Thursday, June 19, 2008

Remember that time, five minutes ago... ?

Watched the "Top Chef" reunion special in the middle of doing some other work this morning, and wasn't particularly moved. Other than the awkward moment where Jen and Zoi were asked if they had broken up (which, arguably, they brought on themselves by agreeing to go on a reality show together as a couple), and the clear signs that time has healed all wounds except the one between Andrew and Lisa, there wasn't anything all that revelatory about the season contained therein.

So let me ask you this: given that the reunion show is now a staple of most successful reality franchises, what in your mind makes a good one? Is it just the opportunity to again see people you liked who went home early? Are you looking for answers about things that weren't properly explained during the show? Do you want to see the villains apologize for their behavior, and/or get roasted for it?

And who, in your opinion, is an especially good reunion show host? Once upon a time, I would have said Jeff Probst, but my high opinion of his early "Survivor" reunion work was largely a response to the absurdly low bar set by Bryant Gumbel (who couldn't remember people's names and asked tasteless questions like why Mad Dog got so fat or why Amber didn't wear a skimpier bikini) and then Rosie O'Donnell (who talked to five people during the Marquesas reunion and didn't so much ask questions as issue Mike Francesa-style pronouncements about the season). Since at least Vanuatu (if not before), it's become clear that Jeff plays favorites at the reunions and tries to reshape the season's narrative to reflect well on those favorites.

So if not Probst, then who? Thoughts?


Matter-Eater Lad said...

The only thing I remember from any reality show reunion special (and I should note that I only watch a few reality shows) was the Project Runway reunion that dedicated a good chunk of its runtime to a contestant (Keith, I think his name was) who'd been thrown off the show for cheating. He told two or three different versions of what happened and got called out on each of them. It was weird and unsettling and impossible to not watch. So based on that sample of 1, I'd say a good reunion special requires something worth revisiting in the first place, else it's just padding the show's run out another week.

Anonymous said...

The Beauty & The Geek host does a respectable job at their reunion shows. Good balance of asking questions and commenting on events.

I miss the days when Probst was snarky to all the contestants and grilled them about their behavior. He still gets a few good remarks in, but now it's more about his man-crushes than what actually happened on the season.

Anonymous said...

I do like when the reunion is AFTER the win. This was a first for TC, I think. It seems silly when the top 3-4 are excluded from Bravo's reunions for 3/4 of the show since they're usually who you still care about near the end.

Original content is big and I, too, miss the snarkier Jeff.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the contestants' versions of events, if it differs from the editors'. And hear about stuff that didn't make the cut because of time constraints. Conflict? Also good.

Anonymous said...

The best part of a reality show reunion is watching the contestants laugh their asses off at each other. It's just uncomfortable when it's, well, uncomfortable.

I really wish The Amazing Race would do a reunion show. It'd be like people discussing their vacation and showing you their slides, except this time we actually went on the vacation with them, so it's interesting! The little stories that filter back about what really went on in whatever country are fascinating, and I wish they had a chance to tell some of them on TV.

Heather K said...

Project Runway with CRAZY the contestant who yelled at the intern for doing his laundry wrong, that is excellent reunion! The shrug the intern gave after they cut away from CRAZY was genius. No idea what CRAZY's real name is--we stopped referring to him as anything else at my house. This was the Jeffery win season.

floretbroccoli said...

That was Vincent Libretti. To me he looked like Alex Rocco as Moe Green.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the notion that an Amazing Race reunion show would be terrific for several reasons: there's enough drama to make for some tension after the fact (maybe not to SURVIVOR's level, but it's still there), it would work just on a travelogue basis, and Phil would likely be as great a post-show host as he is a show host. But I have a feeling he's not that fired up to have a reunion show for whatever reason. I've certainly not seen any quotes suggesting he feels the lack of one.
SURVIVOR reunions have worked (when they worked) because the people involved were so loved (Rupert) or hated (Jonny Fairplay) or unforgettable on their seasons for success (NYFD Tom) or failure (Osten; come to think of it, Pearl Islands had just about everything that would guarantee a great reunion). They have not worked when Jeff has been unable to cope with someone he had a crush on not winning--see Julie in Vanuatu (at least in that case, there was some rational reason for his behavior at the time), Ozzy in Cook Islands (that was the point where I decided Jeff had kind of lost his objectivity/mind) and James in China (though he was able to keep from ragging on Todd or Amanda and focused on Courtney, the rare contestant who wasn't remotely fazed by harsh criticism). But supbar seasons of any show make reunions redundant and depressing.
Bottom line: Reunions are neither wonderful nor horrible, they're mildly interesting, sometimes fun, and if you remember them in 48 hours that puts you in the top 1% for memory.

Anonymous said...

I love reunion shows.

My favorite was Project Runway Season TWO. That was "Lighten Up, It's Just Faaaaashion" and "Andre you really embarrassed me last night at Red Lobster" and the Tim Gunn impressions and the Andre montage skipping out of the revolving doors and...oh my I busted a gut.

What makes a good reunion show is GREAT MONTAGES.

thedalyn said...

I, too, think original content is important in a reunion show--cut footage can be just as compelling as the stuff we're served during the regular season, if not more so (though it really depends on the show and the contestants). It's also interesting when the contestants have changed a lot since their appearance on the show. Half the fun of Survivor, for instance, is seeing what they look like all cleaned up and refreshed and the difference in Stephen (TC season 1) during the reunion was totally compelling.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that the editors do a great job putting together the Project Runway reunions. The Q&A portions are usually pretty dumb, but when there are long pieces of footage (obviously too much for any single episode) that are nonetheless quite hilarious (Like the song Nick V. and Santino sang about Daniel Franco during season 2), a reunion show can really benefit from them. More new footage, no recycled footage!

K J Gillenwater said...

I usually skip the reunion specials with the exception of "Project Runway," because I like to hear what's going on with the designers after their stint on tv. I mean, the show might actually start careers for them. And I also did watch this particular "Top Chef" reunion b/c I had nothing better to do. But the "Top Chef" reunion was kind of fun, because of the extra stuff they showed you going on behind the scenes. Like how long they wait in the back while the judges are deliberating. Finding out there's beer back there to keep them occupied. And how the contestants feel about each other...really. After the editing, are the people really that snarky, bitter, angry, etc.?

It was curious to see Lisa acting like a 'normal' person without angry face all the time. And to see that Stephanie really is as nice and sweet as she was portrayed.

Also happy to see that Blaize made a "little Blaize"!

But most of these reunion shows are boring and worthless.

greebs said...

I agree with other comments that The Amazing Race DEMANDS a reunion show, and I never have understood why they haven't done that.

But how can there be this many comments, on a Top Chef Reunion posting for that matter, without talking about the very first Top Chef reunion show?

This was the one where Tiffany (red-headed runnerup) got so drunk that she slumped off sobbing, and then PUKED in the middle of the show, then came back looking pretty worse for wear.

It's just about the greatest hour of television I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I thought the guy who hosted the TC reunion must be related to someone on the board of directors at Bravo. He was awful, and a big portion of the show just seemed like a glorified clip show.

I think a good reunion show addresses "what if's", "what were they thinking?" and story lines or background that didn't make the show. For example, here's why this player make what seemed like such an inexplicable choice, or here's something that happened along the way that didn't have much to do with the game. (I think that last one is why The Amazing Race would have such good material.)

A bad reunion show has the host trying to insert himself into the process (especially if it's someone who wasn't really involved in the show), people offering endless variations on the "it wasn't me, it was the editors!" defense, and the unsubtle hand of the editors and producers trying to justify their actions and views.

(Actually, it might be kind of fun if somebody from production actually appeared on one of these shows to talk about things from their perspective, but that might do too much to destroy the illusion.)

Anonymous said...

For me, a reunion show is a chance to see the “characters” I got to know during the season, to find out what they’ve been up to since the filming ended, and to get a sense of what went on behind the scenes. I don’t necessarily need extra drama, but funny bits, scenes of the contestants having fun (e.g. in the S4 Top Chef reunion, finding out about The Black Hammer, or seeing various takes of Mark in the cart) It’s also a chance to get more info on key decisions, a “what were they thinking” perspective from contestants or judges.

As far as the perfect host for a reunion show? While no names come to mind, for me it’s someone who has been a part of the show or who is a fan of the show, someone who can ask questions with some depth that will give us answers that are interesting. It’s someone who will not distract from the people who were actually a part of the show. For those reasons, Andy Cohen is just a bad choice for the Top Chef reunions. He seems to be more interested in keeping the focus on him, or focusing on the lowest common denominator/trashy topics. I don’t believe he ever asked a question about the food or the judging, which would be the topics I would be interested in. Seriously, when I hear he’s hosting a Bravo show reunion, I always reconsider whether I want to watch it, since I know he’s just going to take away from whatever the reunion could have been.

On another note, I agree with those who think Amazing Race reunions would be worth watching, and I think Phil would make a decent host.

Nicole said...

Why can't Padma host the reunion show? She's been there from the outset, knows the cheftestants as much as anyone else and, is the host for the rest of the episodes.
Inserting this new guy adds nothing to the mix and we don't care who he is.

Anonymous said...

Padma can't host the reunion because host Andy Cohen is a Bravo programming exec who likes to see himself on television. A lot.