Does the camera make you more attractive to the ladies on television? That's just one of the questions Murtz Jaffer sets out to answer tonight on Reality Obsessed (tonight at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on TVTropolis), a new reality show about reality shows.
Jaffer--a Toronto Sun reader who used to call up and bust me for whining about having to cover Survivor every week--is, as he mentions several times in tonight's opener, "the world's foremost expert on reality television." The 28-year-old former University of Toronto and Centennial College grad eats, drinks and sleeps reality TV, openly admitting to consuming at least "nine hours a day" of the stuff. If he was, say, David Duchovny, he's admit he has an addiction and check himself into a reality clinic.
Instead, he's the perfect host for this show, which allows other reality show fans to live vicariously through Jaffer as he tackles one Survivor or Idol or Big Brother challenge after another. Tonight he sets up an encounter with three babes in a hot tub--something Jaffer freely admits would not be happening if it weren't for the ultimate reality show aphrodisiac--cameras.
Besides seeing Jaffer squirm, reality show fans will want to tune in to catch up with some of their favorite characters. Murtz was incredibly successful in getting A-list reality stars to come out and appear in his series. Headliners such as "Boston" Ron Marino and Jonny Fairplay are all over this thing, not just in cameos but actually participating in events.
Murtz has spent the last eight years--even since Survivor premiered in 2000--cultivating this world, jetting off to Survivor, Apprentice and Idol parties on both coasts, schmoozing with the latest Big Brother winner or Amazing Race couple. The guy makes Mark Burnett look like a reality tourist. If Murtz wasn't working these parties he was throwing them, drawing up his own A-lists, creating his own buzz.
Savvy Murtz was always more than just a reality junkie. He worked all these reality TV stars into his heavy traffic Internet site, InsidePulse.com, and tracks them all now at his new site, RealityObessed.com. He became, as he declares several times in tonight's opener, "the world's foremost reality show expert."
Speaking with him on the phone yesterday, Murtz said he made a list of the Top-25 reality show stars he wanted to get on his show this season. Thirteen episodes later, he's landed 23 of them.
The only holdouts? "Well, one of them's in jail," says Jaffer, referring of course to notorious Survivor tax evader Richard Hatch.
That didn't completely stop Jaffer, who actually sent letters to the prison and at one point contemplated shooting an episode where he busts Hatch out of the slammer, sort of a reality Prison Break. Eventually, Jaffer realized it might be easier to bust Conrad Black out of prison.
His other turn down came from Apprentice villain Omarosa, which Jaffer blamed more on "scheduling conflicts" than the limited budget of a Canadian specialty channel series. There's always next season, he hopes.
This June, I actually attended a taping of Murtz's show down in Los Angeles at the historic Farmers Market area next door to CBS's Television City Studios. There was Murtz, dressed in checkered cap and sneakers, busting moves taught to him in four intense days by So You Think You Can Dance stunner Lauren Gottlieb. Looking on were several reality show veterans, people from shows like The Apprentice, Big Brother and MTV's Real World. Some were acting as judges, others were just there to give Murtz the love.
My concern heading to this taping and just about the series in general was that Murtz would be fed to the same insatable fame machine that consumes so many reality show participants. Producer/director Daniel Oron assured me that viewers would not be laughing at Murtz, but would live through him as he attempted many of the reality show fantasies and challenges they crave. "He's the ultimate arm chair warrior," said Oron.
This proves to be true, although Jaffer is enough of a sport to take the odd ribbing on the series. Tonight's opening episode, which finds out hero in a hot tub with a bevy of reality babes, does goof on Murtz's nerdy obsessiveness (he nearly blows it by going on and on about himself with the ladies prior to the hot tub encounter). It also, however, offers a genuine peek into the workings of reality shows. Murtz goes to the experts to find out how these deals are cast and also consults with a Hollywood producer. All are remarkably candid and direct about what is often a pretty down and dirty business.
Then there's the fun of seeing Murtz--definitely no Ryan Seacrest--at the centre of this thing. Playing a role he has always aspired to--himself--Murtz is an effective host, moving the narrative along briskly, setting up the hooks that will keep viewers keen. He has made good use of his professional stops at The Toronto Sun and Entertainment Tonight Canada, soaking it all up like a reality sponge.
Jaffer is excited about some of the upcoming stunts he pulls on his show. Besides the episode where he learns how to bust moves like on So You Think You Can Dance, there are Survivor-like obstacle courses he surmounts and American Idol-like singing auditions he attempts.
"There's one episode we do called 'Reality of Love,'" he says. In it, Jaffer managed to wrangle former contestants from Big Brother, The Bachelor, The Real World, The Ultimate Love Test and other shows. "I don't even know how they're going to cut that down to 22 minutes."
Jaffer says a lot of the ideas came from fans who visited his web sites. "People wanted to know, s it true that Jerry Springer or Emmett Smith can learn how to dance in five days?" he says.
Tune in and find out. Jaffer's show is fun, fast and informative, even if--like me--your reality TV Tiki torch was snuffed out several seasons ago.