Sunday, September 12, 2010
TBG Throwback: Black Actress Survivor
It appears that most – if not all – of my previously archived work from my three-year run as a weekly columnist and features writer on the Inside Pulse pop culture website has fallen off the grid. That's as good an excuse as any to hunt through my hard drive for retro-blog fodder.
"Black Actress Survivor" was one of the more well-received pieces that appeared in my old Bootleg column. It was a collaborative effort with m'man Joe Reid from a time when concepts were discussed over AOL Instant Messenger and there were enough working black actresses in Hollywood to fill six pages of satire.
So, for those of you who've always wanted dozens of real-life African-American actresses cast on your favorite contrived island reality show…your wait is over. Or as I originally introduced this piece that first ran on September 2, 2005:
Join me on this 10-week midseason replacement run as an assortment of anonymous African-American women attempt to…out-black, out-sass and out-exaggerated finger snap one another, all on: Black Actress Survivor!
Week 1: After paddling to the shores of their deserted island, Sanaa Lathan and Kerry Washington get to the business of starting a fire, while Kim Fields and Tatyana Ali squabble over water-gathering duties. After a grueling immunity challenge, Marla Gibbs becomes the token old lady voted off first.
Week 2: This week opens with a shocking and surprising development as Jackeé and Kim Coles wash ashore like a pair of beached beluga whales. Cold, heavy and hungry (natch), the pair sandwich themselves into each tribe. Mere minutes before the eventual elimination of Nia Long, there's tomfoolery afoot! The final two votes against Nia come from former Cosby Kids, Keisha Knight-Pulliam and Tempestt Bledsoe. The unemployed pair had been presumed dead and eaten…by Natalie Desselle -- who starred opposite Halle Berry in B.A.P.S.
Week 3: Strategy is the name of the game in week three, as alliances start to build. Regina Hall is approached by Regina King for a partnership based on their shared . . . loathing of Tisha Campbell. Tisha, meanwhile, seeks refuge in a proposed Boomerang alliance with Halle Berry and Eartha Kitt. That plan falls through when Eartha tries for one purring voiceover too many and accidentally chokes to death.
After flying under the radar for the first two weeks, Jennifer Beals is voted out for "trying to pass." At tribal council, a shifty-eyed Jasmine Guy and Rae Dawn Chong realize they're gonna need a new game plan.
Week 4: The Parkers Countess Vaughn and Mo'Nique emerge from the island's twin tar pits of UPN Cancellation-cum-BET Syndication. However, the two were no match for resident island muscle, Marsha Warfield, who knocks them back into the abyss of Black Entertainment Television and an eternity as the lead-in for Eve.
Meanwhile, Lela Rochon and Theresa Randle return from their most recent vestiges of relevancy (1997's Gang Related and Spawn, respectively) and immediately start beef with Angela Bassett. Their good-natured potshots ("Why come you ain't green, She-Hulk?") precede more personal attacks, until Bassett finally snaps.
Week 5: By the time the fifth week rolls around, the ladies are getting on each others' nerves. Gabrielle Union just will not stop with the "this one time with Morris Chestnut" and "that other movie I did with Morris" stories. Jennifer Lewis finally has to tell her to shut the hell up. Elsewhere, a jonesing Macy Gray takes a knife to Vivica A. Fox's hair extensions in an ill-fated attempt to smoke them.
At tribal council, the Aged Alliance of Mary Alice, Cicely Tyson, and Irma P. Hall team up to give Robin Givens the knockout punch that Mike never gave her. As Givens gets her torch snuffed, an inebriated Macy Gray (she found a toad to lick) can be heard slurring "from 'Head of the Class' to out on your ass, bitch!"
Week 6: Food is getting scarce. For the last seven days, both tribes have been forced to subsist off the scraps and seaweed stuck between Paula Jai Parker's 63 teeth. Even worse, it appears that T'Keyah "Crystal" Keymah island-inspired "fishbone n' coconut" African-American hair and beauty care products have the women looking like the remains of Rain Pryor. A sullen and silent S. Epatha Merkerson is voted off the island, as she could not muster up a word in her own defense. The Law & Order star is only used to one or two lines per week in prime time. Sadly, she filled her quota with a quip on how she DOES look similar to a shaven Gregory Hines.
Week 7: Week seven sees the tribes merge and make camp at a smaller, more remote island. They make their move at night, and wait until Wanda Sykes falls asleep before they go, leaving her behind to relive her glory days of Pootie Tang all alone. Nona Gaye keeps trying to find an alliance to join, but sadly, unlike with the Matrix sequels, Aaliyah's not around to die so a spot can open up for her.
Lisa Nicole Carson and Loretta Devine engage in an epic breasts-vs.-breasts showdown that's been in the making ever since their first altercation in the David E. Kelley staff lounge back in 1999.
And finally, after weeks and weeks of putting up with her constant challenge-time exhortations of "Come on! It's all in the face! Pow! Fierce! What!" Tyra Banks is finally sent packing to her other reality show.
Week 8: It's the start of sweeps month and, in a blatant grab for ratings, both women who played Mrs. Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are sharing quality on-screen island time. Admittedly, it doesn't make for the most riveting TV, as Janet Hubert-Whitten and Daphne Maxwell-Reid have patched up most of their long-existing differences, with only one unsettled issue left open for discussion: What was up with the casting of Karyn Parsons as the oldest Banks kid? Were producers just trying to capitalize on The Cosby Show's random mocha-colored child quota? And, in a surprising twist, Queen Latifah is voted off as the status of "one-time Academy Award nominee" couldn't outweigh her current standing of "one-time star of Beauty Shop and Taxi".
Week 9: Let the mad charge to the finale begin, with multiple tribal councils seeing casualties falling left and right. Erika Alexander, bereft of her Living Single alliance-mates, proves easy pickings. In a shocking development, Lynn Whitfield and Alfre Woodard both look at each other and can't believe they're stuck on the same island as these no-talent sitcom has-beens and up and row the canoe back to respectability. And a dearth of Hollywood roles for them.
Kimberly Elise keeps trying to get Oprah on the phone so she can call in a few favors that she built up on the set of Beloved (letting O have the last Boston Crème in the box has its benefits), but she and Thandie Newton keep tying up the lines, and they're both given the boot.
And at long last, Ruby Dee is voted off, as a jealous (and clueless) Holly Robinson Peete exclaims "Mother Sister?! That doesn't even make sense!"
Week 10: The final tribal council draws closer, and thus the biggest threats to win become the biggest targets.
Fearing the tremendous sway they'll have with the jury (the jury being filled with old gay men for some reason), Diahann Carroll and Lena Horne are dispatched in short order.
Jada Pinkett Smith, who had been flying under the radar (literally, she was too short to be picked up by detection equipment), gets noticed when Vanessa L. Williams trips over her. Having saved the best for last, Vanessa engineers Jada's ouster.
Meanwhile, former ER stars Michael Michele and Khandi Alexander team up to vote out Anna Deavere Smith, having grown wary of the woman's surprisingly prominent jowls and the damage they could cause after a month without proper nourishment.
And, finally, with the surprise elimination of Elise Neal and a landslide jury vote over Sheryl Lee Ralph (during which the jury fiercely debated exactly how Sheryl came to be famous anyway), the winner of Black Actress Survivor is finally crowned . . .
The one . . .
The only . . .
The eternally teenaged . . .