Tag Archives: vh1

Quiet Addictions: Single Ladies on Vh1

Single Ladies

The dearth of good scripted shows with leads of color should be a concern on multiple fronts. While representation in front of the camera is important, all the jobs that occur behind the scenes (like writers, showrunners, camera staff, and crew) also are in desperate need of diversification. So, when I can, I like to give scripted shows a longer shot to impress me. I waited out all of Undercovers with no reward – so it was refreshing to see Single Ladies overcome an underwhelming pilot and come into its own early in the season. The show was just renewed for a second season, so Kendra Pettis and I decided to chat about why we keep tuning in on Monday nights.

Latoya: So first things first – Kendra, how did you get into Single Ladies? For me, it’s one of those times when my inner twelve year old made the decision. Just like I couldn’t not watch Mel B running around on It’s a Scary World, as soon as they said “series” and “Stacy Dash” I was there. And then they said Queen Latifah producing, and it’s a story about female friends, so I stayed.

Kendra: I’ll admit, it was the Stacy Dash x-factor me too. I was judging this show hard before it premiered, convincing myself that it couldn’t possibly be any good given the channel’s history with with WOC — I Love New York, anyone?– and I wasn’t even encouraged by the Queen’s involvement. But I wanted to watch because I wanted Stacy Dash to work. When I finally sat down two weeks late and watched the premiere I was pleasantly surprised– both by the story and that DB Woodside was once again on my television screen. Continue reading

Excerpt: The Rise of Reality TV Racism

Note: video slightly NSFW – bleeped out profanity

IN THE BEGINNING, the Network Suits said, “Let them be white,” and reality TV cast members were white. Seasons passed, and they multiplied to a mighty celluloid nation, populated by dominant men and decorative women, Bachelors and Top Models, Apprentices and Swans. We shall remember this age as “BF.”*

After half a decade the Cable Suits gazed upon their Network neighbors’ unscripted creations, saw the ratings bounty sexism had provided, and grew envious. Then the Cable Suits decreed that producers must layer racism atop their misogynistic bedrock, saying, “Let us remake Black people in advertising’s eternal image.” So producers birthed a minstrel show and called it Flavor of Love, and it was bad, and Kentucky Fried Chicken was happy.+ Flavor of Love begat Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School and I Love New York, which begat Real Chance of Love. And lo, people of color began to rule over their own plots of televisual land. But there was much suffering; visibility became a plague on their McMansions. Competing Cable Suits discovered Black Housewives in Atlanta, reformed Black and Latino men From G’s to Gents, and taught White Rappers their place.

And so it was, and so it still is today.

* Before Flavor Of Love
+ For the viewers, it was bad. For VH1, it was the biggest hit they’d ever had. And KFC? Their product placements figured prominently
# After Flavor Of Love
- From Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, by Jennifer Pozner (site includes more video excerpts)

Notes from the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

I watched the Hip-Hop Honors pay tribute to Def Jam Records for the same reason I bought the Def Jam anniversary box set: sometimes you just need some old school, right? Here’s some scattered thoughts:

* Tracy Morgan couldn’t have been less appealing if the SNL writers had scripted his material. What are the odds some PA was sent to Chris Rock’s balcony seat to quietly beg for him to step in?

* Speaking of comedy, no screen-time or acknowledgement for Def Comedy or Def Poetry Jam? Sad.

MethnMary1 * Drinking game of the night: take a shot every time a rapper-slash-actor appeared: L.L. Cool J, Ludacris, Ashanti, Eminem, Redman, Method Man, Sticky Fingaz from Onyx and DMX would’ve given you … well, more than a buzz. Flavor Flav, of course, was worth a bottle.

* If there was a mention of Shakir Stewart, it must’ve been in the credits.

* Kid Rock likes hip-hop again? Did the National Guard money run out?

* Getting The Roots & DJ Jazzy Jeff to anchor the bigger numbers was a solid move. And go fig, Gym Class Heroes didn’t botch things up, either.

* Line of the night was definitely from ex-Def Jam Island Music Group head Lyor Cohen, on making the label an Aamco-like “blue-collar” alternative for their artists: “You think Death Row, with their swollen muscles, can squeeze underneath that car; or Bad Boy, with their shiny Versace suits, are gonna risk getting some oil dripped on them?”

* “Regulate” without Nate Dogg … sorry, Trey, just too much for you to live up to.

* Admit it, we all wanted to see Ja Rule rock the cardigan again.

* The show-closing medley hit an Epic Fail trifecta: Flat, Abrupt and How do you not get Jay-Z to close it out after all the ads for the new album, and Russell Simmons talks about him preserving Def Jam’s “foundation” in the final interview? Any fan could’ve given them this simple two-step alternative to Wale muffing a Kanye West riff:

1) Trash the medley and give the time up for full versions of “You Gots To Chill” and “The Rain.”
2) Close the show with the Public Enemy/Street Sweeper Social Club number posted up top. Their assault on “Rebel Without A Pause” brought home the point of Def Jam’s early artistic ferocity more than the interviews we saw during the show. Except for Lyor Cohen, of course.

* One final note: as you might imagine, we got a lot more of self-congratulation than self-analysis from the various Def Jam figures who appeared during the show, but these (slightly nsfw) comments from KRS-One below might ring more true than Cohen or Russell Simmons or Rick Rubin might want to admit:

So, anybody else catch the show? What did you think?

“I’m Not Racist…My Child Is Not White!” and Other Lessons from Charm School

by Latoya Peterson

Oh, readers.

Once again, my love of trashy TV has come back around to bite me in the ass.

Somehow, someway, I was skimming channels while folding laundry and accidentally got addicted to Rock of Love Bus, the third installment in Bret Michael’s increasingly hopeless dating life and some of the most ridiculous shenanigans I’ve ever seen aired. (Well, outside of Flavor of Love). Everything was over-the-top, including Bret’s fabulous hair extensions.

Here’s a fairly typical scene from Rock of Love Bus, involving all the necessary ingredients for a brawl – women with short tempers, alcohol, too much free time, and some argument that was too stupid to even attempt to summarize:

So it should go without saying that much of this cast ended up on VH1′s reform show, Charm School. Since Ashley was on it, I intended to watch the show. Just…later. When laundry piled up again. But lo and behold, that was not in the cards. By episode three, there was already mad race drama.

On Charm School, the aim of the show is to teach these wayward young people manners…or something. In reality, CS is more like a boarding school with the inmates/social terrorists running the asylum. Generally, the winner is the woman who can survive the Lord of the Flies style conditions without completely revealing her true colors.

It is worth mentioning that normally, Charm School runs show by show. So the first run was Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School, which was hosted by Mo’Nique. The second run was Rock of Love: Charm School, refereed by Sharon Osbourne.

This time, the predominantly black cast of Real Chance of Love (a show hovering close to the D-list being the spin-off of a spin-off) was matched with the predominantly white cast of Rock of Love Bus.

Ricki Lake was not ready.

The tensions started off quick with both teams sharing their distrust of each other:

After a few more altercations (including one where girls from the Rock of Love Bus locked Brittany Star in the bathroom and stuffed hot dogs under the door) the elimination ceremony takes place. The house was basically divided by show, and when one of the Real Chance of Love girls, Kiki, is sent home, all hell breaks loose and two other girls end up leaving the show out of frustration.

In the aftermath of this, Ricki Lake decides to ask a very pointed question: Did the contestants in the house think that Ashley was spared and Kiki was sent home because Ashley was white? Beybeybey and the other Real Chance of Love Girls answered in the affirmative. And here’s where things started to get interesting. Continue reading

Third Shot and I’m Starting to Feel It – Shot at Love Recap

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

Okay – I’m starting to get bored with the extensive recaps. So, I’m going to leave that to the official MTV blog and just highlight a couple interesting notes from the show.

The Trouble Same Sex Reality Shows

I’m going to let Dan Savage speak on this one, because he nailed it a couple years back:

Sometimes the mail is sooooooooo depressing that I just want to think about other things.

Like Next. Last weekend I was stuck in a hotel room in Portland, Oregon, on account of a teensy, weensy hangover, and I caught a marathon of the MTV dating show. Here’s how the show works: One person—say, a boy—goes on a blind date with a girl. If the boy doesn’t like the girl, he says “Next!” and one of four other girls, all waiting on a bus, takes the first girl’s place. The rejected girl returns to the bus to be cruelly mocked by her rivals. The boy continues barking “Next!” until he finds a girl he likes. Sometimes there are five boys on the bus and a girl barks “Next!”, and every once in a while five gay boys are on the bus and another gay boy barks “Next!”

While the gay episodes demonstrate to MTV’s impressionable viewers that young gay people are really no different—they’re every bit as shallow, vapid, and crude as their straight counterparts—not one of the gay episodes really worked. Instead of anxiously waiting to see which of the five will be chosen, viewers of the gay installments of Next anxiously wait for the five boys on the bus to strip down and get it on. The gay boys on the Next bus aren’t rivals, MTV, they’re all potential matches, which makes the one guy who isn’t on the bus nearly irrelevant. In all three of the gay episodes I saw, the boys on the bus were more into each other than they were into the boy for whose affections they were supposedly competing; in gay Next, the boy who “won” a second date with the boy-who-wasn’t-on-the-bus declined, preferring to run off with one of the other guys on the bus.

Recreating the “five bitchy rivals” dynamic that makes the hetero episodes of Next so entertaining wouldn’t be that hard, MTV. Here’s all you need to do: Put five hairy bears on the bus that are only attracted to pretty twinks, and let them compete for the, er, hand of one pretty twink. Or five white guys that are only into Asian guys competing for an Asian guy. Or five tops and one bottom. Or five Log Cabin Republicans and one CPA. Take a little more care with the casting and preinterviews, MTV, and you’ll be able to solve Next’s gay problem. You’re welcome.

Dan Savage, July 5, 2006

MTV, Tila…why are we acting surprised when some of the non-butch, lipstick lesbians (who are attracted to other, non-butch, lipstick lesbians) start hooking up? You knew that was going to happen. And you’re on a reality show – which means you know at least half those people are lying about their motives/background/sexual orientation just to get on TV.

Snitching Clusterfuck

I personally can’t stand those fucking “Stop Snitching” tee shirts. Every time I see one, I have to forcibly restrain myself from lunging at the wearer and choking them out on the metro. However, while watching Domenico and Ashley screw over Brandi, Rebecca, and Steve, I was overcome with the urge to grab one of those shirts and add the phrase “on yourself.” Seriously, yo! It’s the oldest trick in the book. Domenico said nothing, and Steve snitched on himself. Brandi said nothing and Rebecca snitched on herself. If this was a scripted program, we could have at least got a laugh track. Or a “dun-dun-DUN!”

The Ellen Factor?

Everyone loves Dani. Seriously. From my friends to the commenters on the message boards, it seems like most of the support is behind Dani. According to societal standards, we should not be cheering on the futch as she is outside of society’s prescribed roles for lesbians. She isn’t porno ready. There are other girls who are using their T & A a lot more and accomplishing a lot less. So what is it about Dani? Why is she just so damn likeable?

“She kind of reminds me of Ellen DeGeneres,” commented my boyfriend during the last show.

It was as if someone hit me over the head with a squeaky hammer. She IS like Ellen. Is that why we like her? Has Ellen DeGeneres become the archetype for the acceptable butch? Is Ellen the original futch? Hopefully, someone a bit better versed in queer politics and theory can school me in the comments section… Continue reading

Racism, Conflict, Hypersexuality, and…Personal Development? Lessons from VH1′s “Charm School”

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

If Flavor Flav is the modern day “Steppin Fetchit,” Mo’Nique seems determined to end the minstrelsy.

In her new show, Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School Mo’Nique desires to reverse the damage done to the girls while they were contestants on Flavor of Love by forcing them to reform. She employs the assistance of Mikki Taylor, the beauty & cover editor for Essence magazine, and Keith Lewis, director of two California beauty pageants and the director of a talent agency.

Now, initially, I was skeptical of the show’s concept. Mo’Nique was going on VH1 to teach the girls about etiquette? I love Mo’Nique – but I felt like it would quickly descend into the stereotypical “black woman telling it like it is” with her squawking outdated “sistah-isms” and her keeping it real in the neck popping, eye rolling kind of way.

[Note: This is not a reflection on Mo'Nique's personality. Reality TV, as "unscripted" as it may be, still encourages everyone to act like they have lost their minds in order to create "good TV." And if the characters fail to act up to their roles, creative editing is employed.]

However, I was happily surprised to find that this is not the case. (I still watched two full episodes before deciding to blog though.)

Already, the show has piqued my interest. The show seems invested in changing the girl’s attitudes about life and fame. In stark contrast to Flavor of Love, where the girls were encouraged to confront each other, Charm School intends to make the girls confront themselves. By forcing the girls through challenges that require both team building and competition, VH1 has managed to reveal some very interesting personality quirks in the contestants that were not revealed on Flavor of Love.

Race Watch!

During multiple points in the show, I almost choked to death on my sparkling water. There are major race issues in that household – and you almost don’t see them coming. Standouts from the first two episodes:

- Larissa (aka Bootz) gets confrontational from the jump, saying that she thinks Brooke (Pumpkin) was racist for spitting on New York. She quickly gets Shay (Buckeey – why the hell can’t Flav spell? He could spell alright the first season!) to join in on a thinly veiled reason to exert their dominance over Brooke. Brooke ends up in the bathroom in tears, with both Larissa and Shay holding on tight to their justification. Continue reading

“The White Rapper Show” to mock white emcees?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

white rapper show vh1VH1 will debut a new reality show in January called “Egotrip Presents the White Rapper Show,” hosted by white rapper MC Serch from the early 90s hip hop group 3rd Bass. From Variety.com:

Contestants will live together in the South Bronx as a series of challenges test their music talent and ability to mesh with black culture. Michael Hirschorn, the net’s exec VP of programming, emphasized that the show would be equal parts culture study and comedy…

Hirschorn was mum on specific situations and obstacles that the competitors will face, saying only that there would be both “creative and cultural trials.” Challenges could include anything from freestyle battles in Harlem’s Rucker Park to selling sno-cones in a hip-hop club.

But some white hip hop heads worry that the show will turn into a mockery of white rappers. (Hat tip to Rafi at Oh Word for the links.) MC Serch has been blogging about the upcoming show on his MySpace page and recently wrote this:

A white rapper cannot be considered a white rapper until he rips in front of a crowd of black people. I am not saying they all have to be black. You can have some spanish, some multi-racial kids mixed in there for flavor, I would even say Asain people. But if you are a white rapper that performs in front of a white crowd then you are not a rapper at all. You are a guy who is simulating what it feels like to rock a crowd.

A white rapper named Sage Francis responded to MC Serch in a long open letter on his own MySpace page, refuting Serch’s points:

If a white rapper cries in front of a black crowd and no one posts it on youtube, is he still emo? If it IS posted on youtube and a black person watches it…does that make him an official rapper? If your group was manufactured by someone who wanted to put two white rappers together and hopefully exploit the race situation…and then someone named Vanilla Ice comes around and gets exploited even BETTER than you…and you beat down a Vanilla Ice impostor in the video to a song that actually makes its way onto commercial charts…are you street? Are you hood? Are you an honorary black person if you co-opt enough black culture? How’s that high top fade doing these days?

It’ll be interesting to see how this show turns out, considering how many tricky issues of cultural appropriation and authenticity are involved. The Egotrip team has done some good shows for VH1, dissecting race issues in pop culture (huh, sound familiar? ;) ). They were the ones behind “TV’s Illest Minority Moments” and the three-part series “Race-O-Rama,” both of which I thought were pretty entertaining and for the most part, on-point.

The bizarre appeal of ‘Flavor of Love’

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

flava flav california raisinLola Ogunnaike just wrote a great article for The New York Times examining the overwhelming success of VH1′s reality show “Flavor of Love.” The show’s first-season finale in March drew nearly six million viewers, making it the highest-rated show in the cable channel’s history.

(Her observation that Flavor Flav “bears more than a passing resemblance to a California Raisin character” is also hilariously spot-on!)

Personally I can’t stand the show. Even having to hear it play in the background (my boyfriend is a loyal viewer) makes me nauseous, mainly because of all the slurping noises — presumably from when the girls make out with Flav. *shudder*

And yet, I know so many perfectly intelligent, conscious people *coughJenChaucough* who can’t help but watch the show. Is it just the can’t-look-away trainwreck-quality of the show? Or is there some deeper appeal?

Fans of the show call it a harmless guilty pleasure, and its star a lovable and unlikely Romeo. Critics have accused the show of trafficking in racial stereotypes and have called Flav everything from a sellout to a modern-day Stepin Fetchit.

“Anytime we mention ‘Flavor of Love’ on our show, the phone lines start blowing up,” said Donnell Rawlings, a New York morning radio personality on the popular hip-hop radio station Power 105.1. “Good or bad, our listeners love talking about Flav. They can’t get enough of it. You’ve got beauties and you’ve got the beast, and it’s become one of those shows you must watch every week.”

In any case, fans of “Flavor of Love” and Flava Flav are in luck. Apparently, the franchise is expanding:

Mr. Cronin said he and his partner are working on a spinoff of “Flavor of Love,” which will feature 20 men vying for the affections of one woman. This doesn’t mean VH1 viewers have seen the last of Flav. Ideas for a nighttime talk show, an animated series and another reality show, where he acts as a Cyrano de Bergerac dispensing dating advice, are being batted around. He also plans to release a self-titled independent album on Halloween.