Decoder Ring

Decoder Ring: The Basement Affair

Making love and performance art on a VH1 dating show.

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Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every month, host Willa Paskin, Slate’s TV critic, takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.

This month: What are the real reasons people go on reality TV? This episode follows the story of Ann Hirsch and Cathy Nardone, two women cast on VH1’s Frank the Entertainer in a Basement Affair, a show about an adult man looking for love—while living in his parents’ basement. How did one performance artist and one accidental performance artist make it onto the show? And how did they behave once they made it there? Their story highlights the ways that reality television distorts narratives, obscures intentions, and stereotypes women, yet is still irresistible to audiences and performers alike.

Links and further reading on some of the things we discussed on the show:

Twitter: @willapaskin

Decoder Ring is produced and edited by Benjamin Frisch.