Lesson One: How to Wrestle Back Dignity from Utter Humiliation
(You might think that reality television is one of the signs of the impending end of Western Civilization, BUT if you look closely enough, you can find some important life lessons. So, kids, here's One to Grow On...)
What would a reality show be without a future-ruining humiliation for one of the participants? (Answer: a documentary.)
Humiliation is the Holy Grail for producers, and most must hope against hope that if they leave the cameras on long enough, someone will do something jaw-droppingly stupid.
Of course, generally someone does. It's inevitable. You take people out of their natural environment, cut them off from the real world, deprive them of sleep and film them near-constantly, and at some point, someone is going to crack.
Now, in reality television, just like in reality, it's not so much how you are humiliated as how you handle the humiliation that shows what you are made of.
Case in point: Cliff Crooks
on Bravo's cooking contest Top Chef
. For those of you who don't watch Top Chef
(Do you have something better to do? What, like housework or volunteering or talking to people?), Cliff was a pretty solid chef right up until the night he drank too much and attempted to forcibly shave another contestant's head. The contract he signed to be on the show outlawed any physical force, so he was immediately kicked off.
Cliff Crooks was one of the five last contestants, and, although his performance that week was weak, in general he had been fairly solid. As he sat, receiving the news from judge Tom Colicchio, you could almost feel his leg twitching to kick himself for this totally bonehead maneuver that might have just cost him $100,000.
So how did he respond? Well, before we get into that, let's also revisit another Bravo contestant kicked off for a contract violation. In this case, it was Keith Michael from the clothing-design contest Project Runway
. Keith Michael also broke the rules by possessing fashion design instruction books during the competition. Keith then also had the awkward sit-down with show honcho, and had to leave immediately.
The difference in their reactions after that point is a mini-object lesson in personal image damage control:
1. First, shut up.
Don't argue or get belligerent. Actually, both Cliff Crooks and Keith Michael did this, initially sitting somewhat quietly while getting the news. (This makes me wonder if they were directed to do so by the producers.) Anyway, point is: it's a good move. Gives you a chance to regain your composure and eliminates the possibility that in the throes of total embarrassment, you will say or do something even MORE embarrassing than your original infraction.
2. "Never complain, never explain,"
a dictum attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, nicely sums up the successful next move, and is where Keith and Cliff started to diverge. Keith rather petulantly asked for sympathy from his roommates, who then just pointed out that he brought all this misery on himself by breaking the rules. Cliff, on the other hand, accepted his fate rather stoically. Additionally, although all season, Marcel Vigneron (the attempted head-shavee) had been painted as a totally annoying irritant, Cliff never attempted to justify his behavior by point out how much everyone hated Marcel anyway.
3. Apologize sincerely.
Keith's post-show interviews were, again, rather petulant and hollow, and he didn't seem to accept his culpability in the situation. Cliff was gracious in acknowledging his error, and seemed to be genuine.
4. Then shut up again.
Granted, Cliff hasn't yet had an appearance on a reunion show, but Keith's accusatory appearance on the "Project Runway" reunion show did little to improve anyone's perception of him. Perhaps he had a valid beef with the producers, but it was difficult to understand his argument, and so his protestations just smacked of self-preservation. One hopes that Cliff will continue to take the high road if there is a Top Chef
reunion show as well.
There you have it! We will be back again soon with more lessons!
- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned from Reality TV:
Lesson 1: How to Wrestle Back Dignity from Utter Humiliation
Lesson 2: How to Lose Friends and Alienate Everybody
Lesson 3: The All-Tim Gunn Edition
Lesson 4: Why We Love Bad Boys and Girls
Lesson 5: Skills Don't Always Pay the Bills
Lesson 6: Law of the Jungle
Lesson 6: Mean Girls Do Cry