I should've known better. But C.S.I. was a rerun and my wife Becky and I'd started a game of Scrabble - so I switched to the premiere of Mad Mad House for background. A bad choice, but then I wasn't doing any better picking tiles that night either.
SciFi Channel's newest faux reality show is no less gimmicky than anything Fox has spewn our way, though I fume over the fact that the network which cancelled Mystery Science Theater 3000 (yes, it still hurts) devotes so much air time to pseudo-documentary teevee. House's premise is simple: ten "normal" folks are invited to spend their days in a mansion with five meant-to-be-shocking "Alts": a witch named Fiona, a naturist (a.k.a. nudist) named Avocado, a gothy looking vampire named Don, a voodoo priestess named Tashia and a "modern primitive" (a.k.a. sideshow geek) who goes by the name of Art. (Didn't I see that last 'un on an episode of X-Files?) The Five Alts give their houseguests a series of tasks designed to test their tolerance and affability: by the end of the show, one of the ten is voted by the Alts out of the house.
Most of the guests have been selected for maximum straightitude. No less than three of the initial ten turn out to be self-described conservative Christians, for instance, so you know they're gonna be uncomfortable once Miz Voudun starts a dancin' and chantin'. Each of the Five Alts has an in-camera moment to demonstrate how reasonable they really are, but the meat of this show is Let's Freak Out the Straights. (Also included in the group: an amiable middle-aged woman and a self-identified Good Old Boy.) For their first trial, our Normals are required to wade into a fountain of faux blood to retrieve a bunch of anti-vampire geegaws (cloves of garlic, rubber bats, and so on) than place the items in a basket bearing the name of the houseguest they most wish would leave. The one who receives the least amount of dripping crap by the end of the round is declared the winner and given the responsibility of being a tiebreaker if the Five Alts can't come to a decision when it comes time to throw somebody off of the island. When the winner is one of the self-identified Christians, a college Republican type named Brent, you know the Alts'll rig a tie just so we can watch him squirm.
The tie turns out to be between an exotic looking Christian babe named Loana and a too-full-of-himself black guy named Hamin. The show breaks to a commercial before Brent makes his final decision, but, c'mon, do they expect us to believe the outcome was ever in doubt? Fake competition, mild shocks - epater le bourgeoisie never seemed so boring.
Oh yeah, and Becky kicked my ass at Scrabble, too.