Tuesday, April 22, 2003
I'm a bad person.
I missed "Mr. Personality" last night. There were reasons.
I know that you count on me to devour any new reality product, chew it into a fine paste, and spread it on the finest crackers for your consumption.
But I've reviewed the coverage of this new gift from Fox this morning, and I think I have pieced together enough to post a brief recap of the proceedings.
The premise is simplicity itself: One beautiful woman, twenty men in masks. She has to choose a man without the benefit of seeing his face. On this show, personality is king, declares all the promotional materials.
Oh yes, everyone's favorite Presidential knee-pad and Cuban cigar tester, Monica Lewinsky, is the host. Now some of you might object to the gratuitous reference to Ms. Lewinsky's notorious fellating of the Most Powerful Man in the World. But those were good times, no? Political satire was no more complicated than the nimbly-worded blow-job joke. The economy was, er, humming along with the dot-com boom, while Monica was getting knots on the top of her head from the underside of the stately oak desk in the Oval Office as President Clinton talked on the Red Phone to various members of our government and foreign heads of state. Her repeated servicing of the did-we-mention-he-was-The-Most-Powerful-Man-in-the-World was almost certainly based on the merits of his personality alone. So who better to be our Virgil through this latest circle of the reality-TV underworld? Certainly not the "Are You Hot?" guy. I can't remember his name either.
The first ten minutes of the show set up the premise. The host is introduced, met with wild applause from the frothing studio audience, who have been starved like animals in the Baghdad Zoo for three days and then fed Twinkies with a creamy methamphetamine center. There is nearly a riot as a montage of Monica's greatest hits plays on the thirty-foot screen behind her: clips from her HBO special, "Black and White"; sound bites of President Clinton pointing a thumb defiantly at the camera and declaring, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," and "it depends on what your definition of 'is' is..." This is followed by another montage of the three-thousand-forty-five monologue jokes Jay Leno dedicated to Monica's prowess with a bent Presidential unit. After the video screen goes dark, an audience member hops on the stage and demands that our host provide him with oral satisfaction; when she demurely refuses, he claws out his eyes. It seems the Twinkies did not agree with him.
We then meet the One Beautiful Woman who will be separating the personality wheat from the good-looking chaff. Hayley was raised in a small town, helped her family tend their farm, then went to business school. She now is a corporate raider and part-time model making more money than the twenty men laid out before her like a blue-light special buffet.
She is the archetypical American woman: beautiful, successful beyond all measure, a Madonna on your arm, a whore in the bedroom... There is a gauzy glow surrounding her at all times. A bluebird alights on her outstretched finger. Another audience member rushes the stage, demanding oral satisfaction. Hayley refuses, there is more eye-clawing, and the producer who dreamt up the speed Twinkie idea is promoted to head of programming at Fox. A scroll on the bottom of the screen implores us to "Watch the Fox Fall schedule for 'Crank Addicts Beg for Oral Satisfaction'." We laugh because we realize that reality TV has long been a self-parody, and no snarky comment on the programming decisions of television executives could possibly surpass what actually will be produced in the coming months.
The twenty men are paraded by Hayley. Only their chins are exposed by the colorful Mexican wrestling masks they wear. Hayley thinks aloud that they all look Mexican and that she's not "particularly fond of beaners," so this will be a true test of her suitors' personalities. Monica makes an off-color joke about her pool boy's conversational skills. They laugh.
Hayley then proceeds to eliminate ten men solely on the relative attractiveness of their jawlines. She and Monica praise the personalities of the survivors.
"This is going to be a really hard decision for you next week," says Monica.
"I know," says Hayley. "Will they still be Mexican?"
"We'll see what we can do," says Monica.
The credits roll. The eliminated doff their masks. To a man, they are hysterically crying. A plastic surgeon has been retained by Fox and is already sketching improvements on the losers' chins with a grease pencil. A twitchy audience member bursts backstage, demands oral satisfaction from one of the eliminated. His tears quickly dry.
This time, there are no eyes clawed out.
[This piece is being simulcast at Bob from Accounting]