From Trashy to Classy, and Why That Was an Atrocious Idea

I demand a column by: Danny Sedlazek
Last night I was feasting on some leftover Chinese food, sprawled with as little dignity as possible in an oversized denim beanbag that smelled vaguely of 12-year-old-Xbox-rage-filled sweat, watching the premier of the Behind the Music episode showcasing my favorite artist. The program was pushed out of MTV by more pseudo-indie comedies and The Real World rip-offs, and quarantined into the feces filled trough of television, VH1. When my show ended, I was too bloated and unmotivated to reach for the remote to change the channel, so I shrugged and braced myself for Couple Therapy.
I sighed. It was another celeb-reality show with once formerly significant star (DMX in this case) and a bunch of other “celebrities” who TMZ wouldn’t waste time on. While they were counting down the couples during the opening montage which looked like it was made on Windows Movie Maker on a public library computer, one of the pairs of breathing trash caught my attention. The girl who was kicked off of Jersey Shore was dating a frat boy who was a failed contestant from The Next Food Network Star.
This made me reminisce for the days when VH1 didn’t have this pretense of being “not trashy”. When they embraced their role as the most wretched hive of scum and villainy on cable television and gave anyone who was banned for life from at least 3 nightclubs airtime.
They claimed we were “getting a little fatigued by all those manufactured reality shows,” but I still cry myself to sleep because I will never see another season of I Love Money, For the Love of New York or Charm School With Ricki Lake.
To help me cope, I’ve compiled the list of the most entertaining, gripping, and hilarious reality shows VH1 has ever gifted the American People with.
(All taglines taken from the official VH1 website)
5. Love & Hip Hop: (May 14, 2011-Present)
The Tagline: “To the casual observer, the world of hip hop is all thrills and excitement; there’s the bling, the Bentleys, the power, and the fame. But behind the scenes, hip hop can be a difficult world to navigate … even harder still for women who are trying to find their lane.”
Why: In 2010, VH1 decided to axe all of their trashy programs, to reinvigorate the network with shows that with “more authenticity in their reality,” according to network president Tom Calderone, and added a whopping 44 brand new programs as a replacement. This was the end of “guilty pleasure” VH1 and the beginning of “Oh God! Someone gouge my eyes out! Please! I beg you!” VH1.
One show has boldly stood against this televised tyranny, and it is Love & Hip Hop. It channels the pure unadulterated trashiness and absurdity, the type where you could never tell the genuine from the scripted, that made pre-2010 VH1 a favorite channel of mine.
And the people responded. The season 2 premiere of the series was the best ratings VH1 had in 2 years. Now there’s confirmation of a spin-off. Is this a return to the priceless entertainment of the good-ole-days? Hopefully.
Best Moment: Shortly after the season 2 premiere, it was reported that due to the highly violent fights between the cast members, which occurred more regularly on the show than “#YOLO” tweets appear on twitter, all glass and metal silverware was removed from the set. Every time I see a plastic fork, my heart sinks because I realize I may never see a C-List rapper’s wife impale a D-List rapper’s wife with the hilt of a fork.
4.  New York Goes to Work (May 4, 2009-June 29, 2009)
The Tagline: “The acting biz is hard and unpredictable. In fact, most fledgling stars have to pick up a side job to pay the bills. Tiffany Pollard, aka New York, is no exception. Auditions come and go, but real parts are few and far between, and Tiffany has found her bank account to be about as resilient as her ability to stay away from a Carl’s Jr. Late Night Drive Thru. This girl needs a J-O-B! “
Why: Some of you will see this title and think: “How could it possibly be awful for a television network to commit an entire population to city work programs? If anything that could be one of the most beautifully American acts in this past decade.”
Clearly, you don’t watch VH1.
New York is a nickname given to Tiffany Pollard, whose only claim to fame is being the two time runner-up in the VH1 shows Flavor of Love. She’s “celebrity” for losing a D-List celebrity’s dating show. That’s like claiming you’re an NFL player because you got cut from your high school football team. Yet she was a fan favorite on Flavor of Love. So she might be deserving of what, a cameo in another show? Maybe the same show as a sidekick?
How about three separate shows staring her?
I Love New York, New York Goes to Hollywood, and New York Goes to Work all graced the airwaves in the post Flavor of Love era. The third (and sadly, final) show was by far the best. The producers decided to assign New York to work various odd jobs for a day, and if she doesn’t kill anybody or destroy any property and manages to complete a handful of tasks easy enough for a blind marmoset, she gets paid for the day. She manages to fail and not receive pay for more than half of the 9 episodes. It’s a beautiful train wreck.
Best Moment: For the third episode, New York has to be a maid at a nudist colony. Most would run screaming for the hills, but New York really wants 10 grand. I got a pair of 6-pack abs from that 2 minute sequence from laughing so hard.
3. Real Chance of Love (October 20, 2008-August 3, 2009)
The Tagline: “Chance and Real, the self-proclaimed ‘Stallionaires’, can do everything together. They live together, they produce and perform music together, they travel, date, eat, and even breed Arabian horses together. And on VH1’s I Love New York they both fell in love with the same woman. In fact, they made it to the final two and three respectively, and millions of viewers were stunned when New York sent them both home broken-hearted and accepted a wedding proposal from another man.”
Why: Remember how I said New York is the ‘celebrity’ equivalent of someone who got cut from their high school football team? Then that makes “Real” and “Chance” the kids that got cut from being the water boy to their JV high school golf team.
The best aspect about this show is how ungrounded in reality the show is. The brothers clearly could care less what happened to, or for that matter, who exactly were, the girls competing on their show. One of the brothers didn’t even pick a winner the first season. Now, instead it was a contest between themselves to see who could put these poor girls through the most ridiculous and embarrassing challenge on cable TV for the love of some dude who lost a reality show starring some girl who lost Flavor Flav’s reality show twice.
I almost believe it’s a psychology experiment to test the limits of human dignity. There is no conceivable way that these “Stallionaires,” or any sane, or criminally insane, man would believe that a woman’s ability to host a county fair determines her worth as a wife.
That being said, these girls are not only willing, but extremely motivated to win the love of these waterboys. It’s like watching a cat chase a laser pointer into a wall because it knows that there is a promise of catnip at the end of it.
And who doesn’t love cats working for their catnip?
Best Moment: In season two, the brothers stumble upon perhaps their most legit idea of the entire series. “Hey, we own a ranch…maybe our wives should have some form of survival skills!” So they decide to send the women on a camping trip. Seems logical and not horrendously scarring enough, right?
Then factor in that, unknown to the women, they’ve hired multiple actors to dress in Bigfoot costumes, and to pull some Blair Witch Project inspired scares on the girls nonstop for the entire multi-day camping trip. So you have Scooby-Doo in real life, except the mystery gang has the combined intelligence of a rock, and the monster a budget of a semi-successful cable network. It’s a miraculous sight.
2. Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels (January 4, 2009-April 12, 2009)
The Tagline: “Bret Michaels has tried, twice, to find his Rock of Love. And now, after trying and failing, it’s clear that it is impossible for Bret to be on the road, and be in a relationship at the same time. So why not try to find love on the road?  This time around, Bret will hit the road on a month-long tour, and rolling on this tour are three buses — Bret’s pimped-out tour bus — and two others filled with a slew of new women, all competing for Bret’s affection.”
Why: Bret Michaels is former lead singer for the hair metal band Poison. The band gathered up more than a reasonable number of platinum plaques during the 80’s. However, their real legacy is the tragic romance of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” which is notable for its god awful metaphors. The band broke up because everyone was equally addicted to heroin and cocaine, and there wasn’t enough money to supply all their habits. So they broke up, a distant memory of hairspray and drag-queen levels of makeup.
Bret is almost a modern day Romeo: a tragic love figure, searching for his honest to god soul mate on a VH1 reality show. Not once, not twice, but three separate occasions, all legitimately believing he would find his “rock of love,” a woman he could share the rest of his life with.
Okay, you can stop laughing now.
The women are walking collections of bleached hair, eyeliner and enough makeup to make Godzilla look pretty. Most don’t event attempt to hide their malicious, money grabbing intentions. It’s like the antagonists from Mean Girls, in real life, with more than $5,000 spent on plastic surgery.
However, for a man so concerned with finding the perfect mate, Bret’s challenges for the women are a bit, how you say, completely nonsensical. For example: Bret likes hockey, and he wants his wife to be interested in sports.  Makes sense, right? The challenge: Make the women play scantily-clad hockey, but instead of pucks, use baby dolls dressed up like Bret.
Clearly, the man is a genius.
Best Moment: The final choice for Bret comes down to two women: Taya, a former penthouse playmate who was suspected she was only on the show to farther her career and doesn’t seem to actually care about Mr. Micheals, or Mindy, a single mother who is not only a fan of Bret’s solo music, but also seems to have a real connection with Bret.
Guess who Bret chooses not just to win the show, and immediately proposes to on cable TV?
If you guessed the playmate who didn’t even like him, you’d be correct. It’s so hilarious just because it shows that Bret really wasn’t looking for a real partner, and is shallower than a kiddie pool for Oompa Loompas.
1.  Flavor of Love (March 12, 2006-May 19, 2008)
The Tagline: “After his failed romance with Brigitte Nielsen, Flavor Flav is ready for a new and true romance. In Flavor of Love, 20 single women from all walks of life, selected for their expressed love for Flav, will move into a phat crib in Los Angeles and vie for his affection. With help and advice from Big Rick, Flav’s gigantic body-guard and chauffeur, Flavor Flav will date all of the women, weed out the ones who are only after his fame and fortune…and in the end will choose his one true love.”
Why: I’ve already touched on Flavor of Love when I summarized New York Goes to Work, but let me expand on what makes this show so perfectly disastrous.
Flavor Flav is a B-List celebrity, notable for being the hype-man for hip hop group Public Enemy. Being a hype-man entails trying to act as ridiculous as possible in the attempt to energize the crowd. It’s the music equivalent of being a rodeo clown. Flavor Flav is the greatest rodeo clown in the history of music.
Public Enemy had numerous platinum and multi-platinum albums, and toured relentlessly for a period of nearly twenty years. This means Flavor Flav could be worth millions of dollars.
I say “could” because at the time of the show, he was living with his baby-momma in a New York apartment, making all the income for his family of three by scalping basketball tickets. He also had a severe crack-cocaine addiction.
Now imagine the type of women who will relentlessly compete for the love of a man whose most significant contribution to pop culture is wearing an oversize clock around his neck. They make Snooki appear to have the class of the First Lady in comparison.
Flavor began this show after his previous relationship failed. Far from Real and Chance’s psych experiment, and not quite Bret Michael’s quest for eternal love: it was a request for a rebound.
Most of the women are eliminated for attempting to further their careers instead of loving Flav. I want to let that sink in for a second. They are going to improve their professional lives by competing for the love of a drug user on national television.
On top of that, the challenges Flavor gives to the girls are the least absurd of any other shows. In fact, they are legitimate tests to find a wife. They asked to care for the elderly, establish good relationships with Flav’s family and friends, blind-speed date, and undergo numerous other tests of character.
So you have these crazy, gold-digging women, and this drug-addict professional zoo animal put into close quarters with one another, and asked to show the beauty of their personalities.
It’s brilliantly ill-conceived.
Best Moment: In the semi-finale of the first season, Pumpkin (a small southern belle) is eliminated in favor of New York (who was crazy enough to warrant a reappearance the 2nd season and get 3 shows of her own). Pumpkin and New York have had tension brewing all season, and when Pumpkin gets axed, New York starts talking smack. So Pumpkin does the one logical thing in this situation: she spits right into New York’s face.
This sets off the greatest fight in the history of reality television. I don’t want to ruin it for you, go look it up on Youtube for yourself. But let’s just say it’s like pitting a crippled field mouse against a moose.