Film and TV

Reality Bites: The People's Couch

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Remember those YouTube clips that came out after the "Rains of Castamere" episode of Game of Thrones, showing non-book readers' reacting to the Red Wedding? Those were fun, in their way, because they showed honest and organic responses to shocking events.

The People's Couch, on the other hand, is a cynical (if economically understandable) attempt to replicate that kind of phenomenon, only with non-surreptitious cameras filming several groups of viewers self-consciously watching bad television. I hope Mike Judge is getting royalties for this, because he pretty much created the concept of dipshits on a sofa making fun of TV over 20 years ago.

I think I counted eight different assemblages of humanity in The Episode I Watched: three families (the Zenos, the Egbers, and the Resnicks), two sets of sisters, and assorted "BFFs" and acquaintances. Most sit on a couch (the Egber family watch from their bed, which makes a lot of sense when you watch their creepy interaction) and offer their feedback on various episodes of Comcast-owned programs.

First up, of course, if Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Bravo'sE!'s (who are part of the same family of networks as Bravo) flagship TV show gets a pretty thorough going over from the assembled viewers, some "highlights:"

Julie & Brandy (BFFs): "I'm going to make a sex tape and get rich." Teddi, Ayn, & Sue (neighbors): "He [Bruce Jenner] *does* look like a woman!"

The neighbor ladies (they're all 60+) also pause the show to better scrutinize Kim's famously sizable posterior ("I don't remember her name but she's the one with the big butt."). I'd offer withering commentary about this shallow behavior if I hadn't done the same thing myself three our four hundred times.

There's also a painfully prolonged sequence in which the three ladies attempt to take a selfie. See, it's funny because they're old, and old people shouldn't be allowed to use technology.

This is where the aforementioned cynicism comes in. KUwtK is a *BravoE! show*, yet even as they present the "reconnection" between Jenner (seriously, he looks like the Mint Hotel clerk in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) and daughter ... Kylie? Kyrie? in the most laughably maudlin manner possible, then turn right around and have an audience rightfully making fun of it.

It's genius, really: consciously make a terrible show about terrible people, then double-dip by making another program with viewers talking shit about it.

Next up is Orange is the New Black, specifically the episode that reveals what a cuckoo bird Lorna is.

Blake, Scott, & Emerson (BFFs): Emerson [to Scott]: "I don't know how you would survive in prison." [Me: bites tongue]. The Zeno Family: "Morello, what the hell-o?" Okay, that's pretty funny. Up high, Mama Zeno.

Everyone agrees that "Almost Paradise" is a fine jam, even if they're shocked that Lorna's whole life was a lie. I guess this counts as a spoiler, especially since I haven't watched all of Season 2 yet.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Who is this junkie and why did Trivago hire him to find me hotel rooms? I don't need his help to land the hourly rate at the East St. Louis Love Manor.

They watch Wipeout next, and the consensus seems to be it's a stupid show. Also, Tommy Bahama is apparently passe. Now they tell me.

By the time we get to Game of Crowns (another Bravo offering, I think the pitch was "MILF beauty pageants"), I'm wondering if the couch folk are expected to watch all of these shows in a row. They'll go through five or six episodes without (apparently) changing clothes. This seems excessive, especially since the natural reaction to watching much of this would be to vomit uncontrollably.

The Last Ship is next. Amanda and Kenya (sisters) concede than McSteamy is, in fact, steamy. Other than that, everyone is in agreement that Eric Dane and Rhona Mitra could procreate for the good of the species. It would also guarantee the survival of the gene for horrible acting.

And it goes on. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is next (no one can understand what anyone is saying), then MasterChef. Sisters Cathy and Destiney argue about how good Gordon Ramsay would be in best, which is an important debate, because ...

Wait a minute; "Destiney?" How does that work? "No, it's Destiney with *one* 'E'?"

Cry Wolfe, a reenactment show about a private investigator, comes next. That's right; we're watching a reality show with people giving forced reactions to another "reality" show featuring actors re-creating true life cases. We're through the looking glass, people.

The last show is Life with La Toya, which I assume is an actual show and not a hallucination I experienced following too much cheap gin. The high point is some guy asking Joe Jackson for permission to marry La Toya, I know you're all thinking what I was: Joe Jackson is still alive?!

As I've mentioned, The People's Couch is a great investment for Bravo, as I assume the only costs involved were a flat rate for the participants plus snacks and booze. It's also a boon for the viewing audience: no longer do we have to wonder how to respond to the parade of grotesques on our TVs, now we can select from a pre-supplied assortment of reactions.

Might as well get rid of that cerebral cortex, people. Critical thinking is officially obsolete.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar