Paradise Hotel made it up as it went along, in an earnest, dramatic, straightforward way. Its characters were attractive alcoholics who wept and brawled. Salon's Heather Havrilesky made a study out of it. Here, she summarizes a typical Paradise Hotel moment:
Remember, kids, there's no prize, at least not one that they've announced. Amy is ripping Keith a new asshole simply because this is paradise, and she's staying at at the most exclusive hotel in the world, and never, not in a million years, did she imagine that Zack would be cast out of paradise ... forever.
But then, Amy is concerned only with the here and now, and remains unaware of the show's obvious mind-blowing cultural significance and the stigma it carries. Keith, on the other hand, seems to sense just how doomed the inhabitants of paradise are. Unfortunately, he only manages to blurt out that they're acting like a bunch of 2-year-olds before he settles into a dumbfounded silence.
The original Paradise Hotel turned on the drama that inhered in a man called Dave, who Ms. Havrilesky describes as "a moderately intelligent, mildly unattractive man, [cast] into the pits of moron hell." While the other characters passed out drunk, screamed and wept and hooked up in shoddily built cabanas, Dave quietly plotted their undoing. Pasty, slightly chunky, hatchet-faced Dave was the Guy Fawkes of Paradise Hotel. His ultimate downfall was the greatest plot line in the history of reality TV.
Paradise Hotel is back! And in an extraordinary development, it seems to equal the original.
This is due in part to the casting of Ryan, who's been categorized as "the surfer" despite being from New Jersey. Ryan is just 25 but due to his badly sun-damages skin, he looks at least 10 years older. He's dumber than a standard poodle and looks and acts like he's going through heroin withdrawal. This is attractive to the women of Paradise Hotel.
On the late-night TV-MA version that airs on Fox Reality, things turn blue. Ryan ferries Chelsea into the bungalow he ostensibly shares with Lauren, and we see a naked Ryan with his privates blurred. An obscured camera angle follows and the dialog summarizes a handjob gone wrong.
Ryan: Feel the ridge?She walks out on the handjob, and later Ryan finds himself on a date with Tanya. Tanya reminds you of a girl who cried a lot in high school, and not the kind of crying that comes because she's sweet and insecure and maltreated, but the kind of crying that comes because the back-up cornerback wouldn't hook up with her despite her new nosejob and the fact that her dad just bought her an Audi. She's not particularly nice, not particularly pretty, and has a sense of entitlement that runs deep.
Ryan: It gets better as it gets harder.
Chelsea: Yes, okay.
Ryan: No, you need to feel it as it gets harder. ... No, you didn't get it, you didn't feel the ridge. You have to feel the ridge.
Chelsea: ... Yes I did. It's ... nice.
Ryan thinks that they have a lot in common, which sounds about right. "Tanya's a cool girl. She's got the party thing going on. A lot of fun." Tanya says, "I'm like, I sometimes make out with my friends and people, but me, I like really don't need alcohol to make out with people." Through his glassy-eyed, heroin-withdrawal morass, Ryan observes, "Tanya's been mentioning how she loves to make out, hook up and stuff. I'm definitely into that kind of thing."
What helps put this show over the top is the editing and production values. It's portrayed as a serious morality play, a story where values and integrity are at stake. Ridges are felt and drunken fights begin and everyone has the most intense night of their lives. It's good to be back in Paradise.