Words By Tai Saint-Louis
Last night, TV One continued it’s roll out of brand new content with the premiere of what the network claims will “revolutionize reality TV.” Directed by Carlos King, the man behind R&B Divas and an integral player in Bravo TV’s cash cow “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “The Next :15″ brings together six former reality TV “stars,” (yes, we’re using that term loosely when it comes to at least half the cast), all attempting to reclaim their pop culture relevance.
We had questions from the gate, bolstered by the show’s trailer. And if you, like us, are not quite the reality TV aficionado or it’s been a minute, you probably have a few questions too. There’s also a strong possibility that you’re kind of curious about how much of a trainwreck this thing is gonna become. Well, we’ve got you covered: we’ve done our best to solve some of the conundrums presented by last night’s premier episode of The Next :15. These are not necessarily presented in chronological order.
How was a camera crew on the beach with Claudia in the opening scene if this was the exact moment when The Next :15 became a thing?
Of course we know that what we all accept as reality TV is really “scripted” reality. But the opening sequence of this show sets up the whole notion of The Next :15 being the “anti-reality show,” the one that breaks down all barriers and shows you the real behind reality. What was the point of showing us all of the crew behind Claudia Jordan’s non-sequitur Baywatch impersonation only to turn around and stage the moment where she and Carlos King put their master plan into play. (See next question for more on said plan)
Why ruin a great concept with crappy casting?
So, essentially, the story-within-a-story in The Next :15 is that former “Real Housewives of Atlanta” B-list cast member Claudia Jordan and Carlos King are putting together the perfect team of co-hosts for a new pop-culture talk show. Think “The View,” but with all former reality TV personalities. That actually doesn’t sound like a totally horrible idea. It actually sounds like it could be really fun with the right combination of personalities; maybe people with a common thread or who actually get along. But that’s not really what this show is about. At it’s root core is, in fact, another reality show; and as such, on-screen drama and borderline-to-full-out ratchetness must ensue. So we get a volatile cast. Cool.
But still, why THIS cast? We’ve got Jennifer Williams from “Basketball Wives Miami,” Laura Govan from “Basketball Wives LA,” Karamo Brown from “Real World Philadelphia” (if you know what year that aired without Google, you are the real MVP), Benzino from “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta,” Claudia and Tiffany Pollard aka New York aka “The Queen of this Reality TV Ish.” Other than New York, we can think of other people from each of these six respective shows who might be more interesting to catch up with.
Karamo Brown, though?
So, apparently, Karamo Brown holds the distinction of being the first openly gay Black man on reality TV, back in the post Laguna Beach/Real Housewives era when MTV realized how much they had undersold their brilliant idea of “taking six strangers, putting them in a house to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.” In other words, by that point, the people behind the Real World seemed to have a set number of archetypes they managed to work into every single season. They hit the jackpot by combining the token Gay and the token Black man with Karamo. If you were into the Real World and you squint reeeeeally hard, you might be able to remember Karamo. But if you were into the Real World eight years ago, chances are your own life has probably gotten in the way of all but the most explosive Real World moments – let’s all pause and pour some out for Pedro.
After roughly 50 minutes of programming, we’re really still trying to understand who chose Karamo for this cast and why. His presence kind of taints everyone else’s. Like why were you all so readily available when this show couldn’t pull a single other Black person from the still semi-relevant revolving cast of Real World/Road Rules challengers?
Speaking of people whose presence we can’t quite explain…
How is Al Reynolds still a part of the reality TV universe? That seems like a gross underachievement for a banker and Star Jones’ ex. Shouldn’t he at least be providing commentary on HLN or maybe Good Day LA instead of popping up all over reality TV as Jennifer Williams’ possibly-gay-bestie? (How is it that she doesn’t know whether her best friend is gay in 2016 and is making light of his possible homosexuality… in 2016).
Also, you may have missed it, if you didn’t make it to the previews at the end of the episode, or if you were at the Atlanta premier like we did, and failed to look down; but why is Bobby Valentino involved? From what we gathered, during this series Jennifer Williams will explore her urge to throw caution and lack of vocal chops to the wind and cut a single. We’re assuming Bobby V comes in as the expert who will show her how it’s done. But, again, could the producers of this series find no one more credible or relevant for this scripted situation? What exactly is Bobby V’s tie to the cast?
Sidenote: of the many recognizable and borderline recognizable celebs at the Atlanta premiere of The Next :15, Demetria McKinney made an appearance, presumably to support her fellow discarded housewife Claudia. And it dawned on us: Demetria is a beautiful, talented actress and singer who seems to be really nice. Why is she having such a hard time graduating from this reality milieu?
Hip-Hop Weekly has an office? Is it in the back of Benzino’s Crab Shack? (Overheard at the screening)
Believe it or not, Benzino and his longtime business partner Dave Mays hit the jackpot in bringing Hip-Hop to the weekly tabloid game. So, the idea that they would have an office and legit staff, isn’t totally far fetched. This question did bring up other concerns though:
5a. Hasn’t Benzino had a smooth hour and a half of fame by now? Does he really need another 15 minutes? In case you missed it, he followed his departure from “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta” with a run on the last season of “Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars” on WEtv. And if you caught the reference on The Next :15, even the OB who cared for his fiancee Althea while she carried their kid is Dr. Jackie from Married To Medicine. His first album with the Almighty R.S.O. dropped in 1994. That means 20 years of moderate fame. Which evens out to about 5 years of real fame. We’re pretty sure he can gracefully bow out at this point.
5b. If we are to assume that Hip-Hop Weekly is doing well, judging by how their distribution is set up in grocery stores and airports across the country, even IF the L.A. office is a front, what is Zino’s financial life about? Why does he feel it necessary to keep gathering Reality TV coinage… and not as a director or producer, but as on-screen talent? Granted he has three kids, but money can’t be that tight?
5c. With two previous kids and the aforementioned availability of funds, why would Benzino need to charter a private jet to make it back to Atlanta for the birth of his third child? He couldn’t book a flight? Schedule production on the show around that one week window in which his at-term fiancee might give birth? And why does she think she needs to Uber to the hospital? Does she have no friends or family? Are ambulances no longer a thing? And how is a private jet an option for Benzino, but not a driver for his pregnant fiancee?
Are we really supposed to believe that all these people just happened to converge on L.A. last summer?
From what we can surmise, Karamo and Jennifer Williams had legitimate things going on in L.A. And it is very possible that Claudia Jordan went back to L.A. following her departure from The Rickey Smiley Morning Show. But Benzino relocates to the West Coast and doesn’t either a) wait for his baby’s birth or b) move his future wife out there with him? And why would Hip-Hop Weekly move to L.A. and not New York City, for example? And what has New York even been doing? Another flaw in the realness of this show…
How did Gilbert Arenas let Laura Govan go?
Let’s keep it funky: at this point, we have all come to the conclusion that Gilbert Arenas hasn’t possessed the good sense God gave him in a very long time. But we just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that Laura Govan is BAD. How did he eff that up? Do you know how bad of a screw up you have to be for a woman to bear you FOUR children and still decide walking away is the best decision for her life?
Also, with all the effort Gilbert puts into tarnishing his own name, how dare he deprive us of good reality TV chatter with a lawsuit and/or gag order?
Why exactly are Claudia Jordan and Jennifer Williams so mad at each other?
We actually have a reason for this one, but it isn’t really a good one. Apparently, Jennifer Williams is dating or sleeping with Claudia Jordan’s ex-husband. It’s supposed to be some super secret relationship and we’re guessing that something somewhere was signed to prevent them from mentioning Datari Turner’s name… or maybe they were just saving it for later. Or maybe they knew that deep down, no one cares. But if you’re not friends, who cares that you two have a body in common? And if they hate each other so much, why include Jennifer on the cast like there is a shortage of reality TV starlets whose checks no longer come in like they used to?
Again, we’re calling shenanigans on the casting. And we’re still trying to understand why Karamo is here.
Where was this focus group when we were picking the cast?
Not to beat a dead horse, but we remained perplexed about the cast til the very last minute and really felt like, had Carlos King and, allegedly, Claudia Jordan really put some thought into this thing, they should have brought this focus group together long before putting all that time and money into filming this show.
Also, as the focus group brought up, where IS Benzino’s neck? (Also overheard during the Atlanta premier)
Sidenote: this focus group vs. reality star confrontation thing is actually kind of genius. Can we vote to have “Hater Confrontations” replace “Reunion Shows” moving forward?
Who exactly are these people who were awaiting New York’s return?
We will not argue that Tiffany “New York” Pollard is the blueprint by which a good percentage of these reality jawns create their on-screen personas. But we’re pretty sure the window during which we wanted to see her do something else closed out around January 15, 2011. And quite honestly, we would have wanted to see her evolve a la NeNe Leakes.
But no. She’s back just like she never left. And she brought a Stallionaire with her.
With so many questions remaining, we kinda almost have to tune in again next Wednesday.