Tag Archives: American Dream

T.J. Lavin’s Masterpiece Theatre: Introduction

26 Jan

The Challenge

I’m not an avid reality TV viewer, by any means.  Most of my exposure to this type of programming comes from seeing random clips in passing at friends’ places, and I have never really had the desire to devote entire hours to watching these shows.  With one exception.  For the past several seasons of The Challenge, I have made sure not to miss any of the debauchery and emotional instability on display in these competitions, and have enjoyed every minute of it.  The beauty of The Challenge, and what sets it apart from other reality programs whose purpose for existing is hazy, is that the stakes are very real for the contestants on the show.  Particularly with the repeat offenders – the ‘veterans’ – the competition borders on being a veritable career, and the prize money on the line represents their livelihood.  And if The Challenge drives any point home, it’s that you don’t fuck with someone’s livelihood.

The high stakes on the show lead to some of the most entertaining and interesting displays of human nature on TV, with the contestants constantly scheming on new ways to fuck each other over – and when the emotional manipulation fails, their bodies are sacrificed in physical challenges that have gotten more sadistic with each passing year.  Throw habitual intoxication and copulation into the mix, and there’s not much else you could ask for in an hour of programming.

With all of its core elements, the best seasons of the show have become fascinating glimpses into a weird, mutated version of the American Dream  – there is fame and fortune to be had on a limited scale, and these people have made the decision that just a limited, specialized scale is enough to sacrifice your body and integrity for.  Luckily for us and the franchise, there seems to be a non-stop supply of people willing to make these sacrifices, as the roster of past and present contestants continues to expand with every new season, to the point that mythologies are starting to be created around the more memorable veterans and events.  Don’t tell me this isn’t the visual embodiment of a Tall Tale, one that will be told around the campfire to scare future Challenge contestants for years to come.

The newest season of the show that began last night acknowledges the history of the contestants, and their proclivity for hooking up, with this year’s theme: Battle of the Exes.  The contestants are paired off with someone from their romantic past, be it a long-term relationship or one-night stand, and then need to navigate the physical and emotional landmines of the Challenge on their way to the $150,000 grand prize.  This season has the potential to be another great one in the show’s history, and to get the most out of the social experiment unfolding over the next several weeks, we here at Dan Swanky’s are introducing a segment we call T.J. Lavin’s Masterpiece Theater.  With every new episode, we will examine the notable events, celebrate the small absurdities, and offer up a work of literature, film, or music to serve as a sort of thematic companion piece for that week.  So throw on your backwards Monster hat, pick out a graphic tee, and let’s kill it.