Wyatt Cenac, Reality Television Connoisseur

I recently interviewed Wyatt Cenac, and during our chat, we dove pretty deep into reality TV. Cenac is a true student of the medium, and he had some pretty great thoughts on everything from Monster Quest to Rock of Love to Carmelo Anthony and La La Vasquez’s reality show. Also, his idea for his own reality show might not be entertaining, but it’d at least be honest to the name of the genre.

Which is the crappiest show on you DVR?

What is the crappiest one I DVR? Now I don’t DVR as much as I used to. I used to be kind of hooked on a show called Monster Quest. Have you seen it? It’s kind of the best worst show ever. Because the whole premise of the show is, are bigfoots real? We talk to some people who had real bigfoot encounters. And then they get those people to talk through their stories of their bigfoot encounters. But then they actually take those same people and make them re-enact it. And so it’s like, this person who was like, I had a bigfoot encounter, now they get to be an actor doing it. And then the bigfoot, whenever they do the cutaway to the bigfoot, it’s a cgi. It’s like a really bad cgi bigfoot. Or it’s like a werewolf. And there was one where they had this woman who was a scientist who had a bigfoot experience, and the bigfoot had like come to her tent, and she thought that maybe the bigfoot came closer to her than it did to most people because she was a woman and had like female hormones that maybe she was emitting as pheromones or something. So what she decided to do was set up camp that was an all-female bigfoot camp. And so like 6 ladies went out into the woods, and then they had cameras that they set up. And they were just camping out there, trying to get bigfoots to show up.

I can see why you might be fascinated by that show. I can understand that.

Kind of an amazing show. And that also kind of sounds like the best sitcom, or best episode of Sex & the City ever, where the ladies are like, ah, we’re sick of these New York City men…let’s go find ourselves some bigfoots.

I can only claim Real Housewives and that kind of stuff. Yours is much better.

I did, I used to watch Rock of Love. We could go Rock of Love. I was always pulling for him and Destiny to make it work.

What was her name, Daisy? The crazy one.

Oh right, yeah. I was not a Daisy fan. Destiny seemed like, she was the one that would always get in fights. And she was like a short, brunette woman that seemed strangely too scrappy. And I think her parents rode Harleys or something like that, and then they got to ride a Harley with Bret or something. And I was like, eh. This guy, I don’t know much about his life, but I feel like, if there’s anybody I’d set him up with, she seems like she’d be kind of like the best and worst of all of his vices.

So now watching him beg his girlfriend to marry him finally and be a good dad, it’s just not the same. It’s just not the same at all, especially after he almost died.

Right. Well what was weird about that, and I remember this…and I didn’t watch the Bret Michaels Gets Married show. And the main reason I didn’t was because I remember, at the time I was living in California when Rock of Love was on, and somebody had told me, a friend of a friend who worked in reality television and I think worked on that show, said that his girlfriend was on set most of those shows. Like she was always there. And this was one of those things where it’s like yeah, this is just TV, and he’s gonna make out with these women for TV, but he’s still technically going home to this woman who’s on set, eating at the craft services table, and is just sitting there eating Tostitos, watching him make out with Frenchie.

Yeah, we don’t want to see that part of the sausage being made, I guess.

Yeah. But it is that weird thing where it’s like, at some point, it feels like we have to say OK, it’s not reality television. Let’s maybe take that name off of it. And also, the story editors and the people who work on these shows need to be considered writers. Because that’s what they are. I know that they, at one point, had tried to get in the Writer’s Guild. I don’t know if they’re in now, but they deserve to be. Because there’s a lot of writing that goes on on those shows. I was on a flight with some people who worked for I think that same company that does all those VH1 shows, and they were flying to NY to work on like the Carmelo Anthony/La La Vasquez show, and they were talking about like, OK, we’ve gotta figure out like, Carmelo and his friends need to go hang out somewhere. And they’re talking about like where…like should they go bowling or… And so it was this very strange thing where it’s like… Or what happened to the days of just following somebody with a camera?

Those cocktail parties on the Housewives shows don’t set themselves up. You know what I mean?  You’d think people would be hip to the fact that they don’t just appear out of nowhere, these gatherings.

Right. But there is also something kind of interesting, like when you sort of are like, why do these, especially like celebrities who do it, why do they do it? And it’s like, hearing those people talk about planning Carmello and La La’s day, you kind of get this sense of like, oh wow, it’s kind of like having free personal assistants who just call you up and they’re like, do you want to go shopping today? And it’s like, uh…maybe…yeah. Yeah, set it up. I want to go shopping and I want to go to the fanciest steakhouse around. And then they do all the phone calls, and they’re like alright, yeah, we’d like permission to shop in your store and eat at this restaurant  And then probably because you’re sending a camera there, those places are like well, you know what, let’s give you a discount. Or let’s give it to you on the house. It’s like the best personal assistant ever. They actually pay you to be your personal assistant.

So we’re going to see the Wyatt Cenac reality show at some point? Now that you know all this stuff?

A, let’s see if somebody watches my special. Let’s not put the cart before the horse on this one. But B, I don’t know if anybody…I don’t even think I need to watch that. Yeah, my life is not that interesting. And I just like sitting at home. So if I even had some producer who was like, hey, let’s go and take you bowling. I’d be like, eh, no, I’m just gonna sit here, and I’m gonna watch a movie. I’m gonna watch The Tourist.

Watch something about people searching for Bigfoot or something.

Yeah, yeah. Here’s the reality show: you watch me watch reality shows.

Joel Keller is a senior writer/editor for AOL TV, as well as whoever else writes him a check. Like Norm MacDonald, he tells jokes that don’t get laughs… but not on purpose.

Wyatt Cenac, Reality Television Connoisseur