Comfortable and Furious

The Pickup Artist (2007)

Every now and again, when our sensibilities are weakened by a paralyzing hangover and Sunday boredom, the networks will slip a hideous reality show slug into your brain like Kahn Nonnien Singh. These shows don’t really seek to amuse as much as they seek to annoy and apparently, being annoyed passes for entertainment these days. In past years, I’ve endured a nasty case of the “Rich Girls,” still get itchy outbreaks of “My Super Sweet 16” and, most recently, a show called “The Pick-Up Artist” has gone full-blown in my blood.

This show is about an asshole former magician who calls himself “Mystery.” Mystery has applied his vast knowledge of evolutionary psychology to the human dating game and apparently, found some renown as a pick-up coach to awkward failures. As a general mission statement, this doesn’t seem like the worst idea ever, especially considering very few of us have the sack or skillz to walk up to a group of women cold unless we’re in that golden zone of say 19-19.5 drinks.

Mystery cleverly refers to this type of appearance as “peacocking,” because women have obviously developed an instinctual lusting for superfluous Yanamano welding goggles and Dr. Seuss hats over the eons. Along with Mystery, there are two other Co-Masters that I’d name Emo-Gupta and Lord Rodent of Sussex if they weren’t already named “Matador” and “J-Dog.” These two are graduates of Mystery’s School of Box and you can still clearly see their nerdy vestiges peeking out from behind their black nail polish and aped machismo.

So, this motley trio is tasked with turning a squad of eight sexless Melvins into a new brand of Melvin that has sex. It’s a standard mishmash of nerd stereotypes: 45 year-old virgin, fat sweaty kid, timid Asian, effeminate guy, undeservedly cocky Indian, plus a couple of pretty normal-looking guys crippled with zero game. This Nerd Herd will be coached to overcome their fears and ultimately, one of them will attain the status of “Master Pick-Up Artist,” which comes with a $50K payout and probably requires you to legally change your name to something like “Mr. Plow.”

We’re only a couple of episodes in, but I suspect that we’re not going to reach some flowery revelation of “just be confident as yourself,” because Mystery and Co. are just so intoxicated on their own bullshit that I cannot detect anything approaching genuine beneath their absurd exteriors. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hatin’. If anything, the women who scramble to hang on their every word are far more ridiculous in the end, especially considering that a major component of picking up woman is to be a smug prick and bat around lame, quasi-edgy balls of conversation.

Thus far, the Nerd Herd has been forced into a couple of club situations so the Masters can assess their student’s baseline incompetence. Some actually engage other clubgoer’s with cringe-worthy blather only to flounder horribly when the conversation was volleyed back to them, creating truly agonizing awkwardness before fleeing back to the periphery. And those were the brave ones. Others froze up so hard that they walked out with pigeon shit covering their shoulders. It’s now Team Mystery’s turn to show these noodle-dicks how to roll. Mystery, Matador and J-Dog glide in da club like a SWAT Team dressed by Rob Zombie. Instantly, they’re chatting up women after using bizarre openers that should reasonably send the ditsiest skank on the Jersey Shore into giggling hysterics. They’re also being pretty dicky, insisting that the girls buy them drinks if they are to continue to enjoy their company. That thought begins to stir in my mind again and sadly, it’s not focused on pounding these arrogant jester’s heads in woman really do love assholes.

The nerds watch in awe. They will follow these Muff Messiahs to the edge of bad taste and beyond. They will dress like Avril Levine and adopt the latest innovations in male makeup and hair coloring first established by Zartan’s crew. They will learn the craft of the glib tongue and how to strut Hot Topic plumage that shouldn’t even be available in adult sizes. They will learn the unimaginative lexicon of Mystery as he boldly approaches “three sets” and uses casual “neg” gestures to soothe dames like Ben Kenobi ducking Stormtroopers at sobriety checkpoints.

What it comes down to is Mystery will get a hand job from your girl under the table while you impatiently tolerate his prepared icebreakers while your guard is down because he’s wearing a backpack that looks like a giant trilobyte if you are a woman, you’ll think (or whatever the female equivalent is) “Why do I want to fuck this guy so badly?”

And so, a snare of a million questions is laid for us, the viewer. Will VH1 have the balls to show us what happens when the newly crowned Pick-Up Master lands his first girl, only to simultaneously ejaculate and shart while unzipping his parachute pants? Does Mystery have lessons for those of us not so full of righteous self-contempt that the only solution is to dynamite our very person and replace it with a Styrofoam Hearst Castle? How does a man with an open tab at Sephora maintain worthwhile friendships within his own sex? Most of all, we need some goddamned answers as to why our instincts were so off, why this guy is such a..Mystery! All we can do is wait and watch as this arrogantly dispenses his wisdom and we watch helplessly saying “No fuckin’ way that would work!” while watching it work to perfection.

Shredder gets all the girls.