As a steadfastly adoring “Joan Ranger,” who will stand by Joan Rivers no matter how brutally critics try to eviscerate this divinely dirty-mouthed diva, I have a high standard for low blows.
I was watching Fashion Police’s Oscar edition and caught a coming attraction/promo for Burning Love, and the tag line “Feel the burn in your love areas” had me guffawing out loud all of a sudden. I’m not accustomed to pointedly hilarious broadcasting on the E! network (Fashion Police notwithstanding, but FP owes a debt of gratitude to the raunchy genius of Ms. Rivers. Fashion Police isn’t a comedy per se; it’s a show dedicated to fashion on the, get this, fashion network, but headlines with the inimitably, obscenely hilarious Joan Rivers). So, suddenly I was paying attention during commercials of the main show I was watching. Another concession; Chelsea Handler is comic genius, too. And her show is on E! Talk Soup, now called The Soup also hails from E! and this news show which skewers all manner of TV programming deserving of such mockery, is also balls to the wall hilarious. But my point is that a new piss-in-your-pants funny show has arrived on the E! network and it’s up there with Family Guy or Sarah Silverman in class. Or priceless, gloriously funny, lack thereof.
Burning Love is a pitch perfect parody of a genuine reality show, The Bachelor. The Bachelor has the pretty straightforward premise of capitalizing on the shallow desperation of feminine neediness deified as the quest for marriage in American culture. Wait, I said straightforward premise… In other words, on this reality show, The Bachelor, lots of chicks all throw themselves at a handsome prince in the hope he will choose one to be his princess. Gloria Steinem must be wincing and Betty Friedan turning over in her grave. What are we, at a 12-Step Mormon Maidens Anonymous meeting? Or in the age of the sock hop? Haven’t we moved forward in terms of women’s liberation? I guess not. The Bachelor sets feminism back about 100 years, and wreaks insidious damage on the collective consciousness of our culture because, well, it actually airs! It’s killing us softly because the people who actually watch it aren’t even aware of how degrading and reinforcing of a patriarchical status quo it is, with men being the subjects and women the objects who must earn the affection of a male suitor who is in complete control. The female’s worth is predicated on a man’s interest in her. Puh leeease. I’ll guess the demographic is about 100% girls, and not even gay men (who usually comprise the other part of a mostly female demographic) because they — fabulous, fierce, fags — too, would probably be offended as the female “contestants” aren’t even the strong, independent-thinking feminine divas gay men like to emulate. (Note, I use fag in the most respectful sense as I am bisexual, or ambisextrous as I like to say. I’m queer kin.) The Bachelor is embarrassingly sexist and misogynistic. As you can see, I find it one of the most ridiculous shows on the boob tube, and that’s saying a lot among our pop culture’s jejune feeding frenzy of channels. In The Bachelor a predictable gaggle of stereotypically feminine women drape themselves all over the one hunky male bachelor who stands erect (wink wink) as the bearer of the coveted brass ring of his hand in matrimony. Or, I guess, that would be the golden band of “I do.”
Well, Burning Love gets the utter mockery The Bachelor makes of itself and jibes the hell out of it! Burning Love is not a slightly amusing show. It is not a 30 minute distraction from life’s humdrum where mildly entertaining inner simpers are the best one can hope for. Burning Love has exceptionally witty writers who know how to hit the G spot of comedy, the funny bone of sexy satire.
Burning Love is a series whose executive producer is Ben Stiller (who needs no introduction where pratfalls and parody are concerned). It stars Michael Ian Black (a recognizable, sarcastically irreverent face, perhaps most notably from MTV’s sketch comedy The State, or VH1’s “I Love the 70s/80s/90s/Millennium” series), as the host, and Ken Marino (also from The State) who plays Mark Orlando, a rather dim-witted firefighter, with pecs so cute who needs a shirt? In the parodic commercials, mellowdramatically thickly drawn, Mark capers through rolling hills and dales in only his loud yellow fireman trousers, and clown-red suspenders holding them up. It’s the perfect stage setting for the ironic spoof that’s to come. It must have been the first episode I caught, as Mark was introduced to the dozens or so girls all lining up to become Mrs. Orlando. Each successive introduction had me laughing harder than the next. Mark is all nerves and excitement as one girl after the next makes her grand exit from a limousine and sashays with her signature shtick up to greet Mark on the front stoop of his mansion. To give you an idea of what you’re in for, there are periodic “candid moments” where Mark faces the camera, like the characters in The Office do, for confessional moments. Once he bears this intimate little nugget, through jitters of vulnerability acted with perfect comic delivery: “I’m ready to settle down … tonight … with a stranger.” Or another dramatic apostrophe, “I know I have a lot to give. I just want someone to give it to. Every night. And in the morning. And sometimes in shower.”
In the opening sequence, where girls fall all over themselves trying to make a good impression when they meet Mark for the first time, here are some sensational slapstick-y reasons to tune in…
One girl shows up with pixelated censorship of her girly parts (this is E! not Showtime but that’s secondary; the blurred out bits is an intentional comic device as the overthetopness of her trying so hard to sluttily win his favor is exceptionally funny). She proceeds to tell Mark that she has an H shaved into her pubic hair that she can pertly turn into an M for Mark. Another woman is a Jesus freak who tells Mark, when he asks why she’s comes to the show, “Because God told me to.” One ditzy girl messes up the opening line she’s worked so hard to memorize for her big introduction, “A wise man once said…” She cannot think of one smart thing to say. Another girl is named Titi. You sound it out. (Herein is the hilarity: it’s pronounced “TeeTee,” but you be the judge.) Still another lady is eight months pregnant. One chick hosts a giant, Hey buddy, can you spare a dime-esque, double set of poster boards over her front and back reading: “Love for Sale.” One lady is not a chick but a bumbling Asian drag queen. And alas, Jennifer Aniston plays a desperate dingbat who arrives in a full Panda bear suit.
At some point, as girls are being catty and trying to one up each of their competition, a girl bemoans, “If he doesn’t pick me I’ll probably kill myself.”
Yes, faked histrionics and exaggeration are exactly what make Burning Love as real(ly fulfilling) as top notch satire gets.