LAST EDITED ON 12-19-03 AT 08:58 AM (EST)
Simple Life Ep. 4 Official Summary: The Complex Comedic Ironies of Realistic Simplicity, or How ‘Bout Another Pint at the Pub?
I have been asked to sermonize about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer.
I don't know. It’s writing an official summary for The Simple Life. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance. And let’s not mention the struggle to set the VCR for the right channel and time slot.
We must weekly (daily in syndication) decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we're told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Every one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality; but mostly by sensory input from our televisions. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears.
As an example of this challenge, I want to talk today about RealityTVism, in particular The Simple Life and its fourth coming. And in order not to be misunderstood, I want it perfectly clear that I believe it is incumbent on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to small southern towns and immature Richie Richettes. At first look, The Simple Life appears to juxtapose two clashing cultures.
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is RealityTVism. RealityTVism seems to be the religion of choice for media savvy western connoisseurs. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that RealityTVism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths. And The Simple Life is the latest sect in this new age of -isms.
There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature -- Altus, Arkansas, pop. 617, the Yin of modern middle-American Amishness. Then add some tempting tangy Yang -- some flashy urban rich interlopers on a lark. There's a fall from grace into a state of self-centered vain self-absorption, revelry and hijinks as a result of
living off Daddy's trust funds eating from the tree of knowledge -- as Paris and Nicole know they don't have to work a single minute of their lives. And as a result of their and our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all -– the God Neilson shall speak of renewal and cancellation, the quick and the dead. We are all television sinners, doomed to die as giggling couch potatoes, unless we seek salvation, which is now called irreverency. Irreverency and vicarious fantasy are salvation in the church of RealityTVism, just as enjoying people in exotic locales is its communion -- that guilt-free wafer of photons and the sweet bubbly drink of sound that the right people with the right beliefs imbibe.
Let Reverend Fox show us the way with Brothers Bunim-Murray. Disregard B-M behind the curtain, pulling the levers of rape investigation obstruction and spinning the wheels of international flight from justice. Indeed, is B-M just the alterego of MB, who started this RealityTVism cult a few years ago with enthralling fire and smoke displays?
Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday, and repentant salvation -- these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs, supposedly. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. For we find them inherent in the structure of The Simple Life -- with both the Altusians and the Dynastic Duo Stars. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that a NASTAR taxicab spaceship is drafting behind the next comet, waiting to slingshot out of turn three. (Curious coincidence? The last set of spacefarers and B-M's Reality Rape House were both in San Diego.) But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith. Or perhaps merely plain silly mindless entertainment.
And so it is, absurdly, with RealityTVism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of RealityTVism are all about belief. Are these "real" scenes, scripted skits, or just inept improv? Innocent accommodating volunteer townfolk or bribed straight men? Continuity and logic or amusing manipuledited incoherencies in a sitcom format? Natural interactions or campy hamming? Natural hair color? Don’t ask, have faith in the one true Real. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation and the laughtrack, or on the side of doom and cynicism. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them. But the Tao-like beauty of RealityTVism is that one can hedge one's bets and be on both sides at once! After all, there is no downside to prayer.
So, without any further extraordinary intellectually elitist verbosity, let us take our remotes and open our studious eyes to the book of The Simple Life 4:1-30.
In the beginning, Paris and Nicole are hitchhiking and showing leg on the highway out of town. “Get us out of here!” their skimpy clothing shouts. Another illegal act on their part, apparently. Should I start a flout the law/convention meter?
Nearly two weeks since they descended on Altus, there’s not a one there that doesn’t have an opinion about them. Man: “I’ve enjoyed them, they're pretty girls.” One Opie -- “Paris and Nicole, yeah they’re pretty” -- looks like he’s ready to go to lovers leap with them. Woman: “They dress like street walkers, hookers.” Barbershop talk from Mrs. Clipper: “I wish they’d show more respect for our town. They are visitors here." There seems to be a gender gap abrewing.
Couch confessional: Paris says, “Most of the people here don't like us.” Nicole adds, “We're not going to give up, and we're going to give it our best shot." Paris is very savior faire and insoucciant, while Nicole is a trooper with soul, and a mouth to match.
* * *
Day 13. Scene: the grocery store. “Are you the rich woman in town?” “Aw, shucks, ma’am, ay ayem a mullonionair.” Why is Paris always putting on makeup? She insists she's not spoiled.
The whole town is talking about their new neighbors. Paris hates driving the pickup truck on rocky roads, heck, on any roads. I want to see her put gas in the truck which she calls a car. That could be very interesting. Can’t you see it? Scene concept: Paris and Nicole get greasy as the service guy checks their oil with his dipstick.
The mayor calls, Justin answers. “This is Mayor Post from City Hall. Can I speak to Paris?” Paris asks, "Who is it?" Justin mumbles something. Has he forgotten the Mayor's name already? Paris explains the Mayor says she has to take her
rat dog Tinkerbell downtown (hah, downtowns are relative, eh?) to get registered and checked out. Shot of telephone poles and wires, just in case you didn’t know how phone calls work. By the way, do you think their confiscated cellphones would work out here? Probably, but we haven't seen any yet, nor any hint of folks getting online with a computer. Well, it is the Simple Life, right?
♪It’s a small town after all.♪ "There are lots of rumors. You can be across town and everyone knows it before you get home,” says Mrs. Clipper, still giving Leroy his haircut. He’s the only one in town who hasn't decided if the rumor of the girls being in town is true or not. Tinkerbell puts her jogging shoes on, ready for her morning run.
The Mayor confesses: “People have been concerned based on foul language the girls use, the way they dress, the way they act with people, ... the way they steal. I could go on, but I have a lynch mob to stop." Tinkerbell warms up for her morning jog. “I feel as the mayor, I would like to create a balance between them and our small community.” Dream on, Mayor. It's the Dynamic Duo SuperSluts against your small Gotham regulars. You'd better call in the reserves from Ft. Metropolis up the road.
Back home Janet the Mom is quizzing Justin. “Everybody at school is talking. Everybody knows that they’re here,” he says, adding that the students say, “One of them walks like a peeenguin.” That’s what Curly heard at the beauty shop, too.
In the halls of justice: "Greetings, far travelers," says the Mayor, "I am our leader." Nicole obliges with a handshake. Tinkerbell shakes paws with the Mayor. Tink breaks the third wall with a look that says “What’s going on here? Do you believe the crap I have to put up with? And she laced my bootie shoes mucho too tight! Ay, carrumba.” Paris confirms Tinkerbell has no anti-social tendencies or STDs. She's a virgin. The Mayor should fill out some papers for Paris while she’s at it. Tinkerbell gets a diploma for good dog manners. She dog-laughs at Paris, "That's more sheepskin than you'll ever get. ... Oh, wait. I forgot. My mistake, it's sheep intestines."
The Mayor invites the girls to be honorary co-chairpersons at the Altus Springtime Gala. Oh, yea, more opportunities to meet and interact with the
Paris nearly gets Tinkerbell run over. Didn’t Mayor Post explain the leash laws?
Braxton is going to be in the Prince and Princess contest. He does a cheesecake pose on the couch. He demonstrates the Stevie Wonder/Ray Charles dance complete with sunglasses that he’ll be doing for the talent portion when he gets on stage.
The night before the debutante ball, Curly the Grandma gets Paris and Nicole started on making pies for the arts and crafts competition. “If they won’t pluck chickens, maybe they can peel an apple. I showed them how to peel the first apple, the rest they did on their own, made from scratch.” Yet another Eden-like experience. Paris asks for the upteenth time, “What's that?” “What’s that?” is a standard question of her's, eh? Like “What’s that thing below my eyes and above my lips?" It’s Crisco; no, it's a sunblock!
Curly puts on a good face, “They’ve been kind of on their own most of the times, what with such neglectful parents. They're two good girls. I have all the hopes in the world in them.” Yeah, all the hopes that the family won’t be run out of town with them. We see yet another sweet thing Paris has never done in her life. Bake pies, that is.
Paris slides her head into the oven, “Who knows, the pies could be good and we could win this contest.” Yeah, that’s gonna happen. I knew the girls should’ve sat down at that quilting club to produce an edgy arts and crafts entry when they had the chance. Hmm, edit-check: Pies? We never even saw Nicole get flour on her hands.
Paris selects her clothes. Janet explains, “It took Paris a little while to decide what she was gonna wear.” Like it took King Louie a little while to decide there was a revolution going on. Paris gives us more history than we need: "I wore this to the Playboy Mansion." Janet asks, “Was that underwear or was that an outfit?” Nicole explains, “It's like, for L.A. trash.” Janet: “Oh, my.” Nicole laughs and advises Paris, “Don't wear that, you're gonna embarrass yourself.” Now how could that possibly be, I ask? The boys get in some oogling and googling and giggling. Janet purses her lips, "Ooooohhhhhhkay." Justin says, “The girls in town see them as bitches. They don't like them. They’re on the prowl for guys all the time.” But all that talk around town doesn’t bother him. Janet gives more fashion commentary, “It’s no bigger than a washcloth.” Justin says, “I like it.” “Don't encourage her.” Dad finally jumps in, “Encourage her to put on more clothes.”
Paris says, “Justin, he’s such a good kid. We’re living in their house. They’ve never had sisters. (Except for the one we don’t talk about who lives with Uncle Billy Bob now.) Nicole and I, we're like their new sisters.” Wow, actual perception from Paris. It’s time for some girlfriend talk and a smoke in the car. Justin doesn't have a girlfriend anymore, she wants to be "just friends." So they ride off to meet his “ex.” We recognize her by the graphic on the screen; we'll never know her name. Paris threatens, “No one's gonna be mean to our brother.” Oh, the plots thicken, steam wafts off their heads, they're working so hard at some b!tchy scheming. No wait, that's just Nicole's cigarette smoke.
* * *
At the City Park, the Springtime Gala is in full swing. The household is getting ready. What’s with all the **boing**s!? Are they Pavlovian cues for the young testosterone-laden viewers? Justin just smiles and grins at the folks all around, picks up his guitar and plays, just like yesterday, and bemusedly shakes his head at the girls’ outfits. Hey, I wouldn’t complain either. GrandMomma reminds everyone, “Don’t forget the pies! Treat them with love and understanding and constant protection." “Uh-huh,” Paris replies, “I’m more worried that my purse doesn’t match my outfit.”
Paris and Nicole get a bang from the truck. Then it has a smoke, rolls over and goes to sleep. They walk back into the house to phone Justin for help, and of course leave the pies on the outside swing. Snooping Doggy Dog, taking time away from his Fire Station duty, just grins at his opportunity. Where was Justin? Did she call his **gasp** cellphone? Paris explains her feat, “The car is dead. We killed it, finally. I have the videotape.” Wait, how did Snoopy lower the pies from the swing to the ground? Very deft dog. Good boy. Have a second breakfast. If dogs could burp, you know B-M would've edited one in.
And the race is on. Darn, Tinkerbell’s too late to enter the 5-lap run around City Park. Curly’s boasting about Paris’ apple-pear pie and Nicole’s buttermilk pie to her friends. “I taught them how,” she smiles, “and they didn’t even blow up the house.” But the girls are late. Curly gives a confessional in a warbly voice, “They think they’ve got say 5 more minutes, then the 5 will turn into 10, you know, and ... maybe more.”
Nicole’s stage performances will include mechanical sound impersonations, as she rehearses by explaining what happened to the pickup. “First **whhhrrrrrrr**, then **click**,” as she pantomimes turning the ignition key. Justin concludes the starter is probably out. Nicole quickly moves on to what’s really on her mind. “Do you guys ever French kiss? Turn me on, now.” Paris has multiple ewwwws.
They all have a nice laugh when they get outside and see the canine culinary catastrophe. Now they get to tell Curly “the dog ate my homework” when they get to the fair. They have something of a mea culpa moment on the ride into town. Paris instructs how to search for Curly, “Look for her Aunt Bee beehive do. It’s all the rage at the beauty parlor, I hear.” Jeepers, talk does get around town fast. They seem to have a foreboding remorse about disappointing her, since she’s so excited to show them off with the pies she taught the girls to make. Alas. And there was gloom over the table and at the couch confessional. But then hugs, because they “tried.” And the girls skip away guiltfree. Psuedo-repentance is wonderful, eh? They didn't even say sorry for my stupidity.
“Oh, you’re those girls,” says the facepainter. Nicole wants the name of Braxton, who’s running for Prince, across her “t!ts,” er, breasts. Prince and Princess contest is coming up, and she wants to show her groupie side.
The girls decide it’s time for a beer break at Kelts across Main Street from the park after all this hard gala work, because it’s already eight in the morning. The mayor is starting to get an idea of their irresponsibility towards honorary co-chair duties. Here’s a clue, Mayor: they pretty much don’t know anything besides eating, primping, partying and frollicking.
Braxton gives a back-away grrrrrr look to the girls when they introduce him and embarrass him by saying he’s “hot.” He’s three, likes red, and knows his name. I think he’s Prince material. Now if he'll only sing the Pina Collada song. The girls exit stage right and move on to pie in the face fun. Notice how everybody stands well back from them?
Paris confessional: “We’re steadily making friends. The people are so nice. They like us because we’re sweet.” Ah, the wonders of delusion, you heartbreakers. How many ways can we interpret “♪Bad to the Bone♪?” Let’s watch the montage. Back to the bar for another one after all that taxing co-hosting and pie smearing. Nicole does a lap dance.
I’m sure the drinking age is 21 all across this land. Paris is 22, I think; don’t know Nicole’s or Justin’s age. But it seems like “school” is high school, and it’s rather apparent that at least the girls have had no higher education. Just like the hitchhiking setup to begin the show, is this another law-flouting scene?
Principal Post has to come drag them out again. Next stop is the dunking booth, where Nicole cheats again. “I hate you!” shouts the shivering boy who’s dumped without apologies. Sure they’re steadily making friends.
Back to the bar for another round. Paris calls her mom and whines, “I thought being co-chair we wouldn’t have to do a lot of work.” The Mayor fetches them again. “Bye, see ya later, Mr. McGill,” waves Nicole. She’s making friends, fer sure. Paris thinks she’s on Bourbon Street. Flouting the open container laws, I’m sure.
And it’s on to the Kissing Booth. “Do we have to kiss them on the lips? Just on the cheeks? OK.” Nicole’s eager: “Look at the men.” Paris is not impressed: “They look pathetic.” Not those cheeks! Paris gets hers blurred out. So she is wearing her underwear as an outfit. Nicole finally gets her mano-a-mano kiss at the price of a quick lip peck. And she gets her butt kissed, too! Screams of delight!
Janet confessional: “Paris and Nicole have turned the kissing booth upside down.” Does she know the double entendre here? “They’re not only making themselves look bad. They’re starting to make the family look bad now.”
Justin and his ex-girlfriend are still amiable. Let's hope all this stuff doesn't keep them from getting back together. Then he gets his kiss at the booth … from each. The girls are ho'ing at half price -- it's the brotherly Ozark-style thing to do. They are fitting in! And the girls’ plot goes into action.
Back to the bar again. It’s time to be smarmy and lying with Justin’s ex-girlfriend. “Do you, like, hate me?” she asks. Nicole lies in, "Justin hates you. He’s already made out with four other girls, and me and Paris.” Justin’s ex asks, “Why are you being mean to me?” She glances at the camera, “Is this really happening? Do I have to put up with this? Did the Mayor sign some sort of blanket release form for the whole town?” Her girlfriend can’t stop laughing in the background. “We’re gonna tag team him tonight,” says Nicole. Paris laughs, “Not! Just kidding.” Such is jet-set highbrow humor.
Paris confessional: “I think this town doesn’t know what hit them.”
It seems that Paris and Nicole have won over the town’s men. The women are another matter. But Nicole patches things up with a polite “Nice to see you girls, see ya later.” The men give their high five finger wiggles salute: “Wooooooooo, Pig, Suey!” That one won Altus first place at the County Team Hog Calling contest earlier this spring. Nicole joins in boisterously and a beat late. Yeah, Nicky, Daddy’s gonna let you use his studio to record an album, eh? It should sell in the 10s, maybe even 100s. What metal disk plaque do you get for that level, pig iron?
And there are only 17 days to go.
* * *
Next time on The Simple Life, there’s bull testing, bull glittering, and more bullsheeting from the girls. There’s no hiding; they have to come up with $120 to pay for gifts and stuff they improperly charged. But they’ve squandered their money on cigarettes and beer. Yeah, like they really paid for the suds at Kelt’s.
Oh well, enough philosophizing. Stop the tape, pay the tab, and shake everybody’s hand or pat ‘em on the back on the way out. ♪Now everybody knows their names.♪ Woooooooo, Pig, Suey!!
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. - Henry David Thoreau