September 26, 2023
There are 44 seasons of ‘Survivor’ to choose from, where to begin?! ‘Drop Your Buffs’ host and pop culture writer Evan Ross Katz joins Ashley to discuss the best place to start as a newbie. He also shares his thoughts on why ‘White Lotus’ creator Mike White did so well on ‘Survivor: David vs. Goliath.’ Later on, they get into ‘And Just Like That,’ ‘The Traitors,’ The Morning Show’ season 3, and the cancellation of ‘Winning Time.’
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S2E62 — Beginner’s Guide to Survivor w/ Evan Ross Katz
Evan Ross Katz [00:00:05] He succeeded because he was Mike White, a person who came to this island and was open to developing real friendships and relationships with people in the game.
Ashley Ray [00:00:14] And I mean, I’m going to be real. I’m going to guess the other people on the island probably had not watched Enlightened. I’m going to guess they were not familiar with that show.
Evan Ross Katz [00:00:22] I know. Isn’t that disgusting? Hopefully retroactively they corrected what I see as an egregious flaw in character. But yeah, I think you’re right.
Ashley Ray [00:00:38] Welcome to TV, I Say with Ashley Ray, your go-to podcast for discovering what to watch on TV and getting behind the scenes insight from the people who make the shows you love. You just heard a little tease of my chat with Evan Ross Katz. You’ve been watching a Survivor episode, and I had to bring on an expert. So, we’re getting into Survivor. We’re getting into And Just Like That, too, because come on. Evan is besties with Sarah Jessica Parker, so we have to get into it. Yeah, it is everyone’s favorite show, so I’m going to talk about And Just Like That forever. But let’s get into it. Enjoy my interview with Evan Ross Katz. Evan Ross Katz, welcome to TV Club. Before we dive in, do you want to tell my listeners a little about yourself and your podcasts, Drop Your Buffs and Shut Up Evan?
Evan Ross Katz [00:01:27] Sure. So, I am predominantly a fashion and pop culture writer–occasionally a critic. I would say, just, like, you know, disseminator of opinions, perhaps. I write for New York magazines, The Cut, GQ, British Vogue, and a number of other places. And then I have two podcasts. So, one is called Shut Up Evan, which is also a newsletter as well. And that’s sort of rants and raves about, you know, things happening in the pop culture space, particularly with an eye on all things celebrity. And on Drop Your Buffs, I cover Survivor. I binge watched all–at that point–40 seasons during COVID. Fell in love, and now I have a recap podcast where obviously we recap the show as well as have alumni on, talk about the show, and then occasionally dive into Survivor adjacent content as well.
Ashley Ray [00:02:19] Oh, yes. And I had to have you on because the TV Club has been begging me to get into Survivor for forever. They’re like, “Ashley, please watch again. It’s good.” I have not watched since high school. And so, I was like, “If I’m going to do this, I need to talk to an expert. I need to talk to someone who did it.” How do I get into a show that has 40+ seasons? Like, how do you even?
Evan Ross Katz [00:02:41] I feel like I made the mistake when I was beginning my journey of logging on to twitter.com–or then twitter.com–and saying, “What are the seasons to start with?” And what you will get when you ask most Survivor fans is that they’re going to give you the best of the best–the flashiest seasons of Survivor–that have the big moves and the iconic players. And while I obviously love and appreciate those seasons, I would start you on a more nuanced season–a deeper cut–to sort of understand the nuances of the game and work your way up. I’ve seen people recommend that people start with season 20, which is heroes versus villains. It’s perhaps the biggest All-Stars season. And I’m like, “You can’t start people on an all-star season.”
Ashley Ray [00:03:25] Yeah. I won’t know anyone.
Evan Ross Katz [00:03:27] Yeah. So, I would kind of begin by giving you a good entry survey into, like, what do you like in your reality TV diet? And from there I would use those answers to sort of cater seasons that I think will appease that.
Ashley Ray [00:03:40] Okay, because like I love Traitors. I’ve gotten into Big Brother again recently, so that’s my kind of vibe. I love the backstabbing drama of the house. So that’s what I want from Survivor. I’m not really trying to watch people balance on a log. I don’t care about the games.
Evan Ross Katz [00:03:59] Totally. Okay. So, then I think you’re going to want the teens because I think the early seasons is going to be a lot of balancing on a log. The 30s and the modern season is going to lean really hard into strategy and gameplay, which–if you’re a fan of the Traitors–you might like. But I think the teens is sort of that sweet spot of you get really interesting characters that are I would say not exactly reality TV ready. And I mean that in the best way possible. Survivor of today is very polished. And while I appreciate that as a genre of television, my proclivity is towards that early 2000s when you had people on there that you were like, “Do you know that there’s a camera on you right now?”
Ashley Ray [00:04:45] Exactly. That is what I love about reality TV. I’m excited for The Golden Bachelor because I feel like these old men aren’t going to understand being on a TV show. That is what I love. I also am curious–I love Big Brother for the romance and people having sex on camera. Does this happen on…? Does CBS even allow–?
Evan Ross Katz [00:05:05] No. There’s a couple of… You know, in Season 16–Micronesia–there are two contestants that kind of hook up. And you see them kissing and stuff. I would say sex is not a huge component because they’re on an island where they haven’t showered and don’t have the other luxuries that you have in a house like Big Brother–such as, you know, the ability to cleanse one’s body not in a body of water. So, you don’t really get as much of that. And I have to say, if Big Brother did not have the live feeds, I feel like they would cut all the sex out of the show. The reason why Big Brother is sort of known to fans like us as a show where people get down is because the live feeds make it so that they can’t avoid that. Or if they do avoid that, then everyone would log on to Twitter and just be like, “They’re covering up the fact that so-and-so and so-and-so had sex in the diary room.
Ashley Ray [00:05:59] Yeah. And, I mean, I honestly was shocked. I felt like an old woman when I realized, like, how much they let them do on Big Brother now. I was just like, “Since when on my Christian television are we just, like, fucking? But that’s reality TV now.
Evan Ross Katz [00:06:15] They’re fucking. It’s wild when I’ll see that they’re fucking because I follow all of the live feeds on Twitter. And then I’ll wonder, “Okay, how is Julie Chen Moonves, a woman of God, going to either stitch this into the show in a way that is, you know, above board, or how are they going to cover it up entirely?”
Ashley Ray [00:06:35] Yeah. So, okay, I’m not going to get that kind of drama from Survivor. That is okay. What would you say? So, you decided to watch this whole thing during quarantine? I just wonder what about it helped you get through that moment in time. Like for me, the show that I did with Sex and the City. I finally sat down and watched it all. Those were my girls. I was like, “We’re getting through this together.” What about Survivor really clicked for you?
Evan Ross Katz [00:06:56] Well, first of all, I love that we’re contrasting Sex and the City and Survivor because they are two really important series from around the same time. You know, for me, I find Survivor incredibly watchable. And there are even shows that I love that I would not give that label to. I’ve never been someone that binges television. That’s not my consumption habit. And Survivor is something that I did binge. When an episode would end, it was very much about grab the remote–we got to find out what’s happening with Parvati and Amanda. I would say that Survivor–in specifically the first half of the series–is cast on a level that I just have never seen. The only reality show that I would put at its level would probably be, like, I Love New York and Flavor of Love, I think, has a similar alchemy of really, really smart casting across the board. But when it comes to a lot of other comparable shows–your Amazing Races, your Big Brothers, etc.–you’ll usually get a third of the cast that’s really good and then two thirds that are forgettable and we always sort of just glob on to the icons. There are seasons of Survivor, especially the aforementioned Heroes vs. Villains, where 95% of the cast–save for Candice and maybe one other–are icons. And so, you really do get these icons. And then on top of that, the amount of returning player seasons is such where you have these characters or human beings like Cirie, who’s one of my all-time favorite players.
Ashley Ray [00:08:27] Okay. Yes. I love Cirie. Cirie is the same Cirie from Traitors.
Evan Ross Katz [00:08:31] Yes. And the same Cirie from Big Brother now.
Ashley Ray [00:08:33] From Big Brother. She’s my girl.
Evan Ross Katz [00:08:36] So you really get her arc. She comes on her first season, Panama, which is Season 12. She’s completely a fish out of water. She’s uncomfortable even turning over leaves. Like, that’s how fearful she is of this experience. And she comes back three other times. She’s played Survivor four times now. And so, you get just this incredible arc from a character like Cirie that I don’t think you get on any other television show. And yeah, players like Cirie and Parvati and Russell–you just get this cinematic universe. I know people love Marvel. That’s not my jam, I would say. But I would say Survivor presents that same sort of galaxy of stars.
Ashley Ray [00:09:14] Yeah. And that’s what I like about 90 Day Fiancé. I feel like it is the 90 Day universe. Once you’re in, you know, all the people from all the spinoffs, and you’re just like, “These are my people. I get it.” So, you’re selling me on it. Now, I want to start with Cirie’s season.
Evan Ross Katz [00:09:31] Okay. So Cirie’s first season is Panama. It is incredible. I would say to our earlier point about the nuanced seasons–the ones that wouldn’t get recommended–few people would tell you to start on Panama. I am telling you; Panama is a good season to start.
Ashley Ray [00:09:47] Yeah. If you say Cirie, I’m in. She’s amazing.
Evan Ross Katz [00:09:54] And the funny thing about Cirie is I always worry when I first saw that she was cast in the Traitors. I was like, “Oh, there’s going to be a lot of people that don’t know Survivor. Is she going to be able to live up to the legend?” She enters any space with a lot of legacy behind her. And on both Traitors and Big Brother, I’ve been so impressed because I’ve been like, “Oh, she’s just effortlessly at this level no matter the game.”
Ashley Ray [00:10:15] No matter the game, she’s ready to play it, and she will win. I just am obsessed with her. To me, she’s a star. But I’m also curious. You talk about all these all-stars coming back–sort of the fan favorites. How do Survivor fans react to someone like a Mike White who was on the show? I had not seen his season. I am very curious. Does he come back? Do people talk to him about it? Like, what is that relationship?
Evan Ross Katz [00:10:43] So Mike was a fan of the show from the get-go. And like I would say, Mike is a diehard fan of the show in that he watched from the jump but also understands the many ways in which one can appreciate the show. Like we were saying before, some people come for the standing on the logs. Other people come for the strategy. Other people come for the characters. Other people come for the relationships. He kind of has his eye on all of that. He actually played very late in the run. His season is 37, which I would say is a top ten season, but I wouldn’t start on it. You got to earn 37, but it’s a superb season.
Ashley Ray [00:11:20] I thought he was on it forever ago.
Evan Ross Katz [00:11:22] No. It was so recent.
Ashley Ray [00:11:24] Ten or something.
Evan Ross Katz [00:11:25] I know. It feels so long ago, but it’s so recent. So, he has not yet come back to the show. I had him on Drop Your Buffs a couple months ago and asked him about if he would return. And there does seem to be a willingness. I think it would have to be the right alchemy of, like, what’s the theme of the season, who are the other returning players, etc. But someone like Mike actually did really well. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I’ll say he went very far in the game. And that’s because, yes, one could say, “I’m assuming Mike White works in Hollywood and has quite a bit of money, especially in comparison to many of the other players of this game.” But when you ingratiate yourself with people in an experience as isolating as being on this island, sometimes things like that aren’t really front of mind always. You really start to get to know who a person is outside of their occupation, outside of their socioeconomic status, etc. And so, I think Mike really succeeded at the game not because he was Mike White, the television juggernaut. He succeeded because he was Mike White, a person who came to this island and was open to developing real friendships and relationships with people in the game.
Ashley Ray [00:12:37] Yeah. And I mean, I’m going to be real. I’m going to guess the other people on the island probably had not watched Enlightened. I’m going to guess they were not familiar with that show.
Evan Ross Katz [00:12:45] I know. Isn’t that disgusting? Hopefully retroactively they corrected what I see as an egregious flaw in character. But yeah, I think you’re right.
Ashley Ray [00:12:53] Yeah, I would hope at this point they were like, “Let’s go check it out and realize it’s one of the best shows ever made.” But I just always am shocked that people do not watch or know Enlightened.
Evan Ross Katz [00:13:02] I know. And you would think after the success of White Lotus, there would have been sort of that “Okay, let’s go back now” and, you know, more people deep diving into his early work. That really is, I think, the crown jewel in, you know, a career of great work. Yeah. Where is the discourse? Actually, maybe we need to start it.
Ashley Ray [00:13:18] We need to start the discourse. We need to bring it back. It’s time. I do believe that you created the juggernaut that And Just Like That became. I believe… I was trying to tell people. I’m like, “Look. It is the show. It’s going to change your life.” They weren’t believing me. And then you would post the exact moments of every episode that I was like, “That is what I want to screenshot.” And you would do that. And people would be like, “What is this show?”
Evan Ross Katz [00:13:46] Yeah, people had an anthropological curiosity about it because obviously Sex and the City fans migrated. And I think there were just curious folks that, you know, enjoy prestige television, like Sarah Jessica, or whatever that came over to the show. But I think there were a lot of people that discovered the show through memes or the conversation happening on places like Twitter. And thank you for giving me the credit. But I have to say, I share with many people. It’s a fan community. And the reason why I think that it’s become such a thing is because of people like me, but I am not the sole person responsible.
Ashley Ray [00:14:25] I mean, I guess. Yeah. But Sarah Jessica Parker is not talking to me.
Evan Ross Katz [00:14:26] You are someone who, like, again… Talk about someone who I loved logging onto Twitter and seeing their take on. But yeah, I think it’s just something that people–whether they, I think, almost like or don’t like–it sort of became irrelevant when it came to And Just Like That. And there was just this watchability to the show and the desire to be in on the conversation that was this show that I think kind of carried it over the finish line.
Ashley Ray [00:14:53] Yeah. I literally have had some fans be like, “You keep talking about And Just Like That every episode. And I ask people what they’re watching, and everyone’s watching it. It just comes up no matter the guest. It can be a 45-year-old man, and they’re like, “I can’t believe that he didn’t ask her for a five-year break? Like, who does that?”
Evan Ross Katz [00:15:11] And you know, what’s so funny about the topics like that is… And this is reminding me of when I used to watch Sex and the City back in the day. You’re not only discussing the plot points of the show, you’re discussing how you would react to them in real life. You know what I mean? Like, would you ever be okay if a partner came to you and said, “I need a five-year break to go and raise my 16- and 17-year-old children”? So really the conversations are about the show, but really, they’re about us sort of being like, “Why did this character do this? Would I do this? What does it mean that they did this? Like, do I know people that would do this?” And then you talk to someone that’s like, “Oh yeah, I would wait five years.” And you’re like, “Wait. What?” And then a whole conversation is born from that. So, I think it was able to tap into conversations that existed on the show but really were ideas that were sort of fermented by the show but really became whole other topics in, you know, group chats and whatnot.
Ashley Ray [00:16:08] I do want your opinion on Che Diaz. I feel like you can’t talk about the show without getting into the Che Diaz conversation.
Evan Ross Katz [00:16:17] Totally. Um… Hmmm…
Ashley Ray [00:16:22] That was the most, like, political, like, reserved “Um.” Like, “Let me really find my words here.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:16:28] So I think it’s tricky because as we’ve seen with some of, like, Sara Ramirez’s recent Instagram posts and things, I think it can get slippery with people misinterpreting criticisms of Che Diaz to be criticisms of Sara Ramirez. So, I want to be really mindful to separate that. I think Sara Ramirez is an incredible actor. They do a great job throughout their career, particularly in musical theatre spaces, which I wish they would get back to. I think the character of Che Diaz does not belong on this television show, and I think it actually holds back both Miranda and Kerry from exploring new plot avenues. But again, I don’t blame Sara Ramirez or their performance as Che. If I were to ascribe blame, I would blame the writers, where I think that Che is both a poorly written character but I also, like I said, don’t think that the character–poorly written or not–fits into the world of And Just Like That.
Ashley Ray [00:17:31] Yeah, exactly. So, for me, I am the Che Diaz defender.
Evan Ross Katz [00:17:36] Oh, yes!
Ashley Ray [00:17:37] Yeah, I love Che because they seem like they’re from a totally different show and someone was like, “Who left them?” Like, yeah, it’s just a totally out of tone vibe. I don’t know who came up with it or thought it works. But I just love the chaos of, like, “Why all of a sudden are we watching Che watch their own stand-up?” And it’s not even funny. And it’s just a weird moment where we’re like, “Wow, Che.” But I loved it when I was like, “Okay, this is going to be just a relationship type deal. This will be, you know, just a lover of the week maybe or a few months. But then obviously Miranda will grow and move on.” And I hope that’s where we are. But then I just love that Che forced themselves into it–just forced themselves into becoming kind of part of the main crew. And everybody was like, “Yeah, okay, sure. We don’t really understand, like, why is Che at this big dinner at Carrie’s thing.” And then it’s like, “Sure, Carrie just loved her podcast that much–her failed, canceled podcast.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:18:48] Failed, canceled podcast. Also, why was Che seated next to Carrie with Miranda down at the end.
Ashley Ray [00:18:56] The end of the table.
Evan Ross Katz [00:18:57] Like, that really has stuck with me. Now tell me this. As the Che defender, tell me, where do you want to see the character of Che go with Season Three being that I think that we’ve tied up everything with regard to the Miranda-Che storyline in that we got them back to a neutral place? Like, that scene in the kitchen in the finale was kind of like, “What was this? It was a disaster–but glad it happened.”
Ashley Ray [00:19:27] And we can laugh and move on. And then of course, Che is now sleeping with–I don’t know–an NYU freshman or something.
Evan Ross Katz [00:19:34] Yeah, that was another difficult pill to swallow. I don’t know. Also, what is with everyone on the show, like, not being able to separate workplace and romance? Carrie’s fucking the podcast producer. They met this Toby person through work. This person came into the vet clinic. It’s like, “Yeah, we gotta separate that.” Seema fucking the film director.
Ashley Ray [00:20:01] Yeah, the film director. Nya’s dating the chef she met at the bar, right? Yeah. But I just want Che to stay to pretend to be a friend of Carrie because they have done no work to really show us that Carrie and Che care about each other. They’re such good friends. But then Carrie is bringing Aiden to, like, Che’s set and sitting there while Che, like, tears her friend apart. And you’re just like, “Okay, I guess Carrie is really close with Che now.” And I want to just see more of that because it all feels so fake and ridiculous. But I really just want to see Che go on more ridiculous dates. I want that to be part of it. Like, Carrie’s like, “Aiden’s gone for five years. Che, help me get on the scene.” And we just get more, like, out of place Che moments where they’re pulling a bong out in, like, a club and being like, “The pot is on me.” That’s what I need. That’s what I want Che for.
Evan Ross Katz [00:20:59] If that gets Carrie back into the club, then I’m all for it because I need to Carrie out and about.
Ashley Ray [00:21:06] Yes, like, I need Carrie dating. We got that a little bit. Like, they gave us the guy she, like, hits who’s on his bike or whatever. And I was like, “Here we go. Like, we’re really going to see her be single and do it up again. Maybe even somebody wants to get peed on again. Like, let’s really go. It’s dating in 2023. It’s wild out here.” And instead, we get Aiden.
Evan Ross Katz [00:21:29] I feel like there’s an opportunity for… Because, you know, you brought up the politician that wanted to pee on her. And I feel like there are more opportunities to do either a single episode revolving door or just, you know, peppered in throughout season three of, like, bring back those past men of the week players and sort of revisit the, like, “Okay, now that it’s 20+ years later, is there a possibility of rekindling this even if it’s just for a night?” I would love to see people like John Slattery back on the show–back in the saddle.
Ashley Ray [00:22:02] Back in it, and then just really kind of calling the show out and being like, “You really were kink shaming.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:22:09] But the fun twist would be if Carrie is now into it. And he’s like, “That was something I did when I was younger. Like, that’s not my thing anymore.” Like, I feel like if we’re going to do it, let’s subvert a little bit because one of the big criticisms of And Just Like That Carrie–which I have to say, And Just Like That Carrie and Sex and City Carrie are two different characters to me. And Just Like That Carrie is pretty sex negative one could say. She had trouble saying the word vagina on her podcast. So, I feel like another sort of course correction, if you will, that we could do with Season Three is, like, you know, bring back, you know, the sexual anthropologist that we first met in the pilot episode of the original series.
Ashley Ray [00:22:47] Yeah. I feel like Miranda and Carrie are totally different but everything with Carrie this season being disgusted when Charlotte is like, “Yeah, my husband comes on me,” and she’s like, “Oh my goodness!” We need Samantha back is basically what it is.
Evan Ross Katz [00:23:03] I mean, in more ways than one, it would save all of our… Any problem that we have could be remedied simply by bringing Samantha back into the mix. However, part of me is like, “There’s a world in which we’re misdiagnosing the problem and thinking that Samantha…” If Samantha were to show up–and I say “if” because I really do hold out hope–in my mind, I’m like, “Oh, well, everything will be fixed.” And I’m like, “There’s a world in which that’s the wrong Band-Aid on the wrong booboo.” But I’d like to see her back.
Ashley Ray [00:23:32] And did you watch Glamorous on Netflix with Kim Cattrall?
Evan Ross Katz [00:23:36] I watched two episodes.
Ashley Ray [00:23:38] Okay, I was actually obsessed with it and loved it. And to me, I basically was like, “Oh, this is Samantha in And Just Like That. She started a makeup company, and here we are.” And if you watch it from that way, it’s a great show. It’s basically just a gayer Emily in Paris, but it’s probably not going to get another season because I’m the only person who watched all of it. So, I think she’ll be free to come back to And Just Like That full time.
Evan Ross Katz [00:24:04] Or if it gets a second season, maybe we get a phone call from Carrie on Glamorous.
Ashley Ray [00:24:11] I alone would lose my shit because, again, I’m the only one watching. So, I actually do want to get into some strike and entertainment news because it’s been a big week. And I have got to talk to someone about Drew Barrymore. I need to process this because, I mean… Look, last week, a few days ago, Drew was like, “My show is coming back. I know–strike. But I have to do this because my show brings joy to the world. And during a difficult time like this, people need a daytime talk show with me, Drew Barrymore. And so, I have to bring my show back and scab. And we’re doing it without writers.” And obviously the backlash was huge. She was not the first person to scab. There’s also The View, Dances with Stars… Dancing with Stars?
Evan Ross Katz [00:25:20] Dancing with the Stars. I like your title. Let’s go with it.
Ashley Ray [00:25:27] Yeah. It’s been on for 30 years. I’ve never watched a moment of it. And then obviously, Bill Maher also the same day was like, “I will also be scabbing.” And nobody really cared. Everyone’s like, “They suck. So, like, of course they’re going to do that.” But with Drew, it was like she burned through all of her goodwill immediately. Everyone started coming for her. Everyone was like, “Sister, I hope you’ll really listen, grow, learn, and not do this.” And over the weekend, after posting an apology video that failed that just became a parody for people, she corrected course and decided that she is going to stick with the strike. She’s not going to bring the show back. They’re going to postpone until there’s a deal. And everyone was like, “Good.” Some people said, “Too little too late.” To me, I think she fixed her mistakes. She owned up to it. She’s not doing it. Thank you, Drew. But more importantly, her doing that seemed to get all the other people to realize, “Oh, we stopped her from doing this.” Even Bill Maher now is like, “We’re going to wait. I’m not going to bring the show back.” That’s crazy to me. That’s the part where I’m like, “Wait, she got Bill Maher to do the right thing?”
Evan Ross Katz [00:26:36] Yeah.
Ashley Ray [00:26:37] And I’m just like, “Is that the power of Drew Barrymore?” Like, what is it that she was able to just really get people upset about this?
Evan Ross Katz [00:26:47] I think it’s kind of the perfect storm in a lot of ways because, as you said, it was remarkable watching so much goodwill that so many of us have for Drew–both as a talk show host, but also as the star of all of our favorite movies–dissipate so quickly. I think it’s less about Drew than it is where we are at as a society right now in terms of our I don’t want to say desire to cancel people, but I would say our willingness to not try and give people the benefit of the doubt. The reality is that Drew was wrong here. She made a bad decision and at one point she did double down on that bad decision. But it’s also true that good people make bad decisions from time to time. And I think that I saw a lot of bad faith takes out there about Drew that I thought were disappointing. And I think one thing… You know, people can feel differently about it. I’m of the mindset where I would rather reward people that make a mistake who ultimately come around and do the right thing. But I do think that there’s nuance here. I saw a great tweet from Franchesca Ramsey, who has just done such fantastic coverage all throughout the strike. And she was saying, “Well, what about the people that, like, never made the mistake in the first place that aren’t sort of getting the same sort of, you know, reverence that people are giving to Drew?” And that point is absolutely valid, right? There are people who never returned to work. I mean, there’s a great post on Instagram that Janelle James made.
Ashley Ray [00:28:18] I wanted to bring up Janelle James’s post where she was like, “I’ve denied so much work. And I could tell everyone about it and have PR leak that and look like a hero, but I don’t need that.” And I was like, “She’s so amazing.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:28:31] Exactly. And I think it goes back to like this idea of, like, good faith, bad faith where I felt… And, you know, maybe I’m biased because I really do love Drew and I was so disappointed. But I ultimately think that a lot of people that were expressing frustrations, anger, disappointment with her–I thought that some of that was coming from wanting a bad faith place of not recognizing the weird position that she had been put in. And maybe you could say I’m giving her too much credit. Who’s to say? But ultimately, it’s a story with a happy ending. Well, happy is relative, right? Happy ending would be that we end the strike.
Ashley Ray [00:29:10] We have a deal.
Evan Ross Katz [00:29:11] Yeah, we have a deal. Yeah, but I think it was a great moment in that she ultimately did the right thing. I think the question now is with all of this… Now that she’s done the right thing, what is the next conversation in terms of… I’ve talked to many people in the industry who tell me that, like, the most important thing we can do right now is rally fans, right? It’s ultimately consumers that have the power in all this. So, I think the question is now that the Drew news cycle has ended, what’s the next course of news outside of, you know, returning to the bargaining table? But, like, how do we–and I say we, people outside of the industry like myself–how do people like us continue to create positive momentum for the WGA and for SAG-AFTRA to help make the AMPTP put pressure on them to feel like it’s not just these two unions. It’s also consumers like us who give a shit.
Ashley Ray [00:30:05] Yeah. And want to see the people that make the shows we love get paid fairly. Come on. And obviously these studios don’t know what they’re doing. Another news item I have to get into because I just found out this morning: They canceled winning time. They canceled HBO’s Winning Time today. So, the finale that aired last Sunday is a series finale. And apparently when they delivered the finale, they gave two cuts–one in case they get a renewal, one in case they didn’t. And a few days before they heard which version HBO was going to air, and they were like, “Oh, we’re not coming back.” Did you watch Winning Time?
Evan Ross Katz [00:30:45] I did watch Winning Time. I didn’t know it was canceled until right now.
Ashley Ray [00:30:48] I’m so sorry you have to find out this way!
Evan Ross Katz [00:30:51] Don’t you apologize. Let’s have the studios apologize.
Ashley Ray [00:30:54] I mean, I will never know what happens to the Lakers. But they decided to cancel it. I mean, I do know the second season was hurting for viewership. One of the directors of an episode was posting on Twitter a lot, being like, “Really, people, we need you to watch. The show is struggling.” I think they said the episode before the finale got 200,000 viewers, which is better than The Idol. Like, they’re doing better than that.
Evan Ross Katz [00:31:23] It certainly cost less.
Ashley Ray [00:31:24] Oh, yeah. So, you know, I think most people, though, were shocked because this seems like HBO’s next big prestige moment. It seemed like the thing that they were going to be like, “It’s our Succession replacement. It’s our Sunday tune-in TV.” And it just didn’t really seem to click with people.
Evan Ross Katz [00:31:42] Well, but I also think that this is a strategy that the studios are using, which is that they’re canceling beloved shows like this, which, again, outrage consumers. But to people in the industry, we recognize that we’re throwing the tomatoes at HBO, right? But there’s a faction of people that are like, “This is all because the actors and writers can’t agree to a deal and get back to work.” So, I think it’s really important that consumers and those outside the industry, even with a tertiary knowledge of the situation, understand that the target in a situation like this, in terms of throwing our vitriol, is at the studios.
Ashley Ray [00:32:18] Right. It’s the studio’s fault, okay? It’s not the unions. They want the shows back. It is the studios. We also got the cancellation of The Great, which broke me. It broke me that we lost The Great. And then they also just canceled the Wonder Years reboot that was on ABC. And it’s just a slaughter. Like, I don’t know what TV is going to look like after the strike.
Evan Ross Katz [00:32:41] Right, because this is only going to continue. I think what will be curious as we stretch into fall and then into winter, you know, there has been so much stuff that was pre-taped or filmed prestrike, slotted to go out over these last few months. But that content is going to begin to dry up in the next couple of months. From the consumer perspective, I wouldn’t say we felt the effects of the strike too, too much. Even I’m seeing new magazine shoots coming out, and I’m like, “Oh, wow. This, I guess, was taped.”
Ashley Ray [00:33:17] Some stuff I’m like, “Okay, they knew this strike was going to happen.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:33:23] I am curious to see in the coming months how much consumers… The people that have sort of chosen not to engage with this or done so because they were like, “How does this impact me?” I think it will begin to impact consumers more in the coming months when it starts to be like, “There are no more Barbies. There are no more Oppenheimers. There’s not going to be new movies or television coming out. So, what happens then?”
Ashley Ray [00:33:46] Yeah, and I am afraid. I think that’s when we’re going to see the real out-there reality shows. I think that’s when it’s going to be like they’re showing us reality shows from England and stuff, and we’re just like, “Okay, fine. I guess this is what we have.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:34:02] The worst part will be when we start to appreciate that because we’re like, “Well, at least it’s something.” I feel like that will be the darkest moment when we’re like, “Well, thank God we’re getting, you know, The Traitors Lithuania because it’s like, ‘Okay, well, we need something.’”
Ashley Ray [00:34:16] Okay. I would absolutely watch The Traitors Lithuania.
Evan Ross Katz [00:34:18] I know. Me too.
Ashley Ray [00:34:20] I would absolutely be into that. Any version of The Traitors–I will watch all of it.
Evan Ross Katz [00:34:25] This is true. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Traitors Season Two–the U.S. Season Two that’s coming… I’ve heard some rumblings about casting, and I think that there are some reasons to get excited about Season Two.
Ashley Ray [00:34:41] What can you tell us?
Evan Ross Katz [00:34:43] I can’t say anything outside of the fact that there are some people that I think people will know and be excited to see back on their screens.
Ashley Ray [00:34:52] Okay. Okay. I mean, my favorite after Cirie was Kate from Below Deck. I’m a big Below Deck head. I love Kate. And I was just like, “If I was there with her, I would follow her to the ends of the earth. She would have been the person that I’m like, ‘I vote however Kate votes.’”
Evan Ross Katz [00:35:08] Yeah, not great at the game, but great at the television game.
Ashley Ray [00:35:14] Which is also kind of how she is on Below Deck. Like, she’s not very good at her job.
Evan Ross Katz [00:35:20] Well, and also, like, if everybody comes in and is just game minded, I feel like the show can suffer. I feel like you need your Kates and your Ciries. You kind of need that alchemy of both in order to make a great season of television. So, I certainly appreciate having an antagonist like Kate, even though I don’t think she was long for the game. But she was longer than I thought she was going to be.
Ashley Ray [00:35:41] True. True. You know, everyone just hated her immediately. So, I was like, “They’re gonna kick you out right away.” But no, she made it to dropping barrels of money and just being like, “I don’t give a shit about this anymore.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:35:53] Yeah, I feel like having Brandi out so early, who was her ally early on in the game, actually benefited her. I think you see this a lot on Survivor where you’ll have a duo. I mean, I think we’re witnessing this right now on Big Brother with Cirie and Jared, where you think having a duo or a trio is great because you’ve got more numbers. But sometimes it can actually behoove of you to sort of go it alone because you have less of the baggage of having a partner, but also sort of, like, the constant shine of people thinking, “Well, you’re a twosome, right?” Your threat level is automatically raised. And so, I think Kate benefited from having Brandi gone because she’s a free agent. But also, she’s not going to do anything. She’s just Kate.
Ashley Ray [00:36:36] Yeah. And that made Kate angry and bitter for the rest of the game because she was like, “You losers took my friend away.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:36:42] Yeah, exactly. And then for us at home, we were like, “Well, thank God. It makes for great TV.”
Ashley Ray [00:36:46] It was such good TV. I cannot wait for The Traitors to come back.
Evan Ross Katz [00:36:49] Have you done The Traitors UK?
Ashley Ray [00:36:51] Yes. Oh, I’ve done them all. I am obsessed with it. That was, I would say, the show that got me kind of back into that style of reality show because, like, I hadn’t really watched Big Brother and all that stuff in so long. And then Traitors, I was like, “Okay, I’m back in. I need to know who these people are. What’s going on with these reality people?” I mean, the castle–everything about it–is just genius.
Evan Ross Katz [00:37:18] Good production. I think that UK did a much better job than the U.S. in particular because it cast older people. I’m always a proponent of casting 40+. That’s why The Golden Bachelor to me is inherently intriguing. But I feel like with The Traitors, my one sort of issue with it–and I do love the show–the actual strategy is very light on a game like that. A lot of your perception of who is a traitor is really based on nothing. But if you can kind of smooth your brain over a bit while you watch it and sort of accept the fact that this is not a game rooted in logic… I got to say, coming from the Survivor sphere where everything is sort of like she had a conversation with them… Everything feels very like you can trace all the steps of how a thought pattern began. With The Traitors, it’s sort of like, “She blinked at me this morning. She’s got to go.”
Ashley Ray [00:38:12] It’s literally like, “When the rest of us all had our eyes closed and looked up from the table, she looked up last. She did it.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:38:20] And then sometimes she is. And then they were like, “Okay. We knew.”
Ashley Ray [00:38:23] “We knew. We were able to tell.” Watching them just fail–my favorite part of the show.
Evan Ross Katz [00:38:31] It’s good stuff.
Ashley Ray [00:38:32] So I want to know your watchlist. What are you watching right now? What should the listeners at home be watching?
Evan Ross Katz [00:38:39] Well, it’s interesting. I feel like when And Just Like That ended, I feel a little bit like I’m looking for my next thing at the moment.
Ashley Ray [00:38:46] That’s how I felt. And Just Like That ended, and I don’t know who I am anymore–what I’m supposed to do with my life. What do I do?
Evan Ross Katz [00:38:52] Well, we need a support group, first of all, because I feel that we’re not alone here. So, I am going to begin The Morning Show Season Three. I have not delved into the waters that is The Morning Show. But obviously I’m intrigued. I’m a huge Greta Lee fan. She’s one of my faves. And Jon Hamm joined the cast. There’s a lot of reasons. My question is, do I go back and do Season One or Two? Or just do I start and capitalize on the freshness of Season Three? That part–I am not yet decided, but I feel like…
Ashley Ray [00:39:27] There is a time jump with Season Three. Honestly, Season One and Two are a mess. I have watched the show, and I wasn’t sure about Season Three until critics were like, “It is such a different show.” They do a time jump to kind of go, “Let’s remove ourselves from that mess that we were.” But I would say you don’t need to go back. It is really not worth going back.
Evan Ross Katz [00:39:49] Then I think I’ll just start fresh.
Ashley Ray [00:39:51] Yeah, start fresh because I think going back… If this new season is good, it will just taint it. The second season they clearly didn’t know what they were going to do, but they were like, “Well, we want to get into the MeToo stuff, but we have to kind of get rid of this bad guy.” And it’s just a weird thing where they’re trying to make you sad that Steve Carell’s character has to leave the show. And it’s just tonally off. And the best part of the show is when the two main girls are working together and trying to, like, take over and do everything. And it seems like that’s the energy of the new season. So, I’m hopeful, but I wasn’t that excited to start it because I’ve watched the show before. So, I was like, “Okay, another season of that. I’ll put it on some day when I’m doing laundry.” But now that I’m hearing, like, “Okay, there’s a time jump. It’s so much better,” I’m like, “Okay, maybe Apple TV fixed it.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:40:42] And to your point, I feel like I’m seeing all of those glowing reviews that are making me go, “Okay, well, maybe I missed the boat, but I can still, you know, come out and, you know… They can throw out a lifeline, and I can jump in.” So, I’ll start on that. I’m really into The Real Housewives of New York reboot that is currently airing. That has sort of occupied a lot of my head space. And then honestly, I’m just deep in Big Brother. And then the new season of Survivor premieres in two weeks. And I feel like that will be my brain for the next…
Ashley Ray [00:41:15] That’ll be what holds you until And Just Like That comes back.
Evan Ross Katz [00:41:18] Exactly. And it’s jumping to 90-minute episodes. And fans are so excited. And meanwhile, in my mind, I’m like, “Oh God, no” because I have to recap it, too, the following morning. So, I’m like, “Less content. Compress the storytelling. Compress, don’t expand.”
Ashley Ray [00:41:34] Please. Yeah, don’t expand. When they did that with 90 Day Fiancé, I was recapping for Vulture and thought I was going to lose my mind. I would just be like, “Please, I just want this to be over. I love the show, but do I really need extra footage of someone just getting their nails done?” It would always be stuff that you’re like, “This is not necessary.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:41:52] No, I miss the days of, like, a tightly edited 30-minute reality show à la The Hills, where it’s like, “The plot of this episode is they get on a boat, and they have a fight. And we’re going to make sure that we get, you know, 22 minutes. We’re going to squeeze every last drip from that lemon.” I’m surprised that the solution… I mean, I guess it’s probably a matter of advertising dollars, right? You can get more money. You’ll still shoot the same amount of footage, but you just get more ad dollars. So, I understand from what… “Understand” is probably the wrong word. I recognize why they’re doing it.
Ashley Ray [00:42:30] Yes. I see why they’re doing this to us.
Evan Ross Katz [00:42:31] Right. But I’m just always of the mindset of, like… You know that common trope of, like, “Could this have been an email instead of a phone call?” I feel that way about the expansion of, like, “Couldn’t we have just capped it to 60?”
Ashley Ray [00:42:42] Yeah. Really, what did I get out of this? What does this extra time really give me?
Evan Ross Katz [00:42:46] Exactly.
Ashley Ray [00:43:03] Where’s the next Survivor located? Where are they doing it?
Evan Ross Katz [00:43:06] They don’t move anymore. They’re always at the same beach in Fiji.
Ashley Ray [00:43:12] Oh, wow. I feel like that… I don’t know. Doesn’t that make it, like, easy to cheat or something?
Evan Ross Katz [00:43:19] Yeah. It’s also been consolidated, beginning with season 41. It went down from 39 days to 26 days. Yeah. Talk about budget cuts. So, we’re getting less time on the island but lengthier episodes. It’s very suspect. So, there are rumors–and I’m saying this is a rumor in the hope that it becomes a reality–that the Fiji Tourism Board that CBS Paramount has the deal with… That contract is lapsing after next season. So, there’s the possibility that the show could return to traveling all over the globe because one of the fun things I remember about, you know, first falling in love with the show was that they would go to all of these different regions and have to adapt to that region. Whereas now it’s sort of like they get to the island, and they know the island because they’ve seen the island on TV for how many seasons…
Ashley Ray [00:44:09] Like, yeah, I always was like, “You have to adapt to this new weather. The climate–what’s it going to be like? Oh no. Can we drink this water? Like, where can we fish?”
Evan Ross Katz [00:44:17] No, they’re given water now.
Ashley Ray [00:44:19] Wow.
Evan Ross Katz [00:44:20] I know. A lot has changed. It’s funny to begin this journey with this show, you know, two or three years ago now because having binged it all, I’m like, “Oh, I wish things could be back to how they were.” But also, it’s all new to me, and yet I have such a reverence for the old. And then there are actual fans that have been on this 23-year journey, whereas I’m fed up with all these changes. But I can’t imagine had I known the show to be its old format and then watched as they chipped away at, like… There’s other things too. I mean, the theme song is gone. You know the iconic Survivor theme song? No More.
Ashley Ray [00:44:56] Why did they get rid of the theme song?
Evan Ross Katz [00:44:59] I don’t know! With 90 minutes, maybe we’ll get it back, you know?
Ashley Ray [00:45:02] In 90 minutes you got to have a theme song. I mean, Jeff Probst is still hosting, right?
Evan Ross Katz [00:45:09] He is still hosting.
Ashley Ray [00:45:13] How do we feel about that?
Evan Ross Katz [00:45:16] Um, I respect the legacy. I will kiss the ring. I think he is an icon in an institution. I think that I hope for some changes that I don’t think that he recognizes or would be willing to bring about. But I would not deny the fact that he is a great host and a great executive producer and built this castle that, you know, I like to pop into from time to time. So, yeah, I respect Jeff.
Ashley Ray [00:45:44] Yeah. Okay. Okay. That was a fair answer. Okay.
Evan Ross Katz [00:45:48] I would say I feel similarly… It reminds me of, like, Michael Patrick King with And Just Like That, where sometimes I’m like, “Why is this decision being made?” But I’m ultimately like, “You know what? This person is way smarter and way more talented than I am.” So just because it’s not what I would have done, my mind is never like, “My way is better.” I’m more like, “I wish they would have done this, but they did this. So, what am I going to do with…?”
Ashley Ray [00:46:15] And I’m sure Michael has his reasons for everything that happened in that final episode of And Just Like That, which felt like it was from a completely different season and did not match with any episode that came before it. But, you know, I do want to share one from my watchlist because this is maybe one of the most shocking things that I’ve seen a reality show do. I am so into the Love After Lockup and Love During Lockup series. I know that it is some of the worst television made. It is so evil, honestly. It’s just so clear the producer is like, “We’ll find people that we know are scamming people.” It is not like 90 Day Fiancé where you’re like, “Some of these people are truly in love.” They just are looking for drama. I don’t care. I love the show, you know? And a new season of Love After Lockup has just started. So, this is the version where people are coming out of jail, getting with their partner finally, and we see what happens. And as this new season started, they put up a warning beforehand that’s like, “This season was recorded before Asante died.” And I was like, “What? Is this someone’s brother in the show or something–a minor character?” No, this is a main person in one of the couples who died in a car crash after the filming of the season. And We TV just went, “You know what? Let’s just air the footage anyway. Let’s just keep him in the show. Let’s just do it.” I can’t think of any other reality show that I think would have someone in the couple die and then just go, “You know what? Let’s just air it. We got to get the story out there. It’s so important that the world knows he cheated on this woman.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:47:57] Now, do you think that his family, like, provided signoff or it’s just not the kind of show that does that?
Ashley Ray [00:48:05] We TV does not seem like the kind of place that is getting any sort of approvals or signoff from anyone. Then I had to look it up. He died in a car crash not too long after filming ended. And it came out that, you know, he had been cheating on the girl he was on the show with, which we all kind of suspected. And that’s what producers are teeing up. But they’re also like, “He died in a car crash.” And they keep in this footage where they’re in a car together. She’s driving, and she, like, is looking at her phone. And he’s like, “Can you keep your eyes on the road? I’m not dying in a car crash.” And I was just like, “Why would they keep that in the show?” And that’s when I started to be like, “I don’t know that I can support this as a production anymore. Like, what are we watching?”
Evan Ross Katz [00:48:52] Do you know what this makes me think of? Obviously, there’s been so much conversation about Bethenny Frankel and her reality reckoning. I feel like this is a great example of, like, yeah, maybe reality stars should unionize because this sounds exploitative, to say the least.
Ashley Ray [00:49:07] Yeah, some union somewhere would be like, “Hey, no, you can’t use the footage of the dead guy. I don’t care if it’s thrilling television,” which honestly, they’re not even that interesting as a couple. Like, they could not be on the show, and it would be fine. I had to talk to someone about that. I had to tell the world because I think I’m one of, like, ten people who watches Love After Lockup.
Evan Ross Katz [00:49:29] Well, if Glamorous had only one viewer, at least you’re among nine others with Love After Lockup.
Ashley Ray [00:49:34] Yeah. It’s a little more popular. I know because the only way to watch it is on We TV if you have cable. Or you have to watch illegal streams on YouTube. So, we have a very active comment group on YouTube on these illegal episodes. And even for this one… I mean, they’re YouTube commenters; they’re usually not nice people. But even for this, people were like, “This feels super insensitive. I can’t believe they kept him in the show.” When you have a YouTube commenter going, “Hey, guys.”
Evan Ross Katz [00:49:59] That’s when you know.
Ashley Ray [00:50:00] You’ve done too much. Oh, my gosh. I am so, so happy that you were able to do the pod. This was absolutely amazing. I wanted to talk to you about Survivor and And Just Like That for so long. And you’ve given me all the information I need to really jump into Survivor. And I think the listeners are going to be happy. I am going to do it. Okay? I’m going to do it. We’ll maybe have to do another episode.
Evan Ross Katz [00:50:22] I was going to say, I would love to have you do it. On my podcast, my co-host, Sean, has been a fan from the jump. So, he’s sort of like the old school. I’m the new school. I would love the opportunity to, like, have your first reactions as you are now the new school, and I would assume the old school status. I feel like your perspective on it would inform me so much because I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit… Well, this is assuming that you enjoy it. But I’ve gotten a little bit jaded on it, and I would love the perspective of someone new. But also, if you hate it, I’d be interested in that, too.
Ashley Ray [00:50:59] Yeah, I feel like I’m going to love it, but…
Evan Ross Katz [00:51:01] It won’t bore you. Knowing what I know of your media diet, this slots in nicely.
Ashley Ray [00:51:09] Yeah. So, I am so excited. Evan, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for joining TV Club. And also, listeners, we’ve been talking about the strike. We’re still going. We’re still out here. And if you want to support the actors and the writers, if you’re in LA or New York, you can join us on the picket line. You can drop off snacks, food, water. It has been very, very hot, so help us out. Or you can donate money to the Entertainment Community Fund, which helps non-actor Hollywood crew members who suffer hardships due to the strike. You can donate at entertainmentcommunity.org, and make sure to direct your gift to the Film and Television category when asked. Maybe Drew Barrymore should have heard about that. Maybe you should have just made a little donation, Drew. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for listening. We’ll be back next week with another episode. TV, I Say with Ashley Ray is an Earwolf production made by me, Ashley Ray-Harris. It’s engineered by Abby Aguilar, produced by Anita Flores, executive produced by Amelia Chappelow. And our original theme song is by RaFia. It means so much to me if you go rate, review, subscribe. Follow TV, I Say. Let us know what you think and tell your friends. Share with your Golden Girls. Tell your Boys. If you love my TV recommendations, let everyone you know. For special TV Club members, join my Patreon.
November 28, 2023
Guest Sona Movsesian
Gilmore Girls, Friends, The Office – what TV do you put on to drown out your family during the holidays?
November 14, 2023
Do you remember where you were the first time you heard Meredith Grey’s infamous line, “Pick me, choose me, love me”? Shaun Diston joins Ashley to discuss and act out some of their favorite TV monologues from shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Designing Women, Andor, and more.