Who’s Watching This?: STAG
The average cable provider, desperate to compete with the entertainment-dollar encroachment of the internet, brings literally hundreds of channels into the homes of its subscribers, most of them running 24 hours a day. That means, in an average week, there are upwards of ten thousand shows being broadcast. Somebody’s got to be watching them, right? Well, I am, anyway.
Since I’m unemployed, old, and insomniac, I’m pretty much the key demographic for most of this low-rent nonsense, so every so often in this space, I’ll randomly select a program from the upper reaches of the cable dial and tell you what it’s all about, who else might be watching it, and what I learned from my viewing – because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that TV makes you smarter.
This week’s entry in the crazy cable sweepstakes is a show so mysterious it can barely be said to exist. STAG: A Test of Love runs perennially in syndication, meaning that any network with a hole to fill in its programming can pick it up; on many cable affiliates, it airs on something called MavTV, a network apparently catering to the male 18-54 demographic. Because if there is one group that is fatally underrepresented in television programming, it is young and middle-aged males. Anyway, STAG: A Test of Love must be doing something right, because it’s been running for eight seasons, quite an accomplishment and something like an eternity for a syndicated quasi-reality show.
It springs from the mind, or more literally the loins and capsule-shaped head, of unctuous, bottom-drawer shame-programming entrepreneur Tommy Habeeb. Habeeb is also responsible for Cheaters, a show with a similar theme. What theme, you foolishly ask, thus committing yourself to this terrible show instead of navigating away from the page in blissful ignorance? Well, what STAG does is introduce us to a young couple, full of love and life and hope for the future. Then it follows the groom to his bachelor party, where, like any self-respecting viewer of MavTV, he behaves like a total jackass. This footage is then shown to the bride, in hopes that she will comepletely lose it. (Wikipedia makes it out that the show is sort of a funnel of on-screen talent for Maury guests. This is hard to confirm or disprove, since Habeeb’s website was last updated in October of 2008.)
You can tell right away that this week’s couple really wants to make it work. She (Alex) is a naggy blonde paralegal, and he (Phoenix!) is a bleached-out unemployed doofus; they met when he was a male stripper and cemented their relationship over MySpace (!!). What could go wrong? Alex praises Phoenix for how much he’s “matured” since his stripper days, while Phoenix says of his lady love “She pays for everything, and she’s good in bed.” Yes, it’s a real love match, folks, made in trash-TV heaven.
Prior to the big event, Alex lays down the rules for her fella: he can get a lap dance (“From a girl?” he inquires enthusiastically, using his one facial expression, a toothy smirk), but that’s it. Armed with this make-it-or-break-it information, he heads off for his bachelor party, which you know is going to be classy because he’s holding it at the local Comfort Inn. He further endears himself to his affianced by telling his douchey friend (who keeps saying “We need to get a va-hi-na in your face”) that Alex lets him use the servant’s entrance, if you know what he means, and everyone watching this show surely does.
When this is all revealed on the videotape, Alex doesn’t respond well. Although Phoenix had tried so hard to prove his commitment (he says at one point, true love bursting from his every pore, “She could be the one, I guess; we’ll see”), she breaks down in tears when she sees him kissing strippers. “Why do you have to do things where you kiss girls and lick all over them? Is that fun to you?” she asks; although Phoenix wisely does not answer this imponderable question, she boots him out of the house anyway, and he shuffles sadly away, the microphone power pack in his sweat pants causing them to droop around his butt.
Although Phoenix can’t seem to wipe the doltish smirk off his face, he shows his understanding of the terrible repercussions of his shattered engagement: “It sucks that I lose her,” he confesses, “but I also lose the condo too.” (Don’t worry, incurable romantics: according to the show’s website, she took him back, and they’re re-engaged. Alex still pays all the bills.)
WHO’S WATCHING THIS?
Being a syndicated show, STAG: A Test of Love runs at different times in different places. MavTV schedules it at 9:30PM Central Time on Monday nights; this presumes that the last thing couples will enjoy watching before they hit the sack after a long, grueling day at work is a show about how men are untrustworthy pigs with the mentality of 11-year-olds.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
Even if your fiancée says you can have a lap dance, she will get angry if there are “more girls on your lap than (she) can count”. Practical Application: make sure you get engaged to a girl who, like Alex, can only count to four.