Whatever you think of VH1’s popular “celebreality” shows, you have to sort of admire their shamelessness. The participants on ABC’s The Bachelor all act like they really expect to find their soulmate on the show, and the producers encourage that fiction; on VH1’s matchmaker shows Flavor of Love, Rock of Love and I Love New York, the prospect of finding love always seemed dubious at best, and the producers were not at all above putting their eligible bachelors and bachelorettes on the block multiple times. Now with I Love Money (VH1, Sundays, 9 p.m.), even the pretense of looking for a personal connection has been abandoned. The title brazenly declares the true intentions of just about anyone who goes on a reality TV show (look for Please Pay Attention to Me, coming soon).
I Love Money brings together 17 contestants from the various incarnations of Flavor of Love, Rock of Love and I Love New York to hang out in an opulent mansion (tastefully decked out with huge dollar signs everywhere) in Mexico to compete in challenges for a chance to win $250,000. It’s basically VH1’s version of MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge. The twist is that rather than participate in generic, Survivor-style events (as the RW/RRfolks do), the Lovers will be competing in games designed to replicate the most notorious moments from their respective former shows (no word on whether taking a dump on the floor will be incorporated somehow).
The first episode’s challenge takes the title to heart by forcing contestants to grab as many pesos as they can in one of those booths with money blowing all around. It’s not exactly innovative, but producers do go the extra mile of making everyone who participates, both male and female, wear a bikini to stuff their money into. One can always count on celebreality masterminds Mark Cronin and Cris Abrego (responsible for the Love shows as well as The Surreal Life and My Fair Brady) to take a well-worn idea and tweak it in the most exploitative way possible.
As amusing as future challenges may end up being, the show is of course all about the personalities, and Cronin and Abrego have indeed assembled quite the cast of self-involved morons. Highlights include Midget Mac, a profane, drunken little person who resembles a pint-sized Lil Jon; a plethora of stereotypical dumb blondes (two of whom misunderstand the rules of the first challenge and end up disqualified one right after the other); and Mr. Boston, a thick-accented and thick-headed doofus who, like all the men on the show, thinks he’s God’s gift to women (and doesn’t even have the physique to semi-support that delusion).
What Money lacks, though, is the one unifying personality worth tuning in for week after week. There is no Flavor Flav or Bret Michaels or even New York (of I Love New York) here; instead, there are a bunch of pathetic idiots who once pretended to be looking for love so they could get on TV and now are pretending to care about inane, contrived competitions so they can get on TV and possibly win money (one even declares that if he happens to fall in love on this show, too, then that would be a bonus). Reality TV is always fake to one degree or another, but what can make it good is the sense that the people you’re watching are in fact exhibiting some genuine emotion or desire with which you can identify. Run through the celebreality wringer so many times that they no longer even resemble human beings, the stars of I Love Money are barely even worth pointing and laughing at.
The bottom line: **