Reality Bites: Naked and Afraid

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Reminds me of a Roxy Music album cover.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Forget Ebola, America is in the midst of a nudity epidemic.

Having already worked the black seam of wine-soaked, furniture-tossing housewives and twentysomething mooks on the make to exhaustion, reality TV programmers finally realized there was one taboo (in America, anyway) they had yet to fully exploit: nekkidness.

The first tentative steps into this pants-optional territory came with TLC's Buying Naked, the show for potential nudist homeowners. Then there was Dating Naked, VH1's answer to the age-old question, "How long can two people make small talk before looking at each other's junk?"

Never one to shirk from a cultural bar-lowering, the Discovery Channel has responded with Naked and Afraid, a survival show with the ultimate twist: uh, they're naked. But you probably already figured that out.


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Reality Bites: Living Alaska

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Alaska: where bears are considered an amenity
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Alaska, not space, is the final (okay, last) frontier. But don't take it from me, that's both the state's official motto as well as the corporate stance of Home and Garden Television (HGTV), which certainly has no vested interest in encouraging residential growth in one of the least developed viewing areas in the country. Oh my, no.

A show based on the idea of moving to Alaska sounds like it would offer some interesting and unique challenges (provided you do a little better prep work than Chris McCandless, that is). Alas, Living Alaska seizes little opportunity to showcase the Land of the Midnight Sun's singular charms, settling instead for the same tired yet lucrative formula that fuels 75 percent of HGTV's existing programming.


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Reality Bites: 4th And Loud

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Tasteful as always, fellows.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

I've been asked by unrelated people on at least three unconnected occasions when I was planning on covering 4th and Loud for the continuing exercise in converting what remains of my gray matter into the delicious gruel I call "Reality Bites." I've never been able to give a good answer.

It's kind of weird, because due to poor time-management skills inherited from just about every one of my ancestors, I often find myself on a Monday or Tuesday without anything recorded to write about, necessitating a frantic perusal of free On Demand titles in the hopes of finding something I can sit through without falling asleep. So I really can't blame anything but conscious avoidance. In spite of months of pre-premiere promotion and continuing advertisements on AMC, it never crossed my mind to write about that show where Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley bought an arena football team.

This is also why I went through a run of truTV selections for a while. Because nobody but meth addicts and tow truck fetishists watches truTV voluntarily.


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Reality Bites: The Jennie Garth Project

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Not really getting a Ripley from "Aliens" vibe, here.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Jennie Garth is an actor. She's best known for playing Kelly Taylor in the quintessential '90s TV show Beverly Hills, 90210, and again in 90210, the CW's not-at-all necrophiliac revival. She may be capable of greater range than this, but you wouldn't know if from The Jennie Garth Project, a new HGTV series about Garth's latest grasp for post-Kelly Taylor relevance by latching onto the recent TV remodeling craze.

Will she succeed with only her gumption and spunky personality? Will HGTV hit the "over" on referring to her as a "single mother of three?" Will Garth suffer a life-threatening injury after clumsily handling equipment best left to fully bonded professionals?

Whatever, I was always more of a Melrose Place guy anyway.


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Reality Bites: Toughest Place to Be a Taxi Driver

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No air conditioning? What could go wrong?
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

In my lengthy and casualty-ridden campaign to avoid Bravo programming, I decided to check out a channel not often known for frivolous time wastage, namely, Al Jazeera America.

And wouldn't you know it, the program I finally ended up with was actually re-aired from the BBC. Toughest Place to Be A Taxi Driver is part of that network's (surprise) "Toughest Place to be a..." series, in which seasoned British professionals are thrust into unfamiliar environments in an attempt to do their job, kind of like when Michael Phelps hosted Saturday Night Live.

Previous episodes sent coal miners to Mongolia and midwives to Liberia (presumably pre-Ebola outbreak). The Episode I Watched, on the other hand, sent one of London's vaunted cab drivers to Mumbai, India.


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Reality Bites: Fat Guys in the Woods

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"Just show us how to build a fire, Point Break."
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Until now, it never occurred to me to review any of the shows on the Weather Channel for "Reality Bites." Not because it was necessarily lacking in the category (I'm still somewhat bummed I never got to check out Lifeguard! Southern California), but because I was afraid of outing myself as that least cool of misanthropes: the weather nerd.

I had an unhealthy obsession with TWC in my teen years that I can't rightly explain. I lived in central Texas, which isn't a particularly exciting area, climate-wise, but there was something hypnotic about that national radar loop, the Local on the 8s, and Marny Stanier. More than that, I think it was the awesome destructive power of weather on display that kept me hooked, even before I moved to Houston and had the "privilege" of riding out my first hurricane.

Luckily, the other night I came across Fat Guys in the Woods, which is only related to weather in that most primal sense: it'll kill you stone dead if you can't handle yourself. This is -- I guess -- especially true if you're overweight.


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Reality Bites: Gypsy Sisters

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Even the closed captioning is misspelled.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

When it comes right down to it, there are three types of reality shows. The first kind, those that attempt -- however weakly -- to instruct the audience about obscure or lesser known topics or demographics, tend to be the most entertaining. I watched at least three seasons of Deadliest Catch, for example, because I found the concept of drowning in arctic seas terrifying.

The second kind are "competition" shows, which can range from the engaging (Amazing Race, Top Chef) to the grotesque (The Swan, Big Brother).

The final category consists of programs whose only purpose is to get us to point and laugh and/or gape in mock disgust at the antics of a group of mostly unpleasant human beings. These require the least effort to produce, since the simple act of getting on the teevee still trumps common sense and minimal standards of decorum for many people. Not coincidentally, this is the fastest growing category.

Enter Gypsy Sisters, arguably the laziest, most cringeworthy bag of flaming dogshit plopped on America's doorstep by a network that still has the stones to call itself
"The Learning Channel."

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Reality Bites: Wahlburgers

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Sushi in a burger joint? Fackin' suspect.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Was this really necessary?

I probably ask that question every week. Arguably none of the garbage I subject myself to on a weekly basis for your quote-unquote amusement *needs* to exist, in the purest, Maslow hierarchy sense of the word. And in fairness, once I realized A&E's Wahlburgers wasn't about famous siblings Mark and Donnie Wahlberg attempting to open a restaurant, but rather their brother Paul -- who is actually a chef -- I more or less accepted the premise.

Even though it significantly diminishes the potential for Marky Mark-related kitchen mishaps.

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Reality Bites: Extreme Guide to Parenting

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Hope you've got hardwood floors.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

To this point, there haven't been a whole lot of parenting reality shows, unless you count the ones that only address it in the broader context of family life, like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or, I guess, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Therefore Bravo's new show -- Extreme Guide to Parenting -- is one of the first shows to feed into that most visceral of urges: mocking other people's parenting techniques.

Which is also why EGTP is yet another example of that network's insidious genius, because as any parent will tell you, the only thing harder than raising kids is resisting the urge to tell other people how to raise theirs.


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Reality Bites: Catfish: The TV Show

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The eternal question.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Man, am I glad I'm not single.

It was bad enough back in the Dark Ages (i.e. the 1990s), when you had to put on pants and physically drag yourself out to a public place in the hopes of meeting someone who a) didn't find you physically or philosophically repugnant, b) was tolerable to you as well, and c) would give you an actual, working phone number.

But today? With your OKCupids and Skyping and selfies and dick pics? I'm pretty sure I'd just cower in the dark playing The Last of Us while inhaling Funyuns and muttering to myself how much better off the world was without the continuation of my family line. For everyone else, I suppose you can rely on MTV's Catfish to help keep you on the path to true -- meaning "foresically verifiable" -- love.


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