Tag Archives: Project Runway

Reality Bites: Survivor’s Fall from Grace with Emmy Voters

Reality Bites: Survivor’s Fall from Grace with Emmy Voters

July 10th, 2010

Anyone who watches Survivor could tell you that this year was its best in a very long time: blindsides became standard, immunity idols became common currency, and Russell (for better or for worse) introduced an entirely new way of playing the game. For fans of the show, it was everything you could hope for, combining the twist and turns of the best seasons with some of the players from those seasons with the “Heroes vs. Villains” structure of the Spring season. Overall, the year was definitive evidence that the Survivor formula is still capable of surprising us, and that twenty seasons into its run Survivor is still a viable reality series.

And so it may seem strange that, after experiencing one of its best years ever, Survivor was shut out of the Reality Competition series category at the Emmy Awards (although Jeff Probst is nominated again in the Host category, which he has won twice). This isn’t a huge surprise, really: after all, The Amazing Race has won this category for seven straight years, so it’s not as if one can expect a great deal of turnaround in terms of the nominees. However, Survivor hasn’t been nominated for the award since 2006, and I think the fact that it’s yet to be nominated again reveals something very interesting about the Emmy voters.

Primarily, it reveals that they don’t actually like reality television.

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Cultural Anniversary: Thanks for 3 Great Years

On January 18th, 2007, I started this blog.

On this, its three-year anniversary, I want to thank all of you for reading, and give special thanks to those who have linked to one of my 1467 posts, retweeted one of my far too many tweets, invited me to be on your podcast, commented on one of my reviews, conversed with me via email or Twitter, or inspired me to continue writing about television with your own work.

I sometimes wonder why you’re still reading, but the fact that you are means a lot to me – while I have trouble imagining a world where I don’t write about television, I have more trouble imagining a world where I’m not part of this wonderful online community of critics, scholars, bloggers and fans alike, so I greatly appreciate your continued patronage.

Today is, otherwise, just like any other day here at the blog: I’ll have reviews of Chuck, How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory later tonight, and probably some thoughts on Big Love and Life Unexpected over the next few days. However, I’ll also be contributing over at MediaElites.com with my good friend Todd VanDerWerff and others in the months ahead — you can find my first piece, an investigation into the challenges and opportunities facing reality shows like Project Runway and Survivor in the short gap between seasons entitled “It Seems Like Just Yesterday: Clean Slates and Narrative Continuity in Reality Television Scheduling,” up at the site as you read this — so there’s some new adventures on the horizon.

Thanks for coming along with the ride,

Myles

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Television, the Aughts & I – Part Four – “Reality Doesn’t Bite”

“Reality Doesn’t Bite”

December 16th, 2009

[This is Part Four of a six-part series chronicling the shows which most influenced my relationship with television over the past decade – for more information and an index of all currently posted items, click here.]

In Part One, I suggested that I had no real vivid memories of television before 2001, and while this is effectively true I do have a memory about reality television that predates that time. I was watching Entertainment Tonight (I swear, at one point this was a perfectly logical thing to do), and they had a short news blurb about how a Scandinavian reality show concept was coming to television amidst controversy. The show was, in fact, Survivor, and when they talked about the premise (people stranded on a pacific island left to fight it out for a million dollars) I thought it was one of the stupidest things I had ever heard.

And then I watched 19 seasons of it.

What I quickly discovered was that I love what we’ve now come to call the Reality Competition genre, shows which capture the thrill of, you know, competition with the added dose of, well, reality. To use other words is convenient to help justify watching the shows, equating them to a social experiment or a chance to live vicariously through others, but there is something about seeing people you come to know and care about compete against one another for a cash prize that continues to see me tuning in week in and week out.

Now, when analyzing the decade as a whole it may seem strange – more than strange, it’s probably a bit misrepresentative – to limit the limitless reality genre to only its competition format, but for me the competition format has been the far more important and positive television force. While there is, in fact, something borderline exploitative about some elements of the reality genre, competitive reality is the unique mix of casting and a cleverly designed structure, shows which utilize various narrative tools (especially editing) in order to welcome viewers into experiences that are not their own in a way that empowers us to, in a limited form, psychoanalyze our social interactions, race around the world, or care about something about which we know extremely little.

And while it isn’t in fact for everyone, it’s definitely something that has been an important part of my television experience over the past decade.

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Curse or Blessing?: Predictability in Reality TV – A Cultural Learnings Reality Roundup

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Curse or Blessing? Predictability in Reality TV

November 6th, 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve stopped in with a Reality Roundup, which is symptomatic of the fact that my opinions about these three shows haven’t really changed. Survivor has been dominated by a single team to the point of proving downright uninteresting, Top Chef is still being dominated by the same four chefs, and Project Runway is something I didn’t even bother watching for a few weeks, choosing to read recaps instead. This hasn’t been a great season for any of the three shows on the level of really surprising me: in fact, they’ve all to different degrees become predictable (whether in which team will win, which chefs will dominate, and whether the show will be boring, respectively).

All three shows, however, feel ready to confront that sense of predictability in this week’s episodes, as Survivor rushes into a merge and Top Chef present a “volatile” Reunion special in an effort to shake things up a bit. And while Top Chef’s reunion show is predictably dramatic, Survivor’s merge episode is perhaps one of its best ever, unpredictable to the point of having no idea who is going home in the end.

And yet this leaves Project Runway, which has been predictably boring but almost entirely unpredictable in terms of the lack of consistent judging. As such, while the uncertainty of Survivor’s finale is downright exciting, the uncertainty surrounding who will be going to Bryant Park is actually problematic, and the end result dissatisfying if not necessarily wrong.

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Project Runway Canada Season 2 – “Episode Nine”

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“Gimme Shelter”

March 24th, 2009

When three people left in the first episode of the season, this was an inevitability: it was almost required that there would be some kind of twist where people could gain the chance to come back into the season. It was even something they did last season: finalist Marie-Genvieve was eliminated after a particularly erroneous garment, but then returned to end up clearly better than most of her competition.

However, the difference in Season 2 is that, to be entirely frank, there wasn’t anyone who felt like they particularly needed to come back, people who went home for reasons that weren’t quite true. While an argument could be made foy Baylor, that isn’t who the producers brought back as the designers head into this week’s challenge, and it’s really hard to get excited about Jason and Genevieve coming back into the game when the designs they were eliminated on were, well, deserving of elimination.

So while the show is perhaps justified in using this as a big “A-ha” moment, it’s all backwards: rather than people we missed returning to create some sort of karma, it feels like we’re being punked. And, I don’t like being punked, and neither do the designers who get sent home in the wrong fashion.

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Project Runway Canada Season 2 – “Episode Eight”

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“Return of the Supermodel”

March 17th, 2009

This is going to be a pretty short one, because this episode is as simple as it gets: no gimmicks, no major drama, just five designers given a task to create an outfit for a supermodel. While I think that Adejoke’s depressed take on the challenge was a little bit off kilter, she’s right: while it sounds like this should be really exciting as an opportunity for young and new designers to showcase their work on a grand stage, in reality it’s not actually that interesting.

The only way it gets interesting is if people step outside of the challenge (See: Sunny), or if people are unable to execute their ideas (See: Kim), or if they don’t quite fail miserably but instead settle on being dead wrong about a challenge’s purpose (See: Genevieve). The end result of the entire affair is nothing even close to surprising, and the most interesting thing to come out of the episode were the scenes from next week – that’s never a good sign for a reality show, which is supposed to get more interesting as it goes along.

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Project Runway Canada – “Episode Six”

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“Hope Springs Eternal”

March 3rd, 2009

So, I want to first off apologize that I was nowhere to be found for last week’s episode of Project Runway Canada – I wasn’t able to watch the episode live, had a heck of a time getting it to stream on Global’s website, and then once the decision became clear I just didn’t have the drive to write about it. I did, however, converse with a few people on Twitter about it, and the consensus seems clear: with Sunny running away with the competition, and the rest of the designers failing to bring anything to the table, there just isn’t anything that the show can do to convince us that we’re watching an honest to goodness contest. What we’re left with is, well, the Sunny show.

The thing is, though, other than Danio’s tragic early exit (followed in time by his tragic passing from Cancer), the people who have gone home all deserved to go home until we hit Baylor, who was unfairly punished for a mistake that, while certainly not minor, was not on the level of the episode’s other competitors. It’s not like the designers are just getting rid of all of the talent, it seems like it wasn’t there to begin with and that’s a problem that falls on the producers and not necessarily the contestants themselves.

But this doesn’t mean that this week’s hackjob, where only three contestants really get anything close to praise from the judges, is in the hands of the producers: this was quite honestly the most clear challenge that we’ve had in the show’s run so far. A spring dress, made for commercial outlets, that goes from day to night – they’re buzzwords that these people should be able to work with, and yet again people just go around ignoring them all over the place. And this is the kind of challenge where you show that you can do the most simple basic tasks…and if they’re failing here, what does it say about their future.

It’s all adding up to a lack of desire to really blog about this show when, in the end, it seems like a foregone conclusion, even though we saw a potential competitor emerge.

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