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An Entire Season of Shame: The Anna Nicole Showby Dale Sherman -- 11/24/2002
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Settle back, readers, because I know from my mail that some of you come to my reviews of The Anna Nicole Show mainly to look for a good laugh and a way to shake off the stench of the series. This time, however, I want to take a serious (well, more serious than usual) look at the program and why it definitively needs to be placed in the Reality TV Hall of Shame.
In the past four months, I have written 13 articles about the episodes in the series, one Hall of Shame induction for Bobby Trendy, and a final wrap-up article on the main RealityNewsOnline page. In that time, I have gotten numerous compliments, a lot of great mail, a total of four pieces of hate mail, and one excellent critical letter. I've even had people write to say that they only reason they watch the show is so they can then read what I had to say about the mess the next day. That's a compliment that makes the writing all worthwhile, really.
I had mentioned it before in my regular articles, that a viewer had written a short but rather biting critique of my articles, asking why I was bothering to write about a show that I didn't like. We bounced back and forth a couple of times and of the five letters I received that were complaints about the articles, his was the only one that I received which developed into a good conversation dealing with both sides of the issue.
Since some people were curious about that very question, let me answer it here:
Back in August, I was asked by the creator of RealityNewsOnline if I wanted to write about the new reality series, The Anna Nicole Show. I had written about The Osbournes, and it was felt that I probably would be in a good position to write about ANS as well. As my wife reported in her Hall of Shame article about Anna Nicole herself, I was hesitant at first. Not because it was Anna Nicole so much as because it would mean time away from other projects that I needed to pursue. When I was asked again, I decided to do the reviews because I thought that perhaps the series would allow people to see a side of Anna Nicole that really was "outrageous," or maybe even give people a chance to understand what made ANS tick (much like The Osbournes gave us a chance to see how Ozzy ticked).
I mean, how could it go wrong? There have been plenty of "reality shows" based around the lifestyles of people over the years - you could probably rate Edward R. Murrows' Person to Person as the prototype of the "reality show" with the interviews of celebrities and their families in their homes; although the famous (or infamous) PBS series, The American Family from the 1970s probably is the most famous early example of the series format of such a show - and one usually came away from such series with at least some understanding and sympathy for the people involved. Of course, as we've seen, that turned out not to be true in this case. Still, after the first couple of horrible episodes, I decided to stick with it because I had been trained to follow through on my commitments. Also, no one else wanted the job after they had seen an episode or two.
Throughout the many articles, there were attempts to at least point out moments in the series where the people involves actually looked interesting and sympathetic, instead of the usually self-indulgent, hateful, and boring material that filled much of the running time of the series. For example, Anna and Howard talking like husband and wife when they realized they were being "screwed over" by Trendy in an early episode was a rather sweet moment. The chefs making meals for ANS was another such moment (and noticed that they never used any more material of the chef in the series, even though the chef was featured in the "coming soon" teaser of one episode . . . but I digress). However, those moments were rare. Instead, I was amazed at how dull, lifeless, and antagonistic the people were on the show to each other and everyone outside of them. No one seemed to be having fun at any time during the series. Not one person. Even "fun" moments seemed heavily rehearsed. That was probably the most painful element of the series - the sense of depression that enveloped everyone on the show.
I think the moment that crystallized this was one clip that appeared in many ads for the series and some of the "Coming Soon" teasers: it featured Anna and Howard in what appeared to be an elevator. Anna is mugging to the camera, with her back to Howard, jiggling and dancing. If you ever see this clip, look at Howard's expression during this clip - there is nothing but contempt and hatred on his face as he stares at Anna acting stupid to the camera. Now multiply that moment by 13 half-hour episodes and you have the overall feeling of the cast and crew of this show. It really was that depressing for 13 weeks.
After discussing this with George, he appreciated my stating my reasons for writing about the series, although he didn't quite agree with it, and I believe that we left off on a friendly page between the two of us.
Of the three writers who had a conflict with the articles, things were not so easily handled. I doubt that anything I could say in response would have helped ease their feelings anyway. To show the normal level of argument by these fans who felt they had to defend the series and Anna Nicole against a single reviewer, here are a few quotes from the four pieces of hate-mail (two from the same person) I received. By the way, all of these appear SIC:
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