Saturday, September 14

TV sinks to a “Pretty Wild” new low


E!'s new reality show offers glimpse of three sisters' ridiculous, frivolous life in Hollywood

In a history seminar of mine last week, we spent a solid chunk of class discussing the current state of television, and many of us expressed the belief that it should no longer be defined as a culture-less cesspool of Paula Abdul and laugh tracks. With dozens of intricate, psychological, movie-quality shows to choose from on cable such as “Mad Men,” “Dexter” and “Breaking Bad,” and inventive comedies like “30 Rock,” many cultural critics believe that we’ve entered another Golden Age of television. Also, it’s easy to watch any show online for free, so audiences don’t have to submit to a bombardment of annoying commercials like they used to. TV on the Internet is the new hot dog on a stick: convenient and delicious.

But let’s not be too optimistic here, for there is always ample distance in the waters for the ship of fools to sail along. This week I’m going to write about the most foolish of shows on television that is bound to sink into culture-less cesspool-dom with the dead weight of its foolishness: “Pretty Wild.”

Last month, E! launched its latest reality show, which the channel’s Web site promotes as an “unfiltered look at Hollywood via three sisters whose jaw-dropping looks and unstructured upbringing make them magnets for Tinseltown’s temptations.” And to Tinseltown’s temptations do they succumb, indeed. “Pretty Wild” follows three sisters ““ 19-year-old Tess Taylor, 18-year-old Alexis Neiers and 15-year-old Gabrielle Neiers ““ who previously lived in Thousand Oaks but pine for the attention that would be so much more easily accessible south of the 101 Freeway and over the hills into Hollywood.

But the true absurdity of the show was not initially planned by producers. After the pilot episode was taped, Alexis was arrested in connection with the “Bling Ring,” a group of teenagers from the Valley who allegedly burglarized the homes of a handful of celebrities including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom and Megan Fox, stealing more than $3 million in merchandise. The show, which began as your average, boring reality show about nobodies who want to become somebodies by airing their prolonged adolescence to the public, is now chronicling a pretty teenager’s path to jail.

Despite the inevitability of facing serious jail time, the gravity of the situation has not curbed any clichéd reality show ridiculousness but only further serves to show how truly insane this family is. For one thing, it is the vessel in which Ryan Cabrera is reintroduced to society, as Tess’ “crush.” Tess, who said on the E! Web site, “Gandhi is my inspiration. I love his passion for change,” is trying to make it in Los Angeles as a model and actress and is currently a Playboy Cyber Girl.

There’s also no shortage of excuses to show the girls’ near-naked bodies. This isn’t really anything new for E!’s reality show programming, but the skin-baring scenarios that are created by the producers are so obvious, and the girls look so young, it’s downright uncomfortable to watch.

“Today Tess and I are going to the spa to talk about Ryan and my court case,” Alexis says as the camera cuts to graphic shots of the girls stripping down to thongs and being caressed by massage therapists. A fitting scenario in which to discuss a spiky-haired, bejeweled E-lister and felony grand theft!

The only attempt at comic relief comes from Alexis’ attorney, who chides her for not dressing more appropriately for court, and says of her donning a wool beanie in Southern California heat, “My head’s warm, and I’m bald.” Then, Alexis and her mother erupt in laughter at this “hilarious” statement, and that’s about all we have in terms of intentionally laughable moments on the show.

The president of this confederacy of dunces is the girls’ mother, Andrea Arlington, a former lingerie model, Playmate and her daughters’ manager ““ an E! channel triple threat. In the most recent episode, Arlington broke the news to her girls that they were moving from Thousand Oaks to the Hollywood Hills to “avoid” the craziness of the paparazzi. I cannot begin to comprehend this train of thought. I don’t know much about “showbiz,” but I would think that signing up for a reality show and moving across the street from Lindsay Lohan would not be conducive to avoiding paparazzi. And the ship of fools courses on.

What could be a truly compelling look at the consequences of a naive (Read: spoiled rotten) teenager’s decisions is marred by the frivolous and tacky antics of all those involved. Now all we have to do is wait for their episode of “Intervention,” which, I might add, is certainly a nugget in the Golden Age of television.

“Tuned in” runs every other Thursday. E-mail McReynolds at [email protected]

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