I Like to Watch

Will Gary Coleman be deep fried by Vanilla Ice? Are The Donald's apprentices out to lunch? Who really cares, when Janice Dickinson is back in all her gory glory?


Heather Havrilesky
January 26, 2004 9:16PM (UTC)

My other car is a black Lincoln Navigator
The votes are in, and the winner of the Fix "24" Contest is ... Allie Gerlach, for her crafty plot solutions outlined in Entry No. 5. In Allie's master plan, Claudia's dad is an undercover Mexican CIA, Jack kills Claudia to prove his loyalty, Wayne is in cahoots with Nina, President Palmer dies from hand-to-hand combat with his brother, Sherry returns to help Jack, even more people die, and a little kid screams "Abuelo!"

Honorable mentions go to Conrad Spoke's No. 2 (evil brother and brain-eating nanobots) and Jim Treacher's No. 6 (musical episode), both of which received many, many votes, but not enough to win the title and the "I Brake For Kiefer Sutherland" bumper sticker. Allie, send us your address and we'll send you the "big" prize, plus we'll stop by your house when you're not home and rifle through your frilly underthings.

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Too cold! Too cold!
You don't watch the WB's "The Surreal Life." I know that. And who can blame you, really? What could be informative or inspiring about a bunch of has-beens living in a house together? Nothing, as it turns out. That's why you won't be remotely interested when I tell you that last week, during a visit to Mel's Drive-in, Vanilla Ice picked up guest star Gary Coleman and threatened to throw him into the deep fryer.

I know. You're above shows this stupid. That's why you won't care when I tell you that when Todd Bridges showed up, Vanilla Ice decided that Coleman just had to say "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" to him, and even though Coleman was clearly mortified, Vanilla Ice just wouldn't take no for an answer. Yes, you're far too busy and important for such tripe. That's why it won't matter to you that Vanilla Ice chased Coleman down and picked him up and carried him back to Bridges like a bad little doggie, and no matter how angry and humiliated Coleman got, Vanilla Ice just wouldn't give up, all the while shouting at him, "Say it! Say it! Everyone wants you to say it!" and it was so bad that eventually Coleman stormed out of the restaurant and called a cab.

Now, whether you're into this kind of thing or not -- and I know that you're not -- you might find it curious that Vanilla Ice should torment Coleman, given Ice's utter hatred of his own former image. After all, when Ice isn't drawing huge X's over his "Ice, Ice Baby"-era photos in the house, he's attacking other former stars for being cheesy and pathetic. Can you personally think of anyone cheesier or more pathetic than Vanilla Ice?

And then there was the day that Tammy Faye Messner, Ron Jeremy, Trishelle from "The Real World," Traci Bingham, Erik Estrada and Vanilla Ice went door to door, offering their neighbors brownies. After one neighbor said, "I don't have time for celebrities," and shut the door in their faces, Vanilla Ice (aka this season's Cory Feldman) became so enraged, he spent the next few hours worrying out loud that the show was trying to make them all look stupid.

Ahem. How paranoid of him.

Ice [to camera]: Here we are, looking like jackasses, walking up to the door with brownies. That's already dorky-ish looking, you know? And then on national TV to have a door slammed in your face, I just don't like being humiliated like that.

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Erik Estrada: In our business, we're used to getting the door slammed in our face.

Ron Jeremy: It's a way of life.

Ice: I ain't down with it. There's a cheese factor involved. Dude, everybody cracks jokes about that shit, and I don't feel like being the butt-end of all the jokes anymore. I've been there, I don't like it, OK? I'm beyond that.

Ice [to camera]: It just looks stupid to me. I don't feel like looking like a big dork on TV. It's just ridiculous.

Ice: I've got a strong following that embraces what I do today and how I am as a real person, not something that's a cheesy image that's based off fucking hairdos and baggy pants. There's a huge cheese factor to having anything done with Gary Coleman. You guys don't know that? He's a joke, dude. "Gary Coleman's running for fucking governor, ha ha!"

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Jeremy(to the camera): He felt there was too much of a cheese factor. But I kinda like cheese, and I'm a ham, so these things don't bother me.

Making lunch (out of nothing at all)
Kristi on The Donald: "When I got off the jet, I thought, 'I'd better start thinking "This is my jet."' It was a taste of the Trump lifestyle, and it was a teaching tool of: you have to want those things and aspire to those things if you want to be like Trump."

The Donald on Sam: "I think he's going to get some company in huge trouble, or he's going to take some company to a level they never knew about."

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Ereka on Omarosa: "Being a bitch is gonna be your problem. You're gonna have to live with that for the rest of your life."

Bush on America: "The American people are showing that the state of our union is confident and strong."

Even though they've got a clear hit on their hands in "The Apprentice," the lily-livered peacocks at NBC are not confident and strong in the face of "American Idol," and have run screaming from a competing time slot on Wednesday night for some supposedly safer real estate on Thursday. Wait, doesn't that pit them against CSI, the top-rated show on television? Oh well, why not? It only requires moving "Will & Grace" up from 9 to 8:30 p.m., shifting "Scrubs" to Tuesday nights, then moving "Happy Family" to another time slot. Scattering your Must-See TV night to the wind is a little like winning the World Series, then trading away all of your best players. Will NBC rebuild by cultivating new talent, as the Florida Marlins did? Or will Jeff Zucker spend the next decade wandering drunk in the halls of NBC headquarters, wailing Jennifer Aniston's name?

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Who cares? Now that I'm two TiVos strong, scheduling challenges don't concern me. As long as I can watch those petty über-professionals pander to The Donald and bicker like children each week, I'm happy. So far, I think it's clear that Amy, Kwame, Bill and Nick have the best chances of becoming The Donald's little helper, and I was cheering all four of them on to victory until I ran into Nick while we were each waiting for a table at the same Westside bakery the other day. Glazed from having just watched two TiVoed episodes of "The Apprentice" in a row, I walked up and congratulated him on how he's played the game so far. Nick didn't say a word or even crack a smile. Quickly grasping his predicament, I told him I realized he probably couldn't talk about the show, but I'd love to interview him once it's over. He said nothing but examined me like I was something he had just scraped off his boot. Had he just scraped me off his boot? Suddenly I couldn't remember. Just as I was backing away, Amy appeared. She seemed a little nervous but was still friendly, and urged Nick to find the show's publicist's number. He glumly pulled out a business card and, instead of handing it to me or even showing it to me, called out the number so I could find a pen and write it down.

I know. Nick sounds a little harsh. But listen, it is super taxing to be such a big star. Why, I'll bet the poor guy gets chased by squealing teenage girls everywhere he goes! I mean, all he ever wanted was to be the best damn copier salesman that he could be, and now look at him, harassed by the press when he's just trying to step out for a bite to eat with his new girl!

Whoa, new girl? Why are you jumping to conclusions like that? I'm sure they're just really good friends, OK? Why don't you mind your own business, nosey. You're part of the problem, do you know that?

Idolatry Inc.
While you have to hand it to Nick for being as confident and strong as the state of our union, he may want to refresh his memory on why he agreed to appear on a reality TV show in the first place, lest he end up on "The Surreal Life" someday, X-ing out his own face and holding court on the cheesiness of former reality TV stars. As incredibly inconvenient as it might be to be interrupted while you're standing on the sidewalk doing absolutely nothing, perhaps Nick should remind himself that many, many people in this country would gladly cut off their right testicle for the chance to be on television.

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For further proof of this phenomenon, merely tune in to the mind-bogglingly popular "American Idol." I made a solemn vow not to watch the show this season, since it's the rough equivalent of hanging out in a karaoke bar, except without the ABBA songbook or the shots of tequila. Unfortunately, though, when I told a friend about my solemn vow, he started describing some of the awful singers who auditioned in Atlanta on the last show, and before I knew it, there I was, laughing and cringing at them all, and although I was hating myself for it, I just couldn't get enough. It bothers me how mean the judges are, and I hate seeing these poor deluded kids' faces drop as Simon and Randy and Paula find creative ways to rip them to shreds. But there's something fascinating about witnessing how few people are truly talented in this world, and how many of the untalented will do absolutely anything to get on TV.

Ultimately, "American Idol" is a bizarre combination of a superiority trip and an exercise in idolatry. As viewers, we scoff and jeer at those without talent, as if they have no excuse for being alive, and then cheer and swoon over the select few who make it to the end, as if they're incredibly special, fantastic humans instead of just reasonably talented vocalists.

Naturally, I'm a part of the whole sick herd. I cried when Tamyra was eliminated during the first season. Plus, what kind of normal human is thrilled to talk to a contestant on "The Apprentice"?

I'm too sexy for my personality disorder
When you really think about it -- and I know you don't, because you have way better things to do -- most of these shows have more to do with watching people stress out about how they're coming across than anything else.

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One of the many delicious things about "America's Next Top Model" -- you know, in addition to the hot girls and the backstabbing and the nudity and Tyra "Tyrant" Banks, and the fashions and the designers and Janice Dickinson shouting things like "Are you kidding me with that walk?" and "The posey-wosey at the end of the runway really repulsed me, I'm sorry!" -- is watching the girls panic as they consider just how their bitchy comments or mistakes or smutty behaviors are going to play with viewers across America. Clearly, there aren't that many aspiring models in this country who think it's a sin to get partially naked for the camera, at least when the TV cameras aren't rolling. But get these girls on TV, and suddenly they're spouting platitudes about right and wrong and bad and good, as if you can be a fashion model and never be doused in body paint or chicken feathers, never be forced to straddle a half-naked male in a vat of whipped cream, never have your nipples tweaked by some tyrannical designer as you head for the catwalk wearing a tutu and some combat boots.

And the irony of it all is that those who care the most about their images are the very ones who come across as the biggest losers (see also: Vanilla Ice, Justin Guarini from "American Idol," Zack from "Paradise Hotel," and Sam from "The Apprentice.") The more they try to control how others see them, the more ridiculous they look.

It's just like in real life, isn't it? See how much you can learn from watching crappy TV?

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For more Heather Havrilesky, click here


Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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