Review: The Pick-Up Artist

The Pick-Up Artist is a new reality show on VH1 (Monday nights, then repeated ad-nauseum) starring a man named “Mystery” who is a “Master Pick-Up Artist”. He’s on a mission to turn some geeks into into smooth operators. Or nice guys into jerks, depending on how you look at it.

I caught this show by accident with my boyfriend, and we got sucked in. First of all, the show features a sub-culture that we didn’t know existed. It’s (I’m totally serious) “The Seduction Community“. It has a Wikipedia page and everything, so you know it’s for reals. They’re guys whose lives basically revolve around being modern-day Don Juans, picking up and bedding as many women as they possibly can. From a sociological standpoint, as well as from a cheese lover standpoint, this makes it worthy of attention. The other curiosity is also how Mystery manages to pick up women looking like a mad hatter at a rave. Or, as one astute reader of the VH1 Blog observed, “Looks like someone made lo-res copy of Tommy Lee and faxed it to VH1 to host this show.”.

After two episodes, I still couldn’t tell you how he does it. I guess some women just think black eyeliner is hot. Given his age, I’m guessing Mystery used to be a Depeche Mode fan and still is. He also probably realizes that he’s not going to be able to keep this up much longer, and wants to cash in his chips while he still has the chance.

In episode 1, we are introduced to the zeros that are to become heroes. They are one pathetic lot.

There’s a guy who lives in his mom’s basement, a 45 year old virgin, and a guy who is constantly mistaken for gay (perhaps he should try rolling with it?). There’s 8 guys here, and they’re all afraid to talk to women. Terrified, really. Which is something that really gives me pause. Are women THAT intimidating? I’d talk to these guys. I need someone who can fix my computer.

The guys have to live together in a house, which causes some tension between the youngsters and the old virgin. They’re all excited about having “real alcohol”, and his bad back can’t handle the climb to the second bunk. Something tells me that’s not all his back can’t handle. I suspect he won’t last long. Starting with episode 2, the eliminations begin.

Mystery meets the geeks and they are in complete awe of his awesomeness. And really, compared with them, he looks pretty cool. Which isn’t saying much, but still. He tells them that if they listen to him, he will give them the tools to be as cool as him. He will change their life. They look at him like he’s Jesus, but with a skepticism that makes him seem more like Judas.

He introduces the dorks to his “wing men”, who are named Matador and J-Dog. Seriously. Pardon me while I digress a bit here. There was a book written about Mystery and the PUA’s (Pick Up Artists) by Neil Strauss called The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. I promptly had to acquire this book for research and entertainment. I’ve learned that the term “wing man” is from the movie Top Gun, as is many of Mystery’s code words. In addition to Top Gun, Fight Club is also cannibalized. In episode two of the show, one of the contestants is told that he “is not a beautiful snowflake”. There’s a master PUA named Tyler Durden. I wrote a sociology paper in college about Fight Club, and I never imagined it abused in this way. Sad. It’s like these guys totally missed the point. They’ve got a whole glossary of words and acronyms that make baby Jesus cry.

Anyway, back to the show. Mystery and his wingmen send the guys into a night club to show them what they’re working with. Hidden cameras aid us all in watching the horror unfold. An oddly inappropriate font is used with a Photoshop glow filter to inform us that what we are seeing is real and not staged. I believe them, because interactions this cringe-worthy could not be made up. The worst being this exchange that followed learning a woman was from New Orleans:

“How did your family do in Katrina?”

“Two died.”


While this happens, the Mystery men study what they’re doing wrong. “What he doesn’t realize,” Mystery announces, “Is that he just encountered a two-set”. A two set, we learn, is two women.

Clever! And exchanging names is called “name exchange”. You never want to start out with a name exchange. Because then, well, you wouldn’t be a mystery anymore, I suppose…and the woman you try to pick up could warn everyone she knows what your name is.

After the guys are throughly humiliated, they follow their hanging heads back to the Mystery cave. Their spirits are lifted when Mystery and his men announce that they’re going to go in there and show them how it’s done.

The guys enter the club and the women fall all over them. This part seems staged to me, because I don’t know how bragging that you spent a week shopping in LA impresses the ladies. I have yet to meet a straight man who likes shopping. Either these women are really drunk, or easily impressed, or…something. The geeks watching this are filled with awe and delight over how easily the women are picked up. After Mystery peels the women off his arms, he looks into the camera and tells the guys that he will teach them this – AND MORE! “Who you are today dies here. tomorrow your education begins.”

Apparently he was speaking to everyone, because I started reading that book and cackling over websites online that cater to the “seduction community”. I find all this fascinating, perplexing and a little sad. Oh, and completely hilarious. I can’t wait for episode 2.

Episode 2 rolls around, and the guys get makeovers. Sort of. They basically make themselves over with some questionable guidance. In sum, that advice is: women dress like whores, so you should try to dress like a man-whore. Get the tightest pants you can and pray you don’t get an erection at the first sight of a beautiful woman. Women also like something to talk about, so wear something they can comment on, like a furry top hat. After this, they’re judged (also questionably) on their appearance.

Somehow, looking like a complete tool is better than looking like a geek. The men learn some “openers” to get women talking to them, and are sent back to the club to “open a set”. This is almost as painful to watch as the previous week, if not more. There is breakdancing. There are questions asked about flossing and strippers at bachelor parties. Wait, they were supposed to do that last part. It was painful anyway.

I read somewhere the Mystery used to be a geek who played Dungeons and Dragons, and this history really seems to be rearing its head by the end of episode two. He whips out a box of medallions, which he awards to those who were the least embarrassing to watch. “You’ve earned this” he tells them, with the seriousness of Serious Cat. The medallions have symbols on them that for some reason would make me guess that Mystery is actually a DM with a pocket full of 20 sided dice. Maybe that would be MY opener, if I were to meet him. “Excuse me, Mystery…are those 20-sided dice in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” One of the guys in this episode has a meltdown over the idea of going into another club (I feel you, buddy, I feel you) and elects to leave the show. The poor guy. He’s just one of those sweet geeks who’s terrified of women. I’m guessing that females have been cruel to him in the past. Geeks, do not be daunted by the bitches of the world. There’s plenty of nice women out there that would like to join you at a LAN party or D&D game. You’re just never going to find them in a night club.

Which brings me to the conclusion of this already-too long, rambling review. While the show may give me something to openly mock in the privacy of my own home, in reality it deals with a real problem in a ineffective way. I don’t think any of the guys on this show are out to just get laid, which is what they’re being primed for. They want a girlfriend, if not for the long haul, then at least just for a little while. If you approach women dishonestly – which would include rehearsing lines, giving her “negs” (comments meant to lower her self-esteem), or wearing a freakin’ set of piercings you got just to look cool earlier that day, the response will be to this other persona, not you. When you tire of acting like a second-rate Don Juan, they’ll tire of you. What Mystery should be doing (besides re-evaluating his whole life) is taking these guys to the library and giving them tips on how to interact with women that are in their league. A 45-year old virgin should not be trying to hit on a young model with her fake tits hanging out in a bar, he should be looking for someone with the patience and heart to deal with his issues. A show like that may actually help some guys.

It’s a show good for the cheese value, good for men to see what not to do, and good for women to see so they know the techniques of some guys who might try to pick them up. The book “The Game” was a best seller, so they’re out there. Just google, you’ll be amazed.

If you missed the show and want to check it out, there’s a bunch of video from it here at VH1. There’s also a commercial here at YouTube.

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