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Back to life, back to reality

By Daniel Kahn

Section: Arts

April 27, 2007

Whenever Ive written a new Hooticle (I could say Hoot Article but “Hooticle” combines two of my favorite things: words that sound vulgar but are in fact not, and the merging of two words into one) many people ask me why, given my obsession with television, and reality TV in particular, dont I go on a reality show myself? And because said people actually exist only in my head, I dont even have to bother answering out loud!

However if a real live human were to posit this question to me, my answer would be: Duh! Ive already been on a reality show! So there!

While this hypothetical questioner may think that duh and so there dont really add anything except some unnecessary obnoxiousness (something that, I believe, only adds to my already considerable charms), the thoughts that would really be dominating their Danny-obsessed minds would be Wow! What show was it? What was it like? Did you meet Paris Hilton? And if so, how old is she, because I think shes quite accomplished for someone who seems so young!

Well, here I am to answer (most) of those questions, and give you a little taste of what my 15 minutes of fame was really like.

It all began freshman year, when my good friends Avi, Robyn, and Abra found a flyer in the mailroom advertising an open casting call for a new reality show on the WB. Being the smart and cunning Brandeisians that they are, the girls stole the flier and brought it home so that no one else would see it, limiting the number of people that show up to the audition and thus giving us a better shot at making it on TV.

The flier warned that only the first 200 people would be seen, so we made sure to arrive at the Boston Marriott extra early that fateful Saturday morning. We shouldnt have been so concerned, because by the time they started interviewing potential participants, I, along with my three friends were four of the.. wait for it eight (!) people who bothered to show up.

When we arrived, we were informed of the premise of the programa reality/quiz show hybrid called Studio 7, where each of 7 episodes would focus on a different group of 7 college-aged kids living together in a New York City penthouse for 7 days. And on the seventh day, we would compete against each other in a game show with 7 rounds for $77,000! Furthermore, the 7 winners from each episode would then have the chance to go on and repeat the process, but this time the grand prize total would be $777,000! Neat 7 theme, huh?!

I was a bit anxious about possibly being chosen for the show, because this was around the time when reality TV was really into humiliating people. The genre of reality TV was inundated with horrendous creations like The Littlest Groom (Can a little person find true love? Im not ashamed to admit that I tuned in to find out) and fake-out shows beginning with the word Joe (again, I watched both -Millionaire and -Shmo). However, when I heard those dollar amounts of the prize money, I quickly stopped worrying and started figuring out how exactly to position myself to get that money.

The first step in the audition process was a quiz. The game show would be testing contestants on pop culture trivia and current events, and the little exam they gave us was pretty tough. Thankfully, I had (and continue to have) no life, and so I knew a lot of the answers, while my friends struggled. After a brief on-camera interview, we left not knowing where any of us stood.

The show was set to air in the middle of July, so when I hadnt heard from the producers by the end of June, I figured it was just another dream I would have to fulfill further down the road, (like the one where I meet Joan Cusack, we fall in love, she gets divorced from her husband to run away with me, and the ex-husband gets custody of the kids, because Im not exactly a big fan of children). As luck would have it, I got a call telling me they wanted me for the 4th episode and that Id need to be in New York in two weeks time to start filming. Yay!

After filling out countless forms, basically signing away my life (not only could the show be held in no way responsible for injury or death, but they also reserved the right to use my image for eternity andget thisthroughout the entire universe! I kid you not. For all I know, aliens are out there somewhere watching my little episode, marveling at my good looks and planning my abduction as we speak!)

When I arrived at the Flatotel (pronounced flat hotel although I liked to say fla-tottlesounds more festive, eh?) in midtown Manhattan, I was nervous beyond belief. Not only was I unsure about what they were going to do to us, but I had the added anxiety of knowing I was about to meet six other people Id be spending every waking moment with for a week.

Dont get me wrong, I like people, I really do. I just dont like meeting people. It makes my stomach hurt and face break out and while cameras cant convey the strong odors of my stress-farts, they do indeed show pimples.

When I got into the apartment (the same one they used in the first seasons of Americas Next Top Model, although after an exhaustive search, there wasnt even one scribbling of Tyra wuz here nor any stray hairs from one of her many weaves) a camera was in my face, and despite warnings from the producers not pay any attention to it, this proved kind of difficult, as you can imagine.

As the week went by, though, not only did I get used to the cameras, but I began to crave its invasive presence. Luckily, when the camera wasnt around, the confessional was.

As a young Jewish boy, I always had a fascination with confessionals. On television and in movies, all a character would have to do absolve their sins would be to step into that little box and spill what they had done to an understanding priest. Similar to how I always wanted to try those Body-of-Christ wafers (mmm, Christ-y!), the confessional always appealed to me.

Once I began watching “The Real World” and all the other reality shows that sprung up in the late nineties, I yearned for that elusive confessional even more. Here was a place where you could not only confess your misdeeds, but also talk shit about people and theyll never even know it! (Except of course when they see it on TV, but details shmeetails!)

I quickly became accustomed to running to the confessional (located in the girls bedrooms walk-in closetfancy, I know!) whenever I had a thought about another of the contestants.

Watching the show weeks later at home, I discovered even I, a seasoned connoisseur of reality TV, was a victim of tricky editing! After spying one girl, Pepper, listening attentively as George, the house ass-hat, strummed self-consciously on his guitar, I ran to the confessional to tell it and millions of viewers: I think theyre falling in love! Those sneaky editors, though, made it sound as if I was talking about how Ashley and Becky, the two people had become closest with, were falling for me!
Not only was my dream confessional a reality but so was the reality that reality TV isnt reality at all! I was living my own personal meta fantasy and loving every minute of it.

You might be wondering what all this has to do with a game show. The reason for the find-out-what-happens-when-people-stop-being-polite-and-start-getting-real aspect was in order to show the relationships in the group, because they would be coming into play in the quiz show itself. When a contestant got a question wrong, they would go wait on The Block, and once a second person had faltered, the remaining players would vote for the person they wished to eliminate.

This part allowed for another one of my reality TV dreams to come trueI had an alliance! Becky, Ashley, and I decided that it would be beneficial to be in an alliance together so that wed always vote to keep each other on. Some people may think this was a bad strategy;

you should want the strongest people off, not just vote off people you arent friends with.

Luckily though, the three of us were not exactly the strongest competitors. And so was born the Alliance of the Dumb as we called ourselves, and not only did it keep the people we liked on the show (us), but also the people who we thought wed have the easiest time beating (us again!).

Our strategy was working better than we could have ever expected. When it came down to four people left, all three of us remained. Before I had resigned myself to last place and all of a sudden, I found myself thinking if I actually win this thing, Ill buy these clothes from wardrobe in a second!

Unfortunately, in the ensuing rounds, both Becky and Ashley faltered, leaving me alone to face George, the aforementioned poop-stain, to vie for the 77 grand. I refer to George in negative terms not because he ultimately beat me (boo!) but because from the start I, along with most of the others, found him to be truly offensive and obnoxious.

And even though he won the money that day, I was the victor of positive portrayal. That is correctthanks to editing, the episode portrayed me in a better light than I ever could have hoped for, all the while tearing him down. He might have won the money, but I won something much greater (or so I tell myself to stop the crying)I got to live my own little dream, and I got to look good doing it!

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