Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Southern Charm Newbie, RelationShep Edition: Gather 'round for a Shep talk

RelationShep, S1E2

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 1:02 PM

click to enlarge Thanks, life. You do all right. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Thanks, life. You do all right.

Welcome back, everybody. I want to start out by thanking you all for showing up last week and reading the first installment of my new RelationShep column. Anyone who did check out last week's column may remember that I didn't have a solid plan on how to actually watch the next episode of the series due to my lack of cable. As you can imagine, being able to actually watch a show is vitally important to writing about it in a timely fashion. This is why my review of Jerry Lewis' The Day the Clown Cried remains largely unfinished.

Fortunately, I was able to call in a few favors to ensure that I can access new episodes of RelationShep. I promise that any deals I may have struck will not interfere with my journalistic integrity as a reality TV recapper.

In a completely unrelated note, this column is now brought to you by Kimsky's Super-Long Cables: “When you absolutely need to pirate your neighbor's premium cable, call Kimsky's.”

Now, after reflecting on last week's episode, I realized just how odd reality dating shows feel in the current national climate. Men in positions of power are being outed as sexual predators on what seems to be a daily basis, especially in the world of entertainment. The question is where do dating shows fit into this whole movement. Well, the answer is “not well,” but sometimes a piece of entertainment can gain an entirely new significance as times change. Sometimes you can accidentally make art. Like when Forrest Gump invented the Smiley Face in that movie about AIDS. Now let me argue why the misguided 2014 reality program I Wanna Marry “Harry” could have finally gained some semblance of meaning.

For those who need a reminder, I Wanna Marry “Harry” ran for a few of episodes before being pulled from the air halfway through its first season. The reason behind the show's premature demise was largely based upon its premise: A group of women are invited to an English estate to compete for the affection of a man they are led to believe is Prince Harry of the House of Windsor. Of course, the real Prince Harry is now engaged to an TV actress, so I'm not sure what is real anymore.

Anyway, I Wanna Marry “Harry” hoped to recapture the massive success that was Joe Millionaire, another reality dating show where female contestants thought they were vying for the love of a handsome millionaire. Of course, he wasn't a millionaire. And the other guy wasn't Prince Harry. But somewhere in the decade that separated these two programs, viewers decided that it wasn't OK to Catfish women for your own personal entertainment. That is why I argue that I Wanna Marry “Harry” stands as an unintentional satire of the horrors of modern-day society for women.

Imagine it: Not only are you raised in a culture that pushes “marrying the prince” as an ideal from childhood onward, but then you are tricked into following the whims of a man whose inexplicable power is granted at birth and bolstered by a network of behind-the-scenes players willing to remain complicit. And they keep pushing whatever lies they can because their livelihood depends on perpetuating this system of abuse. From an audience perspective, this is a perfect metaphor for I Wanna Marry “Harry,” and I demand a Disaster Artist-style picture deal to fully develop what I've written here.

Anyway, with this all in mind, let's get into this week's episode of RelationShep.

When last we left Shep he was deep in the heart of Texas looking for love. Sitting pretty in the presidential suite of his Dallas hotel, Shep calls up his Dallas pal to see who his next date will be. After a mixed bag of one-on-one outings, Shep decided a double date will provide enough comfort to keep everyone cool. He brings along his pal Ray, whom he met at basketball camp. Waiting outside some manner of golf emporium, the two old friends meet up with Summer and Katie. Summer is Shep's date. Katy is Ray's day, and she may also just be a natural component of the universe, swirling and spinning into all of our lives.

click to enlarge Let’s just let a little love in our hearts - SCREENSHOT
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  • Let’s just let a little love in our hearts

How do I know this? Well, Katie orders Dr. Pepper and red wine. Like a beast.

So, you might immediately think that's a garbage way to be, but know that there are also people who insist on huffing chrome spray paint because it is more potent. What I'm saying is a little Dr. Pepper in your wine isn't the worst way to live.

The real problem comes when Katie keeps meowing at the driving range. Only Eartha Kitt can pull that off, Katie. Shep ultimately decides to break off from Katie and Ray. In light of this, he and Summer manage to connect over literature as they severe the double date and ride to their next location.

Cut to the next morning, Producer Sarah wakes Shep, who says he isn't comfortable with bringing Summer back home to Charleston. Apparently making that list is Jessy, the book-lover from the premiere episode. She ultimately turns down Shep's invite to Charleston, and at the very least, this show demonstrates that women have a choice in the proceedings.

Heading to Austin, Texas, Shep calls Cameran of Southern Charm to recap what has happened in the previous episode and a half. Two women have accepted invites to Charleston. More are to come. But at least the show demonstrates that they made the choice. Thank you, show.

Shep then meets up with Amber, his next blind date, and her dog Moon. Cool. Keep Austin weird, I guess.

Shep and Amber both commiserate over taking five years to finish college, calling it a victory lap, and I remember that my “victory lap” was graduating after four years and working the graveyard shift at a failing grocery store alongside an illiterate man. I don't begrudge them this extra year, I just question whether they produced such a necessary document as my senior thesis arguing that the Batman mythos was a modern-day adaptation of Hamlet. Money well spent, we all scream into the abyss.

Anyway, Amber says she runs a clothing site and likes funny men who like music. That describes “Weird Al” Yankovic, so I can understand the attraction.

Amber's Siberian husky ultimately nips Shep's hand, but they all agree that it was just a “love bite.” The date ends nicely. Dog bites and all.

Producer Sarah's friend Priscila is Shep's next date. She is also a producer. That's a lot of pressure, but Shep is ready.

They meet in a public park and Shep immediately throws a Frisbee at Priscila, setting an odd tone for what is to follow. Priscila grew up in Brazil and is oddly persistent in making sure everyone knows this, like she's a part of some tourism campaign.

During their conversation, Shep says he's familiar with Brazil because “one of his nannies” was from Brazil. Because most people don't have nannies from anywhere, Priscila raises an eyebrow about the whole “nanny thing.” That seems a little harsh. I mean, the people who kept me when I was young taped our mouths shut, so let's not demonize all child care during work hours. Sometimes it works out, probably.

Anyway, Shep and Priscila butt heads after she “jokingly” says he has no ambition and is dirty and listless. Pulled aside by Producer Sarah, Shep is asked if Priscila is coming back to Charleston, Shep says you don't want a significant other who will be rubbing friends and friends wives the wrong way. And they leave it at that. Then we go to New York. Where Producer Sarah's from. You can imagine where this is headed.

Shep calls up Amber and invites her back to Charleston. Amber's not sure she can do the whole “on camera thing” and declines the invite. This is sad.

But Shep soon rebounds, meeting up with a date immediately after purchasing a new leather jacket. The jacket still has the tags on it as he rolls up to meet Bella. The jacket is cool as hell.

Shep and Bella go to an escape room. The dungeon master blindfolds them and leads them to another room, which seems like a nightmare.

click to enlarge ‘Hey, hey, hey, let’s turn this night into a real McConaughey.’ - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • ‘Hey, hey, hey, let’s turn this night into a real McConaughey.’

I remember when arriving in New York and being immediately blindfolded would have meant sexual abuse by the cast of Saturday Night Live, but they've really cleaned up Times Square. Instead, Shep and Bella end up tooling around in an escape room disguised as a medieval dungeon. They fail to escape and Bella reveals that she is going to Cuba in three weeks. Is no one explaining the premise of this show to these women? Is the whole invite to Charleston thing a mystery?

Producer Sarah steps in to give Shep a pep talk, I mean a Shep talk, and he invites Bella to Charleston.

Bella waffles over whether she can abandon her current life plan, which makes sense. These are women with careers of their own. Way to acknowledge that, RelationShep.

Skip ahead to Shep's last day in New York City. At the behest of Sarah, Shep calls up Priscila to invite her to Charleston. There is a funny scene where Shep calls Priscilla, but as the phone continues to ring. Shep says that people don't leave voice messages anymore. This is funny, and in a scripted show it would have stood on its own and been given room to breathe. Shep's right. No one leaves voicemail these days. His anguish over leaving a message feels genuine.

Shep then meets up with Arden, a 30-year-old client manager, they are doing trivia together. This sounds like a good mix, but life gets in the way.

Among the ribald trivia team names that Arden pitches are "My Couch Pulls Out, But I Don't" and "Plant a Rose in Arden's Garden."

click to enlarge Only the realest talk coming from Bella - SCREENSHOT
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  • Only the realest talk coming from Bella

The first question they are asked is what director inspired the first Star Wars. And I know the answer is Akira Kurosawa, but they don't answer that in this episode, which is infuriating.

Instead Producer Sarah is pulled away. Her mom is in the hospital, and she speeds off.

Shep ends his date early, and he races to the hospital. As Shep arrives, Producer Sarah's mom says she feels like shit and asks if she's on camera before asking how Shep's dating escapades are going. This is a very endearing portion of the episode, as Shep and Producer Sarah's mom discuss his dating life. It all feels really comfortable. Almost like, I don't know, Shep and Producer Sarah belong together. But that's just me. A hopeless romantic. Who loves producers.


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