The Great British Bake Off Is Pure In Heart

Did you watch the premiere of a new season of The Great British Bake Off last night? If so, I’m horribly jealous … or I would be if jealousy didn’t run contrary to the spirit of The Great British Bake Off, a show that is at its core pleasant, gentle, soothing and entirely pure in heart.

Bake Off employs calming narration, a delicate pastel color scheme, a reliable format and real-life fairy godmother Mary Berry. It is basically like watching Mr. Rogers or Shining Time Station, but for adults. It cuts through the ugliness of reality competitions and resists cheap “extreme” challenges or manufactured rivalries. While we await the U.S. airing of series 7, let’s look at all the ways the Bake Off is the most pure and kind reality competition on television today:

Mary Berry Is Mary Poppins’ Granddaughter

In my head, Mary Berry was named after her beloved granny, Mary Poppins – because how else do you explain their shared delightful temperament, coupled with a firm instance on perfection (or practically-perfection)? Mary never met a sneaky innuendo she didn’t like, but she’s also excellent at playing the well-bred grandmother who doesn’t know what you’re all snickering at. Plus she’s a style icon to boot, always sporting a smart scarf or a well-tailored floral blazer or that one bomber jacket that sold out in a day. If you worry that getting older will make you dowdy or dull or stuck in the past, just look to Mary (age 81!) and rest assured that such a fate isn’t inevitable. And is it just me, or do her eyes actually twinkle sometimes?

Sue Perkins Is A British Rachel Maddow

I mean. Sue Perkins is her own person. But she has a quick and dry wit that’s very Rachel Maddow-without-the-politics. Or maybe the funniest NPR presenter? Just tell me that Sue Perkins doesn’t own a library tote. I’ll wait. She’s also always quick with a dad joke, which is objectively speaking the most pure-in-heart category of humor. Sue is a comedian, not a baker, so she’s really just around for the laughs – although she did make an earlier foray into food television with The Supersizers, a great program where modern people consume the typical diet of historical periods. It is funnier than it sounds.

Everyone Is Helpful

Remember that show Zoom? Whenever the kids were doing a craft or a race, all the other kids gathered around saying encouraging things. That’s basically how Great British Bake-Off Is. Contestants who are done with their bake lend a hand to fellow competitors, tell people they’re doing well, or just calm down the other bakers during their more ruffled moments. The judges and hosts offer practical advice instead of watching the contestants muddle their way into disaster. If you want to watch people be nice to each other for an hour, you’ve found the right show.

Anybody Can Bake!

Whether you’re a senior citizen or a school-aged kid, you could watch and enjoy GBBO. The field of competitors isn’t age-segregated either, and there have been bakers as young as 17 (sweet, pleasant Martha) and as old as 69. Obviously reality shows have to cast based on both talent and personality, but it’s so refreshing to see a show that doesn’t rely too heavily on the young and conventionally attractive (no worries: if you like conventionally attractive people, there are plenty). Contestants have ranged from posh, Aga-owning teen Flora to the more working class builder/dad Paul, proving that baking – and talent –  cut across all classes.

Given the events of this year, it’s also been great to see that a number of the top competitors haven’t been of British descent. It’s important for viewers to see bakers of all different backgrounds concoct some of the more traditionally British challenges – and make them better by drawing from their own influences. Where scripted television still has trouble writing roles for Muslim women that aren’t either boring and obedient at best or extremist at worst, through a reality show audiences got to meet Nadiya, full of personality and ambition. When even central and eastern European immigrants face discrimination and stereotyping, Bake Off presented us with Ugne, a shoe-loving female body builder. In a year of Brexit and Donald Trump, this is the kind of content I want on my television.

The Best Of Reality Competitions

While I’d rather focus on what Bake Off is instead of what it isn’t, we have to discuss what reality competitions can be at their worst. We’re talking about those cheap tactics that producers think are going to keep viewers tuned in – but which I’d argue are completely unnecessary (and I think the 10 million viewers tuning into the series 7 premiere last night would agree with me). Drawn-out personality clashes between competitors or judges have no place here. Neither do unnecessarily extreme challenges that you see on some other cooking competitions; why include that if these challenges are hard enough? Even the participants’ interviews are free of that reality tv posturing about being the best. Or is that just an American thing, maybe?

Instead, GBBO shows what reality tv competitions can be at their best. You have talented contestants trying their hardest, interesting challenges that actually teach us about history or travel (remember that Victorians episode?), and suspense generated naturally instead of artificial, hyped-up gimmicks.

GBBO Exists Outside Of Time

As if this show didn’t already remind me of a mature version of the public television shows of my childhood, it also seems to exist entirely outside of time. I mean, I never know when any series of The Great British Bake Off originally aired, thanks to the wonders of PBS’s screwy scheduling. It’s all clearly from at some point in the 2010s, but beyond that it’s anyone’s guess. Series 5 (UK) was Season 1 (US), and then Series 4 (UK) was Season 2 (US), and Series 6 (UK) was Season 3 (US). Don’t even try to remember which season aired first. It’s exactly like tuning into your local PBS affiliate c. 1993 and never knowing which cast of Ghostwriter you were going to get.


From Mary Berry to the tranquil pastel baking tents to the cheerful competitors, the Great British Bake Off is everything reality shows can be. If you get to watch a new series right now, enjoy! I’ll be here with my weirdly ordered PBS repeats in the meantime – not because I don’t want to jump ahead, but because watching with a torrent is NOT very pure-in-heart. Besides, I think Mary Berry would be disappointed in me, and we can’t have that.

 

 

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American Idol, #Nvr4Get

The American Idol series finale was last night, and the country crowned its 15th and final winner La’Porsha Trent Harmon. The show was jam-packed with special performances from former Idol contestants (Tamyra Gray, Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Jessica Sanchez, Pia Toscano, Kellie Pickler), winners (Ruben, Fantasia, Carrie, Jordin, White Guys With Guitars, Kelly SINGING A MOMENT LIKE THIS), and Brian Dunkleman. It was clearly emotional for all those involved in the show for the past 10+ years, but it full disclosure, it was emotional for me too.

Yeah, 15 seasons is quite a long run and it’s definitely time to go, but you can’t deny how much of an impact this show has had on reality TV, the music industry, and most importantly, the lives of all those involved. For instance, Kelly Clarkson was waiting tables when she auditioned for the show, and was barely getting by. Now she’s become one of the most successful and acclaimed artists not only as an Idol alum but in pop music, and she probably wouldn’t have been able to reach the level of success she’s at without this platform.

But what I’ve realized over the past few days is that I’m not so much “sad” to see the show go – it’s more of the nostalgia I get from the Idol, yearning for the glory of what the show once was. Case in point last night’s finale. Reuniting the Three Divas (Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson & LaToya London), teaming up Justin Guarini & Jordin Sparks, throwing to Sanjaya & his hair in the audience, and that entire Gospel medley. The producers brought all these people back because THEY are what made Idol great. Back in its heyday, circa 2003 to 2009, Idol became the highest-rated TV show in the United States for an unprecedented seven consecutive years. It became bigger than anyone could ever have imagined. There were even people lit’rally making money off of Idol online with dedicated websites (because the Internet was still emerging as a thing) like Rickey.org and MjsBigBlog, and that type of fandom for an unscripted reality competition series had never been seen before.

But back then, everyone was watching it because it was entertaining. People got sucked into voting for their favorites (or their least favorites – Vote for the Worst, anyone?) and it became watercooler fodder the next day. I am not ashamed to admit that I, too, became a crazed fan of Idol. I purchased not only the winners’ albums but the Idol compilation albums. I’ve gone to a few of the Idol summer tours, and if you recall from a previous post, I may have been in the audience in season one holding up a sign that in all honestly, I partly made so I could get on TV. It worked.

LOL HI

Anyway, all this to say that while a lot of people consider the past few seasons of Idol completely moot, a series finale makes you remember why you fell in love with the show in the first place. Over the past 15 seasons, Idol has definitely given us plenty to talk about, and what better time to talk about all those moments than on the day after the show ends? Thanks for all the memories and lasting legacies you’ve left us with. We’ll Nvr4Get.

The Audacity of Season 1

Season one was kind of a shit show, but a good shit show. Production value was lower than Scotty McCreery’s basso profondo and it took a while for people to tune in. As we know, the auditions are sometimes the most entertaining episodes, and season one was no exception. It was the first we’d see of the extremely outspoken, cutthroat, no filter Simon Cowell. It was like he was being rude to all these contestants (who admittedly couldn’t carry one note) and America was like, ‘Yo, who the hell is this British dude?’ It was also telling of the singers who came in to audition – it was jarring to see a handful of people fight back against the judges and Cowell, since we weren’t necessarily used to the harsh talk back on TV. Enter Tamika Bush, who was one of the very first rude singers to grace the show. I personally enjoy her two-glasses style approach. Why keep your prescription sunglasses in your bag when you can just wear it you head?

Forget JHud, Give From Justin to Kelly An Oscar

Ok, you probably didn’t forget this happened but did you even watch it at all? WELL I DID. In the theater. And maybe with Molly? (yes, and I didn’t realize it would be a musical. YEAH.-M) Either way, it wasn’t that good, but it was along the lines of so bad it’s good. Bless these two for having to do this. The downside of fame, y’all.

Simon + Paula = Saula

In the first couple of seasons, viewers noticed there was an odd chemistry between Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. They’d be at odds with each other one second and the next it felt as if we all needed to leave the room so they could have it to themselves. During the season two finale, producers had fun with this and came up with this little sketch that is something you can never unsee.

World Idol Was a Thing

If you didn’t know, American Idol was adapted from the British version called Pop Idol, which was a huge hit in the U.K. Soon after its major success, more versions of the show started popping up around the world, and by late 2003, when we had already crowned our first and only Idol Kelly, producers of Pop Idol decided it would be a good idea to create World Idol. Think of it as Eurovision, but less importance on the song choice. Don’t get that reference, you lousy Americans? It’s like of the Olympics had a singing event and had one representative from each country compete. Kelly repped the U.S. but came in second to Norway’s Kurt Nilsen, who won with U2’s Beautiful Day. Foiled by Bono again.

Beating the System

For season four, a tricky concept called Dial Idol was introduced, and it’s important to know this had no affiliation at all to American Idol itself. Dial Idol was a Windows program and its associated website that tracks voting trends for Idol contestants. Using your PC’s modem, viewers can automatically vote for their faves and the program reports back to the main website. That site, DialIdol.com, kept track of all the voting data, and therefore was usually a good indicator on who was leading week to week. From seasons four through 13, Dial Idol’s prediction on who would take home the crown was only wrong once, and it was for S13 when the data predicted Jena Irene would win over Caleb Johnson (I barely watched that season too). It was controversial for many reasons, but for those betting money on Idol, it proved to be a secret weapon and guide to win that dough.

The Three Divas Debacle

This was an epic moment from season 3, and maybe the best/worst elimination ever? (Watch it above around the 28:23 mark) It was the results show revealing who was going to make the top 6. Ryan divided the remaining contestants into two groups – on the left side of the stage, it was Fantasia, LaToya and JHud. On the right side of the stage, it was Diana DeGarmo, John Stevens and Jasmine Trias. Ryan then told the remaining contestant, George Huff, that he was safe and to go to the group he also thought was safe. He apprehensively approached the groups, with the Three Divas motioning to come to join them. The audience cheered but then Ryan announced the plot twist – he had joined the wrong group. Note: they did this fake out again in S6, but Melinda Doolittle (in the George Huff position) decided to sit in the middle of the stage and didn’t pick a side lololol). Anyways, the result was the shocking elimination of Jennifer Hudson, but I hear she’s been doing fine since then.

Queen of Crying Memes

Ah, crying girl. The most memorable fan to come out of the pits of the CBS studio audience. Crying girl, aka Ashley Ferl, was 13 years old when she was left in hormonal teen tears after Sanjaya seductively moved his hips as he sang You Really Got Me in season six. The camera only panned to her for a few brief moments, but she’s lived on in the Internet forever. She’s now 22 and a college student majoring in liberal studies. And while she may not be a Fanjaya anymore, she’s still an Idol viewer. Wonder what she thought about Sanjaya’s random wig appearances on the finale last night.

American Juniors

After the unprecedented success of the first two seasons of American Idol, producers decided to capitalize on it even more by launching a spin-off show called American Juniors, looking for the best five young talents to create the country’s next big pop group. The format was a little different than Idol Senior, wherein each week one kid would get voted into the group as opposed to being eliminated. The group barely became anything, but the only thing you need to take out of it is that American was introduced to Lucy Hale of Pretty Little Liars fame. She made it to the group, but now runs from some Big Bad trying to kill her and her friends in designer clothes.

American Idol Experience

In 2009, a theme park attraction called the American Idol Experience, opened at Disney’ World’s Hollywood Studios. It was basically set up to be just like the show, with singers actually auditioning and performing in front of a real audience for a real shot to audition for the real show. There were a handful of Idol finalists from the AI Experience who made it to the show, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that at the grand opening of the attraction, a bunch of Idol alum took the stage, including winners S1 through 7, and that provided for a duet of two of my faves, Carrie and David Cook as seen above. And if you want to go to this attraction, too late. It closed in 2014.

The Best Hollywood Week Groups

Hollywood Week is notoriously difficult, and maybe my favorite part of each season. The contestants are really put to the test, and it always seems like everyone is sleep deprived, hates most people the interact with, and can’t remember the words to well-known songs for the life of them. Tensions run high, people get sick (S11 winner Phillip Phillips even had to be hospitalized during Hollywood Week due to kidney problems) and many are cut from the competition. But every year it’s the group rounds that separate the best from the worst, and in season six, four guys did their damn thing. Three of them even made the semi-finals, with Blake coming in as the runner-up to Jordin. Special shout out to White Chocolate from season eight.

Pants on the Ground

Civil rights activist “General” Larry Platt auditioned with this song in season nine and it became a viral hit. The actual track is meant to protest the practice of guys sagging their trousers, but I have a funny feeling most of the people who bought the single didn’t even realize the real meaning behind it. Either way, it was so memorable he even made a brief appearance on the series finale.

Idol Gives Back

Idol Gives Back was a charity campaign that happened three times throughout the run of the show. The episode featured performances from current and past Idols, celebrities, and music superstars in an effort to get people to donate their money to charity. From the three specials, the campaign raised over $185 million for underserved communities in America and around the world. And also Brad Pitt.

The Scandals

Listen, you can’t have thousands of people across America going to an open call for a hit TV show without meeting a few folks with colorful backgrounds. It began in season two with Corey Clark who was disqualified during the finals (he made it to the top 9) because of an undisclosed criminal record. He later claimed he had an affair with Paula during the show, and that led to her giving him preferential treatment. That went away, but he became a hot mess afterwards. Similarly, Frenchie Davis who I thought was going to be a frontrunner (see: Band of Gold that I still listen to to this day), was disqualified for having previously modelled for an adult website. Other notable controversial contestants include S4’s Mario Vasquez (a frontrunner, left on his own accord citing personal reasons, rumored to be related to lewd conduct with a crew member), S6’s Antonella Barba (racy pix of her surfaced online), S7’s David Hernandez (used to be a stripper), S11’s Jermaine Jones (concealed arrests and outstanding warrants).

Seacrest’s High Five Faux Pas

There is no back story to this besides Ryan can’t read the room.

The Life of Pablo

That time Seacrest used his connections to get Kanye to audition.

“Other Door”

Contestants in the initial rounds had a lot of trouble figuring out which door to leave through, and this montage still gets me cracking up every time. In recent years, they’ve noticeably put an Idol-branded sticker on the door to indicate which one they should go out of.

Bikini Girl

In season eight, a gal called Katrina Darrell showed up to the auditions in only a bikini. It became this whole thing and she even managed to steal a kiss from Ryan. Second-hand embarrassment. She surprisingly made it to Hollywood but got cut in the group rounds. She appeared in the finale alongside judge Kara DioGuardi, who also showed up in her bikini and sang. This show, I swear.

Nicki vs. Mariah

Like what even happened that season? Rumors of their fighting surfaced (maybe that should be in quotes) on TMZ long before the first episodes even aired, and it continued for the whole season. It was annoying. It was even more annoying because the focus turned from the contestants to them, and that’s not fair.

Bigger and Better Than Idol

Listen, not everyone can get it right. And that includes Idol judges. There have been a handful of singers who auditioned for the show, didn’t make it, but eventually became superstars. For instance, Tori Kelly got cut during Hollywood Week, and Simon was not a fan of hers. Cut to 2016 when she got nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy. Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, COlbie Calliat, and Glee’s Amber Riley both didn’t even make it past the preliminary rounds, while The Swon Brothers’ Colton Swon and The Hunger Games star Alan Ritchson also didn’t make the cut.

#YouTried

And finally, here’s an ode to all the finalists who left an impression on me and other Idol fans throughout the 15 seasons. Most of the contestants listed below were underdogs and/or underappreciated, and I feel like they need one more shout out before Idol rides off into the sunset… for now (an actual phrase Seacrest said at the end of the finale, which could mean anything but I don’t need it to come back).

Adios American Idol, Hello All-Stars Edition?

Well it finally happened. Fox execs finally cut the cord on American Idol, and they announced on Monday that the show that brought you everyone from Kelly Clarkson to the Pants on the Ground guy, will be ending next year at the end of its 15th season. FIFTEENTH. Over the past few years, AI has been one of those shows that when you hear about it, you might be like, ‘That show is still on??’ I admit that I fall into the other category, because I’ve more or less watched every single season since the beginning.

American Idol debuted the summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school, and that summer just so happened to be the same summer that I visited some family members in Los Angeles. Since it was still the first season, I got tickets to the live show fairly easily, and long story short, I was in the audience for the Top 7 performances, I made a sign for *justin*, I was briefly on TV, and I met Mario Lopez (yes, AC Slater). I had to dig deep for this video footage from 13 years ago, but here it is. You’re welcome, Internet.

ais1t7

started from the bottom… still at the bottom but maybe a little higher (and we’re here)

Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that I have a long history with the show, and I used to be a hardcore fan who knew all the contestants’ names and hometowns and went to their concerts and bought the CDs and made YouTube playlists of everyone that’s sung I Have Nothing. I drank the Idol Kool-Aid. That fangirl turned into someone who kept stating to people, ‘I’m not going to watch this season because everyone sucks!’, but still do anyways (this season is actually really good, y’all). So next season will be bittersweet in a way, even though I’m not quite as crazy as I used to be.

Fox bosses said that next year will be a “season-long celebration”, hinting at surprises and appearances by former judges and contestants. To me, that seems like a good deal. One last hurrah and Idol is off to reality TV heaven with The Swan and Temptation Island. But the mention of former contestants got me thinking – there are plenty of aspiring singers who I was rooting for but never made it to the top. Where are they now, and can they get a second chance? While I 100% know this would never happen, maybe a decade from now, Fox can use this idea for an American Idol: All-Star edition and bring back the folks who were so close to winning, but never did. Also to clarify, the people on this list are Idol alums who deserve a second chance at stardom, I.E. you won’t see Chris Daughtry or Jennifer Hudson on this list. Also not on the list: Justin Guarini. While I bet a bunch of Idol losers still eligible to audition will return for the fifteenth and final season, here are some that won’t get to make the cut, but one can only dream.

Kimberly Caldwell

{season 2 – seventh place}

Ok, so with these early contestants, you have to consider their talent with a grain of salt. Production was shotty, people still didn’t know what they were auditioning for, and most times the performance ended up being too *karaoke*. But back in season two, Kimberly Caldwell was better than most. She had a deep, raspy voice that wasn’t as belty as third-place finisher Kimberley Locke’s, but she had that blonde, ‘stylish’ look that would be admired in a pop star. Speaking of which, note Paula’s critique: ‘Your hair, your whole outfit, right on the money’, WHICH TO BE FAIR, PROBABLY WAS IN 2003.

Jasmine Trias

{season 3 – third place}

As a young Filipino girl growing up in Western New York I didn’t really recall seeing many people like me on TV (#RepresentationIsImportant). Jasmine, a Filipina, was a big deal not only in my house, but for the Filipino community in her native Hawaii and back home in the Philippines. Which is probably why her voice is more suited to be an Idol back there and not in America.

Mario Vasquez

{season 4 – top twelve/withdrew from competition}

Mario Vasquez was kind of controversial. Not Corey Clark controversial, but controversial in the sense that he was considered a frontrunner, then quit during Top 12 week, citing “personal family issues” as the reason for his departure. He later admitted that he wanted more artistic freedom than what he would’ve been given as winner of Idol, and that’s why he signed a deal with J Records shortly after leaving – the same label of Fantasia and Ruben Studdard. He had like one or two mediocre singles after the show, but whatever really went down, IDC. He had a great voice and for better or worse, he knew it.

Elliott Yamin

{season 5 – third place}

Ah. Elliott Yamin. While the majority of American Idol voters like ‘White Guys With Guitars’ (I enjoy them as well), my personal favorite sub-genre of singers is ‘White Guys With Soul/Could Be Black’. I was actually studying abroad during this season, so I only watched a variety of clips on YouTube, but I did watch every single video of Elliot’s. I get why he didn’t win (I still don’t get why Taylor Hicks did), but gosh, does Elliott have some pipes on him.

Chris Sligh

{season 6 – tenth place}

Chris Sligh had me at hello. Once he made a reference to David Hasselhoff crying in the previous year’s season finale, I knew I was going to like him. Then he started singing and I was a fan for the rest of the contest. Like a lot of contestants, Chris unfortunately peaked early, especially during the infamous Hollywood Week, when he and three others had one of the best group performances ever. EVER.

Matt Giraud

{season 8 – fifth place}

I’m gonna be honest with you. Part of the reason I even decided to do this post was because of Matt Giraud. He is ‘The One That Got Away’ in terms of my relationship with Idol. He also falls under the category of ‘White Guy With Soul’, so you might be noticing a trend here. Whenever I think of Idol contestants who should’ve been more successful/won the show, he is at the top of my list. He can sing saaang, play piano, saaang and play piano well at the same time, and has a great personality. Although Matt was the recipient of the first ever Idol Judges’ save, it couldn’t save him on elimination night when it was down to him and Adam Lambert. But no bitterness here. Just enjoy all the videos of Matt Giraud instead. Like him singing Part-Time Lover, or another unforgettable Hollywood Week group song with winner Kris Allen, or the time he sang Let’s Get It On on Ellen and she laid on the piano while I swooned at home.

Andrew Garcia

{season 9 – eighth place}

Andrew Garcia, a YouTube star who, like Chris Sligh before him, peaked early and got a little too adventurous for the judges’ tastes with his reimagining of pop songs. This was and still is one of the best covers on the show. Too bad Paula wasn’t there to dance and clap along to it.

Didi Benami

{season 9 – tenth place}

Didi didn’t have the conventional pop star/belter voice like a lot of other contestants who go through the Idol bootcamp. Her soft tone was destined for her not to win, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t go far or make her mark. Again, my favorite performance of hers comes during Hollywood Week, when she covered a song written by judge Kara Dioguardi (remember her??), and later sung better, IMO, by S5 runner-up, Katherine McPhee.

Johnny Keyser

{season 11 + 12}

Johnny tried out for Idol season 11, which is when I became obsessed with this audition. I remember making a big deal out of him and he promptly got eliminated. Then he came back season 12… and got eliminated again. He kinda came across as cocky on TV (both seasons), but there’s no denying his audition is pretty hot. And gave J Lo the goosies.

Michael Simeon

{season 14 – top 24}

To me, Michael was poised to be the resident ‘WGWG/heartthrob’ of the season, but like the Chris Slighs and Johnny Keysers before him, he used his best material for the audition, as seen in this clip in which he serenades J Lo with Sam Smith while they slow dance and Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. serve as his backing band. It’s probably for the best that he didn’t make it, because this season proved to be chock full of talent. When the winner is crowned on Wednesday, the other two runners-up will automatically be added to this list. Because they’re all just that good. Seriously. And even one of them is a White Guy With Soul AND White Guy With Guitar!

Wildcards:

The ever dramatic Tatiana Del Toro, American Juniors ‘winner’ Danielle White (still listen to this song from time to time), season one host Brian Dunkleman in a face-off with Seacrest, just for funsies.

Real Jobs You Can Have, According To The Bachelor

The 19th season of The Bachelor began last night, starring lovable and softspoken Chris Soules. He gracefully got dumped by Andi The Bachelorette last year, and the viewing public took to his good looks and earnestness about the possibility he wasn’t going to be chosen as The One out of 25 other guys, pushing him to the top choice as this year’s Bachelor.

Chris was known as the “Farmer from Iowa” on the show, because that’s what he was. On his hometown date, he brought Andi back home and they had a picnic in the cornfield and he lit’rally took her for a drive on his big green tractor. He went so far as to suggest there was a possibility for her to ‘be a homemaker’ in Iowa, despite the fact she’s a lawyer.

On the road leading up to Farmer Chris’ journey, ABC has aired numerous ads promoting the fact that he’s a farmer – him walking in cornfield and the like. Viewers are always reminded of contestants’ occupations during the season, as whenever they’re being interviewed, their name pops up on a chyron, reminding us who they are and what they do. This year, Chris will meet a WWE Diva-in-Training, a Sport Fishing Enthusiast, and a Cadaver Tissue Saleswoman. Because these are all real jobs. For some reason, people with odd occupations always get cast on this franchise, and while ‘cadaver tissue saleswoman’ is definitely the weirdest by far, there has long been a precedent of unique and frankly, questionable, occupations from those vying for the Bachelor/Bachelorette’s heart. Here are just a few notable ones before you’re introduced to the new batch of ladies tonight…

Kelly T. – Dog Lover

{Season 18 – Juan Pablo}

Kelly took her job so seriously that production even let her bring her work into the house. As in they let her have a dog.

 

Lucy – Free Spirit

{Season 18 – Juan Pablo}

Apparently ‘Free Spirit’ also means ‘Willing to be naked at all times’, because that’s what Lucy was all about.

 

J.J. – Pantsapreneur

{Season 10 – Andi}

His job is exactly what you think it is. I mean, look at those slacks. Slackstrepreneur.

 

Brad – Accountant/DJ

{Season 9 – Desiree}

I love a good combo job. Mundane accountant by day, turning down for what as a DJ by night. What can be better than that?

 

Nick R. – Tailor/Magician

{Season 9 – Desiree}

A tailor/magician is what can be better than that. I could tell this guy just wanted to give up his tailor job and go full-time magician. As seen by the legit tricks he did on the show.

 

Kyle H. – Outdoorsman

{Season 6 – Ali}

He couldn’t be dressing more the part of an outdoorsman in this flannel. And is that a bullet hanging from his necklace? Is that a necklace?

 

Alejandro – Mushroom Farmer

{Season 8 – Emily}

I remember Alejandro being a sweet guy, but it was always like, ‘really? a MUSHROOM farmer?’ Maybe IDK enough about how mushrooms are grown, but this is like a drug front, no?

 

Peyton – Sorority Recruiter

{Season 10 – Andy}

Again, maybe it’s because I have no knowledge of sororities, but what exactly would she be recruiting? As an adult not in college?

 

Erica Rose – Socialite

{Season 9 – Prince Lorenzo}

This bitch made for good TV. I only know her from the season of Bachelor Pad she competed in and it’s important that in addition to being a socialite, you know that she later became a lawyer. Hence the tiara AND the gavel.

 

Brit – Beer Chemist

{Season 12 – Matt Grant}

Any job involving alcohol never seems like a real thing to me. But obviously, our beer meeds chemist-ing.

 

Best Of: So You Think You Can Dance Group Routines

Summer TV is usually nonexistent, with a lot of crappy shows and reality TV programs filling in for the good shows while they go on hiatus for a few months. But my absolute favorite summer show is So You Think You Can Dance. Now in its 11th (!!) season, SYTYCD has been the sole series bringing dance to the forefront over the past few years. The alumni have gone on to work for pop stars like Lady Gaga and Madonna, starring in movies like Step Up and Fame, and in general, just getting more recognition than ever before.

And while the entire competition is about finding the best male and female dancers in the country, like a lot of things in life, you improve when you build, connect and create with others. Every year there are exceptionally talented dancers who make it to the top 10, and their talent is ever apparent when they perform together.

So after a painstaking process of narrowing down my favorite numbers, these are the best (IMO) group routines over the past 10 seasons. You can catch new ones when SYTYCD returns on Wednesday!!!

Note: These are in chronological order, not ranked, only because I lit’rally wouldn’t be able to pick absolute favorites. I need help.

Season 2

Top 10

Choreographer: Wade Robson ♦ Song: Ramalama (Bang Bang) by Roisin Murphy

If you’ve been a fan from the start (or season 2, because that’s when I like to believe it really started), you know Ramalama is one of the iconic SYTYCD dances ever. This creepy zombie-like routine was choreographed by Wade Robson, who teenyboppers from the late 90s/00s know was the choreographer to both ‘N Sync and Britney Spears – and the rumored guy Brit cheated on from Justin. Yeah, that whole Cry Me A River song? It’s to do with Wade. Allegedly. Anyways, forget that and just watch this haunting routine instead.

Top 6

Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap

Mia Michaels became the standout choreographer on the series from the start, creating memorable dances such as this one, and other duets, including the famous ‘Bench Dance’. While she had already long been a fixture in the dance world, she became known to the TV audience as an incredibly talented, unforgettable, challenging choreographer.

Top 4

Choreographer: Wade Robson ♦ Song: SexyBack by Justin Timberlake

Hey, remember what I said about JT and Wade? Here’s Wade using JT’s then-new single for the final four group dance!

Season 3

Top 10

Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: The Moment I Said It by Imogen Heap

I accidentally chose a lot of Mia Michaels dances. Oops. I remember this dance giving me chills the first time I watched it, and it still does to this day.

Season 4

Top 4

Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: Hallelujah by The Vitamin String Quartet

Is it weird that I really enjoy when they yell ‘HUH’ in the middle of the dance? Again, Mia is known for pushing her dancers with extremely difficult moves. In this final four routine, it’s hard to believe that the two guys, tWitch and Josh (who went onto win) came in as hip hop dancers.

Season 5

Top 8 + Judges

Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: One from A Chorus Line

I swear, I really didn’t mean to put this many Mia dances on the list. In my defense, there’s a reason why she’s been nominated for so many Emmys. But can we just talk about the judges getting to dance in the finale? I just need more dancing Adam Shankman in my life, is that so much to ask?

Season 6

Top 20

Choreographer: Amanda and Wade Robson ♦ Song: Comanche by The Revels

Ah, season 6. The ‘lost season’. Like previously mentioned, SYTYCD airs in the summer, but for some reason, Fox execs decided to immediately air season 6 in the fall, directly after season 5 wrapped in the summer. I think because of this, many fans who would usually tune in, didn’t because their other programs were on and took precedence. And it’s frankly a shame because there were a lot of great dancers this season, including some of my all-time faves like Kathryn, Ellenore and Jakob. This particular dance is definitely in my top five.

Season 7

Top 11 + All-Stars

Choreographer: Wade Robson ♦ Song: Fame by David Bowie

Season 7 brought the introduction of the All-Stars, which saw the return of standout alumni from the past 6 seasons. It was a brilliant addition to the show, and the very first show after the auditions was an introduction to the top 11, with this as the opening number. As a total SYTYCD geek, and definitely fangirled seeing some of the best former contestants from over the years dancing with the newbies. I may have kept this episode on my DVR for like 2 years just to watch this routine over and over again. Yes, I realize now I could have just been watching it on YouTube the entire time.

Top 8

Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic by Sting

This is about Alice in Wonderland. A concept that’s not as murky.

Season 8

Top 10 Guys

Choreographer: Christopher Scott ♦ Song: Velocity by Nathan Lanier

As the seasons go on, I feel like the group numbers get bigger and props are involved more than ever. This one involves doors, so you know it’s going to be good.

Top 8

Choreographer: Tyce Diorio ♦ Song: The Circus Sets Up from Water for Elephants soundtrack

To continue with the props, this one is like a full out stage production of Pippin or something. That being said, it’s still absolutely stunning to look at.

Season 9

Top 20

Choreographer: Christopher Scott & Sonya Tayeh ♦ Song: Torn by Nathan Lanier

I love when choreographers get together – and I love it even more when they’re two of my favorites. Christopher Scott and everyone’s favorite contemporary weirdo Sonya Tayeh collaborated on this epic dance where the only prop is… air. With Christopher Scott’s eye for cinematic storytelling and Sonya’s eccentric and distinguishable dance moves, this routine is one of the most impressive and memorable from the entire series.

Top 10 Girls

Choreographer: Travis Wall ♦ Song: Where the Light Gets In by Sennen

Travis! SYTYCD fans know that Travis is like the golden child of the series. He was a runner-up in season 2, then went on to make his choreographer debut in season 5, and soon became a favorite amongst not only the fans but the judges as well. His fluid choreography and emotional storytelling is almost like the second coming of Mia Michaels. Just not as intense.

Cyrus Spencer, All-Stars Comfort Fedoke, Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss, Choreographer Christopher Scott

Choreographer: Christopher Scott & Sonya Tayeh ♦ Song: Holy Ghost (Helicopter Showdown and Sluggo Remix) by Messinian

When a contestant is paired up with an all-star, that’s stressful enough – but to be put with two AND the choreographer, it must be daunting. But Cyrus, who was the runner-up this season showed no signs of intimidation in this number.

Season 10

Curtis Holland, Alexis Juliano, Aaron Turner

Choreographer: Anthony Morigerato ♦ Song: You Really Did It (Live) by Jason Mraz

When I used to dance, tap was my jam. It has a special place in my heart and always will. So when this trio – of three tappers in the top 10! – did this routine, I’m pretty sure I cried a little because it was so good and I was just happy to see tap so well represented on the show for once.

Top 10 Guys

Choreographer: Christopher Scott ♦ Song: Sand by Nathan Lanier featuring Karen Whipple

This number involves sand. Like actual sand. As a prop.

Top 20

Choreographer: Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo ♦ Song: Puttin’ on the Ritz by Herb Alpert featuring Lani Hall

You know those lip dubs that was the cool thing to do like two years ago? This dance is like that but just with dancing.

Top 10

Choreographer: Christopher Scott ♦ Song: The Gravel Road from The Village

So there were a lot of great group dances last season, so what? Christopher Scott killed it again with this routine by incorporating rocking chairs, but also using that motion in the moves as well. Meanwhile, I can barely choreograph my own daily life so I’m feeling super accomplished.

Honorable Mentions

Season 5: Top 20 Hip-Hop/Salsa; Season 7: Ashley, Robert, AdeChike, All-Stars Courtney and Neil Contemporary and All-Stars Contemporary; Season 9: Top 20 Modern and Top 14 Contemporary; Season 10: Top 6 Girls Contemporary

This is the true story of seven strangers: The Best of The Real World

The 27th, yes you read that right, 27th season of The Real World premiered last week, and MTV decided to re-air three “retro” seasons to gear up for the kids moving into a house in Portland, Oregon. While I was watching the old episodes of New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, it reminded me how reality TV used to be exactly that – reality. The first few seasons of RW featured honest, natural people who just agreed to live in a house with strangers. The show is credited to being one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the genre, and there’s no question once you see these ‘retro’ episodes.

However the problem is that 21 years later, reality TV, and RW in particular, has just become a parody of itself. The kids on the series these days are simply filling in the stereotypes they’ve seen on TV, and it takes away the exact element that made the series so special in the first place.

Now I can go on about this, but we’ll save that for another day. The point is that The first decade of RW seasons were the best, primarily because they were the ones that cleared the path, showed no air of insincerity, and just shared their lives on tape. I started watching RW in 1995, during season 4 in London (and if you’re doing the math, yes I was only nine years old. This says a lot about me as an adult). I watched religiously, up until about season 18 in Denver. So here’s my list of the 10 best Real World seasons – from season 1 to 18. I’m assuming all the ones after that weren’t worth watching anyways.

10) London

To some, the London cast was the most “boring,” which I can understand. However, like I said, this was the very first season I watched, so mainly for sentimental value, this ranks at number 10. As a 9 year old, I had no idea what to expect, who these people were, and why they weren’t acting with a laugh track behind them like all the other shows I was used to. I mean these were American kids living in an apartment in London with some British folk, one of whom got his tongue bit by a fan at one of his rock shows, an Aussie, and a German man named Lars. ‘What kind of world is this??’, asked 9-year-old Traci. ‘The real world,’ answered future Traci.

9) Los Angeles

I feel like Los Angeles was lost in the mix since it was right after the inaugural New York season, and right before the iconic San Francisco season. While I still have no idea who that blonde kid is, and I can’t believe Beth is the same Beth from the 10 million Challenges she’s done, the thing I won’t forget is “bad ass” David dragging a half naked Tami through their hallways and it being a big deal. Also, Tami getting an abortion was also a big deal, but I didn’t really understand what that was about as a tot.

8) New York

When I was re-watching this a couple weekends ago, I just couldn’t get over how old everything looked. The clothes, the background music, just the way it was shot – everything looked so 1993. I mean in this picture alone, Eric has a huge cell phone in his hand and Julie thinks she’s super hot wearing all denim (which is actually back in style now). And why do they have that big ass dog? Anyways, New York paved the way for the subsequent 26 seasons and reality TV in general. The fact that a gay man, a black politician, and a small town southern girl all lived in a house for one month with no idea what they were getting in to was the biggest risk MTV could ever take – with the greatest reward.

7) Las Vegas

Ok so Las Vegas. This was the season I clearly remember thinking: ‘Oh my GOD this is a SHIT SHOW.’ By this point, the previous seasons had already seen debaucherous moments (see: Miami threesome in the shower), but this was just a whole new level. Seven 20-somethings thrown into SIN CITY? The producers knew what they were doing. I mean Trishelle? In a hot tub? Are you kidding me?

6) Miami

Did you watch that clip of Flora, Sarah and Dan creepin on the Mike/Melissa/random chick threesome? Because that is one of the highlights from this season. The other one – and maybe one of the best moments in all of RW history, is when Melissa opens an envelope that belongs to Dan, and all hell breaks loose. When he confronts her, it’s a line I will never forget, when he says, “Was it fucking yours to open up, you stupid bitch??!” And Melissa, a strong Latina, does not take lightly to the ‘bitch’ name calling, and she starts to go off and calls him a ‘fucking flamer.’ Now obviously this entire fight is ridiculous, but the way they go off on each other is a fight made in Real World heaven.

5) Boston

Hey, remember when Sean was like, totally the cutest log roller ever? But then you grew up and found out he’s an uber-conservative Republican, married to Rachel Campos from San Francisco, have six kids together and the dream of ever marrying him was shattered? No just me? Ok, well besides Sean, every single one of these cast members was memorable. I believe this was the first season a lesbian (Genesis) was a featured cast member, and one of the most touching scenes in the season was when she and Kameelah were talking to two young girls at the school they worked at about homophobia. I would love if MTV decided to play this season again, especially since as I was watching it in 1997, I had no idea I would go to college in that very city and attend a capella concerts at their fire house (true story). Also, the stereotypes of weird names on reality TV must have reached its peak with this season – Genesis, Montana, Elka, Syrus, and Kameelah?

4) Seattle

Speaking of Boston, does “KIIIRRAA!!! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT KILLS ME!!!” ring a bell? David, beloved Charlestown resident, caused a scandal when it was discovered that he had been dating Kira, a casting associate for Bunim-Murray. Their relationship led to her eventual firing, but viewers got to see, well hear, David profess his love for her in a car. And then there was Irene who had Lyme disease, and her problem with Stephen. Just before she left the house (early), she called Stephen a ‘homosexual,‘ and since he was extremely offended by the remark, he proceeded to throw the beloved stuffed animal (which he stole from her) into the Seattle waters, then chase after her in her car to slap her in the face. The good news is that years later, he came out and announced he was engaged to his partner. So I mean, at least he has that going for him.

3) Hawaii

As soon as Ruthie and Teck got to the house, they took off all their clothes and skinny-dipped in their beautiful Hawaiian home. That’s when I knew it was going to be a good season. Besides the ‘are they or aren’t they’ with Amaya and Colin, Ruthie really stole the entire season with her constant drinking and alcohol problem that she failed to admit was ruining her life. Also on the first night, she drank so much that she became unconscious and her roommates had to call an ambulance. Geesh. She was constantly making a fool of herself, and the roommates did the best they could to convince her she needed help. Luckily, she has since become sober for real, and gives lectures about alcohol addiction. And apparently she hangs out with my boy Paul Pierce from the Celtics. WHAT. Also, I love this season because everything about it was so 1999, a year of my childhood/adolescence that I will never forget.

2) San Francisco

If there was one season to accurately sum up the Real World and what it symbolized in American pop culture, it would be this one. A mix of truly different people from all walks of life, the dynamic in the house was something that has never been recreated since. It goes without saying that the heart of this season was Pedro Zamora. Like many people who watched the series, he was the first real person I had seen in the mainstream media who was currently living with HIV/AIDS. Not only that, but it was the first time I had seen two men commit to each other in a ceremony that resembled a wedding. His story, his passion for AIDS education, his willingness to show his illness on TV, and the love that was shown by (most of) his roommates was unparalleled to anything that had ever been shown on TV before. And when he passed away, we felt like one of our friends had died. It’s amazing to see the impact and legacy one man has made over the years, just by being brave enough to share his life on camera. Pedro’s story is one of the most positive, influential things to ever come out of reality TV, and it’s sad that we don’t get to see that kind of pure human drama anymore. I mean Puck alone is the craziest wackadoo to date. Mix in Rachel’s conservative Republican views with Judd’s liberal stance, politics served as constant talking point that is severely lacking in reality TV today. This season was exactly what the Real World should have been about in the following seasons, not just about stupid arguments, getting drunk, and having sex in hot tubs.

1) New Orleans

trw_no

New Orleans – by far the best season (if you say San Francisco, that’s acceptable too) with a memorable cast in one of the greatest cities in the U.S. You have Matt, a white Christian guy who’s really into hip hop (hence his grey puffy jacket vest?), Julie, the innocent, Mormon girl from Utah who’s into Matt and has never really known a world outside of Brigham Young University, David, a muscular guy with a penchant for singing and a hot temper, Kelley, a sorority girl who later became the wife of Scott Wolf, Danny, the hot southern guy who is gay and has a partner in the military, but can’t be shown on TV because of their Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy (spoiler: HE’S REALLY HOT), Jamie a typical, good looking white male who had the ‘hot’ haircut all the boys had in 2000, and finally Melissa, my favorite RW cast member of all time. She was half black, half Filipino (what what), and 100% sassy. Before Melissa, I don’t think I had ever seen anyone who was quite like me on TV, and it was more exciting than you could ever imagine. She was/is literally everything I want to be in this world. And this recent article just proves she’s as awesome as ever, just married to a rock star and has two kids. (Excerpt: “Justin is my soul mate so much so that my little girl is named Maja for “Melissa and Justin Always.” But sometimes Justin does stupid shit and I’m like, “Dude, we’ll legally change her name to Majat: Melissa and Justin Ain’t Together.”)

Here are some of my favorite moments from RW: New Orleans, that made it the best season ever. Woo woo.

Melissa talks about the insane bed switcheroo and her “sex” life in the confessional

Melissa’s Parents – Shorty & Mercy

Driving with On Star (Remember On Star!?)

David vs. Melissa (and a chair)

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the original video, but by far the most memorable New Orleans moment was when David composed a song called “Come On Be My Baby Tonight”. Pure lyrical genius, this song will stay with you – even 13 years later.