A couple weeks back, I wrote a post about VH1’s new series The Pick-Up Artist. At the time, the show had yet to debut, but I nevertheless blasted away at it for being shallow and misogynistic. I ridiculed the so-called “master” responsible for the whole schtick and the fact that he purports to have a foolproof “method” for clubbing women over the head and dragging them back to his cave by their hair. I think I may have even sworn never to watch the show.
Well, I’m nothing if not hypocritical.
So here, in my snarkiest post yet, is a review of The Pick-Up Artist…
The premise: this dude named Mystery has perfected the “Venusian Arts” and can seduce women with his calming speech patterns, virile charms and vague idiosyncracies (including ludicrous hats, outdated fashions and what may or may not be fake tattoos and piercings). Eight incredibly nerdy contestants — detailed below — are awkwardly jammed into a mansion together and put through a series of tests and “boot camp”-like personality exercises to see who can survive and achieve the title of Master Pick-Up Artist (and $50,000). With me so far?
Okay. First of all, let me introduce you to your hosts:
Mystery – Erik is the head honcho of the group. As I mentioned in my previous post, he’s a former Dungeons & Dragons geek whose sole goal in life was once to become a cruise ship magician. The guy is the same age as me! And, evidently, he thinks it’s still cool to paint your fingernails black and wear a top hat with a fake tie t-shirt. Oookay. That was so last year.
J-Dog – This is Justin, an “instructor” and one of Mystery’s “wingmen.” He’s an engineer and he talks with what may or may not be a fake accent (still too early to call). I grabbed this photo off his MySpace page and it must have been taken before he went through his “flamboyant skunk” rebirth (see below). The funny thing to me is that EVERY photo on his page is of him with a woman. It’s almost like he was soooo desperate to prove his manliness that he had a buddy follow him around and overcompensate by taking pictures of him with every girl he’s ever met. Nice shirt, Jimmy Buffett.
Matador – The guy on the right is Mystery’s business partner, chest hair sculptor and main “wingman” who’s real name is Stan (and that’s an updated J-Dog on the left…looking decidedly more poofty). I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t take dating advice from a guy who looks like Erik Estrada on a Star Wars audition (though this picture looks more like Wilmer Valderrama with a bicycle pump up his ass).
Those three are the real men trying to teach eight other pathetic dudes how to meet women. Yes…they refer to each other as “wingmen.” Yes, they have “callsigns” for each other like Neo, Moxie and Lovedrop(?). And yes, their company’s website clearly states that:
Matador and Mystery live in the Project Miami mansion and enjoy winging each other night after night.
So far, this whole phenomenon is just a slightly gayer version of Top Gun.
As far as the contestants go, I’m just going to make it easy on us all and give them nicknames based on characters from Revenge of the Nerds:
- Scott – This is Poindexter, the completely over-the-top nerdy guy who probably plays a mean electric fiddle.
- Joe D. – Since he’s overweight, kinda slobby and lives in his parents’ basement, I’m going to call him Booger. He’s actually quite charming.
- Pradeep – Say hello to our Lamar. Sure, he’s not blatantly gay, but he prefers to talk to men at the bars and he thinks going for an “obviously gay” look will make women feel more secure around him. Hmm…
- Fred – Even though Wormser was an underdeveloped teenager in RotN, this 45 year-old virgin definitely fits the bill of being out of place for his age. Scary moment alert: after getting a haircut he looks like a Russian hitman.
- Spoon – My favorite character on the show. Sad to say, he’ll be our Takashi if only for his ethnicity (though he’s actually closer to Aaron, the sad sack “Asian cowboy” from this season’s Hell’s Kitchen).
- Joe W. – Definitely Gilbert. An unassuming blonde who’s just a little too fidgety. Reminds me of David Spade before he discovered (and subsequently OD’ed on) sarcasm.
- Brady – Let’s call him Lewis. He’s not a bad looking guy, just sort of awkward. Probably has one of those goose-honker laughs too.
- Alvaro – And then there’s this guy. Seems like a normal enough person, but he’s definitely riding on the wacky train…by Episode 2, he changes his name to Kosmo (with a “K,” because that’s “so money!”)…and decides to pull out some half-assed breakdance moves in a crowded bar. He comes off less nerd and more Beat Street extra. Kinda like John Leguizamo…with a semblance of talent.
As far as plot goes, first the “masters” put their “students” through a trial by fire. They make them each go into a bar and try to talk to people while watching the whole thing on hidden cameras. Parts of it are actually quite painful to watch. And sure, I can feel myself thinking back to times when I felt as awkward as them. Some people are afraid of heights. Some people are afraid of public speaking. But I’m pretty sure all people, at some point in their lives, are afraid of rejection.
After this excruciating exercise is over and the masters have pointed out all of their flaws, it’s time for the obligatory Reality TV makeovers (brought to you by Johnson & Johnson, Vidal Sassoon and Hot Topic).
Somehow, this show has become an eerie reflection of Scientology. And I don’t mean all the alien crap and evil things floating in your bloodstream (Thetans? Midichlorians?). From what I know of Scientology, it’s based on a ritual tearing down of your self-image and then a recreation in line with the cult’s (I refuse to call it a religion) beliefs…and of course you can’t attain true enlightenment unless you can afford it.
These roadside prophets show the innocent ones all the things they’re doing wrong and then gain their trust by promising to fix it and make them whole (and each seminar only costs $4997).
First step to a phoenix rising from the ashes? Peacocking. Right on.
This is where each of the contestants has a chance to reinvent themselves with a new character or “avatar.” They’re encouraged to wear tight clothing, dye their hair ridiculous colors and accessorize more than Madonna in her “Lucky Star” phase. In other words, they’re taught to exude false confidence by dressing up like assholes.
And you can tell that they’re all so easily amazed by this ingenuity. When Spoon walks into the kitchen, one of the other dorks says, without the slightest irony:
You painted your fingernails black? That’s awesome!
The next step is to take part in a “gambit” (what most people would call a “night out”).
I’m going to pause right here to point out something obvious: the lexicon. Who the hell needs to make up a new word for “going out?” Mystery’s relying a bit too much on his D&D days here. Avatar? Gambit (funnier if it was a “Quest”)? And then later in the show, he rewards the successful contestants with medallions inscribed with Celtic runes…probably left over from his days as a Hobbit Scout in The Shire? Wow.
I can just see Mystery and his buddies huddling around a rickety card table, rolling obscurely-sided dice and trying to make their saving throws against Cockblocking Third Wheels. Forsooth!
And let’s not forget the pickup-specific terms which glide onscreen like Pop-Up Videos. Things such as “sarging” (meeting women), “routine” (practiced stories and lines), “opening a set” (getting a group of people to talk to you) and “neg” (a backhanded compliment). Seems like an awful lot of homework and book-learnin’ just to get laid.
Then there’s the coaching aspect of the show. For example, when Spoon strikes out “in the field,” Matador gives him this poignant, from-the-heart advice:
Master your fear.
Thanks, Mexican Yoda.
I don’t dispute that there’s some sort of honest validity behind the show. I can feel for the guys when they’re tripping over their own tongues or just too damn scared to come out of their protective cocoons, but the sheer pomposity and absurdity of these “masters” makes my stomach turn. If these blowhards weren’t around, I could see a very sweet self-help show developing from the concept. But the disgusting implications of becoming a master of “picking up” drunk women at a bar is a bit too skeevy for my tastes.
Apparently, others in the (so-called) seduction community share my feelings. This quote, speaking about Mystery, was pulled from another pickup artist blog:
[He’s] the impervious charlatan imposing his will on a room full of guys too unsure of themselves to call him on his bullshit. I did not like him. I would never hang out with him. I would never trust him to even get me a beer, much less trust him to teach me how to find a girlfriend.
I think Matador himself had the perfect quote towards the end of the second episode. He was ridiculing one of the contestants’ technique with this appropriate zinger:
It’s pathetic, it’s needy, and quite frankly it’s rather tacky!
This coming from the guy wearing the Han Solo vest, punk boots and black lip gloss.
I’ve gotta side with Spoon (his last name is actually — no joke — POON) who voluntarily eliminated himself from the “game” after the second episode. While there’s some true merit hidden somewhere in this premise, the gaudy and repulsive candy coating is obscuring the tasty, soothing message inside.
Oh, but what do I know? I’ve only dated a former pro tennis player/model, a Broadway actress and a married women nearly 10 years older than me. I’ve been successfully married for 7 years with two beautiful children. And just last night, I played video games until 5 o’clock in the morning while my wife slept on the couch next to me. What a geek!
That said, if you really want to land hot chicks and become a wild-n-crazy fella, you’d be better off watching some real pickup artists honing their craft in this clip for “Most Beautiful Girl in the Room” from Flight of the Conchords: