Reality TV

‘Becoming Us’: A Groundbreakingly Banal Show About Trans Families

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Bra-shopping, texting, and endless parent-child FaceTime chats punctuate the first two episodes of ABC Family’s Becoming Us, the reality show about Ben and Danielle, two teens with newly out trans parents that feels perfectly timed to our current cultural tipping point — and to counter the inevitable backlash. What better timing for the premiere of a reality show about two rather unassuming trans women supporting their teen kids in Illinois than the day after the publication of a noxious New York Times op-ed assailing trans women as some sort of threat to feminism?
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What Is “Soft Dick Rock”? Jenny Hval Explains

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Less than a minute into the existential and experimental musician and writer Jenny Hval’s brilliant new album, Apocalypse, girl, she asks a question for the ages: “What is soft dick rock?” She answers clinically: “Using the elements of dick to create a softer, toned-down sound.” She even put it on a t-shirt. A classic Hvalian mix of soft and hard if there ever was one.
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The 50 Most Surreal Premises in Reality-TV History

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Reality TV now walks a fine between being weirdly complicated and utterly basic — yesterday, on Discovery Life, for example, 50 Ways to Kill Your Mother and Outrageous Births: Tales From the Crib debuted! And just last weekend, you’ll recall, it was My Husband’s Not Gaythe show about Mormons keeping their marriages together despite the male component being, er, “not gay.” With spinoffs of spinoffs and ripoffs of ripoffs, no matter how many syllables it takes to describe a new subculture a show’s seeming to invent or the byzantine rules the show’s imposing, as long as reality TV focuses on “real people” but eschews their real problems, which it notoriously does, it remains nauseatingly simple. Because sometimes it’s not even what’s being portrayed, so much as the exploitative way it’s portrayed, that leaves you with the dizzied sense of living in a reality that’s crumbling due to the sheer fact that such shows exist.
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MTV’s ‘Slednecks’ Isn’t Particularly Offensive — So Will Anyone Care to Watch It?

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The film Reality (by Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone), about a provincial Italian fisherman who dreams of being on Big Brother, and keeps dreaming himself into a series of delusions that bring his life crashing down, beautifully sums up the ambiguity of the whole reality TV genre in its very title. In the 21st century, nobody in their right mind mistakes reality TV for reality. The fact of it its factlessness is no epiphany — but reality TV also shouldn’t be mistaken for fiction, either. Stripped of the woes that befall fictitious characters — as fiction is typically written to emulate reality — bracketing people, who, as real people, are prone to tragedy and tragic missteps, into lighthearted, producer-planned dramas that are confined to producer-planned sleepovers or producer-planned outings, reality TV is a claustrophobic realm unto itself of enclosed, resolvable dramas. The “reality” in it is neither “reality” nor fiction as we know it. It’s something far more stifling.
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Fox’s ‘Utopia’ Turns an Intriguing Social Experiment Into a Mundane Reality Show

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Fox’s Utopia is not a reality show — it’s a “social experiment.” What this really means is that it’s trying to pretend it’s smarter than the average reality program. There have been others with the same stated goal: Wife Swap aims to teach people about different kinds of family values, Shattered had contestants go without sleep for a week, and Kid Nation put 40 kids in a deserted town to build their own society without adult supervision. Utopia is Kid Nation‘s spiritual equivalent. Fifteen adults live together on a plot of undeveloped land and create their idea of a utopian society. If Utopia were, indeed, a social experiment, it would be a fascinating television show — Fox is so confident in this that it will air episodes twice a week — but instead it offers nothing more than typical reality show boredom.
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‘Kid Nation’: Looking Back on TV’s Most Disturbing Reality Show

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Ever since the reality TV genre took off in the early 2000s, networks have been in an unspoken competition to put out the most unique, controversial, or just absurd programs. 2007 was a big year for reality, but Kid Nation was the clear winner. In Kid Nation, 40 children were sent to a privately owned town in New Mexico to create their own society, set up a government, and fend for themselves without adults. The children, ages eight to 15, had to do everything themselves — from doing their own laundry to slaughtering their own dinner — and, if they were lucky, were sometimes rewarded with a sack full of buffalo nickels. CBS thought this show was a good idea.
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Kristen Schaal and Casey Wilson’s ‘Hotwives of Orlando’: Is the ‘Real Housewives’ Franchise Too Ridiculous to Parody?

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It seems pointless to mention that the main draw of Housewives-brand reality shows – and the very reason why a great number of people still watch them – is that they’re hyperbolically unreal. And yet I mentioned it, because Hulu’s The Hotwives of Orlando, created by Danielle Schneider and Dannah Phirman, is the kind of parody that booby-traps one into stating the obvious.
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The Eminem Show: Music’s Greatest Ongoing Reality Saga

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There was a moment in the early 2000s when the release of a new Eminem single felt like a bona fide cultural event. Everyone would know the words to tracks like “My Name Is” or “The Real Slim Shady,” but that moment has passed. Sure, there’s a decent number of people who still wait on every new release, a core of diehard fans who’ll invade your comment section and tell you that Em is the greatest rapper in the world if you dare to suggest otherwise. As far as a connection with the general public goes, though, Eminem’s moment has passed. But still the Eminem show goes on — and Mother’s Day brought a new episode, a song and music video titled “Headlights,” intended as an apology to his mom, Debbie.
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‘True Detective’ of the Web: ‘Catfish’ Creators Nev Schulman and Max Joseph on Solving the Mysteries of Online Love

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Dart through Times Square, where even the Hello Kitty plushies are knockoffs, into the Viacom building on Broadway and 45th, where even the security guards hassle you just because they can. Run smack-dab into Iggy Azalea, dripping with Moschino and contempt, as you enter the elevator. Walk past “ballsy” quotes from M.I.A. and Sid Vicious — an attempt to edge up the colorful MTV offices, where A$AP Rocky blares when you both enter and leave — and step into a conference room overlooking the Hudson River where a team of MTV publicists outnumber your interview subjects. You’re here to talk to Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, the co-stars and co-creators of the “docudrama” Catfish, which returns for its third season this week. It’s almost laugh-out-loud funny how much the real and the fabricated are at battle here within this single experience, an attempt to get to the heart of a TV show that examines what’s real and what’s fabricated in relationships that exist exclusively via digital means.
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