Tag Archives: reality TV

I guess I’m a schmuck for only eating regular generic celery

Biggest Loser Celery in the produce section of my local Walmart.

Biggest Loser Celery in the produce section of my local Walmart.

Are YOUR vegetables endorsed by a reality TV show?

I tried contacting the American Celery Council for statistics on celebrity-endorsed celery, but that trade organization tragically appears to have fizzled out in the early 1990s.

Walmart’s celery bullet points, however, are very helpful.

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Filed under Health

Why is the Nicaraguan Air Force providing taxi service for the cast of Survivor?

In the Reagan years, there were fears of Nicaragua taking over Central America. Now their biggest victory is getting a cameo on CBS reality shows.

Just saw the season premiere of “Survivor: Redemption Island” and was stunned to see the cast air being taxied to the beach by a Nicaraguan Air Force helicopter. My confidential sources say it is a Soviet-era M-8 Hip military transport helicopter, but don’t quote me.

Soviet Sympathizers? The cast of "Survivor: Redemption Island"

Just why does the Nicaraguan Air Force have the time and resources to provide transportation for American reality TV contestants? Shouldn’t they be guarding Managua’s skies against a potential Costa Rican invasion?

Or aren’t they too busy training for another secret mission over Colorado? (See Jennifer Grey’s heroics in “Red Dawn.”)

Something suspicious is going on, and I hope Jeff Probst isn’t a double agent.

Red Dawn: Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey would not approve of "Survivor: Redemption Island."

Intrigued? Also see: “MLK would have shrugged at Survivor segregation stunt


Filed under Nicaraguan Air Force, Reality TV Politics

Meet America’s most (unintentionally) condescending bosses

7-Eleven's CEO was shocked his employees regarded the third shift as a dead-end job

Before all the sex scandals, remember the “Two Americas” theme of the John Edwards presidential campaign? It was tough to take the guy seriously about working class issues when he was infamous for getting $400 haircuts.

CBS obviously has a recession-boosted hit with “Undercover Boss,” the new reality TV series that lets corporate executives play Blue-Collar Dress-Up at their own companies for a week. Disguised as entry-level workers, the CEOs are shown talking to their minimum wage employees, learning about the challenges of their jobs and building empathy for their pitiful lives eating brown-bag lunches and driving used Honda Civics.

The opening credits show foreclosure signs and laid-off employees carrying their belongings off in a cardboard box.

“The economy is going through tough times. Many hard-working Americans blame wealthy CEOs out of touch with what’s going on in their own companies,” the deep-voiced narrator says. “But some bosses are willing to take extreme action to make their businesses better.”

Then comes the graphic dissolve of the show’s slogan: EXTREME TIMES CALL FOR EXTREME MEASURES.

Sorry, I’m not impressed when a CEO grabs a mop, puts his arm around the other guys with mops like he’s at some group therapy session, and then pontificates about how he appreciates the struggles of the working class. Especially when it’s for the cameras.

In this week’s “Working Stiff” column, I argue that the participating CEOs on “Undercover Boss” come across as insincere, patronizing buffoons.


Going on this show is a foolish PR move. Even if a boss is sincere and really does feel for the guy making $8 bucks an hour to get his hand stuck in the meat grinder, the melodramatic music and close-ups added during editing will make him look condescending.

One CEO proudly declared he would be slumming it in budget motels “that are in line with someone who is new to town and working at an entry-level position.” Oh, the sacrifice!

Another boss seems shocked that a third-shift delivery driver never gets to see his wife awake.

Again, these executives are in a no-win situation. Even if they do sincerely care, caring on camera comes across as ridiculously contrived.

The smart CEOs would be much better off being nice off-camera.

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Filed under Undercover Boss, Working Stiff

MLK would have shrugged at segregated CBS ‘Survivor’ stunt

Cook Islands (Season 13)

Survivor: Cook Islands (Season 13)

CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
“Segregated ‘Survivor’ stunt taken way too seriously”

The Telegraph — September 14, 2006
So tonight’s the night that reality TV is supposed to overturn the
landmark Supreme Court case, Brown vs. the Board of Education. First
“Tribal Council” and “Immunity Challenges” will be segregated by race,
next it will be our nation’s public schools.

Given the hysteria surrounding CBS’ Machiavellian “social experiment”
to have white, black, Asian and Hispanic teams on “Survivor: Cook
Islands,” you might think the only remaining sponsors are the Ku Klux
Klan and Skinheads ‘R’ Us. At press time, GM, Procter & Gamble, Home
Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, and Campbell Soup have all pulled
ad deals coinciding with the negative buzz.

“It (Survivor) has lit up the white-supremacist world,” the Southern
Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok told Television Week, an industry
trade journal. “It’s been a fairly remarkable reaction. (The format)
plays into the hands of many people in this country who have racist

I love the Southern Poverty Law Center. Civil rights attorney Morris
Dees made me a fan for life a few years back when he sued an
Idaho-based hate group for the rights to the name “Aryan Nations.”
Not only did he shut down the group’s headquarters, but he also went
after their letterhead, coffee mugs and embroidered jackets.

But here’s where the SPLC and I diverge. This is the Archie Bunker
Effect 2006, pure and simple. A white supremacist and a normal white
guy can watch the same TV show and walk away with completely
contradictory messages.

Sorry, but athletic-based contests pitting people of different racial
backgrounds against each other are hardly novel. That pretty much
describes my high school football experience whenever we white
suburbanites hit Lowell or Lawrence. And likewise, whenever Nashua or
Manchester teams play the Hollises, Amhersts and Bedfords.

The Olympics, World Baseball Classic, Miss Universe Pageant and
similar events pit different nations against each other, which in many
cases breaks down to race. Here’s where the slippery slope comes in.
The Asians, blacks and Hispanics all can claim a solid identification
with a nation or culture — my favorite character so far, Billy
Garcia, is a wrestler who calls himself the “Spanish Fly.”

So what is the white guy culture? That’s the hot button issue with
the supremacists, who’ll start tossing out terms like “Aryan” and
“Nordic” to describe their ancestral pride.

CBS would have been on much safer ground if they had a French team, a
Kenyan team, a Vietnamese team and a Brazilian team.. But then the
“race card” wouldn’t get Survivor all this press, which it desperately
needs in its 13th season.

Personally, I’d root for any team opposing France. A few years ago, I
found myself rooting for Senegal (against France) in a World Cup game
I otherwise wouldn’t have cared about. I’d also love to see an
all-Quebec edition of Survivor pitting French vs. English speakers.

Survivor has already played the age and gender cards, intially putting
young and old men against young and old women. The only cards left to
play, really, were race and ugly vs. beautiful. The latter dynamic has
been exploited extremely well by Ashton Kutcher’s “Beauty and the

For some additional insight on the Survivor Crisis, I got in touch
with my pop culture guru, Tony, who first introduced me to “Beauty and
the Geek.” As a bonus, Tony also happens to be Asian.

“The race problems in the world suck enough without needlessly putting
them on display in the petri dish of reality TV,” he writes. “Nor do
they need to be exploited by a television show that is desperate for
ratings and has obviously run out of ideas. But on the other hand,
this show has more Asians on it than all the reality TV shows of the
last five years put together.”

I personally lost count of the number of Asian contestants since Kel
Gleason, the military intelligence officer falsely accused of sneaking
beef jerky into the game on Survivor Australia.

Race played no role in that ridiculous episode. Blacks, whites and
Hispanics are equally vulnerable to beef jerky conspiracy theories.

And in the end, I imagine race will play a negligible role in the Cook
Islands. And not just because people will have to forge alliances
across racial lines to have any chance in hell of winning.

Reality shows like “Survivor” are manipulated reality. Tensions are
manufactured or exaggerated with leading follow-up interviews. Editing
and music makes any emotion more dramatic. If any racial slur bombs
are dropped, they’ll be neutralized with an “After School Special”
learning moment about tolerance and the dangers of prejudice.


Even if there is real tension, there’s no way CBS is going to promote
a weekly hatefest. The network wants to make money. And thank God,
right now the white supremacists are not a coveted advertising
Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in
Encore. Reader comments are welcomed at cultureschlock (at) gmail.com


To learn more about Brown vs. Board of Education, visit the Brown

Find out why Survivor contestant Billy Garcia was inspired by the song
Jukebox Hero.”

What happened when Morris Dees sued the Aryan Nations?

Celebrate the 2002 Senegal World Cup team that beat France!

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Filed under Darren's Archive Vault, MLK's TV Preferences (Speculation), Reality TV Politics, Shameful Defeats in French History