The Surreal Life and Strange Love


Strange Love (2005)
The Surreal Life (2003-2005)
Type: Spin Off

   You know what can be scary about reality TV? That reality... can be scary. Some things... I just don't want to see.

   The Surreal Life actually started out as quite a charming bit of reality TV silliness. The starting point for the show was a series of "Sizzle and Stir" commercials that took former celebrities and cast them as bizarre families. Sally Jessy Raphael and Chuck Woolery as parents to Pat Morita and Little Richard. Or how about Loni Anderson and Mr. T as mom and dad to George Hamilton and Mary Lou Retton? Not sure if people still remember the ads were for Sizzle and Stir but the concept was striking enough for the WB network to turn into a TV show: The Surreal Life.

   The Surreal Life was a celebrity take on The Real World. Take a bunch of iconic B-list and former celebs, put them together in a house for a week or so and film. Bam, instant TV show.

   The shows evolution to my mind kind of parallels what happened on The Real world. On both shows the first season was sort of sweet and mellow and then the following seasons became more and more salacious. I mean, the first season had Beverly Hills 90210's sweetie Gabrielle Carteris rooming with folks like M.C. Hammer Emmanuel Lewis. Even the "bad kids" were good. Corey Feldman was a former troublemaker on the mend. Jerri Manthey had been a villain on Survivor but really wanted to show folks she wasn't so bad. Heck, they had bad boy rocker Vince Neil and even he had matured due to amazing personal hardships. Oh yeah. There was also hottie Brande Roderick. But the show was good. Just seeing the depth of character in Vince Neil alone was worth watching. And they all had such a good time together.

   After a single season on the WB, the show moved to the VH1 cable music channel. In the casting alone you could tell they producers were trying to stir things up a bit more. Putting porn star Ron Jeremy and former televangelist Tammy Faye Messner in the same house together? I'm sure the hope was sparks would fly. Funny thing is, those two actually hit it off quite well together and became good friends! Not what you'd expect but, again, fascinating.

   Season 3 things actually started getting truly surreal. Mainly due to two specific housemates: Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielson. If you don't know, Flavor Flav is a rapper known for wearing giant clocks around his neck. By the time of The Surreal Life, he had a look about him that suggested... ummm... that during his rap heyday he had partied haaard. Brigitte Nielson was a amazonian and nordic former model turned actress who had been married to Sylvester Stallone. She was best known for appearing in Beverly Hills Cop 2 and Red Sonja. By the time of The Surreal Life she had a look about her that suggested... ummm...

   So the weird thing is Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielson apparently hooked up. It made made your head spin for sooo many reasons. First off they were sooo different in a weird way. And then they were also the same in a weird "partied hard" way. And then just the whole idea of them as a couple... just when you thought there couldn't be anything more disturbing then thinking of your parents doing it. Thinking of those two going at it? Given the choice I might have to choose picturing my folks. Yowza! Then there was also the weirdness of whether they were really a couple or not. Outside of the show Brigitte was seriously involved with someone. So...was it just an act for the show? What the heck was going on there?

   The freakiness of the relationship was so great that VH1 actually took the pair and continued the story of their "relationship" in a new show titled "Strange Love". Now normally I wouldn't think a reality show could spin off another reality show. Reality "celebs" often go on to appear on other reality shows but I wouldn't consider those occasions crossovers or spin offs. They're real people getting a new job. But in this case, it really was a direct continuation of a plotline from The Surreal Life into a new show.

   At the end of Strange Love, the bloom of love between America's Sweathearts had faded. With the two of them parting ways, it gave VH1 the opportunity to put Flavor Flav into yet ANOTHER romance show, Flavor Of Love. It's one of those shows where women compete to win the love of a man. In this case... Flavor Flav is that man. I'm not sure I'd consider this one a spin off. I'm... really trying not to consider it at all. I'm frightened.


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