By Alan Pergament
It is one of the amazing things about Western New York that everybody seems to know somebody who knows somebody you know.
It is like the Six Degrees of Separation thing with Kevin Bacon.
So I suppose no one should be surprised I’ve heard a few things about the Buffalo newlyweds, Katie and Max Bichler, who were bickering and plotting against their opponents in the early episodes of the current edition of the CBS reality series “The Amazing Race.”
I’ve noticed a softening of their image in the last two episodes. On March 10, Max played comedian, poking fun at himself when looking at a monkey involved in a challenge. “He’s scratching his butt ad he’s taking a drink,” said Max. “He looks like me in the morning when I wake up.”
In this past Sunday's episode, a member of a rival team had changed their minds about the WNY couple. “Max and Katie are actually really cool,” said a member of the Pam and Winnie team. "Katie has the best hair in the world. You guys are awesome.”
Not so amazingly, that’s what I’ve been told from people who know them. They say the Bickering Bichlers are nothing like the sneaky villains they had been made out to be in the early episodes of the Sunday night series.
They are not allowed to confirm any of this because CBS doesn’t want viewers to know what many of us have learned over the years watching Reality TV: It is often loosely-scripted and the “real” people on them often play exaggerated characters and act in a way they have been told to behave.
According to one of my sources, Katie and Max were told twice before when they failed to get cast that they were too nice. So this time, they apparently decided to go along with being jerks at times. One of my former readers of my stilltalkintv blog went so far as to write that they were representing WNY poorly.
I know one relative of the couple – Buffalo Sabres director of media relations Mike Gilbert – well and called him to talk about what my sources are telling me. Gilbert is Katie’s uncle. He ran the charity golf event where the couple first met four years ago and attended their October wedding.
“She’s a very sweet person, a very pleasant person” said Gilbert of Katie. “I know her very well. I watched her growing up. (The portrayal of her) on the show couldn’t be further from the truth. She comes from a great family and great parents. People are often portrayed one way in the media and they are not that way at all. It happens with professional athletes. (The producers) wanted Katie and Max to be prickly.”
The Bichlers are doing a good acting job then. It appears they are going to be playing their roles for some time.
According to my sources, they last for a while. They finished in the Top 3 Sunday and look like they are one of a few teams that could potentially win the whole thing and the $1 million that goes with it.
As I’ve confessed, I am not a fan of reality TV. I can’t usually watch any reality series for more than 15 minutes. I used to hope that no WNYer would ever appear on one of them because I would have felt compelled to watch because of my job. I think I watched “American Idol” the most in the season in which Williamsville’s John Stevens made it a long way.
Of course, the participation of Katie and Max have made me feel that I have to watch “Amazing” this season. Well, sort of. I DVR the show and fast forward it when I see that they are talking or are involved in some way. It generally means I can watch it in 15 minutes instead of an hour.
I know “Race” is considered the best of the reality shows – it wins an Emmy annually – but I have a hard time fathoming why anyone watches it every week. Sure, it is beautifully-filmed and viewers see exotic vacation places like Vietnam (in Sunday’s episode) that many of them are unlikely to see in their lives. The weather is often so nice that WNYers may watch it just to imagine themselves on a beach.
But hearing host Phil Keoghan tell each team of two that they finished No.1, No.2, No 3, No. 4, No.5 etc in the weekly race challenges gets extremely repetitive after a while. In some ways, it is more exhausting than being in the race. OK, not exactly.
But you get my point. As much as I hope my sources are correct and Katie and Max make it at least for a few more weeks, I must admit a part of me is rooting each week for their elimination so I can get those 15 minutes a week back.
If they don’t win the competition and the $1 million that goes with it, at least Max and Katie will get something back that is priceless. They can go back to being the people that their friends and relatives say they really are like.
Here’s a couple of quotes Sunday by basketball analyst Charles Barkley that explain why I enjoy his work for the Turner Networks on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament even though college ball isn’t his primary game. Barkley on why Big Ten basketball is overrated: “You get a bunch of ugly girls together and pick a homecoming queen that doesn’t mean she is a homecoming queen.”
Barkley on why a low strength of schedule shouldn’t count for much in seeding the teams: “Why is it my fault your team stinks?” Of course, he didn’t say stinks. I cleaned it up a little but you get the point. Barkley is an instant quote machine who makes comparisons you won't hear anywhere else.
Speaking of provocative analysts, I could almost hear Buffalo Sabres fans around WNY cheering Sunday night when hockey analyst Mike Milbury looked at a replay in the second intermission of the Sabres loss in Washington carried by the NBC Sports Network and said that defenseman Tyler Myers needs “to learn the proper way to play the game.” Milbury isn’t much loved around here, but I doubt there was any argument from Sabres fans.
Finally, this morning I turned on “Today” in time to see host Matt Lauer ask viewers to look at who is going to help NBC cover the installation of Pope Francis on Tuesday. I looked and thought that sort of looks like Maria Shriver. It was, though her eyes and face sure looked different to me.