What Is RealityCon? Here’s Our Dream Lineup of MTV’s Reality TV Conference

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What Is RealityCon? Here’s Our Dream Lineup of MTV’s Reality TV Conference

Yesterday, MTV announced that it will soon unleash upon the world RealityCon, a celebration of the “reality-television culture” the network helped to spawn. It will feature panels, performances, and “fan activations,” which I guess means you can pay $25 for a picture with Rodeo from Rock of Love. The mind reels at the sights, sounds, and merchandise one might activate upon, but here are a few items from my wish list.

A Day That’s Basically Coachella, But With People From Various Singing Competition Shows

They could compress an entire three-day desert music festival into a single afternoon if they keep everyone to just the first verse and chorus of one song, the way they do on these shows now. My fine-print acts would include American Idol’s Anthony Fedorov, Ryan Starr and Allison Iraheta; X Factor’s Lakoda Rayne and Rachel Crow (just to erase the memory of her elimination, the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a snuff film); Michael Conor the rapping violinist from ABC’s Boy Band; literally anyone who’s ever won The Voice but God help me I cannot think of a single name; and Ikaika from Making The Band, singing “Iko Iko.” Headliners: Elliott Yamin, Emblem3, and, what the hell, Kelly Clarkson. Sis got a daytime television show to promote!

Morning Calisthenics with Coach Jim From Made and Camp Jim

He might scar you emotionally, but he will limber you up for a full day of waiting in line for Darva Conger’s autograph.

Rich Girls Culinary Corner

I have wondered what ever became of Ally Hilgifer and Jamie Gleicher, the poor little daughters of gajillionaires who bravely faced life after high school on the 2003 MTV reality show Rich Girls. Like, not enough to Google it exactly, but enough to distract me from my work every couple of months. I know they weren’t talking at the end of the first and only season, I assume they’re still rich, and…honestly, I don’t need to know much more than that. But if they could do a full re-staging of this blisteringly important kitchen scene? If the audience could leave having seen a full meltdown and a new cilantro-free take on guacamole? I would watch that. That would be uplifting.

A Little Check-In With Kameelah, Genesis, and The Child Who Gets Called Out For Homophobia On The Real World: Boston

I remember this moment from 22 years ago with total clarity, and probably so do all of the people involved. At their assigned after-school youth program (The Real World was nearing the end of its “housemates get a job” period and entering the long, grim era of “housemates get a Jacuzzi”), a little girl reveals that she is no longer allowed to watch ABC’s Ellen, because its titular actress has just come out of the closet. “That means she is in love with another woman,” the child says. “I don’t like gay people. I just have a feeling that I hate them.”

While out lesbian Genesis watches in agony, Kameelah defuses the situation by suggesting that she herself is gay, challenging the child to rethink her take. It’s heartbreaking to watch, even before you consider that this is a kid parroting something she heard her mother say in passing about a massive social issue that everyone on every side gets super emotional about. So what was life like for this kid after the circus left town? Did she get teased for it? Did she change her mind? Did the producers have any compunction about hanging a child out to dry on national television? Are we prepared for the realization that this little girl is probably in her 30s now? Side note: this RW season also produced Sean Duffy, then a hunky participant in— if memory serves— lumberjack shows, and now one of these huffing-and-puffing Tucker Carlson-style Republican congresspeople. Rep. Sean Duffy can stay away, thanks.

You Have To Walk Into The Convention Center One At A Time, And When You Do, There Is A Screen With Three Facts About You, And You Say Something Quick And Very Stupid

In the early aughts, long after I had outgrown such things, I set one of my first TiVo season passes for MTV’s Next. And listen, I know RealityCon’s organizers are going to want to go after the big, impactful voices of reality television culture—by which I mean Snooki—but we shouldn’t leave this show out. It was ridiculous, it was grating, there was never a moment in any of its 7,000 episodes that resembled human behavior, but my God, what a perfect snapshot of 2005. A little gimmick at RealityCon’s entrance would be a good way to honor Next without tracking down any of its 4 million former participants, all of whom I assume are in hiding.

I Mean, Bobby Trendy Is Probably Going To Be There, So Maybe They Could Do A Thing Where You Give Him Ten Bucks And He Says Stuff Like This

Did you know Bobby Trendy on The Anna Nicole Show actually predates Queer Eye For The Straight Guy by a full year? If you do not believe in miracles, consider this: the perception of gay men as tasteful survived Bobby Trendy.

Matt Kennedy Gould: An Appreciation

There was a stretch of around 18 months where every big reality show had to have a shocking twist. The rich guy you were all trying to marry was actually poor, like on Joe Millionaire. The houseful of hot guys you were going to pick a husband out of was actually packed with mediocre-looking guys, like on Average Joe. You had to trick your family into thinking you were marrying a big dumb goofball with a terrible family, but actually all those people were actors and it was really you who was being tricked, and then the whole thing causes an actual real-life rift with your perfectly nice-seeming family, which I hope has blown over by now, like on My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance. (Truly, historians will wonder how Donald Trump didn’t ascend to the presidency sooner.)

But the only one of these to do it with any humor or empathy was Spike’s The Joe Schmo Show, wherein a regular guy thinks he’s participating in an elimination-style reality show, but everyone else in the house is an actor. For the title Schmo, they went with a guy named Matt Kennedy Gould, whose pure heart (he cried when he had to vote off his “friends!” He accidentally injured one of his competitors in a sumo wrestling challenge, and then gave that competitor—a young Kristin Wiig—his prize!) made the producers rethink the whole tone of the show. I mean, he still had the rug pulled out from under him in front of cameras, and he has shunned publicity ever since, but I miss the guy. His goodness shone brightly at a dark moment in history. Let’s put him in a convention center and point at him.

A Good Explanation For Why We Haven’t Rebooted Studs

Kids, in the very early 1990s, there was a syndicated late-night dating game show called Studs, where sexy singles would toss sexy zingers at one another, and by some mysterious process a winning couple was chosen and sent off to a sexy weekend date in some sexy location that was always, always Cabo San Lucas. It was sizzling hot by 1992 standards, which means it could air unedited on The Disney Channel today. I want it back. I want to host it. This campaign begins right here, right now.

A Panel Where We Line Up The Producers of The WB’s Superstar USA And Yell “SHAME”

On the opposite end of the spectrum was this show, which was like Simon Cowell’s nastiest moments from American Idol mixed with the imagination of the meanest eighth-grader you’ve ever met. Instead of looking for good singers, Superstar USA looked for bad singers, then told them they were good singers, then let them keep thinking they were good singers as they eliminated them week-by-week. Once the show was up and running though, the producers located their consciences and revamped…ha, just kidding, they doubled down by secretly telling the in-studio audience not to laugh at the bad singers because they were all terminally ill no I’m serious. It is like soulless ambition had a baby with a bag of cocaine someone found at Señor Frog’s, and I wish I could say none of the producers ever worked again, but the EP was Mike Fleiss, who also conceived the Bachelor franchise.

I’m sad now. Other people I am dying to see:

• Ytossie and Taheed from season one of Temptation Island

• Jerry O’Connell’s brother who was The Bachelor that one time

• Dominic and Aaron from season two of The Real World because they’re the only two who’ve never done press

• The guy with the good hair from Love Island

• The girl in Sorority Life who’s upset because her friends are dating boys and she’s not, so she calls one of them a slut, and then they make up at the end of the episode, and she goes “I’m gonna tickle you” and you go “ohhhh boy, this problem is deep and multilayered”

• Eric and Donald Trump, Jr.,

• TJ Lavin

• Lisa Whelchel from The Facts of Life and Survivor, which still blows my mind

• Sanjaya

RealityCon opens with a soft launch this autumn before going full-strength in the summer of 2020. No word yet on whether they’ll try to reunite me with Jesse Camp on a convention center stage, but I will listen to an offer.

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