During the latest episode of TLC‘s Welcome to Myrtle Manor (Season 1, Episode 4), I felt a lot of emotions I wasn’t expecting to feel. And I am now very confused.
There’s been a lot of talk about Myrtle Manor being fake, and last week I came to the conclusion that the show’s authenticity doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of it. Apparently it also doesn’t affect ability to feel all warm and fuzzy while watching it.
It all started with Becky giving Jared a Christmas Carol-style tour of the trailer park’s evicted residents. She’s like the ghost of trailer park future, teaching Jared what his life could become if he keeps being a lazy delinquent. But mostly she wants him to learn not to drink alcohol outside the trailer, because that seems to be the only reason anyone gets evicted. Apparently not paying rent doesn’t lead to eviction, since no one on this show has any steady source of income and they’re all still there. When Jared got a dish-washing job and handed Becky $17.21 to start to cover rent, my inner control freak groaned, but on the outside my mouth was forming into the shape of an “Awww” and I didn’t understand what was happening.
That was only the tip of the iceberg. When we witnessed the storyline about Anne’s cat Joplin, all hope was lost for me. Anne worries that she might lose her 14-year-old kitty, who isn’t drinking water. The majority of the show might be staged, but I believed Anne’s emotion over her sick cat was genuine. Even Taylor looked to be on the verge of tears. And suddenly I was listening to Anne talk about how hard losing a pet can be, and I was tearing up. I was so confused. I didn’t understand what was happening. This goofy trailer park faux-reality show was making me verklempt?
Then Roy of Tangulls salon puts aside his dislike of pussy (his words!) to hold a candlelight vigil for Anne’s cat, complete with “meow” versions of “Jingle Bells” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” And even Jessica, who has broken up with Anne’s son Taylor, joins in, because she wants Joplin to get better and she doesn’t want Anne to be sad. And Anne comes out of her trailer holding Joplin wearing one of those cones and I just lost it. It might have been the single most confusing moment of my life. My head said, “This is absurd,” but my heart just made sobbing sounds and then blew its nose.
Of course it turns out that Joplin is just dehydrated and she’s going to be fine. At which point you might say, “Well, all that fuss was over nothing.” Or you could say, “Look, that cat vigil worked!” Which is what I’m saying, and it’s the truth!
If sick cats don’t tug at your heartstrings, maybe a little romance will. Marvin, the security guard who can’t even prevent his own car from almost being destroyed in a bizarre incense fire, has a thing for Anne. So much of a thing that he’s willing to drink tea without cream and help her inject her cat with medicine. And when Marvin and Anne go take shagging lessons (the dance, you perv) and Marvin is still wearing his uniform (I don’t think he owns another outfit), they look so oddly cute together that I couldn’t help but smile. I really don’t know what’s happening to me. I think I need an intervention.
And don’t forget the fact that Bandit dressed up in a wiener costume to help Chelsey and Amanda sell their hot dogs. I may not be able to hear anyone but Christopher Walken when Bandit talks thanks to Joel McHale’s suggestion on The Soup, but damnit, that was kind of sweet.
Thank God the episode ended with a cat fight between Amanda and Lindsey to pull me back into reality… or non-reality, I guess.
So I have to ask: Is Welcome to Myrtle Manor becoming heartwarming against all odds? In fifty years will people write textbooks about how this show proved that reality shows can be faker than fake and still make even the Grinchiest person feel things? Or will we all just quietly wipe away our tears and pretend it never happened?