Last night — sandwiched between two episodes of its anchor program, Bridezillas — WE tv rolled out a new game show, Most Popular. The premise is sort of The Newlywed Game meets American Idol meets The Moment of Truth meets a really awkward episode of The View meets your high school yearbook.
So, basically, everyone’s worst nightmare — only last night’s show featured a frank discussion about Prop. 8 and a lesbian bride who actually won the popularity contest.
But first let’s talk about the nightmare.
Graham Norton (who, thanks to the magic of TV, was hosting How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria? over on BBC America at the same time he was hosting Most Popular) introduced the show like this:
Is there a secret to being popular? Is it being liked or being likable? Is it what you wear or how much it cost? Or, could we be popular merely by being ourselves. Tonight these seven women will be judged by the 100 women in our studio audience — and in the end, one of them will be voted most popular!
Almost as soon as he explains how the show works, the audience is obliged to vote off one woman. Number Seven gets the boot, and various members of the studio audience explain that they dismissed her because "she had a ninja kind of look" and because, at the store, "she might give me the evil eye or even, like, punch me."
Next, the contestants are asked to tell about their impending nuptials When we make it over to Shirin, she introduces herself by saying, "My name is Shirin and I’m 32. I got down on one knee and proposed to my fiance."
"Didn’t you feel like some of the romance had been cheated, that you wanted him to do it?" Graham Norton asks.
"No, not really," says Shirin, "because there was no him."
The audience reaction shots that follow Shirin’s statement are maybe my favorite four seconds on television, ever.
Graham Norton, who also happens to be a roaring homosexual himself, says, "So now we’re all thinking: is she marrying an imaginary man?"
"No," Shirin says, "I’m marrying a woman!"
Shirin explains that when the Prop. 8 referendum came around, she and her girlfriend went to the courthouse to get a marriage certificate, just in case. (Turned out to be a good idea, yeah?) Now they’re planning a big wedding in September for all of their family and friends. They’re both wearing wedding gowns, but neither she nor her girlfriend have seen the other’s dress. "We’re trying to keep one thing traditional."
After another elimination, the contestants share embarrassing photos of themselves. Here’s Shirin:
And here’s the audience:
After the photo round, there is another elimination and then each woman brings out her best friend to share some secrets with the audience.Shirin’s best friend is, of course, her wife, Karen — because that is how lesbianism works.
"Obviously you love this woman, you’re going to marry her in September, but there must be days that she just does something that drives you mad. Tell us about that," Graham Norton coaxes.
"Well, Shirin has some pretty gross habits that she thinks are funny," Karen explains. "She bites her toenails. Sometimes she has really stinky breath and I have to call her out about it. Like, ‘Your breath smells like poo! Get a mint or something!’"
I’m not sure who is more shocked by Karen’s answer, Shirin or the audience.
Finally, after the Moral Compass game (in which contestants answer questions about money, sex, looks, relationships and scruples), and a polygraph test, the pool is narrowed down to two woman, and Shirin is voted most popular by the studio audience.
At first she offers to spend her winnings ($5,000) throwing a party for the audience, but then thinks better of it and decides she’ll use the money to "take [her] lady on a honeymoon."
Also, presumably, she’ll buy a pair of fingernail clippers.
You can’t judge the attitudes of the whole world based on one late night game show. But it is encouraging to think that WEtv, a channel geared toward straight women, can fill an audience that prefers a lesbian to a ninja who might punch you in the face in the grocery line.
You can check out a video of Shirin below.