Reviews

Survival of the Richest

Michael Abernethy

On Survival of the Richest, the line between 'have' and 'have-nots' is clearly drawn, and while contestants may cross that line, it's only to visit.


Survival of the Richest

Airtime: Fridays, 9pm ET
Cast: Hal Sparks
Network: The WB
Amazon
I like to make waitresses cry, and then... I sleep with them.
-- Hunter

I'm not thrilled about all the rich kids sitting around talking about having money. It gets tiring.
-- Kat

According to numerous sociology and communication theorists, the "have-nots" of the world have a better understanding of human nature and how to communicate effectively than the "haves." There is no incentive for the "haves" to understand how to interact with anyone in lower socio-economic strata, whereas the "have-nots" must understand those above them if they are ever to become one of the "haves." This theoretical concept is put to the test in the WB's new reality series Survival of the Richest.

Unfortunately, the show's creators have apparently never been exposed to any of these theories, or else they might have come up with an interesting examination of how two diverse cultures learn to live together. Instead, they have come up with a series that plays on broad stereotypes, pairing together seven wealthy 20somethings with seven debt-ridden 20somethings. The wealthy are arrogant, spoiled, lazy snobs, while the poor are hardworking, decent, everyday people just trying to get by. They are us. It's easy to see whom we are supposed to root for here -- pick your favorite poor person and cheer him on.

However, by rooting for one of the deserving poor folk, you'll also be rooting for one of the bad rich folk. Each of the seven wealthy is paired with one of the poor, forced to share living spaces and compete as a team. The final team standing wins $200,000, which they split. This provides a great reason to compete for those in debt, but doesn't offer much to those who already have millions sitting in the bank. Dutch aristocrat Hunter confessed his first reaction to the prize amount was, "Dinner."

The list of needy competitors is a typical reality roll call: gay guy, single mother, working student, country boy, sassy Latina, nanny, and hip-hopper. First to arrive at the luxury mansion in which all competitors will stay, they are told to dress as servers and wait on the rich competitors at a reception. The rich competitors have no idea what the competition is, and are equally aware that the servers they are ignoring and complaining about are their new roommates.

Viewers are first exposed to the arrogant attitude of the wealthy through the interview clips shown to the poor before the rich arrive. Among comments aired: "I don't know how the bed gets made," "I'm doing this because I'm bored," and "What's a paycheck?" Such remarks lead to negative impressions among the poor, thus insuring they have the same level of disdain for their roommates as the roommates have for them. After all, what kind of reality show would it be if the housemates liked or admired one another?

Not surprisingly, this results in two distinct camps in the house. Right away, the affluent housemates banded together so tightly that they voted off the only one of their kind who wouldn't play their elitist games. Kat Moon, daughter of Reverend Sun Myung Moon (and the only contestant identified by last name), chose to spend her time by herself or chatting with Michael, the gay guy, and Esmeralda, her partner. At the end of each show, all contestants vote for whom they would like to eliminate; with all of the other well-to-dos voting to get rid of Kat, she was out before the vote was even completed.

During the post-vote interview, Kat cried, not because her housemates disliked her, but because Esmeralda actually needed to win to pay her bills. Of course, Kat, worth $989 million, could have whipped out her checkbook and solved all of Esmeralda's problems in a moment, but that moment never came.

Kat's reaction suggests a broader theme. Supposedly, the rich kids will have life-altering experiences and never view the working class the same way again. Liz, heiress to a real estate fortune, showed her prejudice when told she would be sharing a room with the lower class, calling the idea "disgusting," and adding, "I hope they're clean." Yet, reports on episodes say she bonds with partner Marcus, the energetic and hilarious hip-hop kid from the block. Previews of upcoming episodes also hint at a cross-class romance developing among two other contestants.

Indications of how much each contestant will "grow," whether rich or poor, are also evident in the working relationships the teams have already established. The first task was serving as serfs and wenches at a Medieval Times restaurant, serving common food to common peasants. Homophobic Nick, a chubby, hedonistic playboy, and Michael immediately disliked one another, and Nick complained about every aspect of the task. In contrast, the arrogant Hunter threw himself into the job, singing for and joking with his customers. While Hunter was having a good time, though, the rest of the rich kids were struggling.

But that is understandable. Anyone asked to perform a job for which he has no training would likely react similarly. All of the tasks previewed are designed to push the rich folks, involving manual labor or domestic chores, another method of making the rich the "villains" of the show by featuring their complaints and mistakes.

Which brings us back to those theorists. Had they influenced the concept behind this show, it wouldn't have focused on "villains" and "heroes," but on creating a diverse learning atmosphere. Thoughtful, generous rich kids would have a place at the table too. And a broader spectrum of working men and women would have been represented: the 40-year-single mother of three working two jobs, the 70-year-old man working part-time so he can pay for his medicines, the teenage drop-out working a minimum wage job and living in a car because it's better than living at home. And of course, the average person, not necessarily in debt, but cutting coupons and skipping vacations to stay one step ahead.

Survival of the Richest's sole accomplishment is to make the disenfranchised feel better about themselves. The show may be successful in convincing the Jerry Springer crowd that "them rich folk" are no damn good; it won't be as convincing to anyone aware of the generosity of Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, and countless other wealthy philanthropists. But on Survival of the Richest, the line between "have" and "have-nots" is clearly drawn, and while contestants may cross that line, it's only to visit.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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