OK, I have watched two nights of "I'm a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here," or more accurately, "The Spencer and Heidi Show." And ...
It's a quite hideous little thing, isn't it? Mingling prerecorded material with nominally live moments. Giving Mrs. Blago a chance not only to defend her husband but to do so in a context where no one contradicts her; I have to believe that the vignette was part of her deal with the show, especially given the way Spencer from left field (and seeming to glance down at some cue before doing so) brought up the question. The constant pushing of Speidi to the middle of the story, including with their repeated announcements that they were leaving. The favoritism accorded them, whether in the call to Ben Silverman or letting them sit out a challenge. And though they were gone at the end of tonight's episode, we may yet see more of them. From "Extra":
After a day of headlines reporting that Heidi and Spencer Pratt quit the NBC reality show, “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here,” “Extra” has learned they have had a change of heart and are doing everything in their power to return to the jungles of Costa Rica. Spencer sent “Extra” an email saying, “We’re begging NBC to let us back in!” and sources say the couple is waiting for a helicopter to take them back to set right now.
Why this obsession with Speidi? Because it gets the young crowd of "Hills" viewers who will willingly give up some spring/summer time to watch TV. ("Beverly Hills, 90210," to cite one famous example, became a youth hit when it put new episodes on during the summer. And summer has been fertile ground for reality TV, including "Survivor," which started as a summer show.) And they have duly delivered the sort of melodramatic excess a show like this needs to survive -- especially in the middle of a group that is otherwise bland. (Although, my antennae tell me that the show was cast in such a way that all concerned knew that Speidi would be the most, uh, exciting. Stupid, self-absorbed, bragging, nasty, lazy -- and giving Christianity a bad name -- but that's the sort of image which made them TV and tabloid stars.
I would be offended by the show if it wasn't so thoroughly in the tradition of the most cynical reality TV, a variation on the nastiness of the early seasons of "Big Brother" or of something like "Temptation Island." The problem with "I'm a Celebrity" is more that it is so poorly executed, going back again and again to Heidi and Spencer instead of developing a lot of characters, overly dependent on the gross for its challenges, erratically edited, often contrived in the way it looks and sometimes just inept. That whole "are we still on?" bit at the end of tonight's final live segment was just sloppy production.
If there is one redemptive aspect of all this, it is how admirable Lou Diamond Phillips has been. He has been in show business a long time, he has tasted the sort of stardom which Spencer now claims to have, he has worked in the less prestigious reaches of the business, but he still works. (For one thing, he has a nice recurring role on "Numb3rs.") In other words, he has perspective, and enough of it to look at Speidi and not let his blood pressure go up, to look at the people in the cast who will never have a career like his and not disrespect them, to listen to Janice Dickinson's babbling and for the most part ignore it. He is coming across as someone of surpassing decency, and certainly the most likable person on the show. He is managing both to take a job that provides him some visibility, and so far to keep his dignity.