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how to say goodbye
january 1, 2010
In the spirit of cataloging obscure information, one of the most honorable of all pursuits, I've listed below the exit lines various competition reality shows use when they reject a contestant.
Contestants spend each season in a different exotic location somewhere in the wetter regions of the world, under primitive conditions that leave them exposed to the elements, the soles of their feet getting wrinkled from so much rain, more and more of their ribs showing each episode, while they try to form alliances with their fellow competitors. Survivor is basically about politics. Not the boring, self-righteous left wing and right wing ideological politics, but the politics of self-interest: Who is going to get voted off each week because everyone hates them, or fears them.
The exit line: "The tribe has spoken."
Each season, Bravo selects a group of American chefs who have distinguished themselves locally, as executive chefs, sous chefs, caterers, etc., but really haven't hit nationally. Week by week, the group has to go through two challenges: The quick fire challenge, where they prepare a dish in a short period of time, usually a half hour, and the elimination challenge, where they have to prepare an entire meal on a limited budget, usually over two days of preparation time. It's a fun series, and one of the best of all the cooking competition shows. The quick fire challenges are particularly inventive. Sometimes the challenge is to create a dish out of snacks you can buy from a vending machine; other times, it's a competition to see who can shuck the most oysters, or break down the most chickens, in an allotted time. The judges reportedly spend hours each episode debating over who should be let go, while the competitors wait nervously in a back room, smoking* and drinking, to where more than once, when the contestants were called back to the judges' chamber, to hear the decision, the chefs were so drunk some of them had trouble standing. (*Outside of writers, the professions that appear to have the most smokers are chefs and health care practitioners.)
The exit line: "Please pack up your knives and go."
Project Runway used to be a Bravo series, but then the Weinstein brothers, who own the show, switched to Lifetime, a cable network focused on women's programming, because Lifetime was willing to pay more money. The competitors, mostly designers who are talented but have had limited success to this point, have to create a new outfit each week. Sometimes the challenges are straightforward; other times, for example, they have to come up with a new outfit made out of paper, or one inspired by the paintings in a museum. They sew their garments in a large, communal room with lots of long tables, usually making catty remarks about each other as their silver needle pulls up through a hem. The hostess, Heidi Klum, who can be quite severe, warns the designers, "You are either in, or you are out."
The exit line: "You're out." Then she kisses the loser on both cheeks.
So You Think You Can Dance
So You Think You Can Dance is basically American Idol, but for dancing. It starts each season, as American Idol does, in documentary style, devoting the first half dozen shows to the try out auditions the producers hold in different American cities. As with American Idol, some of the applicants during this phase have natural talent, although, for comic relief, a lot of the auditions shown are of people who really can't dance. Once the contestants are narrowed down to twenty, the show proper begins, with ten boys and ten girls, competing against each other in couples dancing, and solos. Both shows, to their credit, impart two important social lessons: Just because you want something doesn't mean it's obtainable, if you don't have the talent; and the best way to accept defeat is to accept it gracefully. They should include airings of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance in grade school curriculums across the nation, just for those two reasons.
The exit line: "Thank you very much. We're going to let you go."
The Next Food Network Star
This is actually a very interesting show. Contestants include professional chefs, caterers, self-taught chefs, and regular people who just like to cook. The idea is to find someone who has the skills and personality to host a new Food Network series. Unlike the other food competition shows, the personality part really counts (since the winner will be appearing on TV each week.) Someone who can make a perfect Alfredo sauce may be dumped in favor of someone who doesn't have the same technical cooking abilities, but is better at talking to the TV camera, associating the dish they're making with a childhood memory, and coming across as someone you wouldn't mind having in your home. The final contestants get to appear on their own cooking show pilot, which is a fascinating, behind the scenes education in all that can go wrong during a TV show.
The exit line: "The person who's going to be leaving us is…"
The Apprentice stars Donald Trump, who, along with David Lynch, has one of the most recognizable hair styles in the world, as Trump searches for a new executive for his business concerns. Candidates tend to be young, clean-faced, aggressive types. Most of each season splits the competitors into teams, to see who emerges from each team as a leader. At the end, the women and men compete against each other. Typical tasks include developing an advertising campaign, designing a new product, managing a successful charity auction, sucking up to Trump.
The exit line: "You're fired."
The Next Iron Chef
This is similar to The Next Food Network Star, except that instead of getting your own show, you get to become an Iron Chef on the popular Iron Chef America series, joining the ranks of Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Cat Cora and Michael Symon (himself a previous winner of The Next Iron Chef.) Because this is an Iron Chef competition, the standards are much higher. Chefs who appear on the show typically have a higher profile than chefs who appear on, for example, Top Chef.
The exit line: "You will not be the next Iron Chef."
Launch My Line
Launch My Line is kinda sorta Bravo's response to Project Runway being taken away from them. Each week, people who want to known as fashion stars, paired with experts who know the technical ins and outs of creating outfits, come up with the different outfits they want to use in their line.
The exit line: "I'm sorry. Your line has been dropped."
HGTV Design Star
HGTV is another one of those niche cable channels, this one devoted to shows about houses and gardens. They used to have a great show, no longer on the air, called, I think, How Much Is My Home Worth? Or something like that. Each episode, the hostess would visit homeowners in three or four different markets, touring their houses with an appraisal agent, who would tell the owners what their home was currently worth on the market. If the owners turned their attic into two extra bedrooms, that would help. If the home was by a busy, noisy freeway, that would generally hurt. At the end of each segment, graphics would tally what the owners paid for their property, how much money they had put into the home in the way of improvements, what the home's current market value was, and how much the owners could expect to realize in profit if they sold their home today. It was always interesting to me how the different homeowners reacted to the assessment. Some were like, We only made two hundred thousand from our improvements? Why do we always get the short end of the stick? But the show was taken off the air, I assume because it just got to be too bad, these past two years of real estate prices dropping (our own home lost about a quarter of its value, which at least helps out with the property taxes), listening to a lot of well-off people whine about how they only broke even in a real estate sale, rather than losing their life savings like a lot of other Americans. Anyway, HGTV Design Star pits different interior decorators against each other. The winner gets their own design show on HGTV. Most of the time, the decorators compete in what looks like a warehouse, the space divided into large white alcoves where they put up their vision of an ideal bedroom, or living room. A lot of the designs involve paint and throw pillows, but none of the designs, to me, ever look that good. There are hundreds of great chefs, but there may only be two or three great interior decorators.
The exit line: "Your show has been canceled."
It's surprising how many of the reality competition shows center on eating food (and only one, The Biggest Loser, on losing weight.) Chopped is hosted by Ted Allen, who was one of the Fab Five on Bravo's first reality show success, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Four chefs compete in three timed rounds (appetizers, entrée, and dessert). Each round, one of the chefs is "chopped", so that only two are left to compete in the dessert round. The gimmick of the show is that each course the chefs have to use all of the secret ingredients put in a picnic basket by the show's producers for that round (they may also use additional ingredients from the TV set's pantry.) The picnic basket always contains at least one disparate ingredient. For example, for the appetizer course, the chefs may find, in their picnic baskets, calamari, walnuts, endive and marshmallows. Or bacon, brie, pork shoulder and gummy bears. Chopped is enjoyable, but a bit low budget compared to many of the other shows. The "culinary elite judges", as they're described on the show's website, three each show from a rotating group, tend to be rather glum, as if pre-show they just found out they're adopted. And most of them hate food that's at all spicy. Go figure.
The exit line: "You have been chopped."
The Chopping Block
Not to be confused with Chopped. The Chopping Block is actually an American version of the BBC series Last Restaurant Standing, where couples competed to see who would be given the money needed to achieve their dream of opening their own restaurant. Mary and I put on our snowshoes (which look like tennis rackets on your feet) and high-stepped through the original BBC show, which was painstakingly slow. Most weeks, no one got eliminated. NBC, the broadcaster who aired the American adaptation, tried to hype The Chopping Block as Gordon Ramsey on steroids (the sole judge, restaurateur Marco Pierre White, was characterized as someone even Ramsey is afraid of (Ramsey was White's protégé at one point), but this was another ratings dud. For one thing, Chef White's unkempt hairstyle, sticking out all over his head, made it look like he had just crawled from a swamp after an attempted strangulation under water. For another, his style, far from being fiery, was in fact so profoundly laid-back, with him lounging backwards in a chair to where he was almost prone, it suggested he was drifting in and out of consciousness during most of his comments. This was another series, typical to reality competition shows, where someone is introduced who we've never heard of, John Blah-Blah, and all the contestants, no fools, immediately straighten their spines and lift their eyebrows in toadying astonishment that the world-famous John Blah-Blah will be appearing in their presence. The show bombed. I think even NBC forgot it was on their schedule.
The exit line: "You're going home."
Another Bravo show. This one features hair stylists, who compete each week cutting hair, dyeing hair, and…um…I guess that's it. Can someone explain to me why hair stylists have such bad haircuts, and amateurish dye jobs? Is it, like, a statement or something? Plus why do they have such attitude? There's another reality show on Style Network, although not a competition show, called Split Ends, where they take a hair stylist from salon A and put him or her in salon B (often thousands of miles away), then put a stylist from salon B in salon A. Each show documents how well (or not so well) the transplanted stylists get along in the new setting. It's sort of a fish out of water premise, if the fish dressed like every day is Halloween somewhere in the world, was really passive-aggressive, and kept saying stuff like, "Oh no you didn't!" Shear Genius has the same type of in your face, way too easily offended personalities.
The exit line: "Your hair styles were not sheer genius. I'm sorry, but this is your final cut."
Make Me a Supermodel
Each week, a gaggle of girls and boys compete to see who will claim the title of Supermodel. Weekly competitions include posing in a water tank, as jungle animals, as lovers in a ménage a trios, as Goth characters from a dream, etc. The show is hosted by Tyson Beckford, himself a supermodel. Tyson's comments, delivered in all seriousness, are reason enough for watching the show: "Your catwalk failed to show your vulnerability!" "I'm not seeing in your face that you're wearing tweed!" Each season, on a couple of the episodes, middle-aged men lasso each model around their chest, hips, thighs with a measuring tape, to monitor whether the boy or girl has gained or lost weight. (Guess which is preferred.)
The exit line: "You are not the next Supermodel."
Gordon Ramsey has two reality shows on American TV: Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares. In Kitchen Nightmares, based on his British series of the same name, he visits restaurants in trouble and helps them turn around, as long as he's allowed to scream in the owners' faces, root around like a raccoon in their storage bins, and make double-entendre jokes with the younger waitresses. A lot of times, the biggest problem turns out to be that the restaurants are serving frozen food that has been reheated in a microwave, rather than fresh food. Most episodes feature at least one scene in the restaurant's kitchen where he guides the chefs through a presentation of a dish using all fresh ingredients. "There, now! Look at that! Look at how fresh it is!" Unfortunately for Ramsey, it's recently come out that he's apparently been using frozen food himself in his own British restaurants. Plus a number of his eating establishments have been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe they should have a new series, Ramsay Nightmares. They could wake up Marco Pierre White, slap him across the face a few times to get his eyes tracking, then have him inspect Ramsay's own restaurants. I hope they keep Kitchen Nightmares on the air, though. It is a lot of fun, and I don't think Ramsay, given his personality, would have any trouble handling the hypocrisy of what he's doing. His other show is Hell's Kitchen, where he trains about two quarts worth of cooks, eliminating one each week. The final chef receives a position as Executive Chef at a high profile restaurant (at least, we're told it's a high profile restaurant, owned by the famous John Blah-Blah.) Ramsay gets to indulge himself in multiple tantrums on each episode, throwing food that isn't up to his standards at the contestants, slapping skillets off their burners, shadowing middle-aged female cooks as they try to redo a failed dish, screaming at their profiles that they're stupid cows. His justification for his behavior is that ultimately, he's helping the cooks, although it's hard to understand how bullying people and making fun of their physical appearance is going to produce a better soufflé. But it is a fun show.
The exit line: "Take off your jacket and leave Hell's Kitchen."
The Amazing Race
This was one of the first reality shows on American TV, and to my tastes, still one of the best. Eleven couples gather at an outdoor setting (on top of a high-rise in Chicago, in the Los Angeles aqueducts, in the flats outside Salt Lake City), and on the Ready, Set, Go of host Phil Keoghan, they all race to their duffel bags, placed a few hundred feet away, on top of which is a yellow envelope with the clue to their first destination. The couples themselves are sometimes married couples, but can also be people dating long distance (which seems to be a favorite of the show's casting team), gay couples, father and son or mother and daughter, siblings, college roommates, senior married couples, etc. Each week, the couples have to race by plane, car, train, bus, foot, bicycle, camel to different locations around the globe to get to that episode's pit stop. The last couple to arrive is usually eliminated. During each episode's race, each couple also has to complete two challenges as quickly as possible, a Roadblock and a Detour, both of which involve either physical challenges (bungee jump over the side of a bridge, walk past tigers in a pit to retrieve a clue), or intellectual challenges (count how many balls are in a bin filled with thousands of different-colored balls, or figure out how to put the disassembled parts of a motorcycle back together.) On the final episode, the remaining three couples race to be the first to cross the finish line, and win the one million dollar prize. For me, that ending is always emotional. After so many weeks, you've gotten to know the couples, and here they are, each trying to win. As the winning couple approaches the finish line, with Phil on a platform, the way to that platform is flanked on both sides with all the other couples who were eliminated earlier. That final scene of the former competitors applauding, joyously urging on the winning couple, animosities forgotten, must be what death is like.
The exit line: "I'm sorry to say, you have been eliminated."
Some more reviews of my new short story collection, "Remove the Eyes", have been published.
Here's Peter Tennant, from issue 14 of Black Static:
And here's Trevor Denyer, writing in issue 13 of Midnight Street:
More information about Remove the Eyes, including ordering information, is located here.
In connection with the release of Remove the Eyes, I've created a promotional video that's about eight minutes long. It includes a short horror story where you're the main character. The video is text only-no images. To view it, please click on the arrow.