The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘reality TV’

The Ballad of Justin Bobby

October 7, 2016 | by

In Brushes with Greatness, Naomi Fry writes about relatively marginal encounters with celebrities.


Recently, an article I had read in an Israeli women’s magazine when I was maybe eleven popped into my mind. The piece was about fans: people who spent a lot of their time following their celebrity idols around, splitting the difference between adoration and what would now be probably called stalking. I recalled a detail about two sisters who were obsessed with, if memory serves, Kris Kristofferson. Somehow, they had ended up at one of his houses, where a housekeeper let them in and was kind—or unprofessional—enough to give them some mementos of their idol’s: a pair of old cutoff shorts he wore out of the shower and some cigarette butts that he’d smoked. Cigarette butts that he’d smoked! This struck me both then and now as kind of extreme. Imagine being so earnestly fixated on a stranger that touching something that carried only the faintest imprint of his or her body—even something fairly gross like an old cigarette—would be a thing you’d seek out!

Decades have passed, and today very few celebrities still inspire that kind of all-out adulation, engendered by real distance between the famous and nonfamous. The kind of stars I’m thinking about—Beyoncé, maybe Rihanna—have a spectacular untouchability that gives rise to the traditional model of fandom: the type that wants to touch, that desires the laying on of the hands, or at the very least a whiff of the raiment. (Think, for instance, of Drake—a big star in his own right but also, too, a known superfan of Rihanna’s—who, in a song originally meant for her to sing, wrote the lines, “Let my perfume soak into your sweater.”) Read More »

Lou and His Dream-making Machine

August 22, 2016 | by

Pearlman, center, with the finalists from O-Town.

Lou Pearlman, the slippery impresario behind the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, O-Town, LFO, Aaron Carter, and about a half dozen other agreeably vacuous late nineties pop acts, has died in prison. Yes, the Lou Pearlman. The guy practically invented boy bands. I mean, he didn’t—he just ripped off New Kids on the Block—but he invented the most lucrative boy bands, and as he’d be the first to tell you, that’s the more major achievement. You couldn’t turn around in 1999 without seeing one of his acts: massively telegenic, deeply ordinary, somehow memorable. They had branded lip balms, bobbleheads, and throw pillows for sale. I know this because I spent a lot of time hating them. Read More »

Poets at the Supermarket, and Other News

June 2, 2016 | by

Nathan Gelgud’s drawing of Ginsberg and Whitman at the supermarket. Image via Signature

  • A 1907 book of American superstitions confirms that we’ve always been a delusional people. And a morbid people, too, as these sample superstitions suggest: “If you kiss a baby’s feet, it will not live to walk on them.” “Never call a baby an angel, or it will die before the year is out.” “If a fire puffs, it is a sure sign of a neighbor’s quarreling.” “Carrying a shovel through the house—bad luck.” “If a white horse strays into your yard, one of the family will die.”

This Picture Is a Movie, and Other News

June 1, 2016 | by

Jason Shulman’s single-exposure picture of The Wizard of Oz. Image courtesy Cob Galley, via AnOther.

  • Jason Shulman takes long-, long-, long-exposure images of movies: he captures entire feature-length films in single photographs. “The images vary so wildly, that’s the remarkable thing about it,” he says: “and they’re also quite didactic. You can learn something about the director’s style from this kind of kooky translation: you can learn that Hitchcock deals with people, for example, Kubrick deals with composition, Bergman deals with … I mean lots of Bergman films are kind of moody and psychological, much more so than other films. So it’s odd that in one exposure all of these things, although very subjective, kind of come through.”

Role Play

June 8, 2015 | by


A still from Holiday in the Protectorate.

Readers of the New York Times may have noticed a recent story about a new Czech reality show. In the tradition of Victorian House and other total-immersion programs, this one sticks modern people in another time—specifically a 1939 “remote mountain farm” in what was then the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Hilarity does not ensue. As the article explains,

There, they must not only survive the rigors of rustic life with dated appliances and outdoor plumbing, but navigate the moral and physical dangers of life under Nazi rule.

German troops (played by actors) kick down their doors in the middle of the night. Local villagers betray them to the Gestapo. Food is scarce. Conditions are crude.

Everything about this show sounds distasteful, certainly. Besides the obvious objections, the basic flaw in these time-travel shows—the assumption that you can switch off modern mores along with central AC—seems doubly true here. Reading about it, I was reminded of when my father and I had gone to an exhibit featuring artifacts from the Titanic. To enter, we’d had to show a “boarding pass,” and they’d made us pose for an obligatory picture together at the top of the stairs they’d re-created, just like Rose and Jack in the movie. Read More »

Danke Schoen

November 3, 2014 | by


A still from The Entertainer, 2005.

If I need to, I can date my periods of depression by the corresponding enthusiasms for terrible TV shows. Enthusiasms is maybe the wrong word: let’s say commitment to.

Now, at the best of times, I can be sucked into watching almost any show—give me a marathon and I’m yours for the next twenty episodes, and I genuinely mourn the passing of Most Eligible Dallas—but when I think of the other times, the bad times, my devotion had a different quality: resigned, enervated, yet obsessive. It was sort of coaxing a tepid crush out of boredom; with a little care and a lot of time, you can create something that approximates a genuine interest.

And I was willing to put in the time. There was my relatively respectable Upstairs Downstairs fixation after I moved into my parents’ house after college, when I’d spend my days crouching by the mail slot, waiting for the red Netflix envelopes to arrive with my fix. Even now, I see those weeks in 1970s BBC yellow. Less defensible was the obsession with the Australian soap McLeod’s Daughters, which could only be watched (a) during the day and (b) on Lifetime. This one crept up on me. Did I enter a McLeod’s Daughters contest to try to win a trip to the outback? Maybe. Let’s just say that when the booby prize, a faux-silver cowboy-boot key chain, arrived in the mail, it felt like a wake-up call.

But by any measure, the nadir came in the summer of 2005. I know the date because it was the one and only season of Wayne Newton’s The Entertainer, which aired on E!. Wayne Newton’s The Entertainer was part of the spate of copycat programs that followed the early success of American Idol, and the talent-show premise was similar. Ah, but here was the twist: The Entertainer was not restricted to singers—it sought to give exposure to all kinds of Vegas-style razzle-dazzle. As such The Entertainer was composed not merely of singers, but of ventriloquists, magicians—sorry, “illusionists”—and comedians, too, all vying for the grand prize: opening for “Mr. Vegas” himself. (Apparently Wayne Newton is called that, though I’m not sure by whom.) Read More »