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Celebrity Zoo: Commentary on The Surreal Life, Season 2

Starring: Ron Jeremy, Trishelle Canatella, Rob Van Winkle, Tammy Faye Messner, Traci Bingham, Erik Estrada

Episode 1: Hop on the Surreal Life Trolley
Episode 2: Tuna Melts and Meltdowns with Gary Coleman
Episode 3: Let's Put on a Show!
Episode 4: Preaching and Porno
Episode 5: Strip Volleyball
Episode 6: Talk Show Trauma and Farewell Food Fight

Can this cast top last year's lovable menagerie? Ape Culture will judge by convening a focus group to review and provide commentary on The Surreal Life (airing Sundays on the WB).

Episode 3: Let's Put on a Show

Erik flashes camera. Trishelle and Traci want to see Ron’s penis and attempt to drag the covers off him.
Coolia - The house is gettin' horny. Man, I hope they release an uncensored DVD after this is all over.
Nerdia - The girls wanna see it.
Ron Jeremy gives Erik Estrada a massage.
Nerdia - Ron is so talented. He is an olympian pornographer, he has very theatrical waitering moves, he has a master's degree in special ed AND he gives real good massages! He's a true renaissance man.
Trishelle gets a voicemail from an ex-boyfriend who sounds depressed, confides in Traci about her concerns.
Nerdia – Trishelle and Traci just had a real moment.
Coolia - They've come a long way from their catfight of episode 1.
Housemates find out via The Surreal Times that a psychic will be coming to the house. Erik Estrada is the only house member who is actually into it. Tammy says her bible won't allow her to see a psychic.
Coolia - Her bible – it's hers and it isn’t like my bible or yours.
Nerdia - I don't have a bible. Does this mean I'm allowed to see a psychic?
Psychic arrives, gives Trishelle first reading and tells her someone close to her may have died. She assumes it was aforementioned ex-boyfriend who left the ominously vague message.
Coolia – Rob is doing better this time, consoling Trishelle after her traumatic reading.
Nerdia - But he is scaring me with his screaming, "DON'T BE A FOLLOWER!" If you cow-tow to that admonition, aren't you again a follower? You're almost compelled to NOT FOLLOW his command and BE a follower just to show him you have some kind of Vanilla-Ice-free free-will.
Tammy says the psychic planted a seed in Trishelle's mind.
Coolia - And that seed was SATAN!
Rob defends Trishelle against the evil seed-planting psychic.
Nerdia - Uh-oh, Rob is going off again.
Coolia – Uh-oh, Tammy is teary-eyed
Tammy cries, says she doesn't need a psychic reading because she has peace and joy.
Nerdia – She claims she's found peace as she sobs. That's irony, kids.
To prepare for the séance, Traci braids Ron's hair.
Coolia– Traci is so in love with Ron. She wants to have his babies. Ron looks like Coolio. How can I take the séance seriously looking at him?
Tammy refuses to join séance. Trishelle tells Tammy she doesn't want to go either, but she ends up going.
Nerdia – Trishelle’s in there. She has to go along with the group. Such a social animal. Erik is into this. So is Traci. Even Vanilla Ice is behaving himself and having fun.
Coolia – The psychic needs to pronounce Trishelle's name right.
Psychic makes startling revelations, such as that Erik may have back problems from hanging upside down.
Coolia - Hmm, how could that psychic know that Erik hangs upside down?
Ron fakes sleeping during his reading.
Coolia - Maybe the psychic saw Porn Star - the revelations about Ron needing love seem familiar.
Trishelle finally contacts her ex-boyfried and he is not dead after all. She is so happy, she gets drunk just as she did in Episodes 1 and 2. She drunkenly proclaims her love to Rob. But tragically, Rob declares his love for his wife. Trishelle vomits.
Nerdia - Rob is being good...trying to set boundaries for Trishelle. There is some maturity deep down under all that crap.
Coolia - Poor Ron. Nobody's in love with him.
Nerdia - Traci's been all over him the last few episodes. Aside from her shallow desire to see his package, I thinks she likes him best.
Erik and Ron tuck little Trishelle into bed. The next morning, Erik tells the girls they have a drinking problem. Ron concurs. Traci snaps back at Ron: “Okay, Mr. Flawless.” Traci defends Trishelles choice in Rob and claims to think Rob is intelligent.
Coolia – Ooh, that was a good one, Traci. I think Erik is overreacting to the drinking.
Nerdia - I disagree. I can tell they have a drinking problem and I've only spent two-and-a-half hours with them. Erik is on to something.
Cast is told they have to put on a children's play. Ron is to direct because he has a BA in theater and an MA in special ed.
Nerdia - What will the special ed come in handy for...directing the emotionally handicapped celebrities?
Erik criticizes Trishelle for being hung over and not being professional.
Coolia– They didn’t know they'd have to do a play the next day when they got wasted. Erik needs to lay off.
Rob declares that the play is cheesy.
Coolia – The play is cheesy. Gary Coleman is cheesy. MC Hammer is cheesy. Everything is cheesy to Rob.
Tammy reveals she is nervous about memorizing lines. She says she has always been an ad libber.
Nerdia – I bet she's dyslexic like Cher.
Rob helps Tammy learn her rap. Erik complains about professionalism again and says, “If I have a problem emotionally with a role, I’ll look at it technically. Coolia and Nerdia laugh heartily.
Coolia – Erik is being soooo pompous.
Nerdia – And an idiot. What does that even mean?
Coolia – Ron is whining too much.
Ron complains: “I’ve always hated directing, even in adult films." Rob tells Ron, "Relax Bro!"
Nerdia - Yeah. He whined all through Porn Star about wanting to do non-porn acting and he's done nothing to accept this theatrical challenge. Instead he's complained from the very beginning. If he loved acting so much, he'd get into the fun of it.
Tracy says, “I love the theater. I love the craft.”
Coolia – Ahh, the craft of Baywatch.
Rob admonishes Ron: “Don’t pull a Gary Coleman on us." Rob tells Ron to step off.
Coolia – Rob is such a bully.
Tammy falls down. Trishelle throws up again.
Coolia – Why don’t they give them more time to do the play? They just want to create chaos and yelling.
Nerdia - But this is just like what they did last year with the talent show. And it turned out good and everyone had fun. They bond over pressure just like the celebrities did in Celebrity Bootcamp.
Rehearsal is a disaster of arguing and creative differences. Tammy even says "crap" at one point. Have her house-mates soiled her mind with profanity so soon. She tries to climb onstage and she wipes out just like my aged dog Helga does when she rounds a corner too fast. Trishelle thinks all the professional actors suck and if this is the best they can do, she surely can do better even hung over. Before the show, another gratuitous shot of Ron in tighty whities.
Nerdia – That thing of his stretches out his tighties. Are parents okay with their kids watching a porn star in children's theater? Look at that, Tammy is good at ad libbing.
Coolia– The words "sucks" and "pleasure" in a children's play? Did Ron mix up this script with one of his own?
Rob misses his cue, then runs out and thrills the kids with his pirate antics.
Nerdia – This is a story about all of us girls who would rather have the pirate.
Tammy screws up her lines. Cast freezes. Trishelle kicks ass, knows all her lines. Overly critical, Ron calls the play cheesy and campy.
Coolia – Children's theater is cheesy by nature.
Nerdia - Kids like cheese as a rule.
Cast sings “be yourself” song with personalized lyrics, such as Tammy singing about her ex-husband taking money from PTL.
Nerdia - Rob should take this song to heart. It's about accepting yourself.
Coolia - These lyrics are so personal – "if you’re known for just one thing"
Show ends with Ron tagging his painting with “be yourself.”
Coolia - Rob - charming to the last.
Nerdia - I'm shocked Rob actually got into it and had fun. Look he's entertaining the kids! And eve
n Traci says she got something out of it. Our two house monsters are softening up. Aww.

Ape Culture Weekly Ranking (from least to most annoying)

1/25/04 - Episode 3


  1. Erik - good hammy acting for the kids, displayed openness during séance, used sense of humor to break up melodramatic rehearsal tension
  2. Rob - I appreciate his improvement. He seems to be growing and seeing the joie de vie in his surreal life.
  3. Traci - good sport about everything this episode
  4. Trishelle - I think she might actually have a drinking problem if she has a crush on Rob. (Hey...Coolia once had a crush on Rob, too...)
  5. Tammy - She seriously needs to get it together and learn how to memorize menus and scripts and NOT cry when she's talking about how joyful she is
  6. Ron - He annoyed me more than anyone else this episode, but that's not saying much because nobody was very annoying this week. He was a horrid director.



  1. Traci - amazingly, she vaults from last place in my week 1 rankings to first place in week 3 - she had fun with it, went with the flow
  2. Ron - still funny, but a little uptight this time and whiney
  3. Trishelle - although I wish she would transfer her misplaced crush on Rob to Ron, she's still likeable
  4. Rob - he's still annoying, but he made a good pirate
  5. Tammy - she messed up the play a little, but was ok otherwise
  6. Erik - plummeting from first place to last due to pomposity and dullness



  1. Trishelle - I just love her.
  2. Traci - Totally redeemed herself. These two need to keep drinking.
  3. Rob - Finally gives you a reason to like him. His genuine persona comes out for the kids.
  4. Ron - Still great, but not his best episode.
  5. Tammy Faye - She keeps surprising me. You go Tammy!
  6. Erik - Same old, same old. He just bores me.


Coolia’s Notes

I know this show begins with an ultimately contrived premise, but I wish every episode didn't have to be so contrived. I'd like to watch the roommates just hang out in the house and maybe "start getting real" instead of watching them take part in demeaning brownie delivery runs or Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland "Let's put on a show!" crap. Even though everyone seems to be getting along, I wonder if they are ever going to have enough quality time to produce the kind of breakthrough moments that last year's cast achieved with Vince sharing about his daughter's death, Hammer talking about his faith, etc. Rob showed some positive qualities for the first time, proving the psychic's assessment of him as being good with kids was true. He was a fun pirate. Erik seemed too serious and arrogant to me in this episode. I didn't like the way he told Trishelle she had a drinking problem after knowing her for a couple of days. Sure, I can make that declaration - but then I witnessed her behavior for an entire season on Real World! Seriously, I've sought comfort by leaning my head on the cold toilet bowl from time to time myself, so I'm not going to judge her partying ways. Ron got the most spotlight this episode, but he didn't perform too well. At first I felt sorry for him when he complained about having to direct. I don't like being in charge of things either, so I could relate. But then I looked him up on imdb.com and discovered he had 117 porn directing credits! If he can helm the John Wayne Bobbitt vehicle Frankenpenis, then a kid's play should be no problem. Getting Tammy Faye to say her lines on cue can't be any tougher than getting Bobbitt to maintain wood. John Wayne Bobbitt - now's there's someone who would be good for Surreal Life 3.

Chad’s Notes

After a dismal start, Trishelle and Traci are now carrying the show. Sure it's mostly just drunken debauchery, but, man, is it fun to watch. Most of their charm is alcohol-induced, but I'm willing to overlook that. Rob on the other hand, is a total train wreck. However, his personality is vital to the show. Especially, since Trish and Traci have now become boozing buddies. Rob's anger issues and his inability to take criticism almost always keep him at arm's distance. Then (with the exception of a small Corey moment) Rob allowed us to see the real Rob during his pirate performance. The kids loved him and with good reason. What can you say about Ron Jeremy? He's a lot of fun. I like him for many of the same reasons I like Trishelle and Traci. Which is why I didn't care for him this episode. He slowly lost his composure directing and his 24-7-larger-than-life porn star personality went straight out the window. Tammy continues to impress me. She manages well outside of her comfort zone. We all have our limits and the psychic was hers. She has the highest hurdles to jump and has still managed to be the best sport of the group. Erik is a little too serious and calculated for my taste. He's fun for an introvert, but where's the Diva behavior? You're a celebrity - act like one! He steals brief moments with minor acts of rebellion, but mostly he comes off like a camp counselor.

Nerdia’s Notes

I was always hot for the camp counselor. Maybe this is why my parents never sent me to camp. Erik has just the right balance of good sense to sense of humor to sex appeal. I can see why my friends' older sisters were all agog over him when we were in grade school. I wish we had an Erik Estrada five years later. What did we have? Tom Selleck. Bleech. Talk about generic, calculated and dull. Although I too dislike the manufactured daily missions placed upon these poor imprisoned celebrities by unknown Surreal Life office execs, I do think it helps them bond in the end. As I stated in my opening comments for season one, I don't care for the high drama of reality shows. It all seems so sad and pointless. So deep down, I am always moved when celebrities break through their self-imposed mental orbits of ego to actually bond. It gives us all hope. Because if there's nothing TV hasn't rammed down our throats, it's that whatever celebrities can do, we can too! If celebrities like Raquel Welch can do yoga, so can we! If celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg can lose weight on diet shakes, heck - so can we. If celebrities can yank the pants of Ron Jeremy, well then SO...CAN...I!

Which cast member is aggravating your soul? Who would you like to see kicked off and who would you replace them with? Please share.

Read Ape Culture's commentary on Surreal Life Season 1


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