As citizens of the United States of America, we are endowed with certain inalienable rights — life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness . . . oh, and the freedom to mock celebrities on the Internet while hiding under the warm, safe cloak of online anonymity.
But wait, here comes the new CW show “H8R,” an hour-long piece of gotcha reality-ish programming that debuts tonight at 8 p.m. ET, to attempt to strip us of our ability — nay, our fundamental entitlement — to regularly engage in celeb snarkery. “H8R” doesn’t just give the wealthy and well-known permission to tell all of those venom-spewing, non-famous, blog-comment-posting meanies where to get off. It goes a step further, allowing the Kim Kardashians and Jake Pavelkas (the dude from “The Bachelorette” and “The Bachelor”) of the world to ambush their critics on camera until Mario Lopez — the show’s executive producer and self-appointed peace broker — suggests that the H8R and the object of vitriol engage in an activity that will inevitably lead to the two of them hugging and singing “Kumbaya.” Well, at least metaphorically.
In interviews, Lopez has suggested that the show has an “anti-bullying” tone, that its purpose, ultimately, is to reduce the amount of hostility in our culture.
And that’s a valid goal. We should all be nicer to each other: to our parents, spouses, siblings, co-workers and fellow citizens. What we don’t need to do, however, is be nicer to Snooki.
And that’s the problem with “H8R,” which, with a few exceptions, tends to focus on celebrities who won their fame by starring on reality TV. News flash, everyone: When you sign a contract to star on one of those shows, you’re basically agreeing to potentially get your chops busted from now until the end of time. That’s part of the deal. To act indignant — as Snooki does in tonight’s premiere episode after a guy named Nick Petrillo officially declares that she “sucks” in a video that he never expected the “Jersey Shore” star to see — is beyond ridiculous. Anderson Cooper has said worse things about Snooki during his CNN RidicuList segment, and she happily appeared on his new talk show without screaming in his face for calling her names.
In further proof that nothing about “H8R” is truly spontaneous, Petrillo doesn’t even seem surprised when Snooki walks into a pool hall — all head jerky and “What up?” — to unleash her hurt feelings. Both he and the anti-Pavelka H8R known only as Danielle seem even less fazed when Lopez enters, despite the fact that unexpected appearances by Snooki, Pavelka and A.C. Slater from “Saved by the Bell” happen only on the talk shows that air in Satan’s fever dreams.
“I just don’t understand why you’re calling me a drunken slob,” Snooki tells Petrillo in what might be the least self-aware statement of this still-fresh decade.
“You are a drunken slob,” he replies, at which point most viewers will nod in acknowledgment of a rare display of common sense on this show.
Here’s the thing that “H8R” doesn’t get. These are tough times in this country for most people. The poverty rate is up to 15.1 percent. Many struggle to find jobs or, even if they’re employed, to pay their mortgages. When we hard-working, under-compensated Americans make fun of people who have gotten absurdly wealthy by acting like idiots on TV, it may be immature, rude and a poor use of our valuable time. But it’s all we have left. Does Mario Lopez really want to take that away from us?
(And yes, for the record, I fully recognize the meta-ness of hating on a show about hate. Surely Lopez will knock on my door any minute now, camera crew in tow, and take me out for dim sum to convince me of the error of my ways.)
I mean, if Lopez really intended to convey an anti-bullying message, someone on “H8R” really should have pointed out that calling someone gay — an allegation Danielle makes about Pavelka — and suggesting that it’s an insult is the only legitimate form of hate that, so far, has shown up on this poorly conceived show.
It gets better? Yes, it really does, especially after wasting 60 minutes on “H8R.”