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'I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!': Josh Wolk's Pop Culture Club can't believe it's watching you

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Im-a-celebrity_l I know some of you are probably still bitter that I forced you to watch I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! But now that you’ve watched it, come on: Wasn’t it worth it, just to marvel at the epic levels of badness it aspires to, and reaches? You have to applaud that kind of excellence in crappiness. It’s like watching someone pass a basketball and have it hit his teammate in the groin, then bounce off and hit another in the face, and then ricochet off a tiny orphan and a priest’s faces, only to land in the basket for three points. How does this show go wrong? Let me count the ways.

“CELEBRITIES” Everyone knows that the celebrity versions of reality shows use a generous definition of the word “star.” But this one reaches new depths. These people aren’t in the “Who’s Who in Entertainment,” they’re in the “Who the Hell Is That in Entertainment.” Heidi Pratt’s sister? Patti Blagojevich? And what about the since-eliminated Frangela? That team of two comedians didn’t add up to one-fifth of a celebrity. The same game show rules of veracity born out of the 1950s’ Twenty One scandals should legally force NBC to always put the word “celebrity” in quotes. I especially loved the moment when the group sat around talking about the perks of fame. At least Stephen Baldwin was honest when he said it was his brother Alec’s name that gets him a good table at restaurants. I think dropping “Stephen Baldwin” might, at best, get you a window seat on a Greyhound bus. I also deeply enjoyed Lou Diamond Phillips’ soliloquy of the time he got some advice from Dame Helen Mirren at the La Bamba premiere. That comically earnest and long-past-its-expiration-date show-biz tale sounded like he was quoting from one of Martin Short’s Jackie Rogers, Jr. skits.

REALITY RIP-OFF The recipe for this show seems to be to mash Survivor into Big Brother, then dribble some slime from the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards onto it as an adhesive. It’s like the producers aren’t even trying to make it their own: They have “luxury trials” and “food trials,” as opposed to Big Brother’s luxury and food challenges. And the jungle element and close-up nature photography is all Survivor, even if the “celebrities” constantly get food airlifted in and have a giant tarp to sleep under. (Ever notice that the camp never gets wet?) Back in 2003, when ABC was about to debut the first season of I’m a Celebrity…, CBS filed for an injunction to stop it from airing, claiming the show was a copyright infringement on Survivor. But a judge denied the claim, saying, basically, that most TV borrows from its predecessors. If that couldn’t pass the infringement test, thenI don’t think anyone can be held liable for ripping off a show. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to start preparing my pitch to NBC for a new forensics procedural, CSII.

THE LAND WHERE STRATEGY GOES TO DIE I have watched every episode so far, and I’m still not sure what anyone is supposed to be doing, other than touching snakes. Every week viewers vote someone off, but purely on the basis of who they like. So what is the point of all the challenges? Janice Dickinson barely participates, but people are so entertained by her absolute wackjobbishness that they keep her around. Yet the producers keep tossing in staples from other reality shows that make no sense in a strategy-free contest. For example, on Tuesday night, host Damien Fahey gravely told John Salley that they had a proposal for him: He could grant one other player immunity…OR he could take it for himself! I could sense the producers watching with bated breath. “This kind of conundrum is always great drama on Survivor! By giving up immunity, he can win the other players’ respect and loyalty, but if he takes it, he could alienate them and…wait, what’s that? He took the immunity two minutes ago? No agonizing? What happened to our agonizing?” What possible reason could Salley have for giving away immunity? Alliances don’t matter. All that matters are the dwindling people at home who, in between burping up take-out Papa Johns, randomly pound in their text votes based on nothing but who is either purty or a really entertaining jerk. The camp was abuzz on Wednesday night about how after tonight’s double elimination it woudl be “game on!” In other words, now they have to sit around all day on their asses trying to be really endearing.

AND OF COURSE, JANICE DICKINSON Boy, I hate to reward behavior like hers, but she is so uniquely awful that I’m hooked. Much like Joan Rivers, she can get as much plastic surgery as she wants, but everything under the neck gives away her age. She stomps around the camp wearing a potato sack, hunched over and glaring like she’s in the middle of a game of charades and her clue is “Disney witch.” She is so unrepentantly awful that, much like Elvis Costello, I used to be disgusted, but now I’m just amused. How else can you be when faced with someone who is determined to act like it’s still the early ’80s, an era in which she could legitimately refer to herself as a supermodel, and dating Sylvester Stallone still had cachet? And even though she’s a complete noncompetitor, I admire her tenacity in always trying to keep a full face of makeup on even in 100 percent humidity.

Okay, now be honest. Are you mad at me for picking this show? Or did you find the joy in garbage done this garbagically? Come on, admit it, it grew on you! I will accept no other answer! All right, maybe I will. It will just be a personal insult.

I will be on vacation next week (so long, suckers!), so let’s meet back here on July 2nd. And what better way to celebrate the beginning of summer than with the Bill Murray classic Meatballs. Get your Netflix requests in now! The 1979 comedy was a beloved staple of everyone’s youth (especially someone as obsessed with summer camp as I), but will it hold up? Now that we’ve gotten used to the minimalist Bill Murray of his Lost in Translation/Wes Anderson era, will ye olde goofy Murray seem a bit much? Let’s find out, and meet back in two weeks.

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