Hard Knocks, Ho Hum

Russell and I have watched a few episodes of HBO’s Hard Knocks, which promises to be an insider’s look at pro football training camps, coaches, and players. Since this season is features the Cleveland Browns’ training camp, it’s a natural for us.

But after watching last night’s episode, I realized that the show is . . . well, boring. The fact that the exhibition game that was featured in the episode was a 5-0 snoozer didn’t help, but, really, watching a “reality” show about professional athletes isn’t any different from watching a reality show about real housewives or the Kardashians or ice-road truckers or any other group or occupation. After a while, you’ve seen everything, and it all seems pretty rote.

So assistant coaches in the NFL cuss a blue streak? Is anybody really surprised about that? Or about learning that pro athletes often act like adolescents or macho jerks? Or that head coaches are more like politicians than Xs and Os guys? And the “human interest” stories about guys who might not make the team and their families candidly just aren’t all that interesting.

Maybe the Browns are just intrinsically boring, as well as historically inept — or maybe the Hard Knocks concept has run it’s course. Whatever the reason, Hard Knocks is a big ho hum in my book.

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Odd Hotel Signage

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You’re staying in a strange hotel, and as you pass the registration desk you notice a cheap sign that says “Confessional.”

What the? “Confessional”? In a hotel? Perhaps the lodging establishment is hosting a super-heated trade conference where spouses routinely stray, and therefore the hotel offers a soul-cleansing confessional as a necessary service?

Or, more likely, is the strange hotel the site of tryouts for some new, idiotic reality show , and “confessional” refers to the one-on-one camera time where a participant bares his soul about his goals and speaks earnestly about how he views Celeste as his principal competition?

Either way, it’s unsettling for the boring business traveler. And, I must confess, it makes me look with some skepticism on the other people in the elevator. Business travelers who need a “confessional” are not to be trifled with.

To Every Thing There Is A (Reality TV) Season

Have you ever stopped to think about reality TV shows that have come and gone — shows that once were the subject of a tremendous buzz but then dropped off the cultural radar screen, if not off TV altogether? Kish and I don’t watch much TV, but there have been a few shows that captured our imagination, briefly, and now are no more.

One of them was Man vs. Food. We enjoyed watching jovial everyman Adam Richman tackle every food challenge thrown his way, no matter how daunting. Admittedly, our interest was primarily motivated by curiosity as to what ridiculous food consumption dare he would accept, and then watching him pound his fist on the table as he tried to eat more gut-burning habanero wings or five pounds of pancakes. We thought he was an interesting and engaging host, as well as a willing human guinea pig. After a few years Richman shifted to a format where he coached other people in competitive eating endeavors, but the show just wasn’t the same. The show’s run ended, and now Richman hosts other shows and has lost a lot of weight. Good for him! We always thought the Man vs. Food lifestyle couldn’t have been a very healthy one.

Before Man vs. Food, we watched American Chopper. I’m not sure why, because neither of us has ever ridden a motorcycle or has any kind of mechanical aptitude. But the show gave us a peek into a curious family and an even more curious line of work. People who are adept with tools and metal fabrication and design fascinate me, and the process of coming up with a working machine that also is a unique creative statement was interesting. The disputes between Teutul father and sons, and the fallout for the other people who worked at their business, was just icing on the cake. After a while, though, the incessant battles of the Teutuls got old, and the show seemed to be going through the motions, so we moved on. American Chopper ended its run in 2012.

The earliest reality show I remember watching was Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, in which a team of five gay men tried to help some hapless hetero become a little bit more interesting. Each episode the team would help the straight guy with his clothing, haircut, furniture, food, and general behavior. The show was interesting because the “Fab Five” were talented and engaging in their own right, and their interactions with clueless guys who couldn’t dance or wouldn’t change their sweatshirt-dominated wardrobes were priceless. As a similarly fashion- and culture-challenged guy, I found the Fab Five’s tips pretty useful. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy ended in 2007, although the Fab Five reunited for 10-year anniversary show in 2013.

Reality TV is like cultural cotton candy and seemingly vanishes as soon as it is consumed. Some shows, though, break through the clutter and become part of the national zeitgeist.

“Reality Show” Meets Reality

It’s embarrassing to admit it, but Kish and I like Storage Wars.  It’s a “reality show” where the continuing characters bid on abandoned storage lockers in southern California, then find out what’s inside and learn whether they made money or lost their shirts.  We love to scoff at the implausible values that get assigned to some of the junk in the lockers — where a beat up chair might be rung up at $50.  (I can get $50 for that chair all day long!)

One long-time participant, a boastful “mogul” named Dave Hester, isn’t on the new episodes, so I decided to do some internet research to see what happened to him.  It turns out that ol’ Dave and Storage Wars had a parting of the ways, and they are now mired in a lawsuit. Hester alleges that the show’s producers “salted” some of the lockers with interesting items that are more valuable than the humdrum crap that most people store.  The initial judicial ruling in the case favored Storage Wars and tossed out one of Hester’s claims.

Now, there’s some reality for you!

It’s pretty devastating to consider, however, that Storage Wars might have jazzed up the storage locker bidding world to make for some better TV.  Could it be?  Could it be that Darrell doesn’t constantly spout hilarious malapropisms?  Could it be that Brandi and Jarrod aren’t constantly second-guessing each other, even though we know that deep down they love each other dearly?  Could it be that Barry doesn’t really have a collection of silly cars and isn’t a complete idiot when it comes to bidding for lockers?

Yeah, right!  Next thing you know someone will try to convince us that professional athletes don’t play purely for the love of the game!