Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Survivor

The fall television season is right around the corner, which means one of my favorite reality programs is coming back—Survivor.

Now in its 27th season, Survivor follows tribe members (contestants of all races, ages, and backgrounds) as they battle it out to win immunity, hoping to Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast the other contestants.  They are isolated, usually at a beautiful tropical location with gnarly storm seasons, and they must build a shelter to survive.  During physical and mental competitions, the tribes earn rewards — flint for fire, fishing equipment, tarps, and luxury items (such as pillows and blankets — yeah, not very “luxury” by our definition, right?).  But no single prize is as great as the immunity idol.

The competitions aren’t the only obstacles standing in the way of the Ultimate Survivor winning the $1,000,000 cash prize.  The elements are intense, sometimes so brutal I don’t know how the contestants find the will to keep going.  And then there are the bugs.  The bugs are the number one reason why I could never play this game that I love.  Call me a pansy; call me what you will.  But I hate bugs — bugs that crawl; bugs that fly; bugs that breathe.  Period.  The number of bug bites on the contestants makes my skin crawl.

An example of a physical competition…

Fire is life in Survivor; without fire, even the water isn’t safe to drink.  I’m amazed every season at the number of contestants accepted onto the show who haven’t learned to master starting a fire using nothing but twigs and patience.

Everything considered, the most important aspect of playing Survivor is one’s ability to socialize — to form alliances.  Without the votes of the fellow tribe members, a contestant’s days on the island come to an end at tribal council (considering they don’t hold the immunity idol or a hidden immunity idol).

“Immunity is up for grabs!”

Of course, winning competitions over and over again does not guarantee the million dollar prize (does it, Colby?).  Aligning with the perfect partner/partners can carry someone all the way to the end.

Speaking of Colby Donaldson… Guns Up, Red Raiders!!

One of the best alliances of all time might just be Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich (now Mariano) in Survivor All-Stars.  The two were playing the game for the second time and formed what many considered to be an unlikely alliance, but one that took them both to the end.  Together they claimed the first and second place cash prizes, and later pocketed the ultimate prize when they married and started a family.  I actually think Survivor has been more successful with couples marrying than the Bachelor and Bachelorette.    But I digress…

Survivor’s “Godfather” — Boston Rob

Sometimes being the villain of the group also pays off.  How?  I don’t know, but we’ve seen it on multiple occasions.  Heck, I’ve even gone from despising a contestant one season to liking them later on (Coach, a.k.a. “The Dragon Slayer” had this effect on me, but it took him three seasons to do it).  Villains do rather well most of the time – Parvati, Russell Hantz, and even Boston Rob (yes, the same Rob Mariano as mentioned earlier.)  Russell was so evil that his own nephew didn’t want the other contestants to know he was related to him when he played on a later season.

Are these people really villains?  No, of course not.  But do they play the game of Survivor to win at all costs, no holds barred?  Yes, and quite well at that.

Hosted by the ever-adorable Jeff Probst, Survivor has earned multiple award nominations and won.  How is this possible, considering every season is practically the same only with new contestants in a different location?  Because somehow Mark Burnett, Probst and the producers keep it fresh.

Take the new season for instance… “Blood vs. Water.”   This year, the field of twenty will consist of ten previous contestants PLUS one of their friends or a family member.   Will blood prove to be thicker than a million dollars?  I mean, water?

I thought for sure Rupert would be my favorite (returning) player this year, but Kat (from Survivor: One World) is bringing along her hot boyfriend… Hayden Moss, winner of Big Brother 12!  Go, Hayden, Go!

All things considered, does Survivor earn a GTV rating?  No, but it is definitely a guilty pleasure and sits firmly as a MacTV program.  Survivor is one of my favorite reality shows.  I have never missed a season.  Never.  Call me crazy, but I literally get giddy as the clock inches closer and closer to 7pm CST on Wednesday nights.  It’s exciting.

Survivor returns Wednesday, September 18th.

What do you think? Do you watch Survivor?  Who’s your favorite contestant over the years?  I’d love to hear from you!

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV):It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (NyQuil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech
Inedible TV: Exactly how it sounds…

Spend a Summer at The Vineyard

I’ve not kept the fact that I love ABC Family’s teen mysteries a secret.  Heck, I’ve only blogged about Pretty Little Liars at least five times; I thoroughly enjoyed the recently cancelled The Lying Game; I can’t wait to catch up on the new hit, Twisted (I lost all of the episodes in my latest DVR crash a few weeks ago, but luckily the network aired a marathon and I have them all recorded again… now I need to watch them); and I’m eagerly awaiting the PLL’s spinoff coming this fall, Ravenswood.

It’s because of the allure and success of these teen programs that I plan to watch ABC Family’s latest series starting tonight—The Vineyard.

Now, The Vineyard is not a mystery; nor is it actually a scripted drama.  What?  I’ve seen the previews and it looks like a “normal” series… but Wikipedia calls it a reality program, while ABC Family refers to it as a docu-series.

At first I thought the new summer program was going to be more like the WB’s Summerland, which I felt wasn’t bad after catching a few episodes here and there.  But now I’m afraid it’s going to resemble more of MTV’s Laguna Beach or The Hills.  I somehow managed to stay away from these shows back in the day and I don’t regret my decision one bit.

So, how do I feel about The Vineyard?  The series promises “summer dreams, summer love, and summer drama.” And knowing me, I’ll at least give it a shot.  Heck, if anything, I can use this as writing research… right?

ABC’s new show will follow a group of young adults as they work together and live together in paradise (Martha’s Vineyard).  Okay, now it’s sounding a little bit like MTV’s Real World.

As expected, most of the girls have conflicting backgrounds: the girls who grew up in The Vineyard; the girls who want successful careers; the girls who want successful men to take care of them for the rest of their lives; and the girls who just want a fresh start.

And then there are the guys.  It seems as though the guys are all looking for love.  No, I’m sorry—lust.  But the same stands true for them as it does the girls… we have the bad boy, the player, the partier, and the serious one.

Heck, two of the “cast” members even shared a romantic past…

Regardless of who they are or where they come from, all eleven are beautiful.  Surprise!

Who wouldn’t want to spend the summer here?

The Vineyard premieres tonight (July 23rd) on ABC Family.

So what do you think?  Will you watch The Vineyard?  I’d love to hear from you!      

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Fictional Reality in Siberia

The summer shows have started, some of them anyway.  And while we still have a few left to premiere, and despite my second DVR crash since March (I’ve lost over 200 recordings this calendar year due to faulty boxes), I did manage to catch up on the new NBC fictional reality program, Siberia.

Fictional Reality.  Now that’s an oxymoron.

Siberia has also been called a “scripted reality” TV show.  Either way, this series is not real and it might as well be called a drama like everything else on television today.  Only this series doesn’t have any recognizable actors or actresses.

My confusion with this series started before the pilot episode aired.  It all began when I saw a commercial less than one week before its premiere.  Why hadn’t I heard anything about this before?  Great promotion, NBC…  Then after watching the teaser, I had to rewind the commercial a few times and watch it over and over.  Was Siberia a reality show?  No, it kind of looked like a scripted drama with people running for their lives and dying with Blair Witch-like cinematography.  In other words, my cup of tea!  So then I did what I always do, I scanned through my TV guide and found the listing.  But from the description, Siberia totally sounded like a reality program.  At this point, I set the series to record.  I mean, why not?  Clearly the confusion had me intrigued…

So what was Siberia?  A scripted drama?  A reality program?  I’ll tell you what it was.  A mess.  That’s what.

It started out like any other reality competition…

Sixteen contestants are dropped in the Siberian forest.  Their goal?  Survive the wilderness for half a million dollars.  Everything at this point seems like a typical reality show.  The participants were given their first challenge—find the cabins they would live in throughout the duration of the contest.  The last two to arrive would be eliminated.

Sounds like a normal reality show, right?

But then everything changes.

When does everything go south?  Well, for one, when a cameraman comes back to camp with a mysterious injury.  Oh, and when the host arrives to announce one of the contestants was involved in a fatal accident—that’s right; a player is dead.

WHAT??

It gets better (or worse…).

At this point in the game, the host then decides to give the remaining players a choice—to continue (yeah, right; if someone really died in a mysterious manner, I doubt production would go on….) or quit and walk away with $5,000 cash on the spot.  Only one contestant left and took the money.

Someone just died… do I play on or quit now? Decisions, decisions.

Within minutes, the game carries on like nothing ever happened.  A few players are even concerned with having sex with the other contestants at this point… not with the fact that someone just supposedly died.

Now, I like reality TV.  I love Survivor, Big Brother, MTV’s The Challenges, and Hell’s Kitchen.  Don’t get me wrong; I realize that not everything is really real on “reality” TV.  Trust me; it’s not.  I know this for a fact.  I’ve had a friend, two actually, that appeared on a reality TV show and last through several rounds.  And while the events we see do actually happen, editing is king.  Viewers see what production wants us to see.  TV audiences at home feel about certain contestants the way production wants us to.  Period.

But this?  Siberia?  Yikes.

Bottom line?  I don’t know why I’m still watching Siberia.  Maybe it’s because I’m a glutton for punishment and I have a hard time quitting things?  Even TV shows…  Therefore, this new “reality” program earns the LOTV rating.  Blech doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Yet, I will probably still watch a few more episodes to see if it gets any better.

Have you watched Siberia?  Do you plan to?  Is “reality” TV going too far?  I’d love to hear from you!

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss today’s review, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV):It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (NyQuil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech
Inedible TV: Exactly how it sounds…

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Whodunnit?

The summer shows have started, some of them anyway.  And while we still have a few left to premiere, and despite my second DVR crash since March (I’ve lost over 200 recordings this calendar year due to faulty boxes), I did manage to catch up on the new ABC reality program/murder mystery, Whodunnit? via OnDemand.

Ever want to attend one of those murder mystery dinner parties or theaters?  I have!

Whodunnit? is kind of like reality television’s version of these parties…

Thirteen contestants have gathered to live inside a mansion (Rue Manor).  Their goal?  Solve a “murder” for the grand prize of $250,000.  Each week, one houseguest is selected to “die” a mysterious death by the “killer,” who also happens to be one of the houseguests.  But who is it?

At the time of the murder, the remaining guests become “investigators.”  Led around by the butler, Giles, and two housemaids, they must immediately choose one of three options: to visit the scene of the victim’s last known whereabouts, the scene of the crime, or the morgue (located in the basement of the mansion).  The “investigators” then use their investigative skills to work up a “murder dossier” of sorts.

Let’s talk about the “investigators” for a minute…  talk about clashing personalities!  Most of the contestants should really know what they are doing, being their professions, in one way or another, are crime related (a former homicide detective, a bounty hunter, a few attorneys, an insurance investigator, and two journalists—one of whom is a TV crime reporter).  The rest of the houseguests fall into the “everybody else” category, with an ex-beauty queen, a cardiac nurse, a bar trivia host, an engineer, a flight attendant, and an ex-NFL cheerleader.

This is an eclectic group of people and this fact creates quite a few challenges of its own.  For example, pretty much everyone uses different investigative techniques and skills and has different ways of “dealing” with others.  But the biggest challenge between the members of the game is whether or not they can trust the other participants… do they share what they’ve learned or keep everything a secret?  To quote Melina (the flight attendant), “this group is a hot mess.”

Considering this is reality TV, the actual death scenes aren’t too corny and the stunts and special effects aren’t all that bad.  So far, we’ve seen a death by a musket round fired via a sling shot, covered up by the careful planning of the “killer” to make it look like electrocution at first glance, and a death by fire via static electricity.

As far as the game is concerned, the contestants also receive one clue/riddle per murder.  Once the riddle is solved, a bell sounds and the game is “dead.”  After getting dressed up for a potential last meal, the “investigators” describe in detail what they think happened and those furthest from the truth are eliminated.  One by one, and in front of each other, they learn whether or not their theories earned them a “spared” card or a “scared” card—meaning who’s safe and who’s potentially going to “die” later that night.

When I previewed this show last month, I commented that this setup reminded me of the older reality show, The Mole, that aired from 2001-2008.  Remember that one?

After watching the first two episodes, I’ve concluded that Whodunnit? is very much like The Mole.  For one, instead of working together to earn money each week, this group of untrusting souls should work together to figure out who “the killer” is to further advance themselves in the game.  Secondly, the way the “investigators” reveal what they think happened is similar, making their pitch privately to a camera.  Even the way the houseguests are informed whether or not they are safe is the same (from what I can remember from The Mole anyway… it’s been awhile since I’ve watched it).  And lastly, just like “The Mole,” “the killer” is doing everything in his or her power to throw the rest of the houseguests off his/her trail by sabotaging the game.

Bottom line?  I’m hooked… earning Whodunnit? the MacTV rating for this mystery writer.  TV’s latest reality program is a total guilty pleasure.  And so far, it has me completely stumped.  The person I thought was “the killer” was “murdered” at the end of the second episode.  Drats!  Back to the drawing board…

Have you watched Whodunnit?  Do you plan to?  I’d love to hear from you!

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss today’s review, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV):It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (NyQuil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech
Inedible TV: Exactly how it sounds…

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – The Tamberny Awards Talk Comedy

It’s that time of year again… the time of year where the American television industry celebrates the best of the best.  The 2012 Emmy nominations are in, so Amber West and I decided to bring back the Tamberny Awards in today’s Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday.

Two weeks ago, we asked our readers to vote on their favorites… and this week, we’re chiming in.  Will Amber and I agree?

To recap, click here for our Drama, Miniseries, and Movie selections

And for the continuation of the Tamberny Awards, click over to Amber’s blog for our discussion of the nominated comedies and reality series.

We hope you enjoy the show!

*****

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

And, remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle and Nook!

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Surviving “Real” TV

With over forty Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday posts under our belt, can anyone believe that Amber West and I have yet to review any reality TV programs?  I’m shocked… especially considering I am one of the millions guilty of watching “real” television throughout the year.

During our WatchWed holiday-like hiatus, Amber and I published our DVR priorities where I listed reality TV as one of my number one DVR must-records.  Why? Because most reality sensations don’t air again if missed at the original time slot, and I don’t want to miss out.

This week, Amber and I review two of Mark Burnett’s reality shows — the no-nonsense Shark Tank and the no-holds-barred Survivor.

Now in its 24th season, Survivor follows tribe members (contestants of all races, ages, and backgrounds) as they battle it out to win immunity, hoping to Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast the other contestants.  They are isolated, usually at a beautiful tropical location with gnarly storm seasons, and they must build a shelter to survive.  During physical and mental competitions, the tribes earn rewards — flint for fire, fishing equipment, tarps, and luxury items (such as pillows and blankets — yea, not very “luxury” by our definition, right?).  But no single prize is as great as the immunity idol.

An example of a physical competition...

The competitions aren’t the only obstacle standing in the way of the Ultimate Survivor winning the one million dollar cash prize.  The elements are intense, sometimes so brutal I don’t know how the contestants find the will-power to keep going.

Fire is life; without fire, even the water isn’t safe to drink.  I’m amazed every season at the number of contestants accepted onto the show who haven’t learned to master starting a fire using nothing but twigs and patience.

And then there are the bugs.  The bugs are the number one reason why I could never play this game that I love.  Call me a pansy; call me what you will.  But I hate bugs — Bugs that crawl; Bugs that fly; Bugs that breathe.  Period.  The number of bug bites on the contestants makes my skin crawl.

Everything considered, the most important aspect of playing Survivor is one’s ability to socialize — to form alliances.  Without the votes of the fellow tribe members, a contestant’s days on the island come to an end at tribal council (considering they don’t hold the immunity idol or a hidden immunity idol, of course).

"Immunity is up for grabs..."

Winning competitions over and over again does not guarantee the million dollar prize (does it, Colby?).  Aligning with the perfect partner/partners can carry someone all the way to the end.

Speaking of Colby Donaldson... Guns Up, Red Raiders!!

One of the best alliances of all time might just be Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich (now Mariano) in Survivor All-Stars.  The two were playing the game for the second time and formed what many considered to be an unlikely alliance, but one that took them both to the end.  Together they claimed both the first and second place cash prizes, and later pocketed the ultimate prize when they married and started a family.  I actually think Survivor has been more successful with couples marrying than the Bachelor and Bachelorette.    But I digress…

Survivor's "Godfather" -- Boston Rob

Sometimes being the villain of the group also pays off.  How?  I don’t know, but we’ve seen it on multiple occasions.  Heck, I’ve even gone from despising a contestant one season to liking them later on (Coach, a.k.a. “The Dragon Slayer” had this effect on me, but it took him three seasons to do it).  Villains do rather well most of the time – Parvati, Russell Hantz, and even Boston Rob (yes, the same Rob Mariano as mentioned earlier.)  Russell was so evil that his own nephew didn’t want the other contestants to know he was related to him when he played on a later season.

Are these people really villains?  No, of course not.  But do they play the game of Survivor to win at all costs, no-holds-barred?  Yes, and quite well at that.

Hosted by the ever-adorable Jeff Probst, Survivor has earned multiple award nominations and won.  The show is such a success, that CBS has already ordered two more seasons following the conclusion of the one currently airing.  Yay!

The Probster...

But does that mean Survivor earns a GTV rating?  No, but it is definitely a guilty pleasure and sits firmly as a MacTV favoriteSurvivor is one of my favorite reality programs.  I have never missed a season.  Never.  Call me crazy, but I literally get giddy as the clock inches closer and closer to 7pm CST on Wednesday nights — kind of like a young child standing nearby as his or her mommy makes mac-n-cheese for dinner.  It’s exciting.

"Your tribe has spoken." Yes, that is Jimmy Johnson (the former NFL coach). The last words any contestant wants to hear...

What do you think? Do you watch Survivor?  Who’s your favorite contestant over the years?  Mine are Boston Rob and Colby Donaldson, if you haven’t gathered from my mentioning above… Have you considered Outwitting, Outplaying, and Outlasting the competition enough to apply for CBS’ reality hit?   Do you watch any reality TV?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and see what she thinks about ABC’s “real” TV, Shark Tank.

Come back next week when Amber and I review something interesting…

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

Tele-Tuesday: Remembering the Family Programs of Years Past

Television in the 1980s offered a bit more substance than today’s reality fixation.  Honest- to-goodness family programming dominated network TV’s primetime hours instead of the incessant need to watch individuals hurt themselves while rushing through an obstacle course or young talent’s hopes shatter in recorded auditions.

Growing up, Sunday nights at grandma’s house included a hot family meal with all of our aunts, uncles, and cousins, followed by bonding time in front of the TV with shows like Life Goes On and Our House.  Remember those?

Life Goes On

Our House

After homework and dinner Monday through Friday, we curled up on the sofa with mom and dad learning valuable, although funny, lessons with hit sitcoms including:

The Cosby Show

Who’s the Boss?

Family Ties

Growing Pains

The Wonder Years

These series all share wonderful messages.  Audiences watch as fictional families learn to adjust to difficult situations like understanding Corky’s disability in Life Goes On, or recovering from the death of a parent in Our House.  We discover how serious dyslexia is when Theo Huxtable is diagnosed in The Cosby Show, and just how harsh words can be as Carol Seaver suffers constantly from jokes about her weight and her intelligence throughout Growing Pains’ run.

Not all of the storylines in these popular sitcoms focus on family units prevailing through hard times.  Sometimes the stories lighten the mood and take us back to a happy place.  For example, viewers reminisce about first loves and conquering true love as Kevin Arnold crushes on Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years, or as Tony Micelli and Angela Bower prove that money really doesn’t matter when searching for the one true connection in Who’s the Boss?.  We also learn to value the importance of friendships such as Mike Seaver and his buddies Boner and Eddie in Growing Pains, as well as Kevin and Paul in The Wonder Years.

But perhaps one of the best messages portrayed by all of these family sitcoms is the importance of education.  Each and every one of these series follows a character as they attend college.  Alex P. Keaton obsesses over one day leading the Republican party in Family Ties and attends college where he studies economics.  Even Kevin Arnold’s hippie sister, Karen, enrolls in college on her way to a M.R.S. degree (she gets married after her freshman year), and Mike Seaver overcomes his high school classroom struggles and takes a few college courses before quitting to pursue an acting career.

Sadly, families today with young children don’t have numerous options on the television similar to these ’80s sitcoms, leaving many with the decision to simply not watch TV.  While there’s nothing wrong with reality programs, what lessons do they teach our children?  That they can wear protective clothing and run through an obstacle course for money?  Or, that they can lay their hopes and dreams on the line to be the next big talent only to run the risk of being publicly humiliated, or that laughing at others’ failures is okay?

Reality TV is fun.  Most times, reality television is even clean enough for the family to watch together; but wouldn’t the return of family programming similar to these ’80s sitcoms make us smile?  We have a few popular sitcoms about families airing today (Modern Family and Parenthood come to mind), but aren’t these shows directed more toward adult humor versus good old-fashioned family values?

Just something to think about…

So many wonderful family programs aired in the 1980s, what did you watch?  What do you think of today’s family programming compared to the ‘80s?  What do you or would you watch with your family today?  I’d love to hear from you!

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