Greatest reality hits

The 10 best moments of the past nine months or so
By JAMES PARKER  |  July 3, 2007

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THE MONASTERY: The abbot was tougher than the Marine.

To be read while listening to Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” or Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were The Days, My Friend”:

1. MEAGHAN FLAHERTY STUDIES JACKIE ONASSIS | The institutional obsession with “graciousness” on CMT’s DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS: MAKING THE TEAM peaked horribly when bumbling rookie Meaghan Flaherty was ordered to read a biography of Jackie O and then give an account of it before the whole squad. “Posture! Tuck your bottom in!” hissed DCC choreographer Judy Trammell as Meaghan lurched blinking to her feet. Her book report was about 10 seconds of finger-chewing chaos, and it ended in a line of pure Bush-speak: “Jackie Onassis . . . she made an effect on the things that she did.”

2. MICHAEL BERGIN DOES PSALM 23 | In a world already denuded of mystery, VH1’s CELEBRITY PARANORMAL PROJECT represented the final strip-mining of the spirit realm. Celebs were placed overnight in sites of high paranormal potential — derelict prisons, abandoned loony bins, etc. — and ordered to interact with the various resident energies. Thus was it proved beyond doubt that you can waltz into a place thronged by the shades of the damned, taunt them all night long with thermal gizmos and “channeling scrolls,” and make it home for breakfast without a mark on you. The crowning blasphemy came when Baywatch alumnus Michael Bergin sat in the ancient electric chair of a haunted penitentiary and blah’d his way through Psalm 23: “ . . . Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anoints — anointens — ANOINTEST my head with oil . . . ” (“Is that my voice?” he wondered later, listening to the recording. “I sound like God!”) 

3. CAPTAIN JOHNATHAN TO THE RESCUE | In season 3 of the Discovery Channel’s DEADLIEST CATCH, Captain Hillstrand was heading north in his vessel the Time Bandit when he came in sight of another crab boat. A lone fisherman was on deck, hanging close to the waterline, attempting to secure the stacked cages as the crabber reared and sagged in the sea hollows, and as Captain Johnathan watched from his wheelhouse, a swell like a huge gray rag rose up and simply swabbed this man away. Gone. “Man overboard!” screamed the captain. Two frenzied and bell-filled minutes later, the mariner was hauled over the rail of the Time Bandit, half-frozen but still conscious and remarkably sanguine: “If you guys have any paper towels, or maybe just like a dry towel so I could dry my hair, that would be great.” 

4. ZAC HACKER SINGS TO HIS DADDY | In Episode 5 of NASHVILLE STAR 5 (USA Network), Zac Hacker stole the show with a slow-beating, grief-stained number about his daddy called “If It Wasn’t for the Whisky”: “Daddy had a weakness/He kep’ it on a shelf . . . ” The producers kept a camera on Hacker Sr., the flawed patriarch himself, as he sat in the audience. “He tried to teach me wrong from right/With the backside of his hand . . . ” Mr. Hacker was wearing a black leather jacket with fringed sleeves, and his face was wrenched into a sort of triumphal half-snarl. The camera, shooting upward from knee level, caught the grandeur of his belly and his massed neck flesh. As the song finished — “If it wasn’t for the whisky/Daddy would’ve bin a goo-ood man . . . ” — he hoisted himself aloft and gave his son a trembling pair of devil horns. 

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