By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
The Surreal Life
9:00 p.m. Sundays
To the average edumacated culture vulture the word "surreal" conjures up images of melting clocks, slice-and-dice eyeballs, and faceless men wearing important hats. However, those highfalutin associations may soon give way to images of D-list stars competing in humiliating "missions," slagging each other's flatlining careers, and bobbing like coke-bloated manatees in a hillside Jacuzzi. Such is the popularity of The Surreal Life, which recently kicked off its third season to the delight of masochists everywhere. (Charo and self-punishment go together like white wine and Gruyère.)
This season's cast provokes oodles of the sweet, celebrity-induced schadenfreude VH1 viewers crave: There's Dave Coulier, best known for ineffectively co-parenting the Olsen twins on Full House. There's Ryan Starr, an excruciatingly unfamous American Idol castoff who talks like Janet Reno on Quaaludes. There's aging rapper Flavor Flav, still sportin' the platinum grill and the oversized timepieces. Shockingly, peroxide Commie pinup Brigitte Nielsen (remember her from Rocky IV? No?) has been cast as well, proving that "celebrity" is very loosely defined in the Surreal world. Jordan Knight, formerly of the New Kids on the Block (and, it would seem, currently of the Chubby Agoraphobics on the Couch), lives in the mansion as well, but we rarely see him. Finally, aforementioned Love Boat regular Charo rounds out the cast and treats us all to extensive glimpses of her geriatric cleavage.
(Confidential to fellow Blockheads: I'm baffled by the seeming lack of fellowship between Jordan Knight and Flavor Flav. You see, Flav and the then-declining NKOTB memorably performed together at the 1991 American Music Awards. That may have been the year punk "broke" for some, but not for this teenybopper. I was Hanging Tough back then, and I taped the performance and viewed it repeatedly with clammy palms and racing heart. Why, then, do Flav and Jordan mention the collaboration only briefly? Does no one remember the magic?)
Anyway, this season's cast lacks the instant weirdo camaraderie of last season's gang. (Who could forget the unlikely friendship between Ron Jeremy and Tammy Faye?) But relationships are forged nonetheless. Specifically, Brigitte and Flav make smacking noises beneath the sheets, and we all know what that means in the world of reality TV bed-cam footage.
Flav even gropes Brigitte in the pool, provoking porcine expressions of disdain from Ryan Starr. Based on Ryan's open-mouthed horror, you'd think Flav and Brigitte were engaging in piss-play atop her suitcase. Why such snobbery from a girl who once sang "Solid as a Rock" with Justin Guarini?
The surprisingly low-key Coulier avoids the Bullwinkle impressions and instead limits himself to dry remarks about his housemates. His observations are fairly accurate. Yes, Brigitte is a total lush; yes, Ryan is rude; yes, Charo is incoherent. One almost pities Coulier, as he appears to be a fairly normal guy trapped in a klatch of deluded Hollywood rejects. Then one remembers the fact that Coulier hosted America's Funniest People, and our sympathy fades like last season's Baby Phat tracksuit.
As the housemates take part in uninspired activities, such as one-on-one speed dates and a Battle of the Bands, we pray for Brigitte to get horny again so we can catch some more Flav-on-'Gitte action. (Other romantic relationships aren't likely to happen, as Ryan rebuffs Jordan's sorry-ass advances almost instantly. That's what he gets for not answering my letters.) Seriously, Flav and Brigitte is the best Surreal Life flirtation since onetime Survivor Jerri Manthey cooed "Come to bed, Manny!" at a blushing Emmanuel Lewis in the first season.
Flav wins our hearts by making grilled-cheese sandwiches for a group of visiting school kids, and Brigitte charms us by...well, walking around naked with a bottle of Jack Daniels and getting a fever for the Flavor. Together, they join Newman and Woodward, Taylor and Burton, Spears and Federline in the pantheon of great screen loves. Frankly, this hopeless romantic hears wedding bells (or perhaps the squalling of their future infant, Gunter Flav.)
One doesn't expect life lessons from a show so déclassé that the WB ditched it, but The Surreal Life still has plenty to teach of us. Namely, that boy-band idols who ignore their fans are doomed to bunk with Charo. Also? Giant clock medallions + Teutonic bitches = love.