Wondering about how a certain reality show pulled something off? Have a question about a certain contestant?
Whether it's "Survivor," "American Idol," "The Apprentice," "Real World" or another show, send in your questions. Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, MSNBC.com's Television Editor, and Andy Dehnart, creator of the Reality Blurred Weblog,will try to answer them.
Before you send in your question, check our archives — you may be able to get your answer right away.
Q: The Amazing Complainers Race! Is it just me or is the current season of “The Amazing Race” packed full of whiners, complainers, and jerks in compared to previous years? There are several teams that week after week whine and complain about everything. ... Previous season teams often went as far as they could to help each other, not this season. Could be the editing too, but I think they found a bunch of really grumpy people. Phil and his voiceovers seem to be much more sparse in compared to previous years. —Jason
A: I agree with you that Phil has been more absent than usual this season, and any season with less Phil is unacceptable. But I disagree that there are more whiners and jerks than usual. Sure, there are some obnoxious teams, like Rob and Kimberly, and Sarah and Peter, both competing this season for the title of Couple That Really Shouldn’t Be A Couple.
Teams are, of course, going to disagree or argue occasionally, and sometimes with each other; they’re in high-stress situations.
But for the most part, they’ve been interacting well together, especially compared to previous seasons (ahem, Flo, ahem).
In fact, a recent episode featured the most altruistic act in the show’s history: Godwin and Erwin let their friends David and Mary take the Fast Forward, risking their own elimination just to help the Kentuckians out. That’s very different than a few seasons ago, when “Survivor”’s Rob and Amber did their best to try to make the show less of a race and more of a strategy-based game.
Godwin and Erwin’s kindness stemmed from the show’s latest twist, the new non-elimination round penalty. Twice, David and Mary arrived at the pit stop in last place, but were not eliminated.
In the past, non-eliminated last-place teams have had to surrender all of their money and belongings, and beg for cash and sometimes supplies. This season, the producers thankfully eliminated that stupidity (watching Americans who are competing for $1 million beg for money in other countries was beyond ridiculous), and replaced it with a new twist. David and Mary were “marked for elimination,” and had to arrive at the next pit stop first, or else they’d receive a 30-minute penalty.
The first time, they checked in first all because another team helped them. This past week, David and Mary were eliminated because they had to wait out their 30-minute marked for elimination penalty. Despite that threat, Mary still helped some of her friends as they all worked on a task. Those may have been dumb moves for a team in a race to help another team that much, but they’re possibly the least-jerky things we’ve ever seen. —A.D.
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Q: What was the name of the song that Mario danced to on "Dancing With the Stars" on Halloween? I can't seem to find the title anywhere." —Alison
A: On Halloween, Mario Lopez and partner Karina Smirnoff waltzed to "Dark Waltz" by Hayley Westenra; he sambaed to the more well-known "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder.
While most reality TV show Web sites are kind of lame, ABC actually has a page on its "Dancing" site that listens each week's songs for each dancing pair. They even update it fairly quickly. It's a good online resource for future "Dancing" song questions. —G.F.C.
Q: Re “Hell’s Kitchen”: I just heard rumors that the show is not “real,” that the restaurant/executive chef position that Michael won in the first season were fictitious, and that (second-season) Tom + some other contestants are professional actors. Is any of this true? If not, did Red Rock open with Heather as the exec chef? Did she spend the 3 months’ between the show’s taping and the restaurant’s opening training with Ramsay and his staff? —Anonymous
A: Heather began work as the “senior chef” at Tessa Rossa, a restaurant at the Red Rock Resort, on Sept. 13. According to the restaurant’s own site, that means “She will be working under the leadership of Executive Room Chef Renato DePirro” — and thus doesn’t have her own restaurant or an executive chef position.
The show’s Web site says the prize for winning season two was “the coveted title of Executive Chef of a luxurious fine-dining restaurant” and noted that “the winner will be eligible to receive a financial interest in the restaurant and assist its design.” The key word in the last part is “eligible,” and likely there was similar language in the contract contestants signed with the show, saying the prizes would be subject to certain limitations.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that resort management has always said the “winner would be placed in T-Bones Chophouse in a position based on the chef’s skill level.” That still doesn’t excuse misleading viewers, though, by not noting that the prize is really up to the resort.
As to season one winner Michael, he opted at the end of season one to study under Gordon Ramsay. But Ramsay said in an interview later that, while it was Michael’s “idea to come over and join me in the U.K.,” that choice “wasn’t really for his wife, so out of respect for his newlywed [status] he chose to stay over there.”
And Michael wrote on his MySpace blog that, instead of winning his own restaurant, he received some money and $75,000 worth of equipment as compensation. He’s now working to sell his own knives. —A.D.
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