"Survival of the Richest" Review
By Shawn McKenzie 04/15/2006
When you’re poor, it can either be fun to watch a show about spoiled rich kids or it can be annoying. In the WB’s “Survival of the Richest,” I’m still trying to decide if this show is the former or the latter.
The show is yet another competitive reality show where someone is eliminated at the end (I’ve noticed that the WB has made their competitive reality shows more condensed by having the competitors pair up in teams of two, a la “Beauty and the Geek,” and the losing team eliminates both participants.) Fourteen young, attractive (no geeks this time) twentysomethings live together and compete in challenges. Seven of the participants are fabulously wealthy, with a combined net worth of over $3 billion, and they know it. The other seven participants are working class individuals (who the show calls “poor”) who have a collective net debt of $150,000…and they definitely know it. The rich kids have the chance to prove they can survive without their parents’ money for the first time in their lives, and the poor kids will get a chance to improve their lives considerably. Hal Sparks, best known as gay comic book geek Michael Novotny on Showtime’s “Queer as Folk,” hosts this show (hey Hal…you were so good on “QAF”…why are you doing those VH1 “I Love the…” specials and hosting reality shows instead of acting again?)
How will the poor kids get to improve their lives? They will compete for a chance to win $200,000…enough to wipe all of their debts. Here is the catch…each poor kid is teamed up with one of the rich kids, and the team who wins will get to share the prize. What?? As someone who isn’t exactly wealthy myself (since I also have a mountain of debt, you could probably consider me “poor” by this show’s definition), $100,000 isn’t something to sneeze at, even after taxes. For the rich kids, $100,000 is nothing (one kid calls it “a nice lunch.”) So…why would the richies want to do this then? With their stuck-up attitudes and whininess, why would they put themselves through this experience for a measly amount of money? I have a few theories on that. One is that they really do want to see what it is like to slum it for the first time. Another one is that their parents may have told them that if they didn’t do something about their uppity attitudes, then they would be cut off from their trust funds…and this reality show was the best way to go about “learning a lesson.” A third one is that they were bored (one rich kid, Kat Moon, the daughter of religious leader Reverend Sun Myung Moon, admits that she suffers from “terminal boredom.”) Finally, they might be doing this for camera exposure and fame (hey…it worked for Paris Hilton!)
In the first episode, the poor kids arrived first at the house. Hal tells them that they are going to be servers at a party for the rich kids. After catering to the rich kids, Hal informs the rich kids that their servers are actually going to be their housemates, and they will be teamed up together to play for the prize money. It’s funny, because some of the rich kids still end up treating the poor kids like servants. The teams then have to serve dinner at a medieval-themed restaurant called Medieval Times (I heard that they are a chain, like White Castle, and yet another place that is inaccessible from my little neck of the woods in Colorado.) While the poor kids have fun, the rich kids hate it. The restaurant manager decided that rich Dutch aristocrat Hunter and poor single mother Johanna were the best team and that they were safe from that evening’s vote (the participants had to decide who to eliminate each week.) Kat was the one eliminated, because the other rich kids didn’t like the fact that she wasn’t as snobby as them. Since eliminations consisted of both team members being eliminated, her poor sales clerk partner Esmeralda was given the boot as well. Kat is upset that she lost this game for Esmeralda, because the girl has a debt of $1,200 and could use the prize money (but why, for some reason, Kat, whose family net worth is $989 million, couldn’t just give her the money is beyond me.)
The second and third episodes were somewhat similar. In the second episode, the kids go to the Del Mar Race Track in Los Angeles, where they are required to clean the facilities and are paid minimum wage. Poor gay unemployed receptionist Michael and rich homophobic heir to a hotel fortune Nick are eliminated at the end. In the third episode, teams serve food at a homeless shelter and are challenged to pick the most peppers in four hours. At the challenge, the team who picked the least amount of peppers was the one that was eliminated (as opposed to a vote-off.) That was slightly altered when one of the rich kids, auto franchise heir T.R., fainted from heat stroke and had to be rushed to the hospital. Despite losing T.R. as a partner, poor Jim wasn’t eliminated. Poor nanny Tracy and rich Yellow Pages heiress Elizabeth was the team that had to pack their bags in the end.
There were funny moments that reminded me of the adventures of Paris and Nicole on FOX’s “The Simple Life.” After receiving their paychecks from Medieval Times, the kids went grocery shopping, where the rich kids grossly overestimated what they allowed to buy on a budget. Nick thinks that peanut butter is $5 a “can.” He doesn’t know, because he just gives his assistant a list of stuff he wants and it magically appears in his refrigerator.
The show also seems to have at least one subplot going on as well. There is a love triangle going on between Jim, rich real estate heiress Liz, and Hunter (who, between him and T.R., appear to be the most stuck-up rich males.) Liz thinks that Jim is hot, and even though he wouldn’t mind getting a little booty from Liz, he’d rather have the money. Hunter likes Liz, and she doesn’t like him, so he has it out for Jim. T.R. is actually encouraging this triangle, because he believes that it will be an advantage to him in the game. Oh, the drama!
“Survival of the Richest” is entertaining in those moments, but I’m still wondering if I need to watch another show about rich kids learning a life lesson. I liked “The Simple Life” during its first season, but the shtick wore thin by the third season. There were entertaining moments of E!’s “Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive,” but it didn’t keep me riveted all of the time. I’m also about ready to give up on MTV’s “My Super Sweet Sixteen” and their spoiled princesses (maybe it needs a monetary prize to play for in order to pay for these extravagant parties.) Since the show is only six episodes long, I will give it a chance…if only to see if one of these clueless rich kids will smarten up and actually give their poor partner the money to wipe out their debt.
DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!
Try to catch this show every week...
If a better show is on, tape this one...
If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...
If this show is on, change the channel immediately!