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'Survivor' Villain Flips to A&E
April 28, 2012  | By Ed Bark
 

Russell Hantz has established a gainful made-for-TV "brand," so he's not about to give up being a brusque, condescending a-hole.

Initially packaged as a conniving, amoral Dayton, TX oilman on 2009's Survivor: Samoa, Hantz subsequently appeared in two more editions of the CBS "reality" franchise, including last spring's Survivor: Redemption Island.

A year later, here's Hantz on A&E's Flipped Off, another "Real Life" concoction from the network of Billy the Exterminator, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Hoarders, Monster-In-Laws, Parking Wars and so on.

The setup: Hantz is prowling around Houston and "ready to master a new game." Namely house flipping in league with his lunkhead big brother Shawn and shapely blonde real estate agent Kristen Bredehoeft. The one-hour series launches on Saturday, April 28 at 9 p.m. ET, with the Hantzes getting themselves into all kinds of argument-enhanced messes.

Russell, who supposedly is "gamblin' everything I got to make this work," depicts his older brother as a hapless dummy before the decision is made to buy a run-down one-story home for $225 grand. The game plan is to spend another $46 grand renovating the place before the Hantzes turn a tidy profit. But by this show's parameters, they have just four weeks to get 'er done.

Meanwhile, Russell's own home front has gone sour. His wife, Melanie, drops in briefly to say that her and the kids aren't a priority anymore.

"My and my wife been havin' problems ever since I got back from Survivor," he says, adding that they can't be allowed to get in the way of his new business as a home wrecker/renovator.

All kinds of problems ensue. A giant rat in the toilet means there's a busted underground pipe somewhere.

"This is really gonna sell the house, rat nibblin' on someone's ass," Russell deduces before ordering his clueless brother to fix the problem. Flooding ensues, with both brothers to blame. But it's Shawn who's ordered to go underwater and plug the thing up after Russell orders, "Get in there and do somethin'."

The Hantzes fall deeper into a financial hole after the lumber for a backyard deck is stolen from the garage. The cops are called and a uniformed person with his face digitized shows up to face Russell's immediate wrath. This is where the blatant "reality" show subterfuge kicks in. Because we're supposed to believe that Russell immediately starts bellowing at and shoving the "cop" before he's handcuffed and stuffed into a squad car. But Shawn intercedes with some sweet talk that results in his brother's immediate release. It's time to serve up a triple helping of "Yeah, sure," with a dead rat on top.

Other bungles help to move the show along while the allotted time ticks down. Realtor Kristen pops in and out, and is given a good line while heralding the arrival of the Hantzes for another day's worth of screwups.

"Well, here they are, Dip and Stick," she cracks.

Groups of faceless Mexican laborers keep toiling to get the place in shape for a big open house. They of course get no speaking lines because, well, you wouldn't want to pay them anything extra. It's the ugly Americans - Russell Hantz in particular - who make all the dough.

Shows such as these never end in disaster. So it's really giving nothing away to note that Russell is a very satisfied man in the end. He even invites the wife and kids over for a little house party after a deal goes down.

Flipped Off may have an inkling of entertainment value for those who enjoy watching two brothers go at it over and over again. All the world's a stage, and the obviously staged activities in this "Real Life" drama are no exception.

Russell Hantz still knows how to play his role, though. And as long as there are takers, he's buying in.

GRADE: C-minus


Read more by Ed Bark at unclebarky.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
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