Reality Bites

Reality Bites: When Vacations Attack

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

One of my favorite Simpsons episodes was "Lisa the Simpson," where Lisa thinks she's getting dumber. In one eerily prescient scene, Homer and Bart are watching a show on Fox called When Buildings Collapse:

Man has always loved his buildings. But what happens when the buildings say "no more"?

It's ridiculous, of course. That's the point. Then again, it's no more ludicrous than the premise of the Travel Channel's When Vacations Attack, which showcases vacations gone wrong. This is sometimes due to human error, sometimes mechanical failure and sometimes nature finally says, "No more." Lucky for us, each episode helpfully features an example of each.

I came in late (Big Money Rustlas was on Showtime), so I don't know what happened to the guy who had a massive heart attack on what looks like a suburban street. All I can say is if the guy was spending his "vacation" catching up on yard work and paying bills, I totally sympathize.

The next segment features Switzerland's Vincent Weil, who engages in "adventurous" vacations like...snowboarding and snorkeling. Seriously, are we that sedentary a race that the mere act of getting in the ocean merits notice? Anyway, Vincent is fond of filming himself boarding while carrying a camera on a pole, and one can't help think this might have been a contributing factor when he slams into a tree.

The unintentionally hilarious consequence of all this, of course, is that Swiss [Didn't Quite] Miss here actually *captures his own horrific crash on film*. What a windfall for reality programmers, who no longer have to go through that whole tiresome "dramatic re-enactment" crap. Plus, we get to see it repeatedly, both in slo-mo and real time, with freeze frames right at the point of impact, as Vincent's goggles fly off his helmet-less head.

Oh, did I forget to mention he was snowboarding a black diamond slope and not wearing a helmet? All while mugging for a camera? Yeah.

Of course, this would all be tragic if the guy died. Well, to an extent. I'm not going to equate some extreme sports dipshit caving in his own skull with, say, an orphanage fire. Except we know he lives, because the Travel Channel wouldn't show it otherwise. I'm not going to look it up, but I imagine the FCC has rules about showing actual deaths without certain onscreen warnings and caveats.

Sure enough, some outpatient surgery on a fractured eye socket and a broken nose later and Vincent's right as rain. He even went snowboarding again ten days later. Hope he enjoyed that free American health care.

Next up is the Hind family. It's the annual father-son vacation and they're heading to the Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead, Florida. You can see where this is going, but they should be all right as long as they've seen Live and Let Die. Dad Terry and son Kellin are watching the alligator show, hosted by one Jonny Cobbler, a Kid Rock wannabe (he apparently has a music career) who taunts one gator too many and is rewarded by a bite on the hand. Luckily, the other gators seem pretty bored, which is about the most desirable outcome you can have when outnumbered 50 to 1 by prehistoric monsters. To Cobbler's credit, he keeps his wits about him until the gator is driven off, and acknowledges it was his fault.

Of course, he still makes those godawful videos.

And it keeps going. Next are [OMINOUS VOICE-OVER] four teenage friends on a camping trip in the woods.[/OMINOUS VOICE-OVER]. The culprit? A fucking rope swing. I've had friends injure themselves on those Darwin-enabling devices before, but this time I blame the ubiquity of video cameras, especially the one his friend mercilessly taunts him with. There's no way that poor pudgy kid goes through with this near suicide if the threat of YouTube shame isn't looming over his head like the Handycam of Damocles.

Sure enough, the kid didn't have the upper body strength to keep hold of that rope. Boom: fractured femur. Peer pressure can be deadly, kids.

Finally (please be finally), a bunch of dudes swamp their boat and capsize off Martha's Vineyard. There's not much to add to their rescue by fishing boat -- they luck out in recovering one of the UHF transmitters and manage to keep their heads about them -- except to make a snarky aside about the show's narrator pointing out the prevalence of great white sharks near Martha's Vineyard. At least they didn't play the Jaws theme.

In the end, describing these incidents as "vacations attacking" is a bit much. In three of the cases, poor judgment was at fault. Certainly, you're not likely to have a snowboarding accident or unpleasant alligator encounter when *not* on vacation, but stupidity and bad luck can plague us anywhere.

Unless the intended message here is "don't go on vacation." Which would seem odd coming from something called "The Travel Channel."

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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