it’s still homegrown. I need this new team of professionals to respect its predecessor and original spirit. I am eager to see how the comedic style has changed in eighteen years of the show being off the air, and I can’t wait to see the third generation players of Ray, Hampton, and Yount interact together. And finally, I can’t wait to see Mystery Science Theatre 3000 find an audience in an entirely new generation.

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…just do it right. That’s all this MSTie asks.

 

All gifs from giphy.

Saying Goodbye to the Shows That Made Me Love TV

Sherlock. Once Upon a Time. Bates Motel. 

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In the winter of 2013, I found a renewed faith in TV thanks to the recommendation (or, rather, the persistant insistance) of a good friend. As luck would have it, it would appear that all three of these shows are coming to an end at around the same time. I wanted to pay tribute to them for making me appreciate the television medium.

Growing up, I was a reality show junkie. Be it Survivor, The Apprentice, The Amazing Race, or American Idol, my family and I watched all of the major network game shows in their prime. As for scripted television, we watched one show: The Office. It was our favorite, and we absolutely had to tune in every week. Personally, I only watched three shows on my own: Pushing Daisies, which was swiftly cancelled after two seasons, Ghost Whisperer, which had a long life but whose final season’s quality caused me to abandon it, and Glee, which…yeah. Two seasons, and I was out.

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Don’t give me that look.

I had all but given up on TV post-The Office. My shows were tiresome or gone, and the reality shows were reliable mindless after-dinner entertainment, but nothing more. Little did I know that after a few years of ignoring television altogether did the medium hit the start of its still-flourishing renaissance.

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I would not have discovered this had it not been for my aforementioned friend. Upon learning that I had access to Netflix and HBO, she gave me four shows to watch: Sherlock, Once Upon a Time, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones. It took me awhile to get on board with the latter two, as I heard that The Walking Dead was “gross,” and Game of Thrones was “gross and with a ton of boobs.” (For the record, while both of those analyses are perfectly accurate, they certainly don’t do these shows justice).

So I started simple…or so I thought. My plan was to binge BBC’s Sherlock, ABC’s Once Upon a Time, and A&E’s Bates Motel concurrently. Bates Motel was a show of my own interest, as Freddie Highmore grew up alongside my generation starting off as a child actor and now taking on the classic role of Norman Bates in a prequel spinoff to one of my favorite Hitchcock films, Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960).

Once Upon a Time was intriguing to me because it reminded me of stories I would devise playing with dolls and toys as a child: It placed all of these classic fairy tale characters in a single setting and blended their lives and relationships. I knew I would have loved it at a young age, but I was still intrigued as an adult watching the plot unfold. Only a few months later, I found myself quite suddenly at the red carpet of the next season on Hollywood Boulevard with a few new friends.

I sense, like so many others, that the show will soon be coming to an end. Now in its sixth season, it has yet to be renewed for a seventh. This is a bad sign, especially since we’re already into the second half of the season and the news of its renewal has yet to surface. The show’s star Jennifer Morrison has a contract that is also up for renewal, and she too is uncertain of her fate at this point. I project that this will be Once Upon a Time‘s final season, and although I personally think that it is high time, as the show has recently decreased in quality significantly, I will be very sad to see it go.

WARNING. The following paragraph about Bates Motel reveals spoilers from Season 4. Skip the paragraph if you are not caught up.

I’m fairly certain that I had the insane fortunate to hear the very first utterance of Bates Motel‘s plans to end in person. In April 2015, a panel on Women in Television at Chapman University featured producer Kerry Ehrin. While there, she casually let it slip that “Bates will only have five seasons,” and that she was eager to move forward with other projects. Shortly afterwards did the news go wide that, at the time, Bates Motel only had two seasons left. That time has now arrived, and all the chips are falling into place for the show to create its own incarnation of the Psycho storyline. Norma has died, Rihanna will be taking on the legendary role of Marion Crane, and Norman is as creepy as ever.

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This show put me in turmoil: It was like someone had an idea for a drug smuggling drama and someone else had the idea for a Psycho prequel series, and on their way to their pitch meetings, they both were trapped in an elevator together and decided to blend their shows. Despite it’s unique structure, it never ceases to surprise me. Plus, Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are incredible as the infamous mother-son duo. This was the role that made me fall madly in love with respect Highmore enough to place him amongst my “league” of favorite actors. Plus, the upcoming season’s most recent promo had me shrieking in my apartment just last week.

Once again, while this show isn’t perfect, I certainly will miss the motel, the mansion, Norma and Norman. And I certainly can’t wait to watch this show go out with a bang in mid-April!

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Bring it onnnnnnnn.

Now here comes the hardest goodbye, although, like Once Upon a Time, it remains unconfirmed. I fell utterly in love with Sherlock upon binging the first two seasons and then immediately watching the third live. Much like Bates Motel, this show made me adore the show’s lead performer Benedict Cumberbatch, and he too is now one of my favorite actors.

This show is flawless. I’m not sure we’re ever going to see a show again so perfectly cast and so expertly written. Cumberbatch and Freeman are Sherlock and Watson, and their chemistry is electric. The writing by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat not only maintains the integrity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories, but also has modernized it and adapted it so that we as the audience get an inside look at Sherlock’s deductive, amazing mind.

I won’t spoil anything from tonight’s episode, but I will confirm what the cast and crew have been saying: the Season 4 finale ended in a way that felt more like a series finale. Sherlock has always been a unique show in that a new season is never promised. Gatiss and Moffat work quietly and around the ever-increasing work schedules of Cumberbatch and Freeman, making fans wait years for a continuation of the show with but three episodes at a time. Once again, a Season 5 is not promised, and I don’t think there will be one. Not after tonight.

So I cried when it hit me. The shows that made me love television again are ending. Since them, I have watched so much more: The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Downton Abbey, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, The Crown, Westworld, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, House of Cards, Stranger Things, Bob’s Burgers, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and most recently, A Series of Unfortunate Events. It wouldn’t have happened were it not for these three disparagingly different shows, all (most likely) ending only weeks apart.

I got to have three years with them. And, as they say, “all good things must come to an end.” And there will be many more amazing shows to come in this “Golden Age of Television,” but I just wanted to take a moment to thank the shows that made a difference to me.

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Thank you.

 

All gifs from giphy.

Sigh…Need a Hug After that Walking Dead Premiere? C’mon, Bring It In.

SPOILERS, MY PEEPS. Why would you even click this if you didn’t know who Negan killed tonight?

Okay, hello. How’s it going, champ? Yeah…it’s been a pretty rough day. Hard time to be a Walking Dead fan, huh?

So…as you know, this happened (I’m gonna spare the gruesome aftermath and instead show images from right before Lucille met these skulls):

The recipient of Negan’s twisted game of “Eeny meeny miny moe,” was regrettably Sergeant Abraham Ford. Afterwards, Daryl made the fatal error of trying to take Negan out himself, and doing so caused Negan to rear up and take out a character present in the show since Episode 1.1 and fan-favorite Glenn Rhee. The rest of the episode delved deep into just how sadistic and cruel Negan and the Saviors can be, and was overall incredibly exhausting for anyone who watched tonight.

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I want to go into my experience watching the show tonight. I am still in shock that my best friend won tickets to see the premiere episode tonight, followed immediately by a live taping tonight of The Talking Dead at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. I got to see my hero, Chris Hardwick, hosting the biggest panel in the show’s history, featuring Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Norman Reedus (Daryl), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Michael Cudlitz (Abraham), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), Danai Gurira (Michonne), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha), Christian Serratos (Rosita), Ross Marquand (Aaron), Josh McDermitt (Eugene), Robert Kirkman (creator), and Scott M. Gimple (showrunner). Also in the audience to support were Melissa McBride (Carol), Lenny James (Morgan), Austin Amelio (Dwight), Alanna Masterson (Tara), Tom Payne (Jesus), and Greg Nicotero (director/makeup artist). Everything was perfect. We had incredible seats, were surrounded by 500 incredible fans, and we all got to experience this episode together.

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All the panelists (sans Jeffrey Dean Morgan), huddled together in the pouring rain.

I have had the outrageous good fortune to attend several panel events, and every time I leave, I am bouncing off the walls with joy and excitement from what I have just experienced. Not this time. I’m sure it will hit me in a few days how much of an amazing evening this was, but for right now, I am absolutely exhausted.

There are really two things that stood out to me this evening: the first was the sound. Every time something horrible or stressful would unfold, hearing everyone around us scream or cry created this tangible energy. As a group, we were panicked, frustrated, terrified, and grieving. Particularly horrifying was the screech let out from all of us at Glenn’s final, choked-out words: “Maggie, I will find you.”

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All of us in that moment.

The second thing that has truly shaken me to my core is the fact that as soon as Negan’s bat hit Abraham’s head, it began to rain. Los Angeles is still in the middle of what appears to be a never-ending drought, and rain is still very much a rarity. Of all days, it rains tonight, on a night that was predicted to have a 0% chance of rain. It rained from that moment throughout the rest of the show and on to The Talking Dead, where it began raining so hard that Hardwick, stubbornly refusing to use an umbrella, had to have his body mic replaced mid-show. The joke throughout the evening was that the episode was so sad, even “Jesus was crying.”

The weirdness doesn’t end there, however. Hardwick wrapped up the 90-minute episode with his typical sendoff, and at that moment, the rain stopped entirely. Soggy and defeated, everyone packed up rather quickly and began to walk back to our respective parking structures. Perhaps it was the adrenaline of the day, perhaps it was all of us walking through a cemetery at night, but we were all silent. It was a harrowing experience.

When I came home, after calling and texting other friends who were watching the episode as it came on in each respective time zone, I went online to see the rest of the United States’ responses. They’re horrifyingly sad.

I want to take a moment to talk about why moments like this can affect fans in such a way. At the end of the day, this is a fictional television show based on a fictional graphic novel. But time after time, in example after example, media is able to capture our imaginations. So why did watching the bludgeoning of two beloved characters send most of the zombie-loving world into an emotional coma tonight?

Because we have spent upwards of seven years with these characters. Because we get to have sixteen hours of time with them over sixteen weeks of the year. We see them at their best and worst, identify with them, and see ourselves in their successes and failures. When we lose them, we lose our family. Tonight I felt like I was in that lineup with the rest of Rick’s group. I was crying just as hard, I felt just as hopeless and panicked. Walking Dead fans are going through a mourning period, and that is normal despite its fictional nature. No one really died. Negan doesn’t exist. But because these characters made us feel, we feel connected to them in a deeply personal way.

I am so sorry. If you’ve read this, you went through similar emotions tonight, and this was just as horrible as was advertised by the cast and crew earlier this summer. But, if nothing else, notice how cool it is that you belong to a community of like-minded nerds that get it. We’re in this together. What Negan did tonight has just become personal, and through this shared pain, we now have an even deeper connection to what will unfold in the rest of this season, and future seasons to come.

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They gave us tiny tissues because they KNEW we’d need them!
All photos by author. Gifs from giphy.

When the Hunter Becomes The Hunted on “The Walking Dead”

#SpeculationSummer will be officially over within the day, mes amis! That’s right, in just a few hours, the world will at last know who was at the other end of Negan’s barbed wired bat Lucille in the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead.

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In a strange twist of events, I will actually be at the premiere this evening, sobbing in a cemetery with hundreds of fellow Walking Dead fans. That’s right, thanks to the good fortune of a best friend, we have won tickets to the premiere episode and live taping of The Talking Dead this evening, and I truly cannot wait!

For the time being, however, I want to write about some amazing parallelism between the last scene we all have seen of The Walking Dead, where we were introduced to Negan and took part in perhaps one of the most impactful cliffhangers in television history, and a scene that took place at the top of Season 5. Both of these episodes (Ep. 5.3, “Four Walls and a Roof,” and Ep. 6.16, “The Last Day on Earth”) were written under the supervision of showrunner Scott M. Gimple, and provide examples as to just how surprisingly deep and symbolic a show about zombies can be.

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The Walking Dead, in both its comic book and television iterations, quickly evolved from just a zombie survival serial into something far more complex. The tagline, “Kill the Dead, Fear the Living,” is a great summation for what the story has ultimately become: the dead are the reason for the downfall of society, and provide persistent threats to safety of our characters, but they are mere nuisances compared to the people still alive. In the show, we are several years after the outbreak, and anyone still alive has endured much pain and loss, and death has become commonplace. No one still alive is weak or incapable, and most have done dark, despicable things to remain alive. We, the audience, have always followed Rick and his group, and they only recently have they been put into an environment where it becomes clear to us just how much they have changed from civilians at the start of the show, to survivors now.

We could really go for some BBQ right about now. #TWD #BobBQ

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In 5.3, “Four Walls and Roof,” directed by Jeffrey F. January and written by Angela Hand and Corey Reed, Rick and his group face off with the last of the cannibals from Terminus, led by their fearless leader Gareth. Note: I am going to try to remain very civil throughout this whole post, and not go into my Gareth rant. Notgonnarant, notgonnarant, notgonnarant… Okay. I’m good. For now.

Celebrate #RepeatDay with a #TWD Season 6 re-watch.

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In 6.16, “The Last Day on Earth,” directed by Greg Nicotero and written by Scott M. Gimple and Matthew Negrete, Rick and his group face off with another group of adversaries, although this one might be the most formidable they have ever come across. These are the Saviors, a dominant group in the area that preys upon other groups, taking half of their supplies, and if they are not granted that much, they take lives. At the head of this group is Negan, a former used car salesman who now feeds off of power and control. He’s charismatic and cruel, charming yet terrifying.

I wish to examine the face off scenes in both of these episodes, wherein one side is clearly dominant and the other is forced into submission. In 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof,” Rick and our heroes have control over the villanous Gareth and what I lovingly call, “The Termites,” whereas in 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth,” the hunter becomes the hunted, as Negan and the Saviors have our heroes cornered. Both of these scenes have striking similarities, as seen in the clip and quotes listed below.

 

  • The submissive party is forced to surrender their weapons and kneel:

RICK: Put your guns on the floor. Put your guns on the floor and kneel.

– 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof”

SIMON (Negan’s Man): We’ll take your weapons now. […] Okay, let’s get her down and getcha down on your knees. […] (to Rick) I’m gonna need you on your knees.

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

  • The Reasoning

RICK: You’d do this to anyone.

– 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof”

NEGAN: But, you killed my people, a whole damn lot of ‘em. More than I’m comfortable with, and for that, you’re gonna pay.

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

  • Both Submissive Leaders Beg the Oppressive Leader For Mercy

GARETH: You don’t have to do this, we can walk away, and we will never cross paths again, I promise you.

– 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof”

RICK: (screaming) Stop this!

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

  • The Promise of a Death by Weapon

RICK: …a machete with a red handle. That’s what I’m gonna use to kill you.

– 5.1 “No Sanctuary”

NEGAN: So now, I’m gonna beat the holy hell out of one of you. This? This is Lucille. And she is awesome.

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

  • The Brutality

RICK: Besides, I already made you a promise. [Swings machete]

– 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof”

NEGAN: Anybody moves, anybody says anything, cut the boy’s other eye out and feed it to his father, and then we’ll start. You can breathe, you can blink, you can cry. Hell, you’re all gonna be doing that. [Swings bat]

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

Aren’t those quote comparisons fun? Let’s break down what actually is going on in these episodes…

In Season 5, Rick and Co. discover that Terminus is not a “sanctuary for all,” as is advertised, but rather a community of cannibals who give new arrivals the option to either join, or become breakfast. Although they escape and do serious damage to Terminus, the few remaining survivors regroup and attack Rick’s new refuge inside a church, dismembering and eating part of Bob in the process. Rick’s reason for killing the last of the Termites is simple; he has witnessed too many atrocities performed by this group to let them go.

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In the latter scene, Rick and his group have been commissioned by a friendly group nearby to take out the majority of Negan’s men. They do so in the night, killing most of the men in their sleep. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that the Saviors are far bigger than they ever anticipated, and Negan eventually catches up to them. While he’s furious that Rick and his group were able to kill so many of his men, he makes it clear that he’s only going to take his wrath out on one victim, stating, “I don’t wanna kill you people, I just want to make that clear from the get-go. I want you to work for me. You can’t do that if you’re dead, now can you?” 

Each oppressive group has their own reasons for wanting each side to suffer for their misdeeds, but when we look at the brutality expressed by Rick towards Gareth n’ Friends, it can actually be perceived as being one of the most brutal, unforgiving acts we’ve ever seen our heroes perform. What keeps our protagonists from completely becoming villains in this moment despite their murderous deeds is that the cannibals were relentless killers, and probably wouldn’t have left them alone forever, despite Gareth’s promises. On the other hand, what keeps our heroes from remaining the victims in the Negan lineup is that the only reason why they killed his men was to stop a monopoly of power. Furthermore, the Saviors are taunting and cruel in their murdering in that it feels more like a game done just for fun rather than strategy.

Immediately following the premiere of “The Last Day on Earth,” a fascinating concept was brought up by the panelists on The Talking Dead couch; if the story had opened with Negan’s story, and for six seasons we had been following his travels instead of Rick’s, we would absolutely be cheering on Negan’s authority over that group just as we cheered when Rick took down the Termites. This is truly all a matter of perspective, and it will be fascinating to see how this story unfolds, and if perhaps this “submissive kneeling” will come back, if (and hopefully when) Rick and his gang can take power back from the Saviors.

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…and, you know what? I’ve been good and scholarly for this entire post, so Ima let my freak flag fly, here…

MAYBE ITS COMEUPPENCE, RICK. GIMPLE, YOU POETIC BASTARD, YOU INTRODUCED A POTENTIALLY COMPLEX, INTERESTING VILLAIN THAT BROUGHT A NEW FLAVOR INTO THE WORLD OF The Walking Dead, THEN SYSTEMATICALLY SHATTERED MY DREAMS BY KILLING HIM. YOU ARE NOT FORGIVEN, AND RICK, I HOPE YOU LOSE YOUR HAND THIS EPISODE. I’M NOT EVEN SORRY. 

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#RIPGareth #GoneTooSoon #MyBuddyAndrewAgreesWithMe #WeAreSuchPals #NotReallyAtAllButHesACoolDude #REGARDLESS…

Well, that’s my analysis. If you couldn’t tell, I care far too deeply about story things that most people look at, go, “Yeah, I got it. Let’s move on now.” At face value, The Walking Dead is an action-adventure horror show that has really cool effects and some awesome, gory moments. But what I find so amazing is that, especially in recent seasons, some rather artistic decisions in regards to story have taken place, which has made the show very complex, emotional, and rich. The fact that I can break down two scenes that total twelve minutes from a zombie show is an amazing thing.

So, enjoy/weep/throw a chair over The Walking Dead‘s Season 7 premiere, my friends. And if your favorite character tastes Lucille’s steel tonight, all I can say is…

…blame Gimple. Works for me.

 

All images from Instagram. All gifs from giphy. Photo by author.

Pre-Pirates Teaser Drop: A Fan Freaks Out Part 1

I had a very clear idea of what my Sunday was going to be like upon awakening. Little did I know that it would soon become solely about fangirling over what else, Pirates of the Caribbean. 

The original plan was to finish watching the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven, go shopping, do some busy work, then head out for a double feature of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the remake of The Magnificent Seven. That’s when my roommate, eating breakfast beside me on our couch, let out a low, guttural guffaw as though she had been punched in the stomach by a MMA fighter. Just as big of a Pirates fan as I am (if you need reference to my fandom, please see previous blogs found here and here…and here), she shoved her phone in my face, which was playing the following message:

…which prompted us to do this…

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That’s right, m’lords and ladies, the moment I have been waiting years for is here at last, and we’re getting a first look at Pirates of the Caribbean 5; Dead Men Tell No Tales! 

As I write this post, I am about three hours from…whatever Disney has in store for us during one of the commercial breaks of Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 2 finale on AMC. So while the basic structure of my day remains unchanged, it has undoubtedly gotten far more interesting.

I have mentioned this in other posts, but whereas I might claim having a fandom for any variety of nerdtastic shows and films (The Walking Dead, Sherlock, Bates Motel, The Marvel Cinematic Universe, and all things Disney, to name a few), since I was eight years old, Pirates of the Caribbean has captured my imagination, and was the first series of films to make me truly love cinema. As I have stated before, they are not without their flaws, but overall, they hold a special place in my heart.

It has been nearly ten years since my favorite installment, At Worlds End, was released, and five since On Stranger Tides came out. I was at the first announcement that Orlando Bloom would be reappearing in this film, and have eagerly been searching for any shred of evidence about what the next film will be about (…still hoping for a Norrington cameo…please Disney…please…). Until the teaser can (hopefully) give us some more clues about the narrative, let’s take a look at the poster, which was formally released this morning:

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This logo is a little interesting. First of all, it looks very similar to the logo of At Worlds End, which featured the classic Jack-like skull atop two crossed bones. This design was meant to mimic a skull and crossbones flag, a common object seen in the third film. This design also varied from Curse of the Black Pearl (skull atop crossed swords), Dead Man’s Chest (skull atop crossed torches), and On Stranger Tides (same logo as Curse of the Black Pearl, only completely silver). This design is silver AND gold, but is additionally jewel-encrusted and has carvings that are illegible to my eye as of now. Here’s what I was able to decipher/speculate wildly about:

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  • The Hunt for the Trident of Poseidon is all but confirmed. 

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For months, the Disney Company has claimed that the storyline would be about Jack and his respective villain (initially Christoph Waltz as Captain Brand, now Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar) hunting for the Trident of Poseidon. The new logo seems to be sporting a symbol that looks an awful lot like a trident running right down the center of the skull’s forehead.

  • …as well as the Bermuda Triangle…

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Other early rumors discussed a plotline regarding the Bermuda Triangle. Upon closer examination, this appears to be the very thing that the poster is trying to suggest as well. Could we be travelling into that seafaring folklore in this film?

  • Navigation will be a major part of the plot.

Unless it is merely an aesthetic choice, this poster art is the most chart-like of the previous four films, with a subtle map background beneath the main logo, as well as very specific placement of jewels on the skull’s forehead, which gives me the impression of a star chart. Will navigation by star patterns play into the narrative of Dead Man’s Chest? 

  • We can’t ignore the inscriptions on the bones…

To me at this time, the inscriptions are rather unclear from what I have been able to see online, but I can only make out one full word from the carving on the bone on the bottom left hand corner of the poster: “Isla.” The phrase is clearly in Spanish, but I can’t and won’t be able to make out any other words until I can either access the poster physically or in a higher definition.

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Until then, I must wait for three more hours to get answers to my many questions about the plot of Dead Men Tell No Tales. I know how incredibly sad I must appear, but don’t blame a fangirl for fangirling!

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I’ll see you all in Part 2, once I have emerged from the other side of this exciting nerdtastic Sunday afternoon!

All images from Instagram. All gifs from giphy.

We’re Sorry We Inflicted “The Bachelor” Upon You, World. Love, America

So we’ve already covered the fact that I am Bachelor/Bachelorette trash in one of my very first blog posts, but let’s forget about all that (and all of my many cringeworthy colloquialisms scattered throughout that text) and instead delve right into my rather curious experience of watching the American-born reality show make its way 6000 miles across the sea and unfold live before my very eyes in the form of the second season of The Bachelor NZ.

As of the writing of this blog post, there have been twenty seasons of The Bachelor and twelve seasons of The Bachelorette in the United States, beginning in 2002. France, Poland, and Norway quickly jumped aboard the juggernaut success of the American reality show, creating their countries’ respective equivalents within the following year. This gradually increased to an international market of sixteen countries to date, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Switzerland, Ukraine, and, the topic of today’s blog post, New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Bachelor show premiered in early 2015, starring bachelor Art Green. The first season went off rather well, as the show received enough viewers to warrant a second season and the bachelor and his intended bride are still together.

Of course, I arrived in New Zealand to witness the show as things got just plain bizarre in the second season. 

The new bachelor was Jordan Mauger, a filmmaker from Christchurch.

 

So of course I watched! As I was already a fan of watching the straight up weirdness that inevitably unfolds on the bizarre social experiment that is the American show, I was not about to miss comparing and contrasting the Kiwi-fied version.

The verdict?

…people in New Zealand are far too sincere. 

Honestly, the reason why the American equivalent is so much fun to watch is because the producers and crew in charge of picking the contestants are keeping an eye out for personalities that will not get along. At the end of the day, they are focused on attracting the most viewers, thereby increasing their ratings, and therefore their marketability. The only way they can do this is by filling each Bachelor/Bachelorette’s pool full of dramatic characters. And man is the United States full of dramatic characters! Statistically speaking alone, New Zealand’s population is 1.4% that of the United States, so we’re simply bound to have a larger demographic of contrasting characters and (dare I say it), villains! 

Really only one girl on The Bachelor NZ caused any drama. Her name is Naz Khanjani, and she made no attempts whatsoever at hiding her intentions to “win,” the show, creating much scrutiny that she wasn’t there for the right reasons.

As American fans of The Bachelor(ette) know all too well, many of the show’s “villains” are very good at putting on different personas between camera confessionals, interactions with other contestants, and to the significant other they are trying to woo. Naz was an expert at this, coming off incredibly domineering and intimidating to the other women on the show, while with Jordan she was…well…doing whatever this is:

 

…stop.

However, all of the other girls were well, tediously ordinary. While this was refreshing to see in some regards, as I often find most of the contestants on the American show to be incredibly exaggerated characters with unrealistically beautiful bodies, this also made it incredibly boring. There was a significant lack of drama! Even when Jordan would break a poor girl’s heart by sending her home, more often than not, she would give him a giant hug, smile into the camera and graciously accept her defeat tear-free. Fans of the American show know that this just doesn’t happen.

Case in point:

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But that didn’t stop me from going to the live taping of the finale at Sky City in Auckland, New Zealand. And for it being such a mild season, I was completely caught off guard by how intense the finale was going to be!

As you saw in the header image, I somehow managed to land the front row of the theatre, and was on camera several times throughout the taping!

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Well, spoiler alert everybody, but Jordan’s final choice was between the villainous Naz and the fan-favorite Fleur Verhoeven. He went with…

 

…not Naz.

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This created quite the awkward situation when Naz came out to confront the audience full of Kiwis that she had alienated with her antics, dropping quite a lot of obscenities in the meantime.

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It only got worse, especially as Naz continually interrupted the host, Jordan, and her fellow former contestants, still obviously quite bitter at having not been the “winner” of The Bachelor NZ. 

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I would have gladly joined in the mass hissing and booing of the audience, but I decided to keep quiet, as I was rather concerned that I would have been smacked upside by the head by the ENTIRETY OF NAZ’S FAMILY sitting directly behind me!

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The show ended on a high note, with the happy couple reunited and able to come out to the public about their engagement.

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…except it was less than 48 hours before Jordan broke it off.

So not that different from the United States after all! Now we have international proof, people! The Bachelor, no matter the incarnation or the country, just doesn’t work, nor is it exactly meant to. At the end of the day, it’s a reality show, and is as fickle as the speedy love connection manufactured directly by television producers. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t enjoy just how absurd it all is! I just apologize to the rest of the world on behalf of the United States that the madness all stems directly from our shores!

Enjoy the weirdness, my friends!

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I got a rose at the taping, guys (and by that of course, I mean strawberry champagne)!

 

All photos by author. Gif from giphy.

 

Need a Hug After that “Walking Dead” Season Finale? Come on, bring it in.

…I know. Believe me, I know. If you’re here, it’s to comiserate and read what I have to say about The Walking Dead, and you are either pissed off beyond all reason or are still reeling from the Season 6 finale, which wrapped up what I considered to be the best B section of the best season yet.

Spoilers, obviously.

This episode has been anticipated for…pretty much ever. I started watching The Walking Dead (thanks to a friend who introduced me to most of the shows I currently watch and simultaneously and subsequently ruined my life!) back in the Spring of 2014, and even then, just as Season 4 was wrapping up, Negan-buzz was thriving. Then on April 1st, 2015, moviepilot.com thought they’d play an April Fool’s joke on the fans and made a fake announcement that Robert Pattinson had been cast as the bat-wielding baddie. On top of that, again and again, the writers have teased this particular episode’s signature kill as it applies to the comics, wherein Negan cracks open the head of fan-favorite Glenn, and gave actor Steven Yeun many moments in the show where he interacts with a bat prop. Then, of course, once a casting call that matched the description of Negan’s character surfaced, it was announced that current Batdad Jeffrey Dean Morgan had been cast in the role, and that “your property now belongs to Negan,” in the Season 6 mid-season finale.

I was excited for Negan’s arrival, seeing as I for some reason have a thing for villains. Let’s not forget that I am perhaps the only person on Earth who decided on Episode 4.16 that Gareth, the sassy cannibal leader of the newly introduced Terminus, was going to be the biggest, baddest evildoer the show had seen. Three episodes later, showrunner Scott M. Gimple killed him off unceremoniously, for which I wrote an In Memoriam song which will likely be the closest I ever get to songwriting fame, I’m afraid.

However, once we got closer and closer to his television debut, my excitement at seeing Negan quickly turned into dread. In what I consider to be one of the best build-ups to a character reveal that I have ever seen in television, we learned that his group, The Saviors, were not to be trifled with. Also, the stakes were raised to massive proportions: in the past season, we have developed a pregnant couple, killed off half of Alexandria in the course of a single episode, brought two integral characters together into an intimate relationship, saw the draining effects of the apocalypse fully take hold, and absolutely feared for the life of Daryl Dixon, whose death I’m fairly certain would cause an uprising unlike any that the world has ever seen.

It also didn’t help that we kept getting quotes from the people directly involved with the finale about how it made them feel:

“I felt sick to my stomach when I read the script. It was the first day in the whole six years of working on The Walking Dead that I was late for work because I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was so angry and frustrated and I felt sick. And that was just after reading it.”

– Andrew Lincoln, “Rick Grimes”

“I didn’t want to go to work that day. It took a really, really long time for everybody to feel okay again after the finale, let’s put it that way.”

– Lauren Cohan, “Maggie Greene”

“It was so very dark. I couldn’t say anything after I had finished reading it. I felt like I had dropped into a black hole.”

– Melissa McBride, “Carol Peletier”

So when it finally came time for me to watch the finale (because of my current time zone, I’m about eight hours behind that of the East Coast, therefore putting me in full technology blackout for most of the day), I began my typical habit of writing down my reactions to moments in the show live as they play out to send to my Walking Dead fan friends later.

My remarks began fairly sassy, as per usual:

– I want anyone to call me “Fine” like Morgan says it to that horse. #goals

– Yep. Let’s pack up all the characters we care about and drive them into the most dangerous situation imaginable. What could possibly go wrong?

Then, as things started to escalate, they took a turn:

– How many of these damn Saviors are there? Oh my god…

– I would be in the fetal position in tears if I was in that RV and kept getting blocked out. Like…just tears. All the tears.

And then it only got worse:

– I hate this. I HATE this. I HATE HATE HATE THIS. My anxiety is off the charts with this episode.

– Oh my god this is awful. This is truly the worst.

– They’re screwed. They’re utterly screwed.

I stopped writing when the climax of the episode hit,  where our main characters were all snatched up by hundreds of Saviors as they eerily whistled a bone-chilling series of notes. Our group was forced to kneel, all of them quaking and terrified. Jeffrey Dean Morgan made his grand entrance as Negan, and delivered a monologue so amazing that I was absolutely fixated.

Well…fixated and terrified.

As Negan’s monologue progressed (it goes on for about 10 minutes), I felt myself get more and more panicked. Negan felt to me like a tensed rattlesnake; ready to strike at any moment. The performances from everyone in the scene were out of this world. The fear was tangible, my heart was pounding, and suddenly I found myself out of breath and in tears. Then, the moment of truth arrived…

Eeny…meeny…miny…moe. Catch…a tiger…by…his toe. If…he hollers…let…him go. My mother…said…to…choose…the…very…best…one…and…you…    …are…          …it!

– Negan, in his last few lines of Episode 6.16

We knew going into this that a main character was not coming out of it alive. Since Glenn’s unexpected death in the comics made Negan’s introduction absolutely iconic, it pretty much guaranteed that the show’s depiction of the same entrance would deliver just as much (if not more) horror with a beloved character. Debate has been sparked for weeks now on who would taste the wood and steel of Lucille (the name of Negan’s weapon), but uncertainty still remained.

That uncertainty still exists, and will exist until October, because the final frame shows Negan swing Lucille right at the camera. We are put in the perspective of whoever the unlucky recipient of that blow was. The sound becomes distorted, as the victim looks at the ground. Looking up again, we catch sight of Lucille coming back again for another thwack! Blood runs down the glass, and the victim now is collapsed on the ground. We are in black, but we can hear Negan keep swinging. Keep swinging. Keep…swinging.

The hashtag #WhoIsIt is a trending topic on Twitter currently, because we don’t know who was killed tonight. Whoever was chosen, there is not a single outcome where the victim is not someone we will be devastated at having lost. Currently, not even the cast knows who got to meet Lucille. Fans are certainly outraged at the cliffhanger ending, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m still processing or trying to make my puffy eyes swell back down to a manageable size, but I’m oddly okay with the ending as of right this moment.

Let me explain: if we knew who was killed tonight, that would be it. We’d be left without hope, no speculation, no conversation. Just, “Did you watch the finale? ___ died. Crazy, right?” While some might argue that the closure received from that sort of an ending would at least relieve some of the anxiety, I argue that knowing would leave us stuck feeling absolutely hopeless, and that’s not a way to leave fans for an entire summer.

Of course, this is a very smart move on the writers’ part, and will certainly warrant high ratings at the Season 7 premiere, but Gimple in The Talking Dead episode succeeding the finale explained his motivation behind the staging of the finale as follows:

“We want you to be one of those people in that line-up. We want you to feel that suspense, and that terror, and that pain too. And we’re going to deliver a story to you next season that justifies it.”

It worked on me. I was a blithering, sobbing mess by the end of it, and I no longer want Negan around. I take back everything I said: make this guy go away!

In all seriousness, however, I do think that the best days of The Walking Dead are still ahead. There’s still so many directions in which the story can go, and the production value of every episode just continues to increase as the stories become more metaphorical and meaningful. And I really can’t wait to see how Jeffrey Dean Morgan does as he digs in further to the character we’re all going to hate to love and love to hate.

So be you furious, sad, unresolved, or still remarkably anxious like me, rest assured that I will be waiting with bated breath for the Season 7 premiere in October, and we can all arrange a group therapy chat afterwards if necessary.

In the meantime, I’m officially dubbing the upcoming season #SpeculationSummer! Speculate wildly, my friends!

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Featured Image and Photo edited by Author from www.freestockphotos.biz

The One With The Power Outage

In the seventh episode of Friends, entitled, “The One With The Blackout,” New York City encounters a massive power outage, leaving the friends stranded without electricity for hours, and of course, shenanigans ensue. Now, while last night didn’t end with me fighting off a violent cat, meeting a flirtatious Italian, or getting trapped in an ATM with a Victoria’s Secret model, it DID end with adventures and fellowship brought on by a sudden power outage in my hall of residence.

While I am here studying abroad at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, I am living in University Hall Apartments. There are five levels of flats, each flat housing four or five students per flat, all-in-all accommodating over 100 residents. So, when the power went out at 10:30 PM, you can imagine that there was quite a bit of unrest amongst us residents. 

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Look at all of us, huddled together with whatever light source we could scrounge up! Photo by author.

Where was I when the power went out? In the most convenient of places, of course; right in the middle of washing my face in a bathroom with a single light and a closed door. So my world was suddenly shrouded in darkness as soap and leftover mascara seeped into my eyes. For a brief moment, I wondered if perhaps the combination of the two substances that was currently stinging the hell out of my eyes had rendered me blind…did blindness really take hold that quickly? But then, I flailed my arms about until I found the light switch, wherein I discovered that I was NOT blind, but in the middle of a power outage, or, at the very least, in the middle of a horror movie. I was halfway expecting to get attacked by some bloodthirsty New Zealand mythological beast who only feasted on the flesh of pasty American girls (hey, poorer plots have been produced!).

I finally managed to scrape the soap/mascara nonsense off of my face and join my bewildered flatmates outside of our apartment, where we found about twenty other residents looking equally bewildered, clutching phones, candles, and flashlights (or, as the Kiwis say, “torches”). After a few minutes of quiet speculation, the fun began. I finally met our next-door neighbors (who hilariously called my American accent, “jarring,” for the record!), then went on an excursion to the very top floor where a large group of power outage-refugees had gathered to commiserate. It wasn’t long before one flat had managed to find the resources to throw a miniature rave, complete with lighting and music from the interior of their darkened apartment. After awhile, myself and a few friends crashed the flat of another friend, who had somehow managed to rig up twinkle lights and was subsequently one of the most popping venues in the vicinity. We shared stories, laughed at our ridiculous circumstances, and very simply enjoyed each other’s company.

Now, I’m not about to preach some sort of “anti-technology” moral, because believe me, I love Netflix as much as the next guy (Season 4 of House of Cards, amiright?), but this moment was oddly beautiful to me. If the power hadn’t gone out, every single one of us would have had a very different night. I would have washed my face, gotten into bed, checked Facebook and Instagram one more time, fallen asleep, and that would be the end of it. But since our electricity was forcibly (albeit accidentally) taken away from all of us at the same time, it forced us all to go outside and socialize face to face, rather than on a device. The fact that I hadn’t even met my own next-door neighbors is astonishing and quite sad. I crashed a flat of someone I barely know and had fellowship with people I might never see again. I laughed and now have memories with people I can’t possibly recognize in the light of day because it was so terribly dark, but isn’t that magical in a way?

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Nothing like a late-night party in a the candlelit flat of a stranger! Photo by author.

To whatever or whoever caused the campus-wide blackout for an hour and a half last night, I sincerely thank you (and if it’s a “whoever,” I hope that you are taking your recent firing relatively well), because had it never happened, my night would have ended fine, but flavorless. What is life without the crazy detours and unexpected turns? So if there is a moral to be had, might I simply recommend that you not wait for life’s power outages to place you into a new social situation, because they may never happen. It’s nights like this that you remember for how absurd and alive they make you feel.

Now, if you don’t mind, since the power IS back on now, Ima get back to House of Cards…

I’m in Love with The Bachelor

Okay. You can stop laughing now.

It’s true. I have a problem. But before we delve into the roots of my psychosis, let us first evaluate the definition of “reality show.”

A “reality show” is a television program that is basically edited, unscripted, live TV. Perhaps reactions are forced, clever editing can make a situation far more dramatic than it actually is, but for the most part, the viewer believes it is real because it generally is. Reality shows became popular through the game show–Survivor, Big Brother, The Mole, The Amazing Race, etc. They expanded to be live soaps. Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Jersey Shore, Toddlers & Tiaras, Dance Moms, 16 and Pregnant, just to name a recent few. Overall, I think that reality show executives and producers are marketing GENIUSES. They know the system and I believe I have figured out their aim. Reality shows are so popular because it is the common man that watches them. We, the common man, like to be entertained. So while taking in hilarity and week to week drama, we also like to feel better about ourselves. We like to feel smarter, kinder, and more genuine than many of the personalities we find on these shows. And that is exactly the marketing goal–appealing to the people through entertainment and making the common man feel better about themselves, since this artificial “reality” is in no way the “reality” of the viewer. Now, I’m not insinuating the this “common man” theory makes viewers look like insecure couch potatoes, I simply call it human nature. And it’s not like I’m above anyone else….in fact, I might be the worst offender.

And so, we finally reach the point of this blog…The Bachelor(ette), and the marketing genius behind it. The Bachelor first premiered in 2002. Now with 17 seasons of The Bachelor, 9 seasons of The Bachelorette and still going strong after 11 years and an average of 7 million viewers a week, The Bachelor(ette) has some mighty stats to contend with. But WHY. WHY does this show create such a buzz? Yes, it’s very romantic with fantasy dates and a fairytale love, but it all comes crashing down in a fiery ball of hell at the “After the Rose Ceremony,” or in the tabloids a month after the finale! Truth is, with a total of 26 couples supposedly “brought together” by this experience, only THREE AND A HALF have actually stayed together!!!! Two Bachelorettes, the most recent Bachelor and his current fiancee, and the half is the dude who broke it off with the woman he chose on the show to marry the RUNNER UP. THREE AND A HALF!!!!

So, easily, one could say, “This is stupid. The relationships are forced obviously, since it seems like as soon as the cameras get packed up and they see who they really have just proposed to, it doesn’t work.” And over the years, I’m sure that some HAVE said this and stopped watching. In fact, I’m sure EVERY viewer has considered this at some point, yet the show still has 7 million viewers. WHYYYYYY???!!? Well, I can speak because now I am one of 7 million.

I got hooked on Emily’s season of The Bachelorette. I came in to the middle of the season, who knows why–mindless channel surfing, I lost a bet, I can’t remember. I enjoyed initially riffing the show. I thought it was incredibly creepy…a couple dozen guys sharing saliva and pining over the same woman who shares affections for all of them? CREEPY. But as the shows proceeds and tears continue to shed, I get hooked. “Aw…he’s so nice…” Then she sends home Sean. SHOCKER! Then it’s announced Sean is to be the next Bachelor. Then, of course, you HAVE to watch his season because he was your favorite! Will he get his happy ending? You think you know “the one.” A sweet girl named Desiree. He sends her home mercilessly. WHAT???? Season finale…Dez is the new Bachelorette! YES!!! Gotta watch this! Who will she choose?

Do you see what happened? THEY CHOOSE THE AUDIENCE FAVORITE AND THAT’S WHY THEY ARE STILL GOING STRONG. Once you watch a single episode, you are hypnotized. And you HAVE TO KEEP WATCHING. MARKETING. GENIUS!!!! I am so spineless that I cannot leave the TV screen Monday nights. You know why? Because everyone loves Drew, so obviously she’s not going to pick Drew. Therefore Drew will be the new Bachelor, he’ll break some poor dear’s heart and THE PROCESS SHALL NEVER END!!!!!!!!!! And you can find me at home, watching this brainwash of a show! Does it have good intentions? Probably. Does it work? Obviously not. Is it entertainment? Holy god yes. And I LOVE IT. Image