October 31, 2023
‘Past Perfect’s’ Simone Polenan joins Ashley Ray to break down the 00’s shows they loved (and also can’t believe existed) in high school. From the insanity of ‘The Swan’ to ‘A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila’, they discuss their favorite reality TV show contestants and the role ANTM’s “smizing” played in Simone’s life.
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What We Watched:
And Just Like That
The Other Two
90 Day Fiancé
S2E67 — Y2K TV Horrors w/ Simone Polanen
Ashley Ray [00:00:04] Brothers & Sisters. Yes. I would say it’s, like, the precursor to This Is Us. This nice, little white family doing stuff.
Simone Polanen [00:00:15] Yeah. Brothers & Sisters. Parenthood. This Is Us. That’s the Pokémon of all things.
Ashley Ray [00:00:20] Those are all the same shows basically. The same show in different fonts. 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 do what? Oh, you know, who make the shows you love. You just heard a little tease of my chat with Simone Polanen. This is such a good episode because we talk about so many shows that we loved in high school and shows from high school that you probably forgot about. Do you remember The Swan? Do you remember A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila? We’re getting into everything we loved in high school and the shows that made us the weird people we are because if you grew up watching America’s Next Top model–Tyra Banks–she had an impact on you. I know she did. So, let’s get into it. Simone Polanen. Welcome to TV Club. I’m so glad you’re here. I’m really excited for this episode. Before we dive in, do you want to tell us a little about yourself and your podcast, Not Past It?
Simone Polanen [00:01:36] Yes. Hello. Yes. So, you said my name. I’m Simone Polanen. I host a history podcast called Not Past It. And I also host a new trivia show called Past Perfect. So, for folks who like to dive into pop culture history and just general knowledge–factoids–check out Past Perfect. It’s a good time.
Ashley Ray [00:02:00] Yeah. What is the trivia? What are you doing over there?
Simone Polanen [00:02:04] So the way I’ve been describing it is it’s like the Magic School Bus but for adults. We do time traveling through the decades. We’ve got this, like, five-episode miniseries airing right now where each episode touches on a different decade. So, we start in the ’80s, go through the ’90s, up to the 2010s. And you know, we’re asking people, like, “Hey, complete the lyrics to this Panic at the Disco song. What came first, Nintendo’s Game Boy or the Slap Bracelet?” So, you know, just the really important things in life.
Ashley Ray [00:02:40] I mean, I would guess a Slap Bracelet, but you wouldn’t be asking if it was that easy. So, I’m going to go Game Boy.
Simone Polanen [00:02:46] Well, you got to listen to that episode to find the answer.
Ashley Ray [00:02:49] Going to listen specifically for that answer. Thank you so much for joining us here at TV Club. There are just, I feel like, so many things in television history and in the past that I’m not over. And TV history is so long. I’m so curious. Are there TV moments that resonate with you?
Simone Polanen [00:03:08] Well, maybe this is just because we’ve been working on our 2000s episode. But I feel like my brain has been in that little archive of 2000s reality TV. There’s a lot of, like, little, peripheral, weird, little shows that I feel like we have erased from our collective memory.
Ashley Ray [00:03:28] Some for good reason, like Kid Nation or Black. White, where they had the family dress in blackface and have the Black family pretend to be white.
Simone Polanen [00:03:39] I actually did talk about that show kind of recently with someone. Yeah. Kid Nation I forgot about. That was like, “We’re going to send all these 11-year-olds into the wilderness–an abandoned ghost town–and they’re going to start a society.”
Ashley Ray [00:03:52] To start their own society. And I actually had a friend who was on it. He’s an actor now.
Simone Polanen [00:04:00] Oh, that’s something we’re going to have to open up. I need the oral history of Kid Nation at some point.
Ashley Ray [00:04:06] The A.V. Club. did a brief history of it. They talked to producers, but it was mostly talking about how kids were drinking bleach, and, like, children straight up almost died on the show.
Simone Polanen [00:04:18] What were the laws at the time that, like, allowed for that show? My God.
Ashley Ray [00:04:22] I can’t believe no one at CBS Legal was like, “Guys, absolutely not. Absolutely not. We cannot put a bunch of kids in a desert and then just, like, film it and stand by.”
Simone Polanen [00:04:33] For me, the 2000s show that I will let nobody forget is The Swan. Thank you. The look of recognition means so much to me because people are going to be crazy. But yeah, the Swan was this, like, basically plastic surgery beauty pageant. So, women would… I mean, it was all women.
Ashley Ray [00:04:51] Of course. Of course.
Simone Polanen [00:04:53] Women would, I guess, apply to the show, and they would be like, “I want these 13 plastic surgery procedures.” And then at the end they, like, had a beauty pageant with all of the contestants to see who had the best glow up?
Ashley Ray [00:05:09] Who was the best swan.
Simone Polanen [00:05:11] Yeah. And I was in middle school when that show came out. And I went back recently to be like, “Okay, was this like a fever dream?” Totally normal looking women.
Ashley Ray [00:05:22] They were all just fine women who are like, “I don’t know. I guess since 16 I wanted a nose job.” And instead, the show is like, “Your whole face and body needs to be cut up.” And also, all I can think is, like, it was like early 2000s plastic surgery. This isn’t what the celebs are getting today. I don’t really trust our level of technology right now to really get this right. I really am curious what those women are like today.
Simone Polanen [00:05:54] Oh, another oral history that needs to be done. A lot of spherical breast implants. I feel like that’s what I remember. Perfect spheres.
Ashley Ray [00:06:01] Perfect spheres that were high and hard. And that was the look. Have you been watching Dark Side of the 2000s on Vice?
Simone Polanen [00:06:10] No, I haven’t. But that sounds right up my alley. There’s lots of dark stuff to explore, I’m sure.
Ashley Ray [00:06:16] Yeah. And I mean, honestly, I thought it could have been darker. I don’t know. They were kind of like, “Oh, the Dark Side of the 2000s. Do you guys remember TRL?” I was like, “I mean, yeah, that was fine. That was one of the better parts.”
Simone Polanen [00:06:29] What’s dark about TRL?
Ashley Ray [00:06:31] I guess they were just like, “Kids would get really intense outside.” Like, the kids would really get intense, and they would, like, fight to be there as soon as Beyoncé walked in. And I was just like, “I think kids would do that today.” If you were like, “Beyoncé’s going to be in Times Square in a building, people would just start fighting outside even now.”
Simone Polanen [00:06:52] Yeah. Sure.
Ashley Ray [00:06:53] They also did a Dark Side ep on The Bachelor, which that one was dark.
Simone Polanen [00:06:58] Okay. Sure.
Ashley Ray [00:06:59] Yeah, that was always one of those dark reality shows. But I was like, “Come on. How are you not doing, like, Flavor of Love or Rock of Love?” Those were the dark ones. Tila Tequila? Give me the history on the…
Simone Polanen [00:07:11] That’s actually scary. I’m actually scared of and for Tila Tequila.
Ashley Ray [00:07:17] I rewatched a Shot at Love during COVID. It does not hold up. And really, truly you watch and you’re like, “How did society get to a place where they were like, ‘This is okay’?”
Simone Polanen [00:07:30] Well, it’s weird because at the time it was kind of like, “This is progressive because of bisexuality.” And so, it was like, “Girls and boys! That’s the twist.” But it was just people being, like, drunk and fully exploited.
Ashley Ray [00:07:48] More than the average dating show. And then occasionally they’d just be like, “Okay, we’re going to have the girls do a cooking competition to see if they can keep Tila happy in the kitchen. And the boys are going to do push-ups.” And you would just be like, “Oh.”
Simone Polanen [00:08:00] “Oh, wow. Nice. Nice.”
Ashley Ray [00:08:03] Yeah, love it. I love just gender roles of the early 2000s. The best that we had. I was so curious. You know, I feel like for me that was the time period when I was defining my TV tastes. The early 2000s–that’s when I fell in love with shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Sex and the City… Those are shows I still watch to this day. Grey’s Anatomy and And Just Like That I still watch to this day. What were you watching back then? What were your favorite shows in high school?
Simone Polanen [00:08:31] I was definitely on that Grey’s Anatomy train. I was watching Lost with the rest of the nation. I was really into Desperate Housewives. That was a big show for me.
Ashley Ray [00:08:44] Yeah, I loved Desperate Housewives. And it’s really wild how much I forget about it, honestly, now sometimes.
Simone Polanen [00:08:51] That was back when people had fun on TV.
Ashley Ray [00:08:54] Right? Like, I rewatched some of it, and I’m like, “It’s just so silly.”
Simone Polanen [00:09:00] It’s so campy. It’s so fun. It’s TV that doesn’t take itself seriously. And how do I say this? I love a story about an unhinged woman. And it’s even better if it’s a cast of unhinged women. There’s something very comforting about that to me. Yeah. So, I feel like in the scripted world… You know, all these dramas. Brothers & Sisters.
Ashley Ray [00:09:23] Oh, Brothers & Sisters. Yes. That’s another one I almost forgot about. I would say it’s like the precursor to This Is Us, where it’s just the nice, little, white family doing stuff.
Simone Polanen [00:09:36] Brothers & Sisters, Parenthood, This Is Us… That’s the Pokémon of all things.
Ashley Ray [00:09:41] Those are all the same shows basically. The same show in different fonts basically.
Simone Polanen [00:09:48] Yeah. But obviously I was also hugely in the reality world. American Idol, of course. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Biggest Loser… Like, nice damaging to the psyche entertainment. America’s Next Top Model!
Ashley Ray [00:10:03] Yeah, America’s Next Top Model. I watched that show so much, I was like, “I could be a model. I learned a lot from Tyra. I know my poses. Like, come on, girls, get it together.”
Simone Polanen [00:10:12] I would practice my smize in the mirror just in case Tyra called me up one day.
Ashley Ray [00:10:19] I knew it was going to happen for me. I was like, “Someday…” I had no I had no idea how casting actually works. I’m like, “Someday I’m just getting a call. It’s going to be Tyra. ‘It’s your time, Ashley. I looked at your Myspace.’”
Simone Polanen [00:10:31] “Hello? It’s me, Tyra Banks.”
Ashley Ray [00:10:32] “I saw your Myspace, and I know you’re a star.” I would just watch these challenges and be like, “Oh, yeah. I could totally, like, hit my walk while they’re throwing bottles of water at me and the runway is on fire and Tyra Banks is just yelling at me.” They tortured those girls. It was the best TV. And wild that they were like, “And this is what you can definitely expect from the fashion industry.”
Ashley Ray [00:10:58] But if they brought it back, I would watch. They did do a Project Runway All Stars, which I am watching. But if they did America’s Next Top Model All Stars–like the real big names–and did it, I would be so into that.
Simone Polanen [00:11:14] Okay. Dream cast. What is your dream cast for ANTM All stars?
Ashley Ray [00:11:19] Okay. Ooh, this is such a good question. I would probably have to go Lisa–the girl who, like, only won on a technicality. I would probably want to get Keenyah. Keenyah and Yaya I always thought were so powerful. It would be good to get, like, an Eva Pigford in there because she’s going to be like, “I’m actually famous.” And I know that would cause a lot of drama. Oh, there was that one… I always forgot her name. It was like Nia or something.
Simone Polanen [00:11:48] Is it Naima? with the Mohawk?
Ashley Ray [00:11:52] Yes. I still follow her on Instagram. She’s so cool, and she looks exactly the same. And I think now she’s, like, really found herself. And if she came back, she could dominate the game. And then the messy people. I would want some messy people that I love. Oh, who is that girl who was, like, legally blind, and she just, like, would fight with everyone? Amanda?
Simone Polanen [00:12:12] Oh, yeah. Yes. Amanda.
Ashley Ray [00:12:16] Wow. I really think they should bring that back. Project Runway was another one that I got really into back then. Fell off. It has been on the air this whole time though.
Simone Polanen [00:12:28] So I’ve heard.
Ashley Ray [00:12:31] Did you ever get into that one?
Simone Polanen [00:12:33] I was into it, but back when, like, Christian Siriano was competing on it, you know?
Ashley Ray [00:12:39] Oh, yeah.
Simone Polanen [00:12:41] No, I was really into, like… “In fashion, one day, you’re in. The next day, you’re out.” And, like, I would say that all the time in the middle of class. “Make it work!”
Ashley Ray [00:12:50] Now, Christian Siriano is the Tim Gunn. He’s the Tim Gunn in the new episodes. Oh, so it’s actually kind of good.
Simone Polanen [00:12:57] Does he have a catchphrase?
Ashley Ray [00:12:58] Not really. His whole thing is that he kind of just, like, goes around and makes fun of them a lot. Like, he’ll just be like, “What is this ugly piece of shit on your mannequin?” And they’re like, “Really?” And he’s like, “It’s okay, I guess. Whatever. Maybe the judges will like it, but I don’t.” And it’s kind of great.
Simone Polanen [00:13:16] People need to be mean again, I think, on TV.
Ashley Ray [00:13:19] Honestly, I feel like people used to be mean. And now it’s the Ted Lassofication of television, as we all call it, right? Everybody’s nice.
Simone Polanen [00:13:30] That’s so funny. Yeah. I also think it’s because social media people will respond with their opinion.
Ashley Ray [00:13:36] They will come for you. And I think we see that with, like, Love is Blind. The last season had a girl who was so mean. Irina. And she was just so mean. You could tell she wanted to be the reality TV villain. And then she realized the consequences of that when the internet just came for her and was like, “You’re the cruelest person in the world.” And she immediately backtracked and was like, “I didn’t mean it. I’ve grown. Oh, my God.” Were you into that show?
Simone Polanen [00:14:01] Oh, so into Love is Blind?
Ashley Ray [00:14:03] Did you do After the Altar?
Simone Polanen [00:14:05] Not all of the– I feel like I did some, but not all of– Yeah.
Ashley Ray [00:14:10] It was weird and boring. Like, why were we watching them play flag football? I was like, “I don’t think this is your real life.”
Simone Polanen [00:14:17] Well, yeah. You’re like, “Okay, they’re married. The story is over. Like, let’s move on to the next fresh batch of sexy singles from Atlanta.”
Ashley Ray [00:14:26] You’re locked in a pod and forced to drink a bottle of tequila and fall in love. Please, I’m ready for the next season. I did love Raven and SK because they had so much drama afterwards that I was like, “Yeah, we need it. We need this info.”
Simone Polanen [00:14:42] Well, I feel like that was an interesting phenomenon of, like, you’re not going to get the full story if you just watch the show. Like, if you just watched what Netflix was presenting to you, you’re like, “Aw, Raven and SK have a beautiful relationship. I’m so happy for them.”
Ashley Ray [00:15:02] They’re making it work long distance.
Simone Polanen [00:15:03] Yeah. Meanwhile, he’s, like, taking other girls on vacation, right?
Ashley Ray [00:15:09] He was, like, dating other people–taking other girls out. It was horrible. I’m curious, like, when it comes to reality shows like that and 90 Day Fiancé, I am a purist in that I will only watch the show. I will get the information from the show from the Tell All. And then I have friends who are like, “Well, don’t you just look at her TikTok? She’s talking about this.” If you look at her Instagram, they’re not together. And I’m just like, “I don’t want spoilers like that.”
Simone Polanen [00:15:33] Oh, interesting. You know, I think in some ways I’m the same way. But it’s more from, like, a “There’s only so much content I can shove into my brain.” And I’m pretty much at capacity right now.
Ashley Ray [00:15:44] And most of the time it’s just stuff that doesn’t make sense or is wild. I’m like, “If it was interesting, they will put it in the show.”
Simone Polanen [00:15:51] Yeah. That being said, it is really hard to engage with the internet and not get a little whiff of, like, “Oh, Raven posted a TikTok. And for me, I get a whiff, and I’m like, ‘All right, I’ll just dedicate the rest of my 48 hours to this.’” And then you’re like, “Okay.” So, there’s a whole director’s uncut version happening on social media right now.
Ashley Ray [00:16:13] This is the joy of reality TV. I’m so into the TV that I am just baffled by right now. I want to hear your watchlist. What are you currently watching?
Simone Polanen [00:16:39] Okay. What is on my watchlist? I am currently deep, deep into And Just Like That, which I know is the show of the moment.
Ashley Ray [00:16:52] The year. The season. Our lifetimes!
Simone Polanen [00:16:56] Of our lifetimes. Maybe.
Ashley Ray [00:16:58] You’re truly the fifth guest in a row we’ve had who’s like, “And Just Like That.” And this is across demographics–genders. It has brought everyone together. It is so good.
Simone Polanen [00:17:08] Well, there’s nothing else good on TV–sorry to say.
Ashley Ray [00:17:12] Also that.
Simone Polanen [00:17:12] There’s only one good show on right now.
Ashley Ray [00:17:14] Also that with the strike, there wasn’t a lot of competition going up with And Just Like That. But I did feel like the second season was better than the first.
Simone Polanen [00:17:24] It is. It’s kind of a beautiful evolution. So, I’m a few episodes– I’m not quite done with the second season. I’ve got a little bit left. I’m really trying to savor. I just passed the Miranda threesome episode.
Ashley Ray [00:17:39] I really had almost forgotten about that–almost freed myself.
Simone Polanen [00:17:42] Well, there’s so much else that happens. I’m so obsessed with that show. The way I’ve been describing it to people as it’s like Schoolhouse Rock, but for wealthy, older, white women to help them understand society today.
Ashley Ray [00:18:00] Yeah, that is basically how I would describe it. I mean, it truly is just like, “Hey, are you a 50-year-old woman who wants to kind of understand pronouns? We got you.”
Simone Polanen [00:18:12] Yeah. Exactly.
Ashley Ray [00:18:14] “Let me introduce you to a little person named Che Diaz.”
Simone Polanen [00:18:19] Thank God for Che Diaz–let me just say.
Ashley Ray [00:18:23] Finally, someone who gets it. Finally, someone who’s on Team Che with me.
Simone Polanen [00:18:29] Team Che, Okay, what an audacious character, I have to say. Like, the way that they move through the world is truly insane. Also, to be so wack at comedy. To be so wack at relationships.
Ashley Ray [00:18:48] Podcasting–they failed at that.
Simone Polanen [00:18:49] And yet so confident. So funny too that podcasting is the new publishing. They’re like, “This is the hip New York job. It’s podcast.”
Ashley Ray [00:19:00] “And they pay their rent with it for sure because it makes so much money.” So many shows have done that. I don’t know if you watched Everything Is Trash. In that show, the two main girls were podcasters. I think I was the only person who watched it. It was on Freeform, which people don’t even know how to watch. But I was just like, “Oh, this is truly the new job that Hollywood thinks all of the 20something, 30-something cool kids do is just podcasting.”
Simone Polanen [00:19:29] Which is an interesting… I don’t know. As somebody who works in podcasting.
Ashley Ray [00:19:33] Yeah, I guess as two cool 30-somethings with podcasts, maybe.
Simone Polanen [00:19:41] As the coolest 30-year-old in New York right now, I have to say it feels pretty accurate.
Ashley Ray [00:19:46] I mean, my podcast has lasted longer than Carrie’s did.
Simone Polanen [00:19:50] Hey, there you go. Oh, yeah. Also traumatizing to be recently laid off from your podcasting job and be watching a show that’s like, “The podcast industry is in the trash.” And you’re like, “Yeah, that’s why I’m watching this at 2:00 p.m. on a Wednesday.”
Ashley Ray [00:20:06] That’s why I’m like, “Please don’t remind me of that. I want Carrie to be successful all the time. I don’t want to have to think about how she pays for those shoes or that apartment next to Gramercy Park. I don’t want to think about that.”
Simone Polanen [00:20:18] How much money did Big make? What did he leave behind?
Ashley Ray [00:20:22] I think they need to make a bigger deal out of her being a rich Black widow. And let’s be real. She kind of killed him because she didn’t even try to call 9-1-1. She just let him sit there–held him for a long time. I feel like I would have immediately grabbed the phone the second I see him on the floor. But Carrie decided to wait a moment.
Simone Polanen [00:20:44] I know, but then we wouldn’t have gotten that gorgeous, dramatic moment of them being in the shower together. And being clothed in the shower is one of the most beautiful images you can commit to film.
Ashley Ray [00:20:56] What else are you watching?
Simone Polanen [00:20:57] I did recently watch Telemarketers on HBO, which I was really into.
Ashley Ray [00:21:05] I loved it! Oh, my God. They’re my heroes. They’re my new heroes. What was your favorite part about it?
Simone Polanen [00:21:11] For me, it was just the world. Like, the world of telemarketing is so interesting. And there is this whole, like, investigative piece to the show where they’re like, “What’s going on with telemarketing? And who’s behind this?” And, like, that’s pretty interesting. But I think the real magic of the show is the telemarketing company–they are employing high school students and formerly incarcerated people or, like, people who would otherwise have a hard time getting jobs anywhere else. And it makes for one of the most unique and chaotic work environments. And that world–you get to sort of be immersed in that world of just, like, really off the wall people coming together and building a community.
Ashley Ray [00:21:57] And working in an office where, like, you’re allowed to smoke cigarettes and just do heroin. They’re snorting lines, actually, right off of their keyboards and then picking the phones up and going, “I’m calling on behalf of the police union. Do you want to give us money?” It was so good. I thought it was so great because it was unlike really any documentary I’ve seen before because you can tell it has that guerilla DIY feeling to it. Like, these are people who went to school and learned how to make a documentary. So much of it is that guy just being like, “And then for four months I couldn’t find Pat. And I didn’t know if he died of an overdose or was just living in a trailer somewhere. So, I had to go find him.” And it’s amazing.
Simone Polanen [00:22:44] I really appreciate it when a documentary is made by somebody who is in the world and it’s not like an outsider coming in. But it feels like it’s grown from this organic curiosity about, like, “Oh, I want to capture this life that I’m living and this world that I’m in.” And again, you’re not going to find better characters than people hanging out at their telemarketing job.
Ashley Ray [00:23:11] Especially when it’s high school dropouts and people WHO have a criminal record and couldn’t get another job. That is the dream employee lineup right there.
Simone Polanen [00:23:20] I also love the fact that Danny McBride is a producer because it makes me feel like they’re going to do a fictionalized version of this. There’s so much to mine in this world.
Ashley Ray [00:23:32] And Danny McBride is the person to bring that to life.
Simone Polanen [00:23:36] You know, he’s mullet coded. The show was mullet coded. It’s, like, mullet energy.
Ashley Ray [00:23:41] And I love that.
Simone Polanen [00:23:42] You know what I mean when I say that?
Ashley Ray [00:23:43] Oh, I know. I think he would define his own work that way–as just, like, mullet-inspired. That is the genre. Righteous Gemstones, Eastbound & Down…
Simone Polanen [00:23:58] Yeah. Mulletcore. Sure.
Ashley Ray [00:24:01] So I need him to do a live action– I feel like he could play Pat.
Simone Polanen [00:24:05] Oh, yeah.
Ashley Ray [00:24:06] Yeah.
Simone Polanen [00:24:07] Oh, I bet he produced it because he was like, “I need to play this man. I need to play the guy that shoots up in the bathroom, is nodding off at the phone, and–then when somebody answers–has the most gorgeous fake cop telemarketer voice and then goes on a beautiful journey.
Ashley Ray [00:24:24] Are there any other documentaries you’re excited about or watching? I feel like this has been a good year for documentaries. One of the positives of the strike is that we saw a lot of money go into docs. And a lot of them have been coming out. really enjoyed Never Let Him Go. That just came out on Hulu. It’s about this guy whose gay brother died in the ’80s in Australia. He was found at the bottom of a cliff. And the police immediately were like, “It’s suicide. It’s suicide.” And the family was like, “He didn’t kill himself.” And the cops are like, “You don’t even know. You don’t live here. You’re from America. You don’t even know his life.” And for 20 years the family just wouldn’t give up. And the guy, like, helped found AOL, so he was a millionaire. And he had all of this money to just, like, go to Australia and keep pushing it until finally the cops were like, “Okay, we’re going to investigate.” And then, like, two months later, they’re like, “Okay, you were totally right. There were these guys who were going around killing gay men and pushing them off of cliffs.”
Simone Polanen [00:25:27] Oh, my God.
Ashley Ray [00:25:27] And it opens up this whole thing. And it’s really interesting because it’s in this new genre of documentary that’s been happening, where people agree to do an interview for a documentary, I think they think it’s going to make them look good, and then it makes them look awful. There was a little of that in telemarketers when they would interview some of the cops or higher up people. And those people would try to just be like, “Well, you know, we care.” But then you could tell they didn’t really care. But in this one, they interview some of the cops who originally closed the case, and they’re just like, “Well, how was I supposed to know I was supposed to investigate? What, like, it was my job to do that or something?”
Simone Polanen [00:26:07] Oh, okay.
Ashley Ray [00:26:09] And they’re still ridiculing or making fun of the family all these years later, even when the family was right. And you’re just like, “Why did you think this would make you look good? Why did you agree to do this on camera?” BS High on HBO Max was another one that was great with that. Did you check that one out? It’s about Bishop Sycamore.
Simone Polanen [00:26:27] I didn’t. I’m a little true crime phobic. A little bit. So, I don’t tend to delve into that world unless somebody is really like, “You gotta go check this out.”
Ashley Ray [00:26:40] I would say Bishop Sycamore is good because it’s not really true crime. It’s more scam crime.
Simone Polanen [00:26:44] Oh, I’m all about fraudsters–scammers.
Ashley Ray [00:26:47] It’s this guy who started his own school. He started his own school because he wanted to start a football program and basically, like, lied, started it, and said he had a school and there were facilities. There were not. He just had these kids living in hotels and rental apartments he would get for three months and not pay the rent on. They would go to a community college program for kids in juvenile detention. And then they would just go play football. But he was not a football coach, so he didn’t actually know how to coach them. And they would get these horrible injuries–play badly. They lost all of their games. And then finally it came out that this was not a real school. Like, somehow, they kept failing upwards. Like, they just kept trying to play bigger teams until it reached a point that they were on ESPN. And they have this big game on ESPN. And the people calling the game are like, “I don’t think these kids have ever actually played football before. Like, what is going on? What is this school?” And as the game is happening, it starts going viral on Twitter, where people are like, “This is not a real school. It’s fake. We’re looking at all the paperwork.” And basically, all these kids ended up not being able to go to college–not being able to, like, go to a school or J.V. team–because they were in a fake program for two years. But the guy who started the fake school agreed to do the documentary. He’s truly the villain of the whole story, and he agreed to do the documentary. And it is the most sociopathic stuff you will ever see, where he’s truly just like, “Do I look like I look like a bad guy? I don’t want to look like I look like a bad guy. I’m a good guy.” And then he just smiles with a creepy smile. That one is worth watching.
Simone Polanen [00:28:35] That is so interesting. And that makes me be like, “Oh, this is just a man who needs to be seen at any cost.” I’m very curious to check that out. What is his endgame? Was it, like, “I’m going to make so much money; I’m going to build a gorgeous football program and make so much money.”?
Ashley Ray [00:28:55] He seemed to really think they could pull this off. He was like, “If we just work together… We got this, guys. We’re going to win some games, and then we’ll get the money. We’re going to be on ESPN. And once the money’s in, like, then we’ll have the house.” He also made the kids take out the COVID loans–the PPO loans.
Simone Polanen [00:29:14] Okay. Yeah. Yeah.
Ashley Ray [00:29:15] He made these kids take them out in their names and then give him the money as tuition. So now these kids are in debt. And he was just like, “No, I was really going to build a legit program. It was going to be big.” And even some of his coworkers who still believe in him are sitting right next to him in the interviews, and they’re looking at him like, “Oh, wait. He’s full of shit. Oh, wait a second. I’m just seeing it now that he’s a liar.” That’s a rec from my watchlist. So, check that one out.
Simone Polanen [00:29:47] Man. I’m trying to think. Like I said, I feel like my viewing lately has been pretty light. Or I just end up returning to stuff. Seinfeld is a big staple. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Basically Larry David–Larry David who I adore.
Ashley Ray [00:30:02] If Larry David is on my TV and I’m bored and I don’t have anything to do, it’s going to go on. Like, if Curb Your Enthusiasm is on, I’m watching Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Simone Polanen [00:30:10] It’s so good. It’s so crazy how good it is.
Ashley Ray [00:30:30] You’re one of the only people who has ever sent a list of recentish shows you love that you feel like people aren’t talking about enough. So, I would love to talk about this because it’s an incredible list.
Simone Polanen [00:30:41] So haven’t been super in documentaries lately, but there are some comedies specifically that I love that I feel like are not getting enough shine. The first one is I Love That for You on Showtime, which I really have heard very little about, which is shocking to me because the cast is stacked. You’ve got Jenifer Lewis. You’ve got Vanessa Bayer.
Ashley Ray [00:31:06] Molly Shannon.
Simone Polanen [00:31:07] Oh, Molly Shannon!
Ashley Ray [00:31:08] It is one of those shows where you’re just like, “How do they have the money for that over at Showtime?” Like, is showtime really balling like that that they could afford all these people. But I guess they couldn’t because the show got canceled, so…
Simone Polanen [00:31:21] No!
Ashley Ray [00:31:24] It was on an extended hiatus. I guess technically it’s one of those situations where the second season was totally written. They were going to film it, and then it went on a permanent hiatus, where they were like, “We might bring it back. We might shop it to other networks.” And then the strike happened, and we stopped hearing anything about it. And it seems like it’s basically a cancellation.
Simone Polanen [00:31:45] It might be dead. Damn. That’s really sad.
Ashley Ray [00:31:47] Showtime said they had a new programming mandate, and it is: “We will only care about Yellowjackets.”
Simone Polanen [00:31:54] Okay. Damn. They canceled so much good stuff. They canceled Flatbush Misdemeanors.
Ashley Ray [00:31:59] Another show I feel like not enough people talked about. And they canceled Ziwe, which was such a good show.
Simone Polanen [00:32:05] Oh, yeah. On I Love That for You, I gotta shout out Jessi Klein, who’s the head writer, who is so funny in everything that she does.
Ashley Ray [00:32:15] Absolutely obsessed with Jessi Klein.
Simone Polanen [00:32:16] I feel like her voice really comes through on the show.
Ashley Ray [00:32:20] I wanted ten seasons of it. It was truly one of those shows where I was like, “Oh, if Showtime was smart, they would put Flatbush, and I Love That for You together, and it would be a comedy double hit.” But I’m not in charge of TV. And they messed it up. And now we’ve lost two amazing shows.
Simone Polanen [00:32:37] And we suffer. We suffer for you not being in every executive seat, Ashley.
Ashley Ray [00:32:42] We do. Really. There shouldn’t even be an AMPTP. There should just be me. It should just be me; I give the writers everything they want, and then we make great stuff. You also had The Other Two on your list.
Simone Polanen [00:32:55] Oh, The Other Two. Yes.
Ashley Ray [00:32:57] And it also got to end on its own terms. They decided to make it its final season–this last one–so, a little happier.
Simone Polanen [00:33:04] Which is nice. I feel like you sense that in the writing. I feel like they could keep going and keep making a beautiful show. But I feel like when you get to choose to put your show to bed, that’s better for everyone involved. Another great Molly Shannon performance.
Ashley Ray [00:33:23] Yeah. She’s probably my favorite part of it. I really love Pat.
Simone Polanen [00:33:28] And the way they use her is so smart. And the evolution that they give her across the different seasons from this Midwest mom to basically, like, an entertainment mogul is so funny. And I love how the writers play with, like, the main storyline. You’ve got the main two siblings–the main characters–but your peripheral characters are also going through this, like… You know, their worlds are changing. And you’re watching it all happen, but it’s all happening in the background. But it’s still connected to the main storylines, and so it feels like this really full and satisfying world. And I feel like they’re very careful about, like, even though it’s silly, goofy, and, like, you know, LOL funny, it feels like they’re very meticulous about the different threads and the different characters and making sure that everybody is fleshed out and has their own stakes. Oh, it’s just such a satisfying watch. And I feel like also it’s a show you can watch over and over again.
Ashley Ray [00:34:33] Absolutely. And I thought it would get nominated for an Emmy. This last season was so funny, but… You know, I think it did get a writing nomination. It deserves it. It is my favorite written comedy, and it was sad to hear afterwards about the abuse of that writers’ room and I guess how horrible the showrunners were.
Simone Polanen [00:34:54] Oh. I didn’t know about that.
Ashley Ray [00:34:55] Oh yeah, they were really big bullies. It came out in The Hollywood Reporter after. But apparently, they were so evil, even Tina Fey came out and made a joke that was like, “And we all know the people who survived The Other Two writers’ room–they really had to go through stuff.” And I was like, “If Tina Fey is saying your room is tough, that is Tina Fey is calling you mean.”
Simone Polanen [00:35:21] Wow, I totally missed this part in the story.
Ashley Ray [00:35:23] Oh, yeah. It came out the same week as the finale. So, I think people just kind of didn’t really care because it was like, “Well, the show’s not coming back anyway, so what are we gonna do?”
Simone Polanen [00:35:33] After I complimented the writing.
Ashley Ray [00:35:36] “That kind of terror is what makes jokes happen. I don’t know.”
Simone Polanen [00:35:41] But take what I had to say with a grain of salt.
Ashley Ray [00:35:44] It’s still a funny show–funny, funny show–but we don’t approve of the making. But a funny, funny show.
Simone Polanen [00:35:51] Yeah. Yeah.
Ashley Ray [00:35:52] And you also had South Side and Dave on your list–two shows I also love.
Simone Polanen [00:35:57] Okay. South Side–a cancellation that sent me into a full-on rage because I was like, “Name one thing that’s as imaginative, creative, and affirming as this show.” And again, another great world set in this, like, basically rental furniture store where you rent your furniture by the week. Great characters and just a full world. I also love a show where nobody’s really the good guy. Like, everyone’s kind of messed up in their own unique ways. And I feel like that’s a show where there’s no real, like, good guy. There’s only people, like, trying to be good guys and people trying to live good lives. But, you know, it’s like shenanigans. It’s shenanigans. And that is something that I really appreciate as a viewer in a half hour comedy.
Ashley Ray [00:36:50] Yeah, it’s just silly and funny. And it was my favorite episodic where you were like, “I don’t need to even watch last week’s episode.” You can just jump in and just start laughing. It is so funny.
Simone Polanen [00:37:02] And they really push the world.
Ashley Ray [00:37:05] Yeah. You really did kind of choose a graveyard of shows here.
Simone Polanen [00:37:09] Yeah. Well, it’s available still as of right now, so get it while you can, I guess.
Ashley Ray [00:37:18] Before Max takes it down forever because that’s what they do now. Watch it while you can. And we still have Dave. Dave still exists. It’ll probably get another season. The last one did pretty well, and they had Brad Pitt. You can’t cancel a show after Brad Pitt does it.
Simone Polanen [00:37:33] Yeah, I think that’s a law. Dave is so interesting because going into it I was like, “You’re telling me this is a navel gazey show about a white rapper talking about the music industry and, like, it’s a fictionalized version of this guy’s life?” Couldn’t have described a less interesting show to me. But smart people make the show. Again, it’s all about this worldbuilding. It’s such a unique world. It’s from the perspective of this person. I think there’s, like, you know, adequate self-awareness and kind of self-deprecation and self-checking going on. So, you’re like, “Oh, okay, this is a kind of self-aware, not aware person.” That’s a very interesting dynamic. I guess I’m just a silly girl who loves silly shows because I’m, again, very silly, very goofy at times. But I think, more than any of the shows we talked about, it really dives into some emotional earnestness. Like, there are some moments where they’re really just playing it straight for dramatic effect, too. So, you don’t quite know what to expect, which makes it an interesting watch because it’s tonally all over the place, but not in a bad way. Like, I think they’re actually quite good about modulating.
Ashley Ray [00:38:57] And having it centered in the right characters. I think people think it’s really focused on Dave. And then you watch, and you’re like, “Dave is really secondary to everything going on in this show.”
Simone Polanen [00:39:07] Yeah. And I think especially as fame becomes more and more accessible for people, it is an interesting thing to explore just success, pressure– Not new topics to be explored in entertainment, but it still held my attention.
Ashley Ray [00:39:27] I loved it. That was one I watched every single week. And I want the people to get into it because I want another season. And our good friend of the podcast, Niles Abston, writes for it. So go check it out. And I feel like you just gave people such a great watchlist. Go watch these shows.
Simone Polanen [00:39:46] Big recommend. Good times ahead.
Ashley Ray [00:39:49] Simone, I want to thank you so much for joining me. This was so much fun.
Simone Polanen [00:39:53] Thank you.
Ashley Ray [00:39:54] Listeners, if you want to support the actors and the writers, you can come to a picket line in LA or New York–come drop off food. So, 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. Simone, any plugs? Where can the people find you? Where can they listen to these pods? Probably wherever they listen to podcasts, I would imagine.
Simone Polanen [00:40:23] You’ve heard the line before, haven’t you? Yeah, you can find Past Perfect wherever you listen to podcasts. You can find Not Past It actually only on Spotify right now. So that one’s a little different. And you can find me on social media–Instagram–@simonepolanen.
Ashley Ray [00:40:43] Thanks for listening. And you know, like I said, make sure you’re caught up on Below Deck because Below Deck Med is back. And then I am actually going to ask you, though, to get into some 90 Day Fiancé stuff because the 10th season of 90 Day Fiancé is premiering. And they have invited yours truly to the 10th season 90 Day Fiancé party, where I will get to meet so many of my heroes from 90 Day Fiancé. So obviously I’m just going to have to talk about this on this podcast for a very long time. So that’s your homework. Thank you so much 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.