Houses of pain

A tough week in reality TV
By JAMES PARKER  |  October 19, 2006

061020_meerkats_main
THE REALEST: Meerkat Manor amounts to Titus Andronicus performed by mongooses in the Kalahari desert.
As a good citizen at the end of the empire, I’m sure you’ve been watching the Ultimate Fighting Championships. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Octagon — the caged canvas, with blood by Jackson Pollock, around which bazillions of Spike TV viewers are ringed in distantly baying terraces like a Colosseum made of bong smoke. The big event a week ago last Tuesday was the light-heavyweight match between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz, and the undercard was the usual feast of maulings, throttlings, and elbow strikes to the eyeball. Ed Herman went against Jason “The Athlete” MacDonald in a middleweight bout and got himself swiftly bundled into a triangle choke hold — a clincher move, no escape from it, the helpless, reddening bulb of his head pincered between the Athlete’s strangulator thighs. He held out (that is, didn’t pass out) for a long time but at last, with a sort of drowning tenderness, tapped faintly three times for submission on MacDonald’s chest. A minute later Herman was in the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan — his breath back, but his whole being immersed in a glum seethe of shame. “I felt myself going to sleep,” he told us, “and I should’ve fucking gone to sleep like a man. But I tapped out like a little bitch.”

Close behind this moment, in the red-eyed candor of its defeat, was a sequence in House of Carters (E! Channel, Mondays), the show in which Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, his pop-moppet brother Aaron, their three sisters, and a number of unfortunate dogs are all condemned to one another’s society in a house in the Hollywood Hills. The idea here is for the Carter kids to create an alternative family unit, away from their ghastly parents (from whom little Aaron legally emancipated himself in 2003), with Nick as dad and perhaps big sister Bobbie Jean (B.J.) as mom. So Nick teaches the semi-feral Aaron how to do his laundry, puts on a glower of paternal solemnity when he finds his sibs all boozing by the pool (“Nick comes in like the Grinch,” complains Aaron, “when he should’ve come in like Ronald McDonald. . . . Where’s your YOUTH, bro?!”), and so on. Disco biscuit Aaron, with charisma constellating across his 18-year-old beach-bum frame, looks like the star of this one. But keep your eye on B.J: she drinks/smokes and appears to have no long-term professional strategy. At the end of Episode #2, having fought nastily with her boyfriend, she slumped alone and booze-tragic in a plastic chair. One of her lapdogs came sniffing at the damage, a white shape on tiny feet: ‘C’mere baby!’ blubbered B.J. with arms outstretched. But the dog skittered away, offended, and we heard the sour clank of a toppling beercan.

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