The summer reality TV season starts off pretty gay — but not very good
TV reviewing can be a miserable experience.
There’s plenty of high-quality television out there for gay audiences. And we all know that summer is a special time in the TV calendar, when people stay in from the heat and want to be distracted in their homes by the same mindless entertainment available in theaters. And cable is great for giving a gay twist to their reality programs.
The shows debuting this week are, for the most part, torture bits of "reality." It gets better next week. Until then, here’s what to avoid.
Jersey Couture. Jersey Couture is both a perfectly adequate reality show and the apotheosis of everything WRONG with the current state of TV: An aggressive lack of invention. What else could lead Oxygen to try to exploit the fashion of Lifetime’s Project Runway, the high-end lifestyle of countless Bravo shows and the appalling lowbrow train wreck of Jersey Shore? (Even the name steals from those programs.) Another example of its bad TV-ness? The idea that virtually anyone can have their own reality show.
That seems the case with the Scali family, who run a dress boutique in the Garden State. They cater to all kinds of Jerseyites, from prom queens to brides to expectant mothers. Their designs tend toward the overstated — this is New Jersey — but are not, for instance, worse than anything Santino Rice came up with. The daughters bicker about who puts in more effort, the son tries to be a DJ … and nothing much else happens. The girls are likeable enough, but the show feels as fake as the sequins on their eveningwear.
Airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Oxygen.
Dance Your Ass Off. The Biggest Loser meets So You Think You Can Dance in the second season of this weight loss/performance/competition series that takes obese contestants who want to shimmy and step-ball-change their way to a smaller waistline. Los Angeles tags who appears to be two gay men, and auditions in Dallas include Benjamin in a royal blue cut-off Bedazzled shirt (Big D landed the fewest contestants of any city).
There’s a gummy, low-rent look to the production, and it rushes through the early auditions (something that’s hard to get used to after the weeks of train-wreck Idol auditions we’re come to expect), but the entire premise — like Biggest Loser — is hard to get my mind around (no pun intended): Is this about good health or good TV? Despite some obviously gay-friendly aspects, there is a big of exploitation to it as morbidly overweight people shake it to bad Michael Jackson covers. (Maybe if the camera lingered more on hottie judge Danny Teeson we wouldn’t notice so much.)
Premieres June 7 at 10 p.m. on Oxygen.
Bethenny Getting Married? You probably have to be a Real Housewives junkie (I am not) to have any interest at all in the romantic machinations of Bethenny Frankel, the (apparently) breakout star of the New York edition. A spin-off from a spin-off from a rip-off? It doesn’t get much dreggier than that.
The artificiality of the Housewives franchises is both the source of the conflicts that drive them (all sorts of manufactured set-ups between disparate women called forced to be "friends") and the weakness of them. Game shows like Survivor own up to their contrivances; Housewives stare blankly back at you, winking, "Whatever do you mean?" So, when Bethenny’s fiancÃ© is called away suddenly on business the day of their engagement party and Bethenny begins to wonder whether he’ll be back in time … well, you know he won’t; hell, you barely believe he has a business to be called away to.
If the Scalis of Jersey Couture represent an abrasive New Jersey stereotype, then Bethenny is the uptown alternative — no classier, no more interesting, but better produced. Fake is fake, no matter how much money you put into it.
Premieres June 10 at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 04, 2010.