Film and TV

Reality Bites: Wealth On The Water

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

We recently had our AT&T U-verse receivers replaced (we'd had the old ones since 2008, au revoir 15 hours of Doc McStuffins). Naturally, I had to create a new "favorites" list, which led to even more time-suckage, considering the number of new networks for my perusal.

One of these I noticed was called AWE. Foolishly assuming the name meant it only broadcast programs of the most kickass nature, I added it, then was just as quickly disabused of that assumption when I looked the station up. "AWE" apparently stands for "A Wealth [of] Entertainment." More amusingly, it once went by the name "Wealth TV." Imagine, a whole channel devoted to nothing but the hobbies and interests of the super-rich.

Haven't they waited long enough?

Before we begin, I'd just like to point out that every time the name of the show was spoken or displayed, I couldn't help hearing it to the tune of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." And now you can't either.

The pneumatic Jenn Barlow was the host of The Episode I Watched, which took us to the Cannes Yacht Festival, which is easily the sixth or seventh most famous festival that city hosts. Held each September in the Vieux Port, it showcases nearly 600 floating monuments to the lingering phallic inadequacy of man.

Barlow does her best to keep things relatable, helpfully letting us know this is the festival to attend "If you're looking to buy your fantasy yacht." I'm sure all of us eating Fritos and green onion dip while our kids fight over the one remaining controller to the family Sega Genesis appreciate the tip, Jenn.

Then again, maybe you just "want to see how the rich and famous live." Sounds reasonable: Buy tickets to the French Riviera and, what? Get a room at the Howard Johnson in Annot so you can rub elbows with people whose elbows you're probably not allowed to touch in the first place? Zut alors, I thought that was the whole point of having a goddamn "wealth" channel in the first place.

Seven boats are showcased, starting with a 42' carbon fiber model that widens into something resembling a triple E Chuck Taylor. The yacht company's spokesman informs us, "A lot of people would purchase the 42 Wider as their day boat." 1.2-1.3 million EUR (about 1.5 million dollars) for a "day boat." Fetch me la bombe neutron.

Almost forgot, Wider-Yachts also produces a 150' boat which is a diesel/electric hybrid capable of going 50 miles with no emissions. Clearly our climate change worries have been laid to rest: let's just create a vast network of canals and outfit everyone with one of these babies. For only $13 million a pop.

10 minutes in and I'm already getting a headache from the steady drone of Eurodouches describing their grotesque seafaring monstrosities. Oxygene, Overmarine, Couach ... the company names all sound like bands playing at Electric Daisy Carnival.

Couach makes an 85-footer with gyroscopic stabilizers to keep you from getting seasick. Because the last thing you could possibly want from your boating experience is feeling like you're, you know, on an actual boat. Another alternative is to spend your money on something that doesn't a) broadcast to the world what a colossal asshole you are, and b) make you a target of MI6.

Last up is Benetti Yachts, the #1 yacht manufacturer in the world. Their FF1 model features a formal dining room, leather paneling, personal iPads, and two 1500hp engines. A mere $18 million. Seriously, that's all I get? For that kind of scratch I expect a combination of any three of the following:

- walk-in humidor - Navy deep fryer that can cook a buffalo on 40 seconds - troupe of personal sex dwarves - half dozen Harpoon II anti-ship missiles - ambergris-smuggling compartments - IMAX theater

As infomercials go, Wealth on the Water is certainly prettier to look at than "Sweatin' to the Oldies" (even if it's a little off-putting that a show about such ostentatious displays of money has title graphics that look like they were designed by graduates of the Art Instruction School). In terms of fomenting depression, however, WotW wins hands-down. The same question that came to me while I was watching Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous many eons ago reared itself again while sitting through this: what do people get out of watching these shows? Is their faith in the American Dream so unshakable they still believe they can somehow bootstrap their way into the One Percent? I mean, the line "Very rarely do yachts this side have bathtubs" is uttered with (I presume) a straight face. Not even the sight of Richard Simmons' perky buttocks could lift my spirits after that.

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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