‘Tis the season for listicles highlighting the best or most notable things of the past 11-ish months.
They’re popping up everywhere: best books of 2016, best films of 2016, best Kimye-controversies of 2016… But in a year dominated by the heartbreaking deaths of so many legendary musicians, the even more heartbreaking refugee crisis, the deeply disturbing rise of the alt-right, the appalling election of Trump, the seemingly nonstop waves of police brutality and mass-shootings, the influx of zika, ebola, prions and who knows what other heebie-jeebies, and so on, it all kind of takes the sheen away from the so-called high points. Instead, as the year draws to a close, many of us are left with a general aftertaste of trepidation and disenchantment.
We’ve schlepped through a lot of shit lately, and it’s enough to make a person long for a less depressing time. A simpler time. A time when reality stars were merely viewed as entertaining caricatures on satirical tongue-in-cheek cable TV programs rather than taken seriously as viable candidates for any kind of political appointment.
Perhaps what we need, as 2016 draws to a close, is a return to the days when we laughed at reality stars because they were funny–but solely in an omg lol way rather than in an uncomfortable schadenfreude way. Perhaps what we need, rather than lists of 2016’s “bests”, is a reminder of when entertainment was purely entertainment. Perhaps what we need is a list of 2006‘s bests. Perhaps what we really, truly need…is a list of Flavor of Love‘s bests.
Premiering on the very first day of 2006, Flavor of Love was borne of Vh1’s infatuation with the irresistibly charismatic Flavor Flav, formerly of Public Enemy fame. His on-screen charm had already been previously established through the network’s earlier collaborations with him on shows like The Surreal Life, in which he met and began a romance with Brigitte Nielsen, and Strange Love, which documented in further detail the pair’s unfolding relationship (and its eventual dissolution.) After the two parted ways and Strange Love ended, Brigitte Nielsen returned to her Italian boyfriend (now husband) while Flavor Flav continued his search for ~the one~ (with the renewed help of Vh1, of course.)
Following the same basic format as The Bachelor, Flavor of Love brought 20 different women together to live under one roof and compete for Flav’s heart. A big chunk of the contestants were eliminated in the first episode, which also saw Flav christening them with their new nicknames (apparently appointed because Flav has an easier time remembering nicknames than real names.) The series followed a general formula in which the contestants competed in challenges in order to “win” various types of dates with Flav. Contestants were cut at the conclusion of each weekly episode during a “clock ceremony”, wherein instead of Flav presenting each remaining contestant with a rose during eliminations, if he picked them to stay they received a clock.
Interpersonal dramas, arguments and catfights abounded. Reality star careers were made and ended. Chickens were cooked and left uncooked. Harsh truths were swallowed and spat in faces. It was glorious. So here’s a look back at some of 2006’s bests, epitomized by these highlights from the unforgettable first season of Flavor of Love.
Goldie drinks too much, pukes and passes out:
In the very first episode, when it’s fair to say a contestant’s risk of elimination is most uncertain, Goldie–one of the most likable of the bunch–accidentally had a bit too much champagne and passed out. Fellow contestant Rain graciously tried to help her out, attempting to keep her from being cut by getting her up and to the clock ceremony, but Goldie instead remained on the couch, puking into a bucket. Eventually she managed to make it there where she received Flav’s last clock, thus narrowly escaping elimination. Cherry, who wasn’t as fortunate, cried on her way out the door about how she was eliminated while “Goldie, who puked in bucket–a gallon of puke” was chosen to stay.
Hottie believes she looks like Beyoncé:
In one of many verbal sparring matches between Hottie and New York, Hottie accused New York of being jealous of her because “all my friends that know me tell me that I remind them of Beyoncé.” New York, barely able to contain herself, shouted over-the-top apologies to Beyoncé that “an ugly ass bitch” like Hottie would make such a comparison. She then proceeded to call Hottie insane for thinking that she looks anything like Beyoncé, and corrected her by informing her that her appearance is more akin to Luther Vandross.
Hottie gives Flav’s mom an uncooked chicken:
Getting on well with a significant other’s family can make or break a relationship, so it’s only understandable that Flav invited his mother onto the show to help him judge the contestants. In this episode, titled “The Flavor of Chicken”, the contestants try to impress Flav and his mama by accompanying them first to church and then to a tea room, and–of course–by attempting to cook fried chicken. Because they were under time constraints, Hottie decided to cook her chicken in the microwave, reasoning that pressing the “chicken” button on the microwave would cook the chicken the whole way through. “I think putting the chicken in the microwave is like the most sanitary thing to do, plus it doesn’t have all the extra calories from the grease”, she explained. In the end Flav and his mom were served Hottie’s raw chicken, and unsurprisingly no one was impressed.
Flav sees Hottie on an old episode of Blind Date:
Blind Date was another amazing dating show from reality TV’s formative years, so it isn’t necessarily surprising that a contestant (or two) had been in an episode of Blind Date before appearing on Flavor of Love. However, it does strain credulity to believe that Flav was just sitting around getting his hair braided while watching Blind Date and randomly happened upon an episode that Hottie was on. “I represent all women: we like nice things!” Hottie can be heard explaining during her 15-minutes of Blind Date fame, outlining how she’s looking for someone to financially take care of her. Unsurprisingly this led to Hottie’s elimination, as it caused Flav to believe that she was after his money instead of his heart.
Pumkin spits on New York:
With just three contestants remaining, Flav choose to eliminate Pumkin in the clock ceremony as she too had previously appeared on other reality shows. This revelation–courtesy of Pumkin’s own mother (“Mrs. Pumkin”)–in turn led him to believe she was more interested in fame than Flav. Not one to go gently into that good non-televised night, Pumkin’s exit brought her feud with New York to the forefront, culminating in a catfight that still stands out amidst the colorful annals of Vh1’s celebreality history. To summarize, Pumkin rebuffed the notion that she was merely after fame by drawing Flav’s attention to New York’s acting aspirations. After some verbal sparring, Pumkin unexpectedly hocked a loogie in New York’s face. This of course caused her to completely lose her shit: she pushed Pumkin into the camera crew, then continued to go after her by slipping her shoe off and attempting to beat her with the stiletto heel.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe a whole decade has passed since Flavor of Love and all of its timeless characters first crept their way into our hearts.