Yesterday I remarked how sad I was Jersey Shore was over for the season and someone replied, "No, there's still the reunion." Screw that. The only thing worse than your favorite reality show being off the air is the inane reunion special.
The best reality shows are great because they're unpredictable. Even the most scripted or massaged shows are most entertaining when something goes entirely off the rails, and that usually happens in the heat of the moment. The subjects forget that they're on camera (sometimes due to alcohol), or things get so emotionally intense that they can't put on a front for the audience. That's what makes good TV. The thing about the reunion special that is now de rigueur for every popular show is that the environment is far too controlled. These people are no longer in reality, they're in a closed-off sound stage where they can plan almost every element of the production. Remember the reunion after season two of the Real Housewives of Atlanta where it seemed like all the Housewives talked prior to the taping and decided they weren't going to fight? Snoozevillle.
This was really at play last night during the painfully bad Jersey Shore reunion. I don't want to talk badly about host Julissa Bermudez, but there are better teleprompter readers at the Jane Barbisol School for Television Presentation in Oakland Park, Florida. The lines they gave her to read—dropping all the show's catch phrases from GTL to gorilla juice head—were cringeworthy. And the canned banter? It was so bad Bruce Vilanch died just so he could roll over in his grave. And they kept calling the cast members over to the couch like it was some sort of talk show. "I'd like to welcome my guest, Vinny!" No, you're not welcoming him, Julissa. He's been sitting across from you talking the whole time. What sort of charade is this? The thing had a laugh track for Christ's sake.
The specials are fun when we get some footage that's never been seen, but usually it's just a bunch of the best clips from the season that we've just digested. We want dessert, not leftovers of the entree five minutes after we ate. We watched the damn show the first time around and we don't need to be reminded, especially when it's a reel of dogs pooping on the carpet. (The doggy doo got five minutes of discussion during the JS reunion, but they never ask Snooki about her arrest or what happened in the aftermath? C'mon.)
The one thing that reunion specials have going for them is that it force people who hate each other to occupy the same room. Last night Sammi and Ronnie had to share a couch and naturally they fought. (Then again, getting Sammi and Ronnie to fight is kind of like getting it to rain in Seattle.) The most explosive event I can remember from a reunion was Teresa Giudice trying to batter Danielle Staub at the Real Housewives of New Jersey get together, but that has to do with proximity and nothing more.
Unless the hatred is real or the tears sincere, the reunion special becomes nothing more than canned answers to the questions the stars know are already coming. Just look at Kim Richard avoiding the question if she is or isn't an alcoholic, and her and her sister clasping hands and uttering the lines that were scripted out by their respective publicists.
The reunion special is nothing like your favorite reality show because nothing exciting ever really happens. Nothing happens at all. It's just guarded people sitting around talking. And now Bravo is stretching these fiestas out over two or three evenings? That will only make my yawns last even longer.