Open Mic

'I'm A Celebrity' May Have Killed My Love of Reality TV

Rick Ellis Posted June 5, 2009 at 8:55 AM

Tags: I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!

I'm not one of these TV critics that loathes most reality television.
Sadly, I watch more of it than is probably good for my soul or my waistline.

I'm the guy who watched Fuse's "Redemption Song" and Fox's "Hells'
Kitchen." I've sat through entire seasons of CMT's "Gone Country" and
The CW's "Sylista." In other words, I have developed a high threshold
for having my chain yanked by manipulative editing and cheesy dialogue.
I tend to suspect everything I see is staged and that nothing is quite
the way it appears on the screen.

And yet, after only four episodes I find myself throwing up my hands and
surrendering on the idea of making any sense of the creative train wreck
that is NBC's "I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!" I'm not quite sure
what show the network thought it had on its hands at this time last
week. But after four surreal and awkward episodes, it's a show that
manages to be both outrageous and often oddly boring.

I'm a fan of the concept for the show. I enjoyed ABC's take on it
several years back, but that network had the same problem encountered
this time around by NBC. Odds are that any celebrity willing to spend a
few weeks in the rain forest probably isn't being fully utilized by
Hollywood. Which may explain the peculiar mix of quasi-names that
inhabits NBC's version. Not to be cruel, but if one of the biggest
"stars" in your show is Stephen Baldwin, then something has gone
horribly wrong during the creative process.

Most of the week's press coverage has centered on Spencer Pratt and
Heidi Montag-Pratt. They're best known for appearing on MTV's "The
Hills," and I would assume that NBC's deal with MTV to re-air episodes
of "I'm A Celebrity.." has something to do with their appearance on the

The Pratts have been a force of nature in the first four episodes. And
by that I mean that they've created a lot of hot air and damage to
everything surrounding them. They threatened to quit twice before the
first live segment even aired, and that included a surreal phone
conversation between Spencer Pratt and NBC's Ben Silverman. The couple
then returned to the show, then quit again. They then asked to return
and are now involved in some odd set of "rules" that require their
former cast mates to vote them back onto the show.

If all of this makes your head hurt, then welcome to my world. I
certainly can't figure out how much of the events are legitimate and how
much is just some weird mind game perpetuated by the Pratts’ and/or NBC.
In many cases, the events have been so strange that I can't decide if it
would be worse for it all to be fake or actually true. Is Spencer as
really as big of a windbag as he appears? You would hope not, but if it
is an act, why would he think this approach is good for his career? If
this quitting-then-returning-then-quitting routine isn't sincere, then
what sort of idiot thought it would be a great way to manipulate the
audience? So Daniel Baldwin shows up as a new contestant, and
Spencer/Heidi still come back anyway?

At some point, all the erratic twists and turns just seem pointless and
manipulative. And NBC's decision to hold off the final 'will they
return' decision until next week was the final straw. I understand that
"reality" TV may not be scripted in the traditional sense. But like its
scripted TV brothers, all good reality shows have recognizable plot arcs
and a somewhat believable back-story. "I'm A Celebrity" is just a mess,
and since I can't trust anything I see on the screen, what's the point
of watching anymore?

At this point, I wish the show's producers would just come on the show
Monday evening and lay it all out there for the audience. If the Pratts’
erratic behavior is legitimate, then show some of what's been going on
off-camera. And if it was all some awkward attempt at building buzz for
the show, then throw out some mea culpas and get back to the show.

Either way, I just want to go back to my semi-cynical belief in reality
TV. I don't mind being lied to. I just want the lies to be believable
enough that I don't feel like a chump for continuing to watch.

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