You have to look long before Survivor
was a twinkle in Mark Burnett's eye in order to find American reality series
that were halfway decent. American Gladiators was the ultimate
physical competition and standard Saturday-afternoon fare for kids like me. Ed
McMahon introduced us to an endless list of iconic stand-up comedians on Star
Search. Robin Leach gushed over the million-dollar yachts and vacation
homes on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But Allen Funt could
probably be considered the patron of reality TV, as his Candid Camera
has been a part of pop culture for over 65 years.
The last reality show I ever watched
was a one-season offering from VH1 called Real and Chance: The Legend
Hunters. The ten episodes that aired from September to November 2010 were
presented by Ahmad "Real" Givens and his younger brother, Kamal "Chance"
Givens. The two brothers traveled around the world to embark on humorous and
often dangerous quests for plus-sized and deadly creatures, real and mythical
alike. Their qualifications to host a nature series were absolutely zero, which
is what made the show so entertaining (to me, at least). As written on VH1's
website: "They're scared of bugs, bats, frogs, and almost anything that
slithers or crawls. They can't take a fish off a hook because slimy things
scare them . . . They can't use a compass, set up a tent, or build a fire. And
it's true that the only plant they can identify is the kind that comes rolled
up in a Ziploc baggie. But, these boys do have heart and an unchecked desire to
discover things that freak them out."
Real and Chance had previously
appeared on four of VH1's reality dating competitions: I Love New York, I Love Money, Real Chance of Love, and Real
Chance of Love 2. They were to dating shows what Chuck Woolery was to
Since 2006, Real and Chance—along
with another brother, Micah—made up the independent rap group The Stallionaires
(a portmanteau of "stallion" and "millionaires," to
reference their upbringing on a horse ranch in northern California). Along with
performing, writing, and producing their own music, they also worked for more
famous artists, ranging from 50 Cent to Michael Jackson to Kirk Franklin. A
resume that more than qualifies anybody for a Fireball obituary . . . even
though, above all else, he was "Another Goddamn Rapper Not On My Deadpool
Although Real didn't find his true
love on VH1, he did find true love in the real world. He got married and had a
son after the cancellation of the last Real and Chance series. He later starred
on his own web series, One Warm Night, which premiered in 2012. He
was notable for his long silky hair, contrasting with brother Chance's
cornrows. That led to a lucrative business venture, as Real and his stylist,
Jovonna Morrison, sold their own line of hair-care products. The Givens
brothers were also about to introduce their own clothing line later this year,
called S.M.A.K. (appropriately short for "Stallionaires Micah Ahmad Kamal").
Late in 2013, Real was diagnosed
with stage 4 colon cancer. He had surgery shortly afterward, and even posted
the picture of his large vertical abdominal scar on his Instagram feed to show
his thousands of followers that he was determined to beat cancer. His cancer
returned aggressively late last year, which forced him to undergo chemotherapy.
His physical condition worsened last month, around his birthday. Although he
(and his doctors) knew that the end was near, he remained optimistic on life. While
visiting with family on February 20, he suddenly had difficulty with his speech
and complained that he had gone blind. That night, while surrounded by his
loved ones, he quietly passed away.
Ahmad Givens was indeed Real. A real
entertainer and a real fighter in a world of bullshit reality TV.
Deceased Hose and Gerard Tierney
took a real chance on Givens this year. Gerard wasn't really taking a chance
because I still contend that he's been bumping them off himself. Givens died at
age 35*, making him 2015's youngest hit so far. 20 points for age in the 30s
and a bonus 3 for the duet.
*The media incorrectly reported
Real's age as 33, which is actually brother Chance's age. Real's official
Facebook page gives his birthdate as January 8, 1980. This doesn't affect the
points awarded in this game . . . unless somebody famous dies at age 34 and
impacts the year-end bonus, in which case we're all fucked.