Ben Mandelker's B-Side Look At 'Reality'

Ben Mandelker's B-Side Look At 'Reality' by Caleb Bacon

Ben Mandelker loves reality television.

His website, B Side Blog, is the home for his musings on this love affair (a few scripted shows get some love too.) It makes sense that the colorful writer was tapped by Anna David (LAist Interview) to write one of the essays in her new book, Reality Matters.

Mandelker's piece was on "Big Brother," a show that he's regularly consumed and been regularly consumed by.

Tonight at 8:00pm, Mandelker will join David and more of the book's authors in addition to those they've written about at Les Deux in Hollywood. Reality stars Jennifer Gimenez (”Sober House,”) Charlie O'Connell (”The Bachelor,”) and Will Gilbert (”The Real World: Hollywood”) will join scribes Neil Strauss (”The Game”), John Albert, and Wendy Merrill for readings, anecdotes and discussion.

LAist had a chance to talk with Mandelker about reality, reality and reality.

LAist: What is your Reality Matters essay about?

Ben Mandelker: My essay is titled "Shelly," and it's about this horrific woman I once sat near at a taping of "Big Brother."  Everything about her was terrible but especially her unrelenting desire to bring attention to herself.  It's like she wanted to be discovered there in the audience, and thinking back about her, I realized that she was kind of the perfect jumping off point for a piece about reality television.  And let's face it, if there's ever been a show about preening exhibitionism, it's "Big Brother."

How did you choose to write about that show?

Well, I am sort of a glutton for reality TV in general, and as a card carrying WGA member, I think admitting such things might get me blacklisted, but either way, I have a particularly intense love for Big Brother.  It's not that I love it any more than some of the other blue chip reality shows (ie. "Amazing Race," "Survivor," etc.), but the fact that it unfolds literally before your eyes live on the Internet is kind of intoxicating in a way that other shows aren't.  I mean, it's crack.  And it's taken over my life in many ways.  I go to tapings, I read the live feeds, I even spent a day inside the "Big Brother" house last year. Clearly I'm obsessed.  It was a natural essay choice.  In other news, I need help.

What's your favorite canceled reality show?  

It's hard to say what my favorite canceled reality show is.  There are so many lost gems in the TV graveyard.  I do have a special place in my heart for "Eighth and Ocean" (feuding model twins!) and "Top Design" (season 2 was great) and "Stylista" (silly fluff).  I also can't praise the completely overlooked "Girls of Hedsor Hall" enough.  But to be honest, when I think of my absolute favorite dead reality show, my mind immediately goes to "Sorority Life."  Every season always began with a cast of generally bland and ugly girls, but as they became more comfortable on camera, they revealed some stunning and complicated cattiness -- and not the made-for-TV variety seen on "The Bad Girls Club" or "The Real World."  Oh, it was great. I'm gonna light a candle in its memory now.

As an admitted LAist reader, what's your favorite aspect to the site?

My favorite part of LAist -- and don't blush Caleb -- is the Recession Obsession column.  I'm a big believer that food is one of the best ways to get to know a city; plus, I just like cheap eats.  The column is really meant for me.  I still go to Authentic Korean Dumplings quite often with my friends.  Just thinking about it is making me salivate.  Must... go... now...