Everybody Has a Top Ten Today

(I consider this an addendum to my thoughts on the death of the “old” late night television and the departure from late night of my favourite host Craig Ferguson, which I made in December. So read that if you want a full preamble.

For a briefer preamble: In it, I wrote “Yes, historically speaking, David Letterman’s retirement next year is probably more important (than Ferguson’s last show) since he probably is more responsible for the 12:35am aesthetic than he’s comfortable admitting as a man who wanted to desperately be (Johnny) Carson’s spiritual successor instead.” That’s a big part of why David Letterman is important.)

We live in an age where we have a list for everything. However, David Letterman was doing Top Tens before Top Tens became a well-worn cliché. So we (the “we” in this case is “the Internet”) can be forgiven for all blithely throwing up a Top Ten list to commemorate David Letterman’s 4,263rd episode of Late Show, 6,082nd late night program overall (minus guest hosting duties) and final late night gig of all.

So here’s my Top Ten Favourite David Letterman moments. They’re arguably not the best and it’s nowhere near comprehensive because I cut my late night fandom teeth on his Late Night successor. Nonetheless, here they are:

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AN HONOURABLE MENTION: You’ll note that none of Dave’s more infamously confrontational interviews are included; my humour scale tends not to respond to the embarrasment factor. But it’s worth mentioning that their value was at their highest when Dave either thought the guest took themselves too seriously or he had little respect for the guest’s “accomplishments.” It’s a peek into Letterman’s insight when Paris Hilton told him she didn’t want to talk about her time in jail and how he responded. People (rightly) pilloring Letterman for his faults could produce just as much humour.

10 – “Did You Bring Any Mace?,” May 14, 2015, The Late Show
In the interest of acknowledging there’s a recency bias, I’ll put this on the list but leave it at ten. Late night TV works great when you have some sort of motley combination of folks: having gravelly-voiced Tom Waits as guest with an American mainstream sweetheart, George Clooney, standing by works for this reason, while it also serves the purposes of watching three entertainment vets have a chuckle. Clooney handcuffed himself to Dave in an earlier segment in a gag designed to express his disappointment with Letterman’s retirement (“You’re not going anywhere!”). To their credit, they saw the gag through to the episode’s end. Watching Clooney’s delayed reaction to Waits’ tire business joke tickles my pun-loving funny bone.

9 – “It Seems to Me Like You’re Changing Your Style a Bit…,” , Late Night, October 2, 1986
The first of three ’86 moments on this list, this features one of Letterman’s most celebrated featured players from his NBC days impersonating Dave’s most frequent NBC guest in a bit that demonstrates Dave’s most frequently celebrated quality: the “anti talk show” approach. Chris Elliott pokes fun at all of Jay Leno’s predictable delivery points but Dave is quick to immediately deconstruct the bit on the spot and somehow only adds to its humour. Elliott would return two weeks later with Leno himself to deliver a great callback punchline to the routine.

8 – “My Favourite Band Playing My Favourite Song…,” February 21, 2000, Late Show
It’s a strange entry for me to put a musical performance on here because a) it’s not Dave doing anything and b) I could really take or leave the Foo Fighters after their first couple of albums (and this was recorded right as their plunge into mediocrity was already in tilt). But anyone that was in high school/college in the late-90s remembers the power-pop-rock perfection that was The Colour and The Shape, and obviously Letterman loved the signature single.

Letterman was #2 (or 3) in the ratings from 1995 on, but there was a gravitas to Dave that made his coming back from heart surgery in 2000 a much bigger deal than if it had been anyone else. What makes this stand out is that the band didn’t just fly back from South America to play it…they played the hell out of it. For all of the times Letterman was (and is) a jerk where his rivals weren’t, those that did feel warm feelings about him were 100% sincere about it and it came through in their performances. I still kind of get a little goosebump when the synth kicks in and Grohl says, like a giddy eight-year old, “Paul Schaffer!”

7 – “You Need a Ride to the Airport?,” September 24, 2008, The Late Show
Right-wingers say Dave went downhill when “he got political” and believe it or not, I actually agree. Not because of any leanings on my behalf, but because I don’t think Dave did partisan humour well (especially given what his successor was doing in the same timeslot on cable). But what Dave did do well, when he was on, was make fun of the general absurdity of the power politics of everyday life (also see #4). Which is why his takedown of John McCain was a return to form.

We’ve probably all been stood up for a false reason at some point in our life (many of us are also probably guilty of same). What’s interesting about this clip is that Dave really gets across over the course of the show how much his initial admiration of McCain informs his disappointment when John bails on him that way. The fact that noted left-wing pundit Keith Olbermann just so happens to be Dave’s substitute for McCain as the Couric interview is unfolding is like an extra layer of delicious wickedness.

6 – “As You Can Tell, Andy Kaufman’s is Here, Sorta…,” July 29, 1982, Late Night
This is a “my favourite” list, not “best,” and since I’m a wrestling fan, I’m biased and this makes the list. Jerry Lawler and Kaufman decided to go “off page,” as it were, in one of the most important moments in pro wrestling history and shockingly enough, a formative moment in Letterman’s career. I think it would have been memorable TV regardless of the host but Dave handled it with a coolhanded flippancy that surpasses how any of his contemporaries would have. Also, his little quip at 14:55 (that doesn’t even draw a huge laugh in and of itself) is maybe my favourite Dave one-liner, giving you a clever reference to late night history to that point…

5 – “How Did You Get This Job, By the Way…?,” February 28, 1994, Late Night
I wish the whole appearance was on the webs right now but it isn’t. But I’m a big Conan O’Brien fan and anyone born before 1985 probably remembers the reaction to him getting the job to succeed Letterman on NBC’s Late Night: “Who the hell is this guy, why’s he so nervous and when is he going to get funny?” But a lot of our generation thought there was potential, and getting Dave’s blessing was an enormous step forward. Given that Letterman’s production company was already planning a rival program, he didn’t have to do that, but typically Dave wasn’t good at hiding things that he hated– or things he liked. (A lesser remembered appearance is here— with another quick Dave’esque zinger at 0:49 and an oddly prescient statement about Conan’s future).

4 – “This is Gonna Be Fun to Work with These People, Isn’t It?…,” April 8, 1986, Late Night
If you want to know why Dave “jumped the shark” in the late 90s or early 2000s, it was most notably because he stopped doing remotes. And this one was hands down the most intentionally and unintentionally genius one that he ever did. When he delivered a fruit basket to the headquarters of new NBC owner General Electric, he all at once poked fun at the general hassles of bureaucracy, at how conglomeration created bosses and owners isolated from their employees, and at his own “bite the hand” mentality that would ultimately cost him The Tonight Show. Not like it was the last time he’d do this. And certainly not the first…

3 – “…and I’m Not Wearing Pants,” August 19, 1985, Late Night/Today Show
#2 is Dave at his “elder statesmen” best. This is Dave at his “voice of the young comic generation” best. (He was my age at the time, so I may be trying to overinterpret 38 as young– wishful thinking?). Anyone that made a point to stay up to watch the “hip” Letterman probably also considered The Today Show as overhyped anathema and Dave capitalized on it all too well. It’s probably also no coincidence in Dave’s mind that just as NBC would repeat itself in his universe with seemingly absurd TV-think, they would be equally redundant handling their morning flagship.

2 – “Don’t Blame Conan,” January 19, 2010, Late Show
Mix Letterman’s blessing of O’Brien as his successor in #5, his proclivity for poking fun at invisible network bosses in #4/#3 and his sourness at losing his dream job to the comedian cited in #9 and…voila! If you can forgive the excessive Paul Schaffer interventions in this desk bit, you’ll recognize it as a pivotal moment in Dave’s status as late night’s elder statesman.

It’s impossible to mention Letterman’s careers without also referencing Jay Leno’s. By all accounts, more people watched Leno and we should like Leno better: a faithful husband with gentle comedy and a kind exterior. Still, there was always something…off…about Jay to those that considered themselves more seasoned comedy fans. You felt like for better or worse, you knew Dave, but you didn’t really know Jay.

Dave works that to his advantage here and again does what he does best: deconstruction. The furor over NBC trying to elbow Jay Leno back into 11:35pm, and Leno’s apparent overwillingness to surrender to the corporate structure that drove Dave crazy, kicked off a glorious (if not also redundant) week of high-level Letterman bitching about Jay and NBC. What makes the bit brillant is that Dave doesn’t focus on Jay’s alleged selfishness, he instead focuses on a seemingly innocuous statement (“don’t blame Conan”), dissects its absurdity and divulges what he sees as the personality flaw that informs that statement. Dave would be the cranky old man before and after this, but this was one of the times he was a particularly astute cranky old man.

1 – “The Arbitration,” June 27, 1986, The Tonight Show
Yes, I’m being ironic by making the number one entry something from the show that got away from Dave…but most times when people praise Letterman, it’s for his anti-humour-humour, his diffusing of normal celebrity sycophantism, general curmudgeonry and his widespread influence.

But this is just straight-up clever and funny Dave: bantering with his late-night idol and delivering a hilarious comedy premise that works on YouTube today, worked on television in the 80s and would have easily worked on radio in the 30s (or the stage in any era). Tonight’s Late Show may mark the end of a run for a TV host that was of his time, but there was certainly a spark there that carried beyond his years.

I’m sure he’ll enjoy his retirement like anyone of his vintage should: with a big, big bottle of alka seltzer.

Public Property Filming and Public Building Funds

Well, I’m off to Peru!

That’s also my way of announcing not to expect any blog/Twitter activity in the next few weeks. For all of my attempts to fake “worldliness,” I’m not worldly at all– this trip will mark my first excursion outside of North American soil. Kind of nerve-wracking and exhilarating.

Between Machu Picchu and the Amazon, I’m going to learn all about backpacks, Camel Baks and water “potability” (it’s often tinted and not all that great-tasting). And that’s before we even get to the experiences distinct to Peru. If Anthony Bourdain has taught me anything, my tastebuds might need to do some serious acclimating.

Still, pretty exciting, hopefully the blogosphere won’t be too entertaining in my absence.


Not Dr. McNeil’s typical dinner…
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Filming the police is always a hot button subject. A couple of differing cases this week on that.

In Augusta, Matthew Haley was arrested while filming from a public sidewalk, then interrogated again while being interviewed by local news on the subject. A much more violent case occurred in Hawthorne, California where police arrested Leon Rosby as he was filming a crime scene. They then repeatedly shot his dog upon his escape from Rosby’s vehicle during his arrest.

Every case like this has its own individual considerations. The Augusta police argued that Haley was “drawing suspicion” by filming and not providing ID. The Hawthorne police argued that filming wasn’t the offense of which Rosby was guilty, but of obstructing police work with unnecessarily loud music blaring from his car. The shooting of the dog, they argued, was for the safety of the police as he was out to protect his owner.

I try not to revert to being instinctively unsympathetic to the police in cases such as these. Typically the first reports come from the aggrieved. As such, it’s easy to slant the story away from any legitimate concerns police may have (for e.g., if I was working on a crime scene with loud music blaring nearby, I would want that quieted as well). That said, it’s becoming alarming how often the official responses to situations such as these often begin with “the police found this annoying or suspicious” and then end with “once this person wouldn’t respond to the cops, it was therefore OK for them to arrest this person.”

I worry about cases like these when I think about my students and any time they’re out to cover a rally, arrest or any other public event. I was asked in court about whether my students are trained to obey police commands at all times. I found the question worrisome in its phrasing and replied that students are always trained to comply with the law, which led to a trying back-and-forth, to say the least.

This has become an exceedingly tricky issue in the past ten years as now just about everyone has a device with which they can film something. The right of the citizen is the most important thing in play– no one should be arrested for filming something in a public place. However, there’s also an important subconsideration: how realistic is it for police forces to approach to public filming in this manner in an era such as this?


This has been the new reality for awhile…but can law enforcement adjust?

It’s conceivable that if an arrest were happen on main street on AnyMajorCity, USA, dozens– nay, hundreds– will probably whip out their phones. Unless a person is standing directly in the way or path of a criminal or an officer, isn’t preoccupation with all of this incredibly unpragmatic? The sergeant in the Haley case argues that one safety consideration is planning out “escapes” for future crimes such as the Boston Marathon bombing. Yet every public place will probably eventually be well-known through filming in this era, it may just be that law enforcement have to get used to the assumption that most everyone knows the layout of most everything.

(Apropos of almost nothing, it reminds me of the infamous exchange between Tim Rafe and Pierre Trudeau during 1970’s October Crisis, in which Rafe argued Trudeau’s rationale for martial law was ultimately impractical even if morally justifiable. Oh to think of the cellphone footage Trudeaumania would have produced…)

The teachable moment for student press is: have your ID with you at all times. The sad part is: even if the law doesn’t necessitate you having it, trouble might still occur regardless. That is very, very worrisome indeed.

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If I asked you to guess where one of the most watched municipal governments in North America was…would you guess “Glendale, Arizona?” If you’re not a hockey fan, probably not. Yet it’s been the case in recent years due to the Phoenix Coyotes saga.

The Coyotes are “Exhibit A” in the “MADNESS” file of public-private relations in sports. It would take an entire month of blog entries to properly recap the team’s story but a nutshell version goes something like this (and I can’t emphasize enough how much this nutshell version leaves out):


More riveting than it looks, I assure you

The NHL team moved from Winnipeg to downtown Phoenix in 1996. Northern hockey fans greeted the market with suspicion and the arena was not built for hockey. The team was losing money every year so the owners sought a new arena and got one in the neighbouring city of Glendale (on the public dime, of course) as part of the consumerist experiment known as Westgate City Center. However, the team lost even more money there leaving the team owner to declare bankruptcy and throw the keys to the NHL. The NHL didn’t like that the owner tried to sell the team to a man that wanted to move it and ever since then, the city of Glendale has been forking over dollars to the NHL to “run the arena” (i.e. keep the Coyotes in town at a severe loss and to the detriment of Glendale’s bond rating).

The latest chapter came on late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning as Glendale approved a deal that might take several business degrees to understand, in which the IceArizona investment group will receive a) a loan from the NHL, b) a loan from investment banks, and c) a “management fee” from Glendale…all to be the owners of the Phoenix Coyotes. Hockey fans watched anxiously to see if the council might go in the other direction, especially as a rejection would have certainly meant relocation.

A highly recommended website to learn about just how far city and state governments will go to appease pro sports teams is Field of Schemes, from the authors of book-of-same-name. It details the continuing saga of concessions– (mostly) financial and otherwise– that teams usually receive from cities and states fearful of losing status, businesses and/or revenue if their teams jump town.

Yet it’s debatable how much prestige, revenue or business the Phoenix Coyotes bring the city of Glendale. The only publicity the Coyotes seem to draw is negative, even in years where they’re winning, they bleed money and arguably every business supported by the Coyotes presence could realistically exist with a minor league team (which is not cheap but is certainly much cheaper to run). In a hilariously sublime moment, one of the first citizens to plead with the council Tuesday night to agree to the deal was a Phoenix sports store owner…whose businesses aren’t in Glendale. The city has attracted scorn for laying off public employees (no, not these brave folks, but the optics remain terrible regardless) and drowning itself in red ink to pursue the Coyotes project…all for fear that it’s all or nothing because abandoning it will lead to a white elephant.

The case is fraught with nationalistic tensions as well, creating an interesting fissure in the Canadian vision of American capitalism. The majority of northern hockey fans, but especially many Canadian hockey fans, have been calling for the relocation of the Yotes for a long while now. Quebec City, Markham, Hamilton and even Saskatoon all have businesspeople harbouring serious NHL aspirations and many fans are bitter that they haven’t been realized.

The negotiation of the Free Trade agreement coincided with the infamous Wayne Gretzky departure to Los Angeles and provided Canadians with a prism of which they felt business would operate– sentiment and tradition wouldn’t matter if dollars and cents dictated going south. Yet dollars and cents, Canadians argue, would support multiple NHL franchises in Canadian locations where there currently aren’t any. Former impediments such as a lack of revenue sharing or a low Canadian dollar are no longer present. Essentially, the grievance goes something like “we were told it was just business when it was a bunch of teams moving to the south…why can’t it be just business now?

Which, of course, then comes right back around to proposals for public money for private stadiums. The league’s return to Winnipeg has those aggrieved cities sensing a change in the wind, although ironically enough, the rumoured top contender in this year’s “move the Yotes” sweepstakes was an American northwest city planning to fund its stadium with *gasp* private money– Seattle.

The Coyotes saga hit closer to residence for me in 2011 when the Glendale Council injected $25 million at the last minute to keep the Yotes skating on Arizona ice. That expedited the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg in lieu of the former Winnipeg Jets. Atlanta’s city government said and did very little in that instance but that hasn’t been the case with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. And thus creates a whole new potentially cautionary tale…


One conception of the ambitious Atlanta Falcons stadium project

It’s one thing to assess these investments from a civic perspective by gauging how many dollars and cents are gained back by having major sports teams. It’s another to assess it by how many years you get out of the investment. And by the standards of North American pro sports towns, Atlanta has a bad track record. The Omni stood for less than three decades and if a new Falcons stadium is constructed, the Georgia Dome will meet a similar fate. It’s not out of line for churches and citizens to be a little bit taken aback at this venture because business owners will tell us that this building will stand for a long time but history tells a different story. It’s also dubious as to whether or not the proposed $200 million of public money will stay at $200 million and come solely from a proposed hotel tax and not somewhere else. (Bless their cotton-woolen socks, the poor ol’ NFL has graciously loaned the Falcons an equivalent amount to help out).

It’s worth noting is that this project directly affects Georgia State, as it would constitute demolishing the Dome and taking the Panthers football team down the street with the Falcons

All of which raises the question: how necessary is it to have these palaces in your neighbourhood to be a thriving metropolis? Most cities with a population over 100,000 manage to have a major sporting facility to accommodate their growth, but the level of return on the investment without pro sports is difficult to assess. One can look to the Sprint Center in Kansas City for an example of a thriving arena without a team, but then, that arena too funnels most of its direct profits to the arena operator, not the city that built it.

Which makes me wonder if Coyotes fans have it right– you’re gonna pay and someone else will collect regardless, so maybe it doesn’t matter how much you spend to keep it busy. The Falcons already keep a building busy so it will take a lot to economically justify ripping it down and putting up a new one.

Return from the abyss / Survivor = Wrestling / RISK and Reality “Gamebotting”

It’s been a long sabbatical from the online world.

I mean, really long. Seven months long. In the digital age, I may as well have abandoned my apartment and returned to see squatters trifling through rubbish…only to find I didn’t leave much behind.

So what’s been going on in the interim?

–> GSU student media outlets continued to make me proud. The spring brought good news as GSTV,The Signal and WRAS all received placements at the Southeast Journalism Conference and The Signal added some state awards to that list as well. Speaking of which…

SignalGCPA
I clean up nicely when I have students to not embarrass

–> GSU was selected to host the 2015 SEJC. We’ve already hosted our own in house conference (with a followup planned for the fall) and a regional Society of Professional Journalists conference. Perhaps a future career is conference planning?

–> The Student Activities department also did its Panther Leadership Academy, which I always find rejuvenating and inspiring. This year, it was held at the Enota Mountain Retreat area in Hiawassee. Aside from helping build group leadership skills, the retreat had trampolines. We’re all lucky I’m not still bouncing around up there.

–> My wife has gotten really, really into geocaching. Well, OK, she already was into it, but now she’s really into it. So I’ve seen a lot of backroads of Georgia.

–> We’ve been planning a summer excursion to Lima and Iquitos as well as the Machu Picchhu trail near Cusco. Hard as it is for me to believe, I actually haven’t left this humble continent in my lifetime. So look for me to come back stateside in late-July with hilarious misadventures of sherpas having to drag my sorry behind up the mountain and my inability to speak a sentence of anything not-English leading to horribly delicate misunderstandings.

That’s the real-life stuff going on with me. In the made-up(ish) universe…

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Something strange happened to me over the course of the past few months. While my colleagues and friends have been glued to the relevant shows of the day (and basically having heart attacks watching Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode), I was busy becoming reacquainted with a TV show more than a decade past its cultural zeitgeist. I stumbled back into the landmine of Survivor.

My wife likes to have a certain amount of TV shows “on the go” and re-added Survivor to her queue in February. I hadn’t really given much thought to it since Richard Hatch became America’s TV villain of 2000 for forming an alliance. The show has become especially “non-courant” with dwindling ratings leaving it strong enough to make renewals at CBS, but only because of a dedicated subculture.

Watching the show play out– and becoming more addicted to it than the person who suggested we watch it in the first place– I was struck by some of the similarities between Survivor and pro wrestling (more specifically the WWE), which fits my aca-fan profile. Similarities such as:

–> Neither are close to as popular as they were during their peak(s) yet both have major media forces that continually rely on repurposing for profit.

–>Wrestling and reality TV also overcome their dwindling popularity with lower overhead than their traditional dramatic counterparts. Wrestlers have no union and are usually relegated to no-name status without their WWE trademarks. Survivor contestants compete for prizes and returning players are shunned if they demand any additional compensation for their notoriety.

–> Both Jeff Probst and Vince McMahon, the most powerful people in the Survivor and wrestling universes respectively, have traversed the path from host overshadowed by the talent to the showrunners seldom overshadowed by anybody.



Vince’s phlegm would put out the torch by itself

–> Since its infancy, Survivor has been much like wrestling was pre-Vince McMahon. Back then, everyone thought wrestling was fake, but no one admitted it. The entire “reality television” genre is shrouded with suspicions of how much it’s “rigged” and the Survivor fanbase often holds similar beliefs that certain seasons are decidedly tilted by producers to favour certain players.

–> Both have found themselves both compared and usurped in the popular imagination by something that’s kinda similar but really not similar at all. For the WWE, UFC. For Survivor, singing/talent shows.

–> Both subcultures stick with the product but endlessly complain that the producers won’t find fresh new faces. Entrenched crusty WWE fans tire of John Cena and Wrestlemanias centered on one-time-a-year wrestlers, Survivor fans are wondering when they’re going to get another season without any returning players, as the last three have all featured various numbers of returnees.

–> Both have hermeneutic terms of production that simultaneously are universal yet genre-specific in their application. In particular, the word “edit” amongst Survivor fans takes on individualistic meaning (as in “Brenda didn’t get a very good edit this season”) just as “booking” would appear to be another word for “writing” in wrestling jargon. Yet hardcore wrestling affectionados would tell you that what’s wrong with wrestlng today is too much writing and not enough booking.

–> Most fascinatingly, but sadly not surprising, both are genres of entertainment that wrestle (pardon the pun) with portrayals of women (maybe Ashley Massaro could comment?). Both McMahon and Probst seem most comfortable when they can keep their onscreen females in the 18-35 demographic but at least Probst always has a spot for a working mom or two. However, perhaps his portrayal of them is still lacking for nuance (see my point on gamebotting and Dawn Meehan below…).

Being a diminutive scrawny fellow and being someone who completed countless university assignments on his favourite pop culture phenomena, it wasn’t too hard for me to treat John Cochran as the protagonist of the affair– even as he attracted the wrath of many devoted Survivor legions who yearn for new faces and complained of his edit taking over the show.

Cochran is the face of non-zeitgeist Survivor. First, for being the example of character development that Probst now aspires to have Survior attain with returning players. Cochran “two season” arc was reality TV’s version of the hero’s quest (minus the refusals). His first season transformed him from the bullied to the turncoat to ultimately a poor player who nonetheless has his “world of cardboard” moment upon his exit. The second season completed the ascent deemed inevitable from that moment; such that some fans argued the casting was rigged (booked?) to complete the “storyline” satisfactorily with Cochran getting a favourable draw of fellow favourites to navigate his plan.

Second, and more importantly, Cochran is the face of compulsive theorizing the gameplay of a show that on the surface is designed to emphasize drama much more than any idea of sport. One of his talking points when auditioning was a Harvard assignment in which he compared the Survivor jury system to actual jury systems. This actually fits Cochran in with the subcultural universe that exists outside of CBS’ purview in which players dissect their moves in podcasts that sometimes exceed two hours per player.

Which lead me to an interesting discovery…

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I’m no more of a board game person than your average Jane or Joe but I played a fair bit of RISK with my compadres back in the day. It usually went as follows: 1) choose red, 2) desire to take over Africa, 3) get a crappy card draw, 4) wander instead, 5) roll crappy dice and be the second to go. Fun times.


Arrrrrrrrggghhhhhh!!! Europe again!!!

My friends were never keen on playing the marathon model of RISK I’ve heard so much about through TV mythos. My friend and colleague Shane Toepfer, however, regaled me with tales of his games where the board would sit for an entire weekend and players would hold private convos with each other to try to form (and break) alliances. In other words, it sounded like a less serious version of reality TV.

Which is why the latest venture of Survivor alum Rob Cesternino is particularly compelling. The new online show Reality Gamemasters pits Survivor and Big Brother alumni against each other in a simple RISK game. Except of course, add cheesy music and private discussion booths so that the game can be edited to essentially resemble the shows that made the participants D(E?)-level famous.

I’m anticipating that the meager $7,036 budget (funded by Kickstarter) and the compressed timeline of the actual game itself will provide a hilarious bizarro universe of the reality TV world.

Theoretically the players should be reduced to “gamebots.” Notorious Survivor villain Russell Hantz usually (involuntarily) wears the “gamebot” term perjoratively as someone who embraced backstabbing and manipulating and forgot the endgame of the jury actually wanting to vote for you.

The most recent season saw Mormon adoptive mother of six, Dawn Meehan, get the “villain edit” by opting to vote out Brenda Lowe despite their bond. The corresponding jury/audience response was rife with gender politics, as she was lambasted for simultaneously playing “too emotional” and “coldhearted” as though the two had to be constantly mutually exclusive by some sort of sacred law. Cochran declared the absurdity of taking such things so seriously with the pithy observation “she was voting people out of a game where the crucial part of the game is voting people out!”

However, the private discussion booths, the history of all six players and the over-the-top dramatizing is designed to add a fake layer of emotional consideration to make RISK seem less “gamebotty.” It’s probably a bit sad that this might not even be necessary with some people as there’s always that one friend who takes it just a bit personally that s/he’s the first target in RISK (“everyone’s out to get me!”). However, that fake layer only seeks to reveal the absurdity of reality TV itself, where games are prolonged to 30-50 days in an attempt to make them personal to both player and audience– even though they take up a tenth of a percentage point of someone’s lifespan.

I’ll probably lap up this cheesy reenactment and end up being way more chatty the next time I play RISK (oh boy, won’t my friends be appreciative?). It also mirrors Toepfer’s helpful dissection of the playful wrestling audience delighting in the obscure Champions of the Galaxy board game. These fans of reality TV were devoted enough with their games to end up playing it for real, but when the spotlight dims, they’re really just seeking any way to playfully engage with social gamesmanship– even if it’s in the form of a video-edited game of RISK.

You’ll note that Cochran chose the continent of Africa for his first landing spot and red as his army colour. He’s already playing RISK like me. Heaven help him.

UPDATE: The Red & Black situation

UGA’s Barry Hollander is reporting that “Basically, at least on the surface, the students won. Editorial control (we think) belongs to the students. The board member who caused most of the problems, he’s gone. From the paper, from the board.”

The Red & Dead provided live tweets of the situation and the high/lowlight was a contentious encounter between R&B publisher Harry Montevideo and a reporter.

More details will be provided by Katherine Tippins’ report on behalf of the SP3 region of the Society of Professional Journalists.