First Impressions: A New Reality
Armed & Famous, White Rapper Show, I Love New York, Surreal Life Fame Game
Reviewed by Jon Minners
Itís a brand new year and as is customary on television these days, it means a brand new slate of reality television shows.
Reality television shows are cheap and very easy to make, so when a show flops or takes a hiatus or if you are a cable channel with a niche for watching celebrities make a fool of themselves, a reality television show is just what the doctor ordered.
The latest shows are actually surprisingly good with the exception of one. Can you guess which one I am going to trash? Stay tuned:
Armed and Famous
The premise of the CBS show is quite ridiculous. The series follows five celebrities; Erik Estrada from CHIPS; La Toya Jackson of the Jackson Clan; Jack Osbourne, of the Osbournes; Trish Stratus, of the WWE; and Jason AcuŮa, a.k.a. "Wee Man" on Jackass, as they train to become reserve police officers for the Muncie, Indiana police department. After the graduation, the celebrities go on patrol with the same training officers who traditionally ride with new officers.
But what sounds like a complete joke is actually a very entertaining and thought provoking show. Each character has something to prove. For Estrada, the show is a chance for his career to go full circle. La Toya Jackson sheds the image of being a loon; well to a certain degree. Osbourne, who actually knows how to fire a gun very well, has a chance to redeem himself for years of drug and alcohol abuse. For Stratus, she has a chance to continue to prove that there is more to her than a pretty face. Wee Man has the most to prove, as the shortest cast member with a history of jackass antics that lead many within the force to believe he will not take the job seriously.
The best part of the show is seeing the humanity in these celebrities. Estrada comes off as a little cocky, but at the same time, very endearing. Jackson has emerged as one of the favorites and comes off as one of the sanest Jackson family members who really takes the job of being a police officer seriously. Trish Stratus could be considered snooty, because she looks good and knows it, but she is probably the most caring individual and most compassionate of the group. Osbourne is serious and out of all the stars on the show, I could actually see him taking the police officer role to another level if he wanted to. Wee Man does like to party, but when he is on the job, he proved all his critics wrong and I actually think his patrols are the most interesting with the most character of any of the five involved in the project.
The only drawback to the show is the voice over announcer who gives the show a fake feel with over the top dramatics. The narrator gives the show that non-serious vibe, but in truth, the characters bring out the true seriousness of what it takes to be a police officer in Muncie, Indiana.
Ego Tripís The White Rapper Show
As a journalist for the Bronx Times Reporter, I immediately reached out to VH1 to do a story about the show, as it was to be set in the South Bronx, but I was given the runaround and nobody called me back or even took me seriously enough to follow through on what would have been a great piece on the borough and hip hopís history.
After that, I had a feeling that the reason they never called me back was because the show was not going to take the Bronx seriously at all, but in watching the show, I became very intrigued by the whole idea of what it means to be a white rapper when it seems only one such rapper is allowed to exist in the hip hop scene.
The show brings together a lot of interesting personalities with only one rapper, Dasit, coming off as a Eminem clone. He was eliminated because of his attitude and that set the tone for the show. When Dasit didnít take the business seriously, he was kicked off the show. My fears were unwarranted.
The White Rapper Show takes the industry very seriously. The contestants had to walk around the South Bronx and rap in front of strangers and hip hop luminaries such as Grandmaster Flash. They are put on the spot and forced to come up with raps at the spur of the moment and they often times battle rap, showing off a freestyle ability that truly tests the mettle of a rapper.
There are a lot of interesting characters on the show. 100 Proof is more of a poet, but with practice, his blending of the rock/punk scene with hip hop could prove very unique. John Brown is absolutely crazy. He talks about being the King of the Burbs and yet he wants to bring the ghetto lifestyle back to hip hop. The cast hates him, but when he was forced to spit his thoughts about the Bronx, he surprised them all with skills that were unmatched by anyone in the room during that challenge. Misfit Dior is a British rapper who has a great flow and a great voice. $hamrock has a great style and could be the eventual winner of the contest. Persia has a mouth, but is a great battle rapper. Great characters make for a great show.
But probably the best part of the show was the large lesson learned by Persia when she uttered the N Word many times and was forced to wear bling throughout the Bronx with the N Word for everyone to see. A very heavy lesson indeed, not just for Persia, but for those who watch the show and think the N Word is acceptable in hip hop.
The White Rapper Show erased any doubts I had and proved it can be taken very seriously as it tries to discover the next big White rapping sensation.
I Love New York
New York is not hard on the eyes at all, but she is definitely someone I would never want to date. She is high maintenance and a little crazy. But the Flava of Love reject is now searching for love on her own VH1 show.
The show is every bit the same as Flava of Love with just her in the lead role, picking from 20 guys of very different characteristic. Those helping her with her selection include her mother who is every bit as crazy as her daughter. Of course, the stupidity of some of the men also makes it easy for New York.
While the show sets itself to be every bit as racy as the Flava of Love, it doesnít succeed in the same way. While the previous show seemed a little more realistic, because the lead believably cannot find love based on his looks, New Yorkís show is less believable because she is actually quite beautiful at times and should be able to find love on her own.
In addition, while Flava of Love came off fake at times, it attempted to keep it real, while I Love New York goes over the top trying to capture an audience. They want men to watch, because they want New York and they want women to watch the 20 men on the screen, but they also want the gay population to watch so they added some stereotype as her personal assistant. He comes off as a very fake character right from the start, taking away all believability and leading me to immediately turn off the show, never intending to watch again.
New York is no longer a welcome character. She has been shoved down our throats and has basically already been the lead for two seasons, so why endure her for a third season of over the top dramatics. Itís just too much. I wish her luck and while I love New York, my love is strictly for the City.
Surreal Life: The Fame Game
I wonít waste too much time on this VH1 show, because we all know what the Surreal Life is. The Fame Game takes some of the more interesting characters from the past, except Bronson Pinchot, Omarosa and Janice Dickinson, and puts them together to compete for $100,000 and the title as most famous character on the show.
Some of the more memorable characters include Brigitte Nielsen, Chyna Doll, CeCe Deville, Emmanuelle Lewis, Mini Me, Pepa, Ron Jeremy, Tracey Bingham and Vanilla Ice. Robin Leach gives up all his dignity and serves as the host for what turns out to be a very entertaining show with a lot of possibility.
The first episode starts the process of splitting the celebrities into the A List and B List through a series of competitions. Once the teams are established, they will compete against each other and try to stave off elimination until there is only one celebrity left.
In addition to the competition, it is fun to watch the celebrities together. Seeing Brigitte Nielsen with Chyna Doll is like watching two mirror images going at it. Vanilla Ice is just the coolest guy and the one most ready to explode when things get too serious. Emmanuelle Lewis is so not the guy we remember from Webster and Mini Me is the most real character on the whole show. He says what he feels and you have to respect him for that. Pepa is probably the most endearing character next to CeCe Deville and you never know what is going to come out of Ron Jeremyís mouth.
Coming attractions for future episodes promise some crazy shenanigans and a whole lot of fights. This show is definitely one to watch. If you think your life is crazy, try watching celebrities make a fool of themselves over fame. Great viewing.