I know I can’t be the only one who is tired of the fact that “reality” programming does not represent real life. Well, as you may have read in the post prior to this one, my friend Brett Gursky recently competed in MSN.com’s reality competition web series The Tastemaker. However, much to my dismay – and boatloads of other people’s – Brett was only named the runner-up. Normally I would say that he tried his best and that runner-up is still great, but I have had time to process the outcome and truly believe that he deserved to win. Not just because we are friends, or because I’m biased, but because out of the rest of the competitors, he truly proved himself to be THE Tastemaker. Allow me to explain.
I watched each and every episode and I have to say that the results left me in shock. I felt as though the rug was pulled from underneath me and I wasn’t even in the competition, but instead a fan and a supporter. Something clearly was not right, and it wasn’t Brett’s ability and outcome of each task which garnered praise after praise. From the start he pulled in all of the elements that would qualify someone as a “Tastemaker” by definition. The PSA that he directed – and that my best friend Nicki helped produce – not only won Round 2, but went on to air on MTV during the Barack Obama special. Brett single-handedly got 12 actors from TV and movies to appear in the PSA on a day’s notice. Then for round 3, he put on a charity fashion show for designer Donna Mizani which is still being written about on fashion and party blogs, getting the same coverage as official LA Fashion Week events. The judges’ commentary on both fashion shows spelled out who should have won the round. They cited Donna Mizani and Adrianna Costa as stars and loved how Brett reached out to the charity for the actual lemonade stand. No ordinary person could just make these things happen so seamlessly and quickly. Even if Raymond, Brett’s competition in round 3 (who was previously his teammate for round 2), did raise more individual donations for his charity, that was only one element of the task. Brett created an out of the box fashion show including actual lemons, lemonade, and the freaking life-sized lemonade stand to boot. Not to mention the size of his audience, the celebs, clearly the designer, the carpet, the rose petals, the photographers, the beverages, the energy. He even had a live auction including signed movie posters, tickets to a live taping of a TV show, restaurant and nightclub gift certificates, and more – all donated by his very large and supportive network of friends without any hesitation at all.
The weekend after the final episode aired, my friends and I attended the wrap party that Brett threw for the cast and crew of the show. Ironic that the person throwing the wrap party was only the “runner up.” I got to meet people involved with the show and I asked a lot of questions. I had to get to the bottom of this. Over the next few days I did some digging on MSN.com for coverage of their show, and I came across a blog entry entitled “The Tastemaker is Chosen!” with the main image being a picture from none other than Brett’s fashion show. Um, MSN.com why would you put a picture of Brett’s fashion show on that blog if Raymond won? Wouldn’t you want to highlight the person’s show who won the challenge? If you aren’t even buzzing about his show, why would anyone else? However, there was tons of buzz about Brett’s show, even from you MSN! Not only was it on that MSN blog, but photos from Brett’s show were on the MSN homepage. Twice. Photos from Raymond’s fashion show were not even on the MSN homepage once. Just saying. Also, Raymond’s special “out of the box” break-dancing element to his fashion show was performed by “friends from The LXD” as MSN put it in their blog entry. So I started to do a little more digging and found out that The LXD is a web series produced by Agility Studios who also produce…wait for it…The Tastemaker. Coincidence? Conflict of interest? You tell me. But I’ll say this. Something just seems, dare I say it, rigged.
Of course I could be saying this as an extremely supportive and disgruntled friend of the contestant that didn’t ultimately win the title. But believe me, if Brett dropped the ball on the final task, I’d be the first to let him know in a non-sugarcoated way. But he didn’t drop the ball. And he deserved to win. All of the evidence is there and stands on its own without me having to point it out. But I feel that I must anyway. I will also say that I have met Raymond several times throughout the process of the show, and he is a very nice guy. He and Brett brought each other to the final round with their winning PSA. I just really feel that in this case, the right guy did not take home the title.
Brett brings people together and influences others. All day, every day. He gets people to follow their dreams and move to Los Angeles. He got ME to move and do just that. He is also thanked for things that were simply one BBM away from happening and then he’s on to the next task. He truly is “The Tastemaker.” I guess MSN will find that out the hard way. That being said, Brett handled the news with grace and humility. He was very complimentary of Raymond and an extremely fair competitor. He could have faced the judges and torn opposition’s event to shreds. But instead he showed respect and restraint. He could have pointed out that Raymond’s musical acts, dancers, and the photo booth were all just distractions from the fact that he did not bring in a real designer. He left out a crucial aspect of a fashion show – the fashion. Anyone can take a charity’s merchandise and put on a “show” with it, but how many people can get an A-list designer to do a real LA Fashion Week caliber show, as a favor with just a week’s notice? In episode 11, Raymond is quoted as saying that he could call up 30 fashion brands on a Saturday afternoon and get someone to do a fashion show. Well then he should have. Proof is in the pudding.
My research also taught me that Raymond publishes a music magazine. I would have expected him to bring in the big guns then for the final task rather than unknown musicians. Amount of individual donations aside, I asked Brett the difference in the amount of money they raised and he informed me it was only about $200. That’s it? Besides, the show was not called The Fundraiser. Anyone can be a fundraiser if they ask people to donate money. It was called The Tastemaker. Both sides raised a lot of money for their charity of choice, but I would argue that Brett brought more awareness, especially to the Hollywood community, to his charity. Brett went above and beyond and his event was in a whole other league. In my eyes, and the eyes of countless others, he won round 3 fair and square. He may not officially have the title, but everyone that knows him, including the genius’ who allowed this to happen, knows that he is it.
So where does that leave us? Had Brett won the title, The Tastemaker would have gotten it right and, as a result, all of the highly influential people in Brett’s social network – all of the actors, producers, directors, writers, agents, managers, club owners, etc – would be talking about the show. But unfortunately, whomever had the final say caused this show to lose ALL credibility. So much for future seasons. And so much for a reality show actually depicting…reality.