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Spectacle: An Unscripted History of Reality TV

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Spectacle is a series that analyzes the cultural and societal implications of your guilty pleasures. From reality TV to true crime, Spectacle simultaneously celebrates and critiques the media, people and places that define us.

SEASON 2: Las Vegas
It's a city that has defined popular culture. An oasis in the desert, a mirage — a playground for adults replete with casinos, showgirls, and all-you-can-eat buffets. But how did Vegas become “Sin City”? From the genesis of shotgun weddings, to film … Continue Reading >>
Spectacle is a series that analyzes the cultural and societal implications of your guilty pleasures. From reality TV to true crime, Spectacle simultaneously celebrates and critiques the media, people and places that define us.

SEASON 2: Las Vegas
It's a city that has defined popular culture. An oasis in the desert, a mirage — a playground for adults replete with casinos, showgirls, and all-you-can-eat buffets. But how did Vegas become “Sin City”? From the genesis of shotgun weddings, to film portrayals of the mob-era, to the social engineering behind mega-casinos…season 2 of Spectacle explores the fabulous, the incorrigible, Las Vegas.

SEASON 1: Reality TV
Reality TV is dismissed as guilty pleasure, low brow... even trash. But whether you want to admit it or not, you probably have heard of Snooki, Lisa Vanderpump or Kim Kardashian. Over the past 30 years, reality TV has become a place to see the social and political moment play out in real time -- from racial tensions on The Real World New York to gende << Show Less
Featured Audio
E11: From Celine to Britney, The Revival of the Las Vegas Residency The Las Vegas residency hasn’t always had the best reputation. Cher, a resident singer herself, once told a journalist that Las Vegas was an “elephant graveyard, where talent goes to die.” But Cher and others have proven that’s not the case. Celine Dion went to Vegas when her career wasn’t exactly peaking and she broke records as the highest grossing resident artist of all time. And then in 2013, pop star Britney Spears took the residency to a whole new level. That's what this episode is about: the revival of the Las Vegas residency. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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E11: From Celine to Britney, The Revival of the Las Vegas Residency The Las Vegas residency hasn’t always had the best reputation. Cher, a resident singer herself, once told a journalist that Las Vegas was an “elephant graveyard, where talent goes to die.” But Cher and others have proven that’s not the case. Celine Dion went to Vegas when her career wasn’t exactly peaking and she broke records as the highest grossing resident artist of all time. And then in 2013, pop star Britney Spears took the residency to a whole new level. That's what this episode is about: the revival of the Las Vegas residency. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
E10: Caesar's Palace & Holyfield's Ear in Boxing’s World Capital In Vegas, during a fight weekend, everyone in town knows why you’re there. There’s a camaraderie. It's like no other city in the world. But how did Las Vegas become a boxing mecca to rival New York or Chicago? In this episode, host Brent Holmes talks to Fight Town author Tim Dahlberg and GQ contributor Alex Pappademas on the evolution of Vegas as the boxing epicenter of the country, and the larger than life personas that put it on the map. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
E9: Ocean's 11 and Beating The House Films like Ocean’s 11 fulfill this fantasy of beating the house. But in reality, it’s a lot more complex. Because casinos are well-oiled machines. They’re watching everything. Not only that, they’re designed to subconsciously guide you where they want you to go – from the carpet design to the shape of a chair to the decibel level of the slot machine. It’s all carefully curated to keep you there and keep you spending money. Before you know it, you’ve been sitting in the casino all day, feeding it your money without really even thinking about it. Nobody really beats the house. Host Brent Holmes is joined by film critic Christopher Lawrence, and anthropologist and media professor Natasha Dow Schull. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
E9: Ocean's 11 And Beating The House Films like Ocean’s 11 fulfill this fantasy of beating the house. But in reality, it’s a lot more complex. Because casinos are well-oiled machines. They’re watching everything. Not only that, they’re designed to subconsciously guide you where they want you to go – from the carpet design to the shape of a chair to the decibel level of the slot machine. It’s all carefully curated to keep you there and keep you spending money. Before you know it, you’ve been sitting in the casino all day, feeding it your money without really even thinking about it. Nobody really beats the house. Host Brent Holmes is joined by film critic Christopher Lawrence, and anthropologist and media professor Natasha Dow Schull. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
E8: The Hangover & Vegas For The Male Gaze “What Happens Here, Stays Here” became the motto of Las Vegas in 2003. But for many, the 2009 movie The Hangover solidified that slogan. The guys in the film have a bachelor party replete with trashed hotel rooms, tigers in bathrooms and blackout nuptials. There’s a lot of toxic bro tropes – homophobic slurs, objectifying women. In this episode, media scholar Patricia Ventura and journalist and ex-cocktail server Brittany Bronson tell us how both the film and the city itself are really catered to the male gaze. And what happens there, does stay there for the people who live and work there. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
E8: The Hangover & Vegas for the male gaze “What Happens Here, Stays Here” became the motto of Las Vegas in 2003. But for many, the 2009 movie The Hangover solidified that slogan. The guys in the film have a bachelor party replete with trashed hotel rooms, tigers in bathrooms and blackout nuptials. There’s a lot of toxic bro tropes – homophobic slurs, objectifying women. In this episode, media scholar Patricia Ventura and journalist and ex-cocktail server Brittany Bronson tell us how both the film and the city itself are really catered to the male gaze. And what happens there, does stay there for the people who live and work there. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
E7: Heidi Fleiss, sex work, Vegas Las Vegas, for many, is a place where you can play by your own rules and get away with it too. And for Hollywood Madame, Heidi Fleiss, Nevada was the place where her dreams of creating an all-male brothel could come true, but it wasn’t that easy. Even though brothels are legal in parts of the state, its relationship with sex is still fraught. Las Vegas, "Sin City," thrives on selling a certain type of sex but criminalizes others. In this episode, Host Brent Holmes speaks to podcaster Molly Lambert, sex workers Quinn Rain and Alice Little and sex educator Amanda Morgan on Nevada's nuanced relationship with sex. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
E6: Verhoeven's Showgirls and what it got right about Vegas Director Paul Verhoeven was considered kind of an auteur in the ‘90s.  Basic Instinct got critical acclaim. So by 1995, when he announced his new film Showgirls, people were excited.  It was intended to be a gritty expose on the legendary Vegas performers. But it wasn’t. At all. In this episode, Host Brent Holmes talks to former showgirls, learning that the life of the showgirl was more nuanced, that they had to fight for equity and respect on the stage. And, he’s joined by drag performer Peaches Christ, who helped solidify the film as a cult classic. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
E5: Is Hunter S. Thompson "The Bad Art Friend"? By the late 60s, that Vegas “anything goes” philosphy was fully solidified. And look no further than Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-fueled literary romp, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, to see this on full display. In making his surreal, snide and colorful portrait of Las Vegas – Thompson would later be accused of erasing the identity of the man who helped tell the tale. And that’s what this episode is about, how Thompson capitalized on a fantastical version of Vegas, and his friend – Chicano journalist Oscar Acosta – to promote the enduring representation of Las Vegas as “Sin City.” So what did he leave out? And what do people continue to leave out to espouse this fever dream fantasy of Vegas as a vice vacation? Host Brent Holmes digs into it with filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez and writers Zach Baron, Abby Aguirre and Scott Dickensheets. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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