It's finally over. After a final week of ridiculousness, Lou Diamond Philips was crowned king of the jungle. I'll admit, I was surprised it wasn't Sanjaya, but Lou really deserved it. I even logged on and went through NBC's laborious voting process to cast my ballot for him. I only voted once, instead of the maximum ten times, but still, I impressed (or, when I look back on this in the future, disappointed) myself by voting at all.
The last few episodes had a ton to talk about, like Janice's crazy pleas to be allowed to come back into camp, Holly's re-inclusion and almost immediate departure, within the same episode, Stephen Baldwin quitting for absolutely no reason ("You should only be here if you want to be here?" WHAT?), Holly and Sanjaya's impotent love affair, The Biggest Loser cross-promotion, incessant product placement of Skype and (surprisingly) Colgate, and the meaningless jungle awards, but after four weeks, I don't have the energy to discuss any of it further. I'll just sum it up by saying that all the things I listed above had one thing in common: they were stupid.
I think that's putting it about as simply as I can.
The only thing that both excited and pleased me was the announcement of the winner. But what does it really mean that Lou won? It must mean that people were actually watching the show. It must mean that people actually cared about what they were watching. It must mean that people actually based their votes on what they saw. It must mean that, for all it's failings (dare I say it), the show actually worked. If people are invested in what's going on, thinking rationally about the players, and actively engaging themselves with the game by voting, isn't that the mark of a successful reality show?
Not necessarily. If buzz doesn't translate to ratings, it's tough for a reality show to stick around, and I'm A Celebrity typically performed in third or fourth place among broadcast networks, often just barely beating out reruns of shows like House. I guess you can't ask for much during the summer months and perhaps asking us to watch four nights a week was too much. But would it really have performed better if it only aired once a week? Or did the nightly tradition actually hook people? I can't say I'm holding my breath for the answers.
I'll be interested to see whether or not the ratings of this season warrant another season, but I can't say I'll be interested in actually watching the next season, because even though ratings are everything, if we must look critically at the show, I can't say I approve of their techniques. It had to be the most exploitative show I've seen on television, and often to no effect. Sometimes I wonder whether or not I would have continued watching if I hadn't been blogging... I don't have to wonder for very long. The only truly positive thing that happened on the show was the crowning of Lou Diamond Philips as king of the jungle. It was a moment of ever-so-slight redemption, one that may cause me to fondly remember those numerous absurd moments as merely "entertaining."
And even that is probably (once again) giving the show too much credit.