Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Reality Show Ramblings #2

The saga of reality shows continues, with a few more from the cable channels...

There are two versions of this series, one from England and its uglier, more interesting North American sister. As for the latter, it chronicles the daily meanderings of Southwest Airlines' customer service staff. One word I think of when I see "customer service staff" : complaints. And plenty of them. Clearly, the executives from Southwest took a gamble with allowing this amount of television exposure. On some occasions, we'll see immersive human interest stories about emotional reunions or staff tribulations. On other occasions, we'll see an employee going the extra mile to assist one or more of the following:

- The dizzy 200 year-old prune of a woman who can't find her way around and shouldn't be travelling anyway
- The rowdy unshaven drunk guy, usually on his way to Vegas, that has been denied boarding and can't understand why
- The super fat guy that needs to purchase nine extra seats to accommodate his Robert Earl Hughes frame (and the subsequent load balancing problems)
- The idiots who try to check a 1200 pound suitcase
- The creepy people from third world countries who try to check things that don't even resemble baggage, and invariably have bugs crawling out of them (both the creepy people and the baggage)
- The rest of the idiots that aren't around the gate when the final boarding call comes, or those that can't understand the definition of "standby passenger"
- The questionable people who try to come on board with knives, guns, gasoline, etc.
- The bitter, angry jerks of passengers who claim discrimination because they are fat/black/middle eastern

Sure, it's likely good public relations to show Southwest handling these situations, generally involving dialogue that begins with the phrase "Sir/Ma'am, we can't..." That said, a vast majority of the segments focus on the airline's screw-ups. Lost bags, lost passengers, lost pets, cancelled flights, late flights, overbookings, and other miscommunications between the airport staff and the infamous reservation center. These situations seem to far outnumber the "feel good" moments of the show, and simply illustrate that the airline is rather incompetent in allowing these constant problems to rear their ugly heads, like a whack-a-mole game from hell. I'm sure that the other airlines make quite a few mistakes as well, but they are all smart enough to keep them off a nationally broadcast reality show. I'm sure the show has, in the end, done more harm than good to Southwest and its reputation.

Iron Chef (Original Japanese version)
The oddly disturbing and off-putting predecessor to Iron Chef America, this show was the beginning of the reality cooking competition frenzy. The show features two chefs, set into "battle" in which each chef needs to create dishes based on the episode's secret ingredient. Most of the time, the secret ingredient is an obscure fish or creepy sea monster, none of which are even remotely familiar to the culinary fans from the western hemisphere. A "challenger" chef, generally snatched from a strange restaurant in Japan, takes on one of the four "Iron Chefs", who are deemed to be the best in their particular cuisines. There's one who specializes in Chinese cuisine, another for Japanese, another for French, and the perennially forgotten fourth chef, who specializes in Italian. First of all, there is the amusing aspect to the two chefs who are supposed experts in Italian and French cuisines, because they are both Japanese. C'mon, there's just a question of authenticity here. Why couldn't they dredge up a chef from Italy to be "Iron Chef Italian"? Same for the French thing. If I saw a Japanese guy preparing my spaghetti, I'd be running for the hills. Sure, there are great Italian restaurants in the United States, and while this isn't Italy, the people behind these restaurants probably, at very least, have an Italian heritage. I don't expect too many Japanese people to have Italian blood in them. The "Iron Chef Chinese" is Chen Kenichi, a Chinese person. Fine, at least he's from the right country. My favorite, Morimoto, charged with all things Japanese, is from Japan. Fine again.
As for the ingredients used, they are always disgusting. Fish roe, lobster brains, squid ink, you name it. When they have ducks around, they don't use the meat, like normal humans. Out come the beaks, feet, kidneys, heads, eyes, and similar offal. Where do these savages come from? Can't these people use things that don't induce vomiting, like vegetables, rice, and things that aren't so gooey? I know Japan is a seafood nation, but really, grow some damn asparagus and keep the show from looking like an unedited episode of Quincy.
The commentary is amusingly dubbed into English, for us thick American viewers. The voice actors that replace the original dialogue always go overboard. Really, do we need things like laughter to be redubbed into English? It sounds incredibly embarrassing. The original lead commentator, Kenji Fukui, is constantly, constantly, constantly, interrupted by a supposed roving floor reporter named Ohta. Ohta constantly breaks into the running commentary by saying "Fukui San?". I've counted upwards of 50 interruptions during the course of 40+ minutes of program time. If Ohta's interruptions were to be turned into a drinking game, I'd be plastered by the 20 minute mark. I invite others to try it, but I know I wouldn't last. It's painfully oppressive. I'm also suspicious of this Ohta guy even really being on the floor during the competition. I've never seen him out there on the cooking floor during the competition, only during interviews.
Upon the completion of cooking, the plates are submitted to the judges for commentary. The judge's panel is normally comprised of local Japanese actors, actresses, artists, and some crone introduced as a "fortune teller". Upon the tasting, the judges overuse the words "flavor", "salty", or "spicy". After the tasting, the winner is determined - or not. Sometimes, there's a tie, and guess what - that means they go into overtime! Worse yet, the overtime isn't edited into the original episode, it comes in a later broadcast! Thanks for leaving us hanging. Shut up and eat your sea urchin.

Storm Chasers
A new favorite show of mine from the Discovery Channel, it chronicles the ongoing quests of several tornado chasing teams as they traverse the featureless terrain of tornado alley during the summer storm season. Season after season, a poor bastard named Sean Casey tries to drive his tank-like "Tornado Intercept Vehicle" (TIV) into the middle of a tornado, with the intention of finishing an IMAX film, into which he has already sunk oodles of money. Unfortunately, Casey's TIV is guided by the apparently hapless tornado scientist Josh Wurman, who, despite his doctorate and years of expertise, can't seem to successfully guide Casey into that ultimate moment of intercepting a tornado. Come on already, Wurman's got a doppler radar unit in his vehicle, and he still can't lead Casey into a tornado after five years? Something must be said for the level of expertise here.
Conversely, a "rival" team of chasers, who merely seek to film tornadoes and sell the footage to news stations, is headed by an ambitious guy named Reed Tiller, who was actually one of Wurman's students. This team can't seem to miss tornadoes, in that they find themselves trying to escape them more than find them. Wouldn't Casey's IMAX project be best served by following this team? I don't get it. Regardless, I keep tuning in each week to see if Casey might finally get his ultimate tornado footage, though it seems like a destiny unfulfilled. Now the season finale is upon us, and I doubt he'll get his wish.

The Girls Next Door
Yes, yet another disturbing reality show. This one showcases the three (soon to be booted) blond girlfriends that live as sycophants, concubines, and attendants to the old and dirty Hugh Hefner. Some males hate the show out of jealousy, because the ol' bastard has everything he wants in the world, including his harem. Other males like the show, perhaps to live out personal fantasies or something. I have yet to figure out why anyone would want to watch an old fart have unlimited sexual access to young girls in a mansion that most people couldn't afford to see, let alone visit or purchase. Now Hef has roped in a set of twins, though apparently the original three girls, while they are likely out of the Hef bedroom, have signed onto another season of this tripe. I don't understand it, like it, or care about it, and frankly can't wait for Hefner to just finally die. I mean, really, this guy looks like an ash tray after a long poker night. I can't even say "Dry up and die already", because he's already completed step one. Let's go with step two.

More to come, as always...


Anonymous said...

My favorite episodes of Airline UK involved animals being rejected for the passenger compartment. One guy wanted to take his hamster to Greece, and had to spend a couple hundred pounds to send it cargo on a later flight. One kid was trying to bring live lobsters to Scotland and had to leave them behind (they conveniently disappeared). And a bitchy Christine McVie type had to send her toy dog home in a cab.

The Histrionics of a Fat Housewife said...

I don't watch tv, other than CNN. Not b/c I am a high and mighty "Oh, not I, but for the masses" type, but b/c I just can't remember to turn the darn thing on.

So what does it say about me that I have actually seen Iron Chef and Girls Next Door? And not just once. But several times.

Anonymous said...

So, like, are you dead? Or have you just given up on posting any further updates?