Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Recommended Reads: Reality TV

So, if you're in any way connected to entertainment publications, a functioning Twitter account, or a culture-vulture lady in between the ages of 16 and 96 - or, God help you, all of the above - you know exactly what last night was: the premiere episode of Rachel's season of The Bachelorette!

I've been anticipating last night since Rachel became one of my personal front-runners early into Nick's season of The Bachelor earlier this year. She's charismatic, intelligent, gorgeous, and incredibly funny... the perfect lady for America to walk alongside, as she picks out both her own Prince Charming, as well as the next hunk of man candy to cast in the subsequent installment of the hit franchise!

(My favorite article published in anticipation of the new season, is a data breakdown by FiveThirtyEight, charting how best to predict which suitors will make it to the final rounds of competition. It's been pretty helpful in determining how to structure my Bachelorette Fantasy League! And yes, of course there's a Fantasy League... ABC is owned by the same company as ESPN!)

Still, if TV itself helps rot your brain, reality TV can be like dousing the entire thing in lighter fluid and striking a match. As we all disappear into the fire and drama of a new season of hot summer programming, it's important to remember that it's a good thing - a great thing, even! - to pick up a book every once in a while, instead. And yes, of course those books can be about reality TV, too!

Here are some of my personal favorite hits from some of my reality franchise favorites. Pink, but not precious, these lovely ladies with glam gams and spray tans are here to spice up your summer beach reads! And you don't even have to wait for Monday nights to get the scoop.

23215469Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, Holly Madison

One of the most throwback picks on this list, the gossip from this tell-all - courtesy of one of the most famous Playboy bunnies of all time - isn't just for rabbit ears only. Going behind the scenes of Madison's time on E!'s Girls Next Door, this memoir shades out the greater insanity of the iconic early '00s show, giving context to some of its most notable TV moments, and illuminating more of the insidious darkness of their production.

My sister read the book before I did, and in a moment of curiosity, went back and re-watched some of the episodes we had viewed for the first time, back when the show was on the air and we were in middle school. Apparently, Holly's words ring true: while the dusty and dark mansion Madison describes seems so far away from its bubblegum depiction on the show, there's an element of falsity that permeates the whole setup... and you can even see it in their dialogue.

You'll also be happy to know that Madison also wrote the book herself: those manicured fingers certainly know how to type, too! Not only was Holly one of the show's stars and a cover model, but she also maneuvered her fame into long-term stints as an editor of the iconic magazine. She's no Stein, or Steinbeck, but she's an accomplished career woman who turned her own circumstances around, and now has the book deal, the bestseller status, and a sequel, to prove it!

4758093The L.A. Candy series, Lauren Conrad

Can I be honest for a second? I don't think there's anyone who can turn a fluffy MTV reality show into a multimedia fashion and entertainment empire quite like Lauren Conrad. Between her lifestyle website, fashion brands, home goods line, and bestselling books - as well as adorable husband and soon-to-be baby! - I think she's found that yes, the rest is still unwritten... but she wants to be the one who's holding the pen.

She got her start straight off the series with these sweet little New York Times bestsellers, following the fictional lives of a group of friends living in L.A., and the camera crews that follow them, too, on a reality show documenting their not-so-real lives. Of course, I feel weird about using the word "fictional" to describe any of it, because as anyone who have seen more than three episodes of Lauren's shows - MTV's Laguna Beach and The Hills - can tell you, it's barely concealing the truth. (Backstabbing costars! The awkward dating scene! Near-sociopathic producers!)

Those longing to get a little more perspective on Conrad's early years should definitely pick up a copy... and, of course, her nonfiction books Style, Beauty and Celebration are all excellent, too.

25986991It's Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Never After, Andi Dorfman

Absolutely no citizen of Bachelor Nation was shocked when Andi Dorfman announced to the world that she would be penning a tell-all tome of her time on the hit ABC series. As one of the Bachelor franchises' most no-nonsense contestants, and one of the Bachelorette franchises' most vocal stars, Andi has a TV habit of voicing her displeasure... and she's not about to stop doing it now.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, the title comes from a now iconic Bachelor moment, when then-Bach Juan Pablo Galavis attempted to subdue the frustrated Andi by telling her, "It's okay," after she confronted him about his self-absorbed and narcissistic behavior the night before, in the Fantasy Suite. She dumped him then and there, and came back for Round Two as the Bachelorette, eventually bestowing Josh Murray with her final rose. Still, things weren't all "okay": it was only a matter of time before the ring was back in Neil Lane's pocket, leaving Andi with a lot of relationship drama to fill a book with. 

Dorfman tears into her Bachelor surroundings with the barest veneer of nondisclosure, but anyone who watched her seasons - let alone someone who watched her seasons with her entire sorority providing commentary - would know exactly who she's talking about when she mentions a few key exes. While this may come off across as a little vindictive, once you've been on national television, I think the boundaries get a little blurry as to what is and isn't appropriate to spill the beans on... and once a dude has copped to your hookup in front of a million viewers, I think it's alright to call him out for being a bit of a jerk.

And let's be real for a moment: if you're looking for more good-natured Bachelor reflections, go read Sean Lowe's For the Right Reasons (I've yet to myself, so tell me if you like it!).

Well, I think that sums up some of my more blatantly bad reality TV habits. What shows do you like to watch? Got any recommendations for reality TV reads yourself? Let me know, in the comments below! 

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