Tears of joy

The best reality show ever — and the real ones
By JAMES PARKER  |  November 28, 2006

K.I.M.!: “You gotta believe, you just gotta believe!” rapped Ice-T’s crew-in-training.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. The best reality show ever will be called Monarch, and it will feature Donald Trump, Asia Carrera, Tony Robbins, Andy Rooney, Barbara Bush, Chuck D, Mike Barnicle, George Foreman, Bianca Jagger, Steve-O, former senator Conrad Burns, Soledad O’Brien, and General John Abizaid in a contest to become sovereign ruler of these United States. The contestants (or “pretenders”) will be lodged in a Bavarian palace and will compete each week in events engineered to reveal their innate regality or lack thereof; there will be archery, astrology, falconry, and court intrigue. Fictitious political dilemmas will present themselves, as hordes of extras shake the palace gates demanding bread and traitors grovel for mercy. (“The decision is yours. Do you spare his life and risk another assassination attempt?”) Surveying the scene through monocle and lorgnette will be a panel of judges comprising the shittiest available remnants of European royalty: leering grand dukes of Saxony and Montenegro, bastard cousins, renegade slut princesses, goblins of toppled thrones, etc. And Sarah Ferguson, if she’ll do it. Usual drill: the contestants strive, conspire, and rant to camera, and one of them is sent home each week. (“Off with his head!” say the judges.) In the final episode there is a coronation on the steps of the Capitol, and the Constitution is torn in two by Hulk Hogan.

I know you can’t believe it hasn’t already been green-lighted, right? But the reality-verse is an unpredictable place. Ice-T’s Rap School (VH1), which began the season as a muted knock-off of Gene Simmons’ Rock School, swelled last week to a finale of such pulsing lachrymosity, I felt as if I were at 30,000 feet, watching it on the in-flight with a Bloody Mary in each fist and my lower lip grandly trembling. Here were some authentic arcs of development, some real “moments.” As a climax to their six-week crash course in how to be hip-hop, Ice set up his crew of eighth-grade prep-schoolers with a spot opening for Public Enemy. “K.I.M!”, Flavor Flav counseled them before the show. “Keep! It! Moving!” The kids romped home. “You gotta believe, you just gotta believe!” went one of their toytown raps.

Doughy-faced freestyler Dodge a/k/a “Dodge City” took a bit of abuse (someone in the front row tried to grab the mike off him) but bounced back well: “You can’t do that! Damn, you just a hater! I’m gonna come when you’re sleepin’! I’m gonna come creepin’!” “That’s what a battler does,” nodded Ice.

Next day, Ice’s pupils gathered to bid him farewell with some prepared statements, and it was here that the sob knob was turned up to 10. “Dear Ice,” wept the lovely Mary a/k/a Missy M, “I have made so many [sniff!] friends because of you and now I know how to tell people what I think. It was hard before when I was too scared to do that. And I will [gulp!] tell my children about a hardcore rapper who’s really the sweetest, kindest, and most forgiving person I ever met.” (Ice himself, by this point, was bug-eyed with suppressed tears.) “Goo-ood l-luck to you ooh-Ice and th-thanks again,” managed floppy-haired Phil a/k/a DJ Phil the Agony, through some wrenched body language. “You puh-pimped us out.”

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