A sad summer of ‘fame whores’ and footballers

Jillian Harris with Ed Swiderski: The engagement is off. AP

John Doyle
The Globe and Mail
Published on Thursday, July 8

I love this summer. Mind you, it makes me sad. But in a good way.

One day last month, at an ungodly hour of the morning, I was sitting in the green room of a TV station in Vancouver. Across from me sat a handsome, well-dressed young man. I asked him why he was appearing on breakfast TV that morning. Turned out he had been on The Bachelorette and had a story to tell.

“Is it juicy stuff?” I asked. “Totally, man,” he replied. “But I can’t really spill the beans right now. Confidentiality things were signed.” He did his bit on the show and then I did my bit talking about my book on soccer and the World Cup.

That situation telegraphed the entire summer, really. There are only two things worth talking about right now – the whole Bachelor/Bachelorette thing, and the World Cup.

On Wednesday I was stunned to read that in the latest twist in the Bachelorette branch of the sordid saga, Canada’s Sweetheart, Jillian Harris, has split with her fiancé, the guy she met on the show. “I love him and I’m really sad, but I have to look out for me,” Harris told US Weekly.

In related but unconfirmed news, Harris is pitching CBC-TV on a reality/dating show called I have to look out for me. Okay, that last bit isn’t true but since the Canadian TV racket is full of rumours that CBC is no longer interested in ordering up one-hour dramas, it might be more plausible than you think. However, it’s not plausible to believe I was actually stunned by the news of the Jillian Harris breakup. I totally saw that coming.

Meanwhile, over at the Bachelor branch of the saga, it turns out that last year’s big guy, Jake Pavelka, and his chosen one, Vienna Gerardi, are having a spectacular and very public breakup. As part of Monday’s Bachelorette there was a 30-minute special on the issue. Apparently Jake had been going around calling Vienna “a fame whore” because she sold her story to a tabloid magazine. Fame whore? Hello? Pot, meet kettle.

As I understand things (actually I understand the World Cup a lot better), what’s called “public affection” had swung toward Jake and that Vienna woman was being called nasty names. And then! OMG! On the TV special, Jake goes all cold and weird. He actually said to Vienna, “Baby, be quiet while I’m talking.”

Can you believe it? He called her “Baby” and essentially told her to shut up. Now, I’m sad (like Jillian, not coincidentally) to tell you that I think I know enough about the context to remember that Jake was, previously, actually on The Bachelorette vying for the affections of, yes, Jillian Harris. Didn’t happen for them. Then he was the main man on The Bachelor and fell for this Vienna woman. That’s right, isn’t it?

Further research – I can’t help myself, clearly – tells me that Jillian recently weighed in on the Jake-and-Vienna breakup. She told OK! Magazine, “People think that [they] are just reality stars, relationships come and go, or they did it for publicity. But the truth is someone is hurting here.… Maybe [it’s] both of them, and that saddens me.”

There you go, Jillian being sad again. I don’t think the woman will ever smile again. Unless there’s a new show. Now, you know, if she’s split up with Ed and Jake has split with Vienna…? OMG! How not-sad would that be? Just asking.

With all of this going on, and getting tons of attention, it amazes me that the public in North America has time to be critical of soccer players (let’s call them footballers today, for a change) at the World Cup. Yet there’s been an outpouring of outrageous scorn for Uruguayan Luis Suarez and his hand-ball in the game against Ghana. He was seen by the referee and sent out off the field, banned from the next game. Is that enough? No, it seems. The ranting about “cheating” has been astonishing.

Everything in soccer has a context, a cultural meaning. Yesterday the Canadian writer Andrew Westoll speculated to me on how Eduardo Galeano, the great Uruguyan writer, might interpret the Suarez handball: “As the one long-pillaged continent ripping off another.”

People, leave the footballers alone. It’s making me sad. This summer, turn your scorn on Jillian, Jake, Vienna and all the other players in the fame-whore game. What a great summer, though.

Airing tonight

Community (NBC, CITY-TV, 8 p.m.) is the first of six episodes of the comedy airing consecutively tonight. A marathon. As I’ve told you, catch it. A good, deadpan social satire, it has much arch, prickly humour. At its centre is Jeff (Joel McHale), an oily lawyer who has his bogus degree exposed. So he enrolls in community college and forms a study group, mainly with the intention of impressing a woman. But the study group takes over his life and emerges as a community unto itself. Chevy Chase plays an obnoxious coot. The show can be excellent when it transcends a tendency toward sentimentality.

Rookie Blue (Global, ABC, 9 p.m.) is about this – “While other rookies get ready to duke it out at the police department’s annual ‘Fite Nite’ charity event, Andy (Missy Peregrym) wrestles with a dilemma of her own: Should she keep a promise to protect a domestic-abuse victim who has been repeatedly let down by the system – even if it means breaking police protocol to do the right thing?” The episode was written by Esta Spalding and directed by David Wellington, two of our best.

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