Introduction: Cupidity, Spending Impunity, Shocking the Community
Lethargic Voiceover Person informs the viewers that Chrissy Sanford must convince her family she's the winner of a lottery when she's actually won nothing. She must also spend the fake winnings on herself and nothing on her family. If Chrissy can string her family along for five days, they all win $400,000 in prizes. If she fails, they get nothing.
My Name Is (Who?)...My Name Is (Huh?)...Chicka Chicka George Gray
Night. The city streets. A long black stretch limousine prowls the streets. Chrissy tells the viewer in voiceover that she has no idea where she's being taken or for what purpose. Naturally, this begs the question why Chrissy would agree to get in a car with strangers to meet with strangers--in the middle of the night, no less.
As the limousine pulls to the end of a deserted stretch of road, Chrissy moans, "We're literally in the middle of nowhere."
(Pay attention, Viewer, because this will not be the last time that Chrissy or a member of her family feels the need to vocalize the painfully obvious. It is, I've noticed, a trait that a great majority of reality television participants share. I'm surprised I haven't heard by now: "And by 'eating,' I open my mouth, insert food and chew, to aid digestion.")
Chrissy steps out of the car and looks around. But hark! What light yonder breaks! A giant wheel of fortune suddenly comes alive, a beacon in the darkness. Like a moth to the flame, Chrissy is drawn to the wheel of fortune. (She seems like a nice enough girl for the moment, so I will refrain from the obvious "attracted to bright, shiny objects" gag.)
George Gray steps out from behind the wheel of fortune, and we are treated to this exchange:
"Hi, Chrissy. I'm George Gray."
I'm sure the following was edited out:
"You know, from The Weakest Link?"
"Uh, no...I...sorry. I don't go to the movies a lot."
"'You are the weakest link'? 'Goodbye'?"
"Um. Sure. No, I..."
George Gray explains the terms of the hoax (again!)--Yeah, yeah. Pretend to win the lottery, fool the family, five days, spend it on yourself. We get it. We heard it all less than five minutes ago. I mean, who does NBC think is the target audience for this show? The guy from Memento?
For all that, I can't help but stare at George Gray's soul patch.
(This is Hollywood Squares, paging Mr. Gray? Your center square is ready.)
The only new revelation here is that at the end of five days, Chrissy must somehow convince her entire family to stand by her while she spins the wheel. And they have to cheer her along.
As Chrissy considers the offer, she bites her lip and the music builds to a crescendo. Finally, she accepts. (As if there were ever any doubt about her decision?)
McMahon Comes Around
Day. Suburbia. The viewers are treated to ground-level shots of running feet.
Camera crews are running to and fro. Somewhere from the background, we hear a voice urgently yell, "Go! Now!" as the camera crews and "lottery officials" spring into action. There's usually less coordination in Tom Clancy novels when special forces hit terrorist training camps.
This begs another question: Why do the camera crews on "prize patrols" run after lottery winners? This isn't Cops. Do people often flee from people trying to bestow large sums of money on them? Now, if I knew a prize patrol were trying to locate me, I would stand stock-still and wear lots of bright clothing.
We're introduced to Lois, Chrissy's mother, who--bless her heart--offers the following observation: "It was like something out of Star Wars!"
Sure, mom. Other than the total lack of spaceships, laser swords, aliens, outer space, and magic ninja tricks, it's exactly like Star Wars.
Chrissy's brother Phillip remarks, "I looked at Ed McMahon and I was like, hey, this guy is the guy who gives out the checks. We're not going to be poor anymore. Heh. Sweeet. Heh."
No doubt, Phillip is thinking he can now afford to smoke real pot rather than his mother's oregano.
Brother Eric’s girlfriend, Holly, said: "I was so happy, I just started crying, and that's never happened before."
She's not clear whether she's never before (1) cried, (2) cried tears of joy, or (3) met Ed McMahon.
McMahon asks the Sanfords what they plan on doing with this newfound wealth. (Since McMahon directed the question to the family rather than Chrissy alone--Hey, McMahon? You're not making Chrissy's job any easier, buddy.)
Mom Lois wants a new kitchen, Dad Guy wants to retire, and brother Matthew wants a computer.
Two other brothers want new guitars.
McMahon turned to the camera and said, "We've got a musician here, gang!" ("Gang"?)
Paul wants a new car. Lois tells him to move out. (Are you feeling the love yet?)
Chrissy told McMahon that she planned on repaying the college tuition that came out of Dad's pocket. I get the feeling that Guy and Lois won't have to worry about none of them fancy college educations for the boys, so that must be encouraging.
McMahon and the Sanfords head indoors and Lois starts shouting that son David should be informed via cell phone.
"It happened on our front porch!" Lois screams into the phone, while she flaps her arms and dances like she’s been dropped on hot coals. Here's to hoping that "something happens in their backyard!" or "something lands on their roof!" I'd like to see interpretive dances under those circumstances, too.
After the Sanfords participate in some promotional filming for the TheBigWin.net, they are informed they would be whisked to a "5-star resort" in Palm Springs, where they would join Chrissy as she spins a wheel of fortune for at least $5 million and maybe $50 million.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Feckless
McMahon welcomes them aboard a private jet that will whisk them off to the resort. As the Sanfords settle in, the mood is jovial and made more jovial as the booze flows like water from a broken tap.
Brother David gives us a play-by-play of takeoff. According to David, his family were shocked by how quickly the plane took to the air: "They whipped us over to the runway and said, 'All right, you guys all buckled in? 'Cuz we're going now.' And we're like, 'What...? Whoa...!'"
The viewers watched the plane ascend as a piercing scream could be heard in the background. Throw in unruly children and pretzels wedged between the seats, and the producers of this show could have re-created the last flight I took on Southwest Airlines.
As if those of us sitting on a futon eating a bowl of Cap'n Crunch for dinner simply don't understand they're headed to a hoity-toity resort in Palm Springs, we next see (you guessed it) palm trees swaying gently in the wind.
The Sanfords disembark as Dad remarks in awe: "Is this the way these people actually travel?"
Well, Dad, if by "these people," you mean the hyper-wealthy, I've always been led to believe the mega-rich traveled in hovercrafts powered by the broken dreams of Chinese orphans (or so they say on the Discovery Channel).
Our first view of the resort comes from the reception area--it's the epitome of opulence: crystal chandeliers, tiled floors, rich watercolors...and statues of rams. Because, baby, nothing--and I mean nothing--speaks class like big honkin' statues of rams.
It's all a little over the top, though, as if Trump told the Apprentices they would be working with Hildi Santo-Tomas on a redesign and had to spend $1 million in the worst ways possible. Because, hey, mission accomplished.
Phillip, ever so eloquent at expressing the depth of his feelings and the labyrinth that is his thought process, pipes up with: "I'm a millionaire. Heh. I'm priceless. Heh."
Phillip, you are priceless in more ways than one. Trust me.
The Sanfords wander the resort, and they marvel that each family member will enjoy his or her own room. The Sanfords are accustomed to sharing beds on vacation, you see, and sometimes have to sleep wherever they can in a hotel room.
Chrissy must be nostalgic for her sleeping-in-the-bathtub days because as we fade to commercial, we see Chrissy asleep on a couch and hear her voice say, "It's the end of Day One, and I'm wondering what I signed up for."
I hope this is a voiceover. Because if NBC has discovered the technology that allows us to hear the thoughts of on-air personalities, I'm never watching Will & Grace again. (Do you hear me, Debra Messing?)
Women Be Shoppin'
The next day brings clothes shopping for Chrissy. Mom Lois and girlfriend Holly are forced into tagging along. (Why is Holly still here at this point? Did she get sucked along because she just happened to be at the house?) The ladies stop in a boutique where the saleswoman is an actress working for $25 Million Dollar Hoax.
Her job, along with picking out horrible and outrageously-priced clothes for Chrissy, is to insult Lois and Holly. The saleswoman smirks at Holly and Lois (when she’s not ignoring them), constantly snaps at them and laughs when she's told that Holly is an aspiring country-and-western singer.
I'm unclear why it's necessary to insult Chrissy's family unless the producers simply don’t like them. Let's see, the terms as I understood them were: (1) fool family into thinking you'd won the lottery (check), (2) spend all money on self (check) and (3) carry out hoax for five days. I've heard the rules often enough. They couldn't be clearer. So what part of "diss your family" did I miss?
At one point while she’s trying on clothes, Chrissy emerges from the dressing room in a gold lamé top cut down to there. Most of her is hanging out.
Chrissy grabs her breasts and adjusts herself in the top. This is, I should note, the best chance we have of seeing boobage in the entire episode. While this is going on, Holly remarks in a voiceover, "I thought the stylist had trashy taste."
Now you hush, Holly. You're trying to discourage Chrissy from that top while I'm trying to catch a glimpse of boobage, and I simply can't have that.
Total cost of Chrissy's shopping spree: $16,289.65
Holly, ever the quick one, observes: "Enough to feed a small country."
Well, that depends. Are you feeding them breakfast, lunch or dinner? If it's lunch or dinner, is it potluck? And are you going to have an open bar? And just which country are we talking about? Can you feed Luxembourg on $16,000 and change? Probably not. Lichenstein? Eh, maybe.
As Chrissy is asked to model for a photo shoot, Lois and Holly leave in the limo. Lois makes hocus-pocus hand gestures and remarks, "Star! Star! Superstar!" apropos to nothing. I hope that the $400,000 prize package at the end of this thing includes getting Lois help for Tourette's.
What Man Doesn't Love a Hummer
Next, Chrissy spends time with the boys (and only the boys, it seems). The Sanford men are told that Chrissy has suddenly decided to buy a car. But not just any car. Oh no. They stop in a dealership chock full of Hummvees and Cadillacs.
Apparently, these are Guy's dream cars, as he's angling to get a new car for himself.
Something interesting here: While Brother Matthew's Superman T-shirt was blurred out, Brother Paul's Captain America T-shirt is clearly visible. Why this is, who knows.
(But to my Sears Tower group from FORTcon, I say--They wouldn’t dare blur out…”SHAZAM!”)
Once again, the salesperson is an actor working for $25 Million Dollar Hoax. When Chrissy meets him, she blurts out, "I've just won $5 million on the Big Win dot net!"
Her brother and father are horrified.
"You're not going to get a deal!" Dad tells the camera.
Chrissy looks at the Cadillacs first but then wants to see the Hummvees. "I'm a truck girl!" she exclaims. (She did say "truck," right?)
Now, if there is one car in the United States that is the epitome of conspicuous consumption, it's the Hummvee. You don't need a Hummvee. No, uh-uh, ssshhh...no. You can't justify it. Unless your ZIP code falls in Fallujah, there is simply no justification whatsoever for why anyone would even need a Hummvee.
You just don't hear the following: "You'll never guess what happened to me today, hon! I was driving to Starbucks for a coffee when wham! I got hit by an RPG! Good thing the H2 held up, or I would have been toast!"
Chrissy and the salesman/actor take the Hummvee out for a spin, and he directs her toward a test track where the Hummer can be put to the test.
Before proceeding, Chrissy flexes her muscles and plants a kiss on one of her guns. I'd like to ask Chrissy why her strength matters here. Are you pushing the Hummvee up the test track by yourself?
Chrissy and the salesman/actor return to the dealership and Chrissy hops out of the car. She's decided to buy it. Chrissy tells Dad that maybe she'll buy him a "used Cadillac."
The Sanfords are horrified at Chrissy's behavior and can't believe she offered to buy her father a used car.
We're not sure whether it's Dad, but it sounds like Dad's voice saying "On the inside, I'm going 'Do you believe this bitch?'"
Even though Dad and Sanford fils are outraged by Chrissy’s callousness they don't really say anything to her face. After all, they may yet benefit, and there’s no use risking her ire now that she’s Big Money.
As Chrissy and the salesman hammer out the purchase of the Hummer, the salesman offers Chrissy a number of upgrades to her Hummvee, including two TV screens, a DVD player, a PlayStation2, performance tires and a supercharger.
Paul can't believe that Chrissy agrees to the supercharger, pointing out that the Hummer has enough horsepower. Note this well, because this may be the only time you will ever hear a man say those words. Ever.
The Sanfords think the Hummvee is overpriced and extravagant, leading Numbskull Brother Eric to remark: "Money doesn't come easy. Everyone works hard for it. Well, few people don't have to work hard for it..." (I expected him to add, "...like ninjas.")
Total cost of Hummvee: $81,159.60
Chrissy's day has so far cost $97,449.25.
After this, Dad says, with a completely straight face, "There's gotta be something in it for me." (Are you still poo-pooing NBC and holding your hand to your heart for this family?)
The Sanfords return to Maison des Rams Resort where the Sanford men break the news about the Hummvee to Lois.
Lois points at them and makes this "Oh, you naughty boys!" gesture that I found a little unnerving.
Next we see Chrissy sum up her experience thusly: "Insulted my mom, made Holly cry, shot my brothers down...and offered my Dad a used car. I have spent close to $100,000. And as fun as that might have sounded, it wasn't."
What part of that was the "fun" part, Chrissy? Insulting your mother or making Holly cry?
Didn't I Tell You We Wouldn't Stop?
As the Sanfords sit down to a lavish dinner, the viewers are told that Chrissy has requested a meeting with the producers.
The Sanfords, steel traps one and all, notice this, but apparently it doesn't dawn on anyone to stop eating his or her meal and check on the whereabouts of a missing family member, even though they are in a strange place.
Chrissy pours out her heart to the camera and (dun dun DUN!) considers stopping the hoax then and there.
"My dad would not do this to me, but I'm doing this to him. I shouldn't be doing this to him!" Chrissy weeps. (Apparently, Chrissy has forgotten all about her mother and six brothers. Oh, yeah. And Holly. Mustn't forget Holly.)
"I don't think I want to go on...It's just wrong. And honestly, I don't know if I can do this anymore."
Let me tell you something: That commercial break between Chrissy's breakdown and her decision was the longest five minutes of my life. I walked outside and stared into the night sky and just wondered what it was all about, man--just what is it all about?
I asked my significant other to join hands with me, and we bowed our heads in prayer. I returned to my couch and watched. I didn't even realize I'd been holding my breath and biting the inside of my cheek.
Chrissy agrees to continue, and I leap out of the couch like my team has just scored an 80-yard, game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds to go. (She agrees! Huzzah!)
Next week: a Rodeo Drive shopping spree, a makeover, a recording studio session--and more crises of conviction and more boobs!