Reality TV season is in full swing. Two "Apprentice" seasons have kicked in, "Survivor" is back, Tyra Banks is putting her "Top Models" through their paces, and the diet is on on "Biggest Loser." And after one week's vacation, we're back to answer your reality TV questions.
Q: Did the cast of "The Real World: Key West" evacuate for Hurricane Rita?
A: Andy says:Before heading toward Louisiana and Texas, Hurricane Rita plowed through the Florida keys, the eye of the storm passing just south of Key West. And that’s where the next season of “The Real World” is being filmed. is on Key Haven, a tiny island of multimillion dollar homes right next to Key West.
While MTV reps wouldn’t comment, both residents and tourists were forced to evacuate, and the cast did, too. that the cast went to West Palm Beach, hundreds of miles north and well out of the way of the hurricane. The site also reported that cameras kept rolling throughout the evacuation.
When they return to the southernmost point in the continental United States, the cast will likely take part in the debauchery known as Fantasy Fest, which takes place the final week in October. Additionally, that the cast will be opening up their own business, because that worked so well for "The Real World Miami." They'll be running a tanning salon and bathing suit store.
Gael says: And of course, before Rita hit, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, where the 2000 "Real World" cast lived in the . We haven't heard specifics on how the mansion did or did not weather Katrina, but its location, on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District, was one of the areas that came through the storm better than most. One poster on NOLA.com has I'm not familiar enough with New Orleans to know if the Belfort is covered here or not.
Some "Real World New Orleans" cast members have shared their thoughts about the city's devastation on . David, the cast member known for his rendition of "Come On, Be My Baby Tonight," tells of a ghostly encounter he said he experienced in the city, and adds "Anyone seeking to find what New Orleans was all about only need to open their hearts and understand that as long as there is life and human spirit, New Orleans lives."
And Melissa, whose friendship with New Orleans artist was shown on the program, has that he is safe. although he has lost his home, car, and all of his artwork.
Q: With so many options to choose from, what is your top site/blog that reviews, recaps, and generally picks apart reality TV? In other words, what sites/blogs do YOU read for a good laugh or some inside dirt? —Steve
A: Gael says: Funny you should ask that (readers, I swear this is a real question), because I hired Andy to work with me on this column on the basis of his own very excellent reality news site, . He updates every weekday with multiple reality TV news items drawn from newspapers across the nation, and has his own faithful audience that provides him with inside news and tips. He's too modest to mention his own site in his answer, so I'll do it for him.
Another great resource is also run by MSNBC.com contributors. Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting are the co-creators and co-editors of . (Other MSNBC.com contributors, including Kim Reed and Linda Holmes, also write there.)
In addition to the hilarious recaps, their forums are an excellent source of news. Thousands of posters from all over post in the forums, so if a Real Worlder got arrested in even the tiniest town, you can bet someone on TWoP read about it and posted a link to the news. (Sorry, reality-show alums, you just can't hide.)
And finally, a site whose staffers do not contribute here: is an exhaustive Weblog of TV news, both reality and otherwise. Whenever I haven't checked the site for a few days, I find myself settling in for a long surf, and usually e-mailing various links to friends and co-workers as I read.
Andy says: 1) Let’s be honest: The Fishbowl is a frightening place. Reality TV stars who’ve long seen their careers washed up onto the shore have dragged their stinking carcasses here, and plopped themselves into the already murky water. The Fishbowl is produced by Creative Light Entertainment, the same people who brought us the craptastic summer series “Kill Reality” and the forthcoming film “The Scorned.” Thus, they’re clearly the epicenter of the reality television cast-off kingdom.
While there are forums and other features, most of the site’s content consists of “radio” shows, broadcast over the Internet. Listen to “Survivor Talk,” “Coming Out with Reichen!”, “Battle Zone,” or “Kill Reality Talk.” The shows are hosted by reality TV cast members, and some take calls. If you really want to know what really happened on your favorite show, go directly to the source, and The Fishbowl is the most direct source online today.
2) . TVgasm looks at the world of television, offering recaps about hip and fun television shows, and the site increasingly gets their best material from reality shows. Besides being witty and often funny, the recaps are also especially useful if you don’t have time for the book-length, second-by-second recaps on Television Without Pity that Gael mentioned above.
The site’s affinity for funny video and proximity to reality stars gives it more to offer. For one, they often compile amusing clips that, out of context, tell us a lot more about reality stars than we ever thought we knew. For example, TVgasm recently pointed out Julie Chen’s affinity for the phrase
Based in LA, the staff at TVgasm tends to run into reality stars every time they walk out their doors. Thus, we get everything from sightings of reality TV stars at bars to a detailed report of the “Big Brother 6” wrap party. It’s almost like living in LA.
3) Gossip columns and celeb magazines. For the past five years, reality stars have become our new celebrities. Thus, finding the dirt on your favorite star or show is often as simple as reading a gossip column or celebrity magazine.
In the past, these publications used to only cover celebrities who had actually earned their fame, like Paris Hilton. Now, they’ve branched out, and next to items about blockbuster movie stars, you’re just as likely to see gossip about the latest “American Idol” reject or an “Apprentice” cast member acting out. The world has indeed become a friendlier place for fans of reality TV.
Q: I was wondering when they were going to have the auditions for 'Search for the Pearl' or when the show is planned to be seen on TV? —Joyce
A: The reality show was announced in February. The show plans to audition singers who can recreate the vocal style of the late Janis Joplin (her estate is involved in the concept). A news story at the time said "Five finalists will be flown to San Francisco to perform for a panel of judges. The selected Janis-a-like will then headline a world concert tour, performing with bands that played with Joplin including Big Brother & The Holding Company, the Kozmic Blues Band and Full Tilt Boogie Band. The tour will culminate in a star-studded tribute concert in 2006."
Back when the announcement was made, hopes were to premiere the show in 2005, but with just over three months left in the year, we're not betting on it.
I contacted Tim Murphy, who's involved with the show, and he passed along this information: " is the first place for announcements. It was thrown together quickly in February after our initial press release went out and we got hammered with e-mails and phone calls from potential singers. It is still the place for major announcements regarding the progress of the project."
At the time I contacted him, Murphy was hoping to put new information on the site within 10 days, but a month later, the newest news on the site is still from March. Janis wannabes should bookmark it, though, and check it occasionally for news. —G.F.C.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.