Snooki Who? Reality Stars Demand Big Bucks For Being Themselves

She's the short one...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Laughing all the way to the bank, reality television stars  — who begin as no-names hired for peanuts — are demanding real TV money, reports The New York Times:

Fame soon found them, and so did the desire for fortune. This summer, the stars of “Jersey Shore” held out for more money before resuming production in Seaside Heights last week. Together, they shared about $25,000 as a cast for the entire first season; now they will reportedly earn at least that much for each episode. The series will resume Thursday night on MTV, part of Viacom.

Reality television became a force because viewers liked it and because, without celebrities or big salaries, it was cheap. The shows can cost as little as $200,000 for a half-hour episode, compared with the $1 million or more typical for hourlong scripted shows.

But now the genre is creating its own stars on shows like “Jersey Shore,” “The City” on MTV and the “Real Housewives” franchise on Bravo. With stars come demands for higher salaries, threatening the inexpensive economic model of reality TV. Are the shows falling victim to their own success?

Network executives say no, but they concede they are constantly on guard against that possibility. They strive to make shows grow proportionally: as the salaries grow, the ratings and the rates paid by advertisers must grow in lockstep. When the proportions break down, cancellation can loom.

I love the irony.

Nobodies get plucked from obscurity because of where they live and/or what they say or do or wear — whether pompadour hair or cat-fighting over whose husband is richer — and turn into the latest crop of celebrities, without which the TV industrial complex is potentially hit-less.

Then, as viewers find their “real” bizarreness addictive, and the nobodies become somebodies, they start realizing their commercial value — and demand some serious coin. As they should.

I think it serves greedy TV execs right. “Exposure” per se isn’t worth much to most of us, despite daily offers — increasingly common now in journalism — to work or write or perform for no, or very little, pay so millions of people can read/see your stuff and….and, what?

Hire you? Pay you tons more money? Riiiiiiiiight.

The standard disclaimer is that all that “exposure” leads to “opportunities.” Maybe. Maybe not. Why should we gamble our time, energy and talent for pennies?

Last time I checked, Con Ed and Verizon and my mortgage-holder do not accept “exposure” as payment for any of their services. The naive and stupid take this argument and accept it in lieu of useful, practical legal tender.

I like cold, hard cash.

Snooki and her ilk should too.

Size 14 The New Ideal For Women — Thanks To Mad Men

Actress Christina Hendricks at Chivas Regal Pr...
Image via Wikipedia

Here’s an idea — bigger women rock. From the Daily Mail:

All women should aspire to be a size 14 with buxom, hourglass figures, the new equalities minister claims.

They must not be made to feel inadequate by stick-thin models staring out of advertising billboards and magazines.

Instead, they should regard curvaceous women such as Christina Hendricks, star of the TV series Mad Men, as their ultimate role models, Lynne Featherstone said.

The Liberal Democrat minister described the actress, who plays Joan Holloway in the popular American drama set in the 1960s, as ‘absolutely fabulous’.

She said that too often, women were made to feel wretched about their size as they were constantly comparing themselves with ‘unattainable’ figures of celebrities and models…

‘Christina Hendricks is absolutely fabulous. We need more of these role models,’ she added.

I agree. I’m sick to death of skinny 16 year olds held up as my “role model” when I am neither their age nor aspire to their body size or proportions.

I weary of the Olsen twins, billionaires who look like homeless people wearing too much eyeshadow. Or actresses whose shoulder blades protruding from their designer ballgowns on the red carpet simply look scary.

I recently saw an older woman at a local restaurant whose legs resembled twigs. She looked terribly unhealthy but had clearly starved herself to this size.

Or…is this just one more excuse to be a little piggy and eat too much?

Loved The 'Lost' Finale Or Hated It? Clarity Versus Ambiguity

P religion world
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I’m finding the split between those who loved last night’s ‘Lost’ finale  and those who hated it interesting.

I lay in bed last night pondering all its Biblical and religious symbolism: Jack’s surname (Shephard); his father’s name (Christian) and just…thinking. The Buddha atop the bookcase as Jack entered the church; the stained glass window behind Shephard as he finds an empty coffin (tomb?), a window filled with every religious symbol, not just the easy, obvious out of a cross.

Buddhists believe that after death, the soul enters a “bardo”, a period of time in which it transitions between the life that has just ended and the next. The island, the church, the entire series might not only have been Christian (Limbo, Purgatory) but a bardo.

I’m not someone obsessed with most television and had missed many of the episodes of this show.

But I loved the finale. I didn’t care what really happened to Walt or the submarine. I wanted to be moved by mystery, to feel the larger heartbeat of the eternal. Not to fuss over detail. Plenty of other television shows have tidy plots and resolutions, but could never move me to tears.

I was deeply moved by the finale’s larger point: connections matter. Our connections to one another, wherever and whenever they happen, can have profound and life-altering value.

It may not be sexy or cute or tidily-resolved. Those hungry for Big Picture conversations are today, I think, happy with what we saw. Those who insist upon Tidy Resolution — maybe on-screen and off — are not.

Life isn’t tidy.

Television, with every issue hastily resolved within a 30 or 60-minute timeframe (minus commericals) comforts us otherwise. How annoying when the one place we rely on for that illusion lets us down!

Here’s fellow True/Slant writer Japhy Grant’s take on it:

But eyes are all about what LOST is about, from the first frame to the last, and how we choose to view the world and how that view shapes our lives is a central question of the show.

Come On Everybody! It’s about the people.

To those who view the hippy-dippy faith trip that the final episode winds up being as cheesy or ludicrous, I ask, what show have you been watching for the last six years?

It’s never been the plot conceits or mystery that have made the show; it’s the human connections these strangers find that have brought us back season after season. Why are you judging the show on the mechanics of the metaphysical.

The metaphysical is the true heart of The Island.  It’s mysteries are those of the human condition. How do we forgive? How do we fall in love? What can we do to not feel so damn alone?  In this respect, LOST’s final moments deliver in every way. For it offers up a clear, definitive answer:

We find meaning in our lives by living our lives like they have meaning.

David DiSalvo, another True/Slant writer, is furious with the ending:

What the chosen ending of Lost verifies is what most of the speculators have been saying for a few seasons: there would be no way to adequately wrap up the criss-crossing plot lines, the unending questions, the bottomless allusions. They feared that the show was begging for a big cop-out, catch-all ending.  I feared they were right, but hoped that the most original show to grace network TV since ‘The Twilight Zone’ wouldn’t go out that way. Surely the writers of this unique show would prove them all wrong.

Well, they didn’t.  They couldn’t have proved them more right if they’d had Jesus and Krishna themselves make an appearance on the island and tell Jack that, “everyone will go to a warm, lovely place that they made together to be together to remember that they were together somewhere for some reason, because that’s what people have been wasting their time for six years to find out.”

I’m being harsh, I know, but I’m a little cheesed off right now.  Despite the ending, I have enjoyed the show and appreciate how it has, for the most part, shined with originality amidst a sea of formulaic crime and hospital dramas. But with that pedigree, which has drawn a loyal legion of followers few shows in the history of TV can boast, all the more reason that it should have ended with something other than a predictable “we’re all dead and happy now” cop-out.

Bye Bye Betty!

Ugly Betty
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I’m not a huge TV person, but tonight will say goodbye to one of the very few characters I’ve loved, and a rarity on primetime, a Hispanic woman — Ugly Betty.

If you love journalism and have ever spent time working in New York, the show’s plotlines and characters, and exterior shots, will likely have resonated for you as well. She was hardworking, funny, fiercely devoted to her family, constantly bullied by her co-workers (before they grew up) and still managed to climb the greasy pole of success.

There are few prime-time network shows that respectfully and engagingly portray a Hispanic family and reveal the real conflict that many young Latina working women feel between loyalty to their domestic life and a hunger for larger success. Hispanics still have the lowest rate of college attendance and graduation and, when I wrote about this issue for The New York Times, heard firsthand from a number of young Latinas about the opposing demands placed on them by family and ambition.

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On most television shows, the adult characters seem to have been raised by wolves — their family of origin a Thanksgiving or holiday punchline at most. The central theme of Ugly Betty was often family and how much they can still matter, even to a young adult in a demanding job.

I look forward to tonight’s final episode, but will miss her (and Justin and Wilhelmina and Daniel and their adventures.) Adios chica!

What 'The Bachelor' Really Needs: A Non-Caucasian Size 14 Nuclear Physicist


I admit it. One of my guiltier habits is watching “The Bachelor”, ABC’s reality TV show in which, in alternate seasons, one man becomes The Bachelor and the next season, a woman The Bachelorette. I liked Jillian Harris, the feisty, redheaded interior designer from Alberta who was the last Bachelorette and thought Ed, her honey from Chicago, a catch. Jason and Molly, meh. Too squeaky clean.

This season, it’s Jake Pavelka, a commercial pilot with — ho hum — washboard abs and cheekbones you could use to shave Parmesan. He’s now down to five women from whom he’s expected to find, yup, his soul-mate. Like every iteration of the show, year after year, the women competing for his affections are all young – under 35, usually under 30, perky, thin and white.

And they are all so boring! Does none of these women read or think or have a tattoo or piercing or neurosis? And, now that the average size woman is a size 14 and even Glamour is letting a few fatties into their editorial mix, how about including some girls with serious booty?

Seriously, do black, Asian or Hispanic women, let alone any other ethnicities or races, never audition for this particular show? Or do they just not make the cut? (Maybe no one even tries, due to good sense, a great job or just a more highly developed sense of embarrassment?) In all the seasons I’ve watched these shows, I can barely remember a handful of non-white, non-American women. There was a female doctor from Latin America. Gone! There was a gorgeous Hispanic male architect from California. Gone!

This season we’ve got, of course, a swimsuit model. Excuse me, have you ever, anywhere, even met someone who does that for a living?

There will, as the show winds to its usual conclusion, be a proposal with a diamond ring, many tears and sighs, rending of (tight, shiny) garments and gnashing of (perfectly aligned, dazzlingly white) teeth.

I want to see a dating show not set in “romantic” Hawaii or Seville or San Francisco. I want to see these girls competing not for a kiss or a night in his suite, but elbows-out at Stop ‘n Shop grabbing the last pork chop on sale, fighting over who has to pick up Jake’s drycleaning or duking it out for VC funds for their tech start-up or a Fulbright or a grant to cure pancreatic cancer. You know, something real.