Spencer and Heidi ditch ‘I’m a Celebrity,’ but will viewers?

06.02.09 8 years ago

Dan Steinberg/AP

If Spencer Pratt were more of a student of American History (or basic reading, writing and arithmetic, for that matter), his final words to the “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here” cameras on Tuesday (June 2) night might have been “You won’t have Pratt to kick around anymore.”

America’s least favorite knucklehead whackjob and his airhead bride Heidi bailed on NBC’s “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here” on Tuesday after two episodes. It was a moment so fake and contrived it made Sunday’s Bruno-on-Eminem conflict look spontaneous.

As voting for eliminations was held in their absence at the end of the episode, they can no longer legitimately participate in the game anymore. If you believe, however, that Spencer and Heidi will never be seen again on “I’m a Celebrity,” you probably also believe that Janis Dickinson’s lips are real, that Sanjaya is, as his bio states, a “pop star” and that this is where Lou Diamond Phillips expected his career to go after “La Bamba” and “Stand and Deliver.”

A popular commercial tells me that happy cows come from California, but NBC knows that cash cows also come from the Golden State, more specifically from The Hills.

[More quick thoughts on a show I’d already vowed never to watch a second time…]

NBC is in the very peculiar position of being a broadcast network that almost has to be run by premium cable rules. HBO and Showtime are always hesitant to share ratings, because the actual number of viewers for any show is less important than something more ephemeral, the amount of buzz a show gets. The rational goes that it’s one thing for pre-existing subscribers to sit around and watch a show. Who cares about them? What the premium networks want is for the cacophony surrounding a program to force neophytes to subscribe. That’s where the money is.

Nobody needs to subscribe to NBC, but the network’s business model is becoming increasingly buzz-based, hence the decision to renew a show like “Chuck” over a higher rated program like “Medium.” It’s half-innovative and half-surrender.

Last night gave a fine illustration of the NBC philosophy. The network’s finale for “Medium” drew nearly 7.4 million viewers, a million more than the figure averaged by “I’m a Celebrity…” but while “Medium” was cancelled (and acquired by CBS), there are rumors that NBC is contemplating extending “I’m a Celebrity” deeper into the summer.

The reviews for “I’m a Celebrity” were dismal and most of the buzz on messageboards and on Twitter involved people dreaming of making Spencer and Heidi the victims of celebricide. But there’s no such thing as bad publicity if you’re NBC. At least not in the Ben Silverman Era. If you get people talking, the money will somehow follow. [Yes, this very much from the Underpants Gnomes School of Business.]

Why else would the network have recruited Patti Blagojevich for the show? We’re talking about a person so repellent that her charity of choice, Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, has declined to be the recipient of her winnings. Funny how that goes when your husband stands accused of attempting to extort campaign donations from the charity’s partner hospital. And not only is P-Blago competing on the show, but she’s being hailed as a genuine hero on national TV, four nights a week. On Tuesday night’s show, Patti’s fellow celebrities voted to give her immunity, allowing her to continue to make her case for at least another week.

[Side note: Patti Blagojevich and her husband may or may not be reprehensible people, but the money isn’t coming from her pocket. Unless somebody has stepped up to pay the charity the amount of money they’re turning down here, they may want to consider if no-strings-attached money for kids with cancer might make this a necessary evil. In this economy? With people thinking hard about their charitable giving? Hold your nose and take the money and make something good come of this.]

People are talking about P-Blago. But because she’s attempted to make herself into a martyr, she’s pretty dreary TV. Want boring TV? Greetings, John Salley, Lou Diamond Phillips and Torrie Wilson. Stephen Baldwin is weird TV, but not necessarily good TV. Ditto with Sanjaya Malakar. Janice Dickinson is good TV, but she’s good TV in the same way she’s been on all of her other shows, so she’s familiar TV. Frangela is/are funny and they actually might be entertaining, but since they aren’t celebrities, they can’t be used as a promotional hook.

That’s why I’m figuring we’re going to get plenty more Spencer Pratt and Heidi this season, no matter what Costa Rica mountains NBC and the producers have to move to make it happen. Will it be via regular remote appearances from the comfort of their palatial and cushy residence in The Hills? Will be be from a resort hotel in Costa Rica? Will the appearances be daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? That’s for the NBC brass to figure out, because they know darned well that without Speidi, they no long have a show and that without this show, they’re punting the month of June. Trust me, I’ve seen two episodes of “The Listener” and that’s not where the buzz is going to come from.

Some sample Spencer and Heidi quotes just from Tuesday’s episode:

“My goal is to be a true disciple of Jesus. A Mother Theresa.” (Heidi)

“I received two stars, one star for myself and one star for Heidi, because we’re the only two stars on this program.” (Spencer)

“The problem with Spencer Pratt is that not even Spencer Pratt knows what he’s going to do moment to moment, second to second.” (Spencer)

“For me, I’m at war seven days a week in Hollywood.” (Spencer, on the other celebrities’ weak strategizing)

“I want to get the filth of my sins off me. I want to get the filth of the eel sperm off me.” (Spencer, before getting baptized by Stephen Baldwin)

“Now you’re looking at a new Spencer Pratt. I really do feel like next-level powerful and just clean.” (Spencer, after getting baptized by Stephen Baldwin)

“I love Stephen Baldwin. I don’t care what anyone says.” (Spencer again)

“Thank you for ‘Young Guns.’ I don’t know what I would do without it.” (Spencer, to Lou Diamond Phillips)

“I’m a super-celebrity. My wife is a super-celebrity. Super-celebrities don’t belong in the jungle. They belong in Hollywood with the paparazzi.” (Spencer)

“I don’t volunteer, baby. I get paid.” (Spencer)

Yes, looking at those quotes, it’s clear that Heidi is intellectual dead-weight, but she’s a catalyst, so they’ll need to keep her around. Spencer may be moral dead-weight, but he was smart enough to recognize that the show was a personality vacuum, a vacuum he occupied swiftly and effectively and much to the pleasure of the producers, who might otherwise have had to program a three-hour test patter for Monday and Tuesday’s show. And teasing Wednesday’s show, the best they had to offer is a shouting match between John and Janis. Guys, that’s not going to pique the interest of the 18-49 audience. Internet scuttlebutt has Stephen’s least entertainment brother and one of Spencer’s less famous siblings flying down to join the fun, a move that would probably extend the length of the show, but wouldn’t fix a core problem.

With Spencer and Heidi, “I’m a Celebrity” will be a guilty pleasure (for some people). Without them, the guilt will remain — Thanks, Patti! — but the pleasure will be gone.

It was 1962 when Tricky Dick told reporters, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore…” He spent more than five years as a private citizen before winning the presidency in 1968.

My hunch? We’ll have Spencer Pratt to kick around again before the end of the week, or else NBC might be forced to kick “I’m a Celebrity” over to Telemundo or something.

How do you think NBC will bring Spencer and Heidi back? Or do you think they’re gone for good?

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