Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Your Weekly Summer Reality TV Roundup – 07/13/07

On The Lot
I'm going to watch this goddamn show to the bitter end, but I'm afraid I'm done blogging about it. How often can I note that the films look like commercials, or that the judges' idea of quality seems so divorced from reality that it makes me wonder how anything good comes out of Hollywood? It was encouraging this week to hear that two contestants will be cut for each of these next two rounds, but that's still going to leave six contestants behind, and likely another month-plus of mediocrity and malapropisms. (The latter coming from both Garry Marshall and Adiana.) What may be the most frustrating aspect of On The Lot isn't the creative bankruptcy of the actual films, but the fact that Hollywood could've used the sensibility of an unknown plucked from outside the showbiz bubble; and yet, all of these contestants are trying so hard to be what they think Hollywood wants that none of them are bringing any personality or regional specificity to their work. (The closest may be the Christian action movie dude.) What a waste. Anyway, I can't abandon On The Lot for good without noting this week's catastrophe by Shalini: a preachy short about magical glasses that help a shallow shop-bot chick learn what really matters in life. Shalini couldn't have produced a parody of a well-meaning message movie if she'd tried. Honestly, check it out for yourself.. "Change? Yeah, I think I can do that." Man alive. The fact that Garry Marshall thought this hunk of cheese was good explains a lot about his career. Anyway, it's in Shalini's spirit of change that I bid a happy "fuck you" to one of the most astonishingly bad television shows of all time.
Line Of The Week:: You've got your pick of three: "He pounded out the pavement," "I got your brother, back!" and Adriana's typical I-don't-think-anything-I-don't-say marvel, "Yeah, I just touched his mouth"

Hell's Kitchen
My wife asked me this week why I always pull for the men's team whenever reality contests split the pack by gender, and I couldn't come up with a good answer. This season's Hell's Kitchen has lacked for rooting interests–even Rock, who seemed to have his head on straight, lost me this week with his "I grew up in the ghetto and I don't do garbage" rant–but the women's team at least has a couple of people who seem likable, if not as potentially restaurant-running-capable as the men. And yet, week after week, I cheer for the men. Even Josh, who in Chef Ramsay's bleeped words has done "sweet fuck-all" on the show so far. (More Ramsay on Josh this week: "You were worse than shit. You complemented shit.") Perhaps my sexism is just so deeply ingrained that I don't even recognize it anymore. But surely it wasn't sexist of me to applaud the complete meltdown of Melissa, who didn't do any better as an honorary man as she did as a surprisingly hairy woman. I mean, everybody wanted to see her go, regardless of gender, right? One last thought for a fairly dull HK week: Who's responsible for the show's awesome animated bumpers, and is that person eligible for an Emmy?
Line Of The Week:: "'Yes chef. No chef.' Fucking gremlin."

The Singing Bee/Don't Forget The Lyrics
It's probably wrong to slot game shows under "reality TV," but I ultimately consider all of these other reality contests "game shows" of a kind, so I figured it would be worth it to at least take a one-time look at the two competing karaoke quizzes and see how they stack up. The winner? The Singing Bee, hands down. Fox's Don't Forget The Lyrics takes a simple idea–can contestants fill in the blanks in an old popular song?–and tries to cram it into the over-familiar Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? format, complete with lifelines, long deliberations, and the already annoying catchphrase "Lock in those lyrics!" It gets a nod of appreciation for being shot and broadcast in HD, but Don't Forget The Lyrics host Wayne Brady, believe it or not, is less charming than The Singing Bee's suddenly resurgent Joey Fatone; and the Fox show, predictably, ramps up the embarrassment factor by having the contestants sing long stretches of these songs in off-key voices, while dancing around like loons. Meanwhile, on NBC's The Singing Bee, the contestants may be overly cutesy, but they maintain some degree of dignity, only having to sing the missing parts of the song if they choose. The Singing Bee also requires more knowledge and skill to win. It's got more songs, harder lyric-gaps to fill, and contestants compete against each other–old-school game show at last!–instead of standing around jabbering with the host for five minutes before answering. Plus, The Singing Bee has hot dancers in bee-colored bikinis. Let me put it this way: I'd watch The Singing Bee again. I couldn't make it through a full episode of Don't Forget The Lyrics.
Line Of The Week:: Not really applicable. Another reason to drop these from the blog rotation.

Pirate Master
Let us say our rueful farewells to Joe Don, the stoner fireman who took an early lead on Pirate Master, got too greedy, and spent the rest of the show groveling like a dog before coming up with the clever strategy–the pardon-swap with his girlfriend–that ultimately put him back on Captain Azmyth's radar and got him "cut adrift" this week. The only male left on the opposing team now is cuddly furball Louie, but as Joe Don has said, "Louie can only do so much, man. He can only do so much." My only hope now is that when Louie is finally booted that someone–one of the officers perhaps?–will say, "Louie, Louie … he gotta go." Make it so, pirates! Also, if Pirate Master, through some fluke, comes back next year, a couple of suggestions: First off, why not include a scoreboard, so that we know how much money everybody has? That would make the whole pardon-bidding aspect of the show more dramatic, since we'd know exactly how much everyone has to spend. Secondly, it would be nice to have a host who seemed more involved with what was going on–Jeff Probst-style–as opposed to our scruffy Aussie MC, who always seems to be on the verge of cracking up. (Or maybe the problem is that I can't hear him talk without wanting to pause the show, turn to my wife, and do an extended riff on the Monty Python "Bruces" sketch.)
Line Of The Week:: "I'm happy to see an all-lady ballot-casting today."

American Inventor
One of this week's pitchers had a name and occupation just screaming for a spin-off series: "Rodney Skinner, Air Force Plumber." I can't remember his invention, but I'll never forget that name. On the other hand, I can't remember the name of the inventor of the "breast mattress," but I'll not soon forget her device, designed to give women with implants the option to sleep on their stomachs. (Another option: don't get implants that look and feel like overinflated balloons.) One of the problems with the way AI is edited is that sometimes the inventors don't get a chance to explain themselves very well, so maybe in the room, the breast mattress lady made her point better. But on TV, her foam rectangle with tit-shaped cutouts didn't make much sense, and it didn't help that she claimed not to have slept in 8 years. (Not exactly a ringing endorsement for her product.) Also confusing? Mr. Lego House, whose fancy computer model managed to convince three judges that he could rebuild New Orleans with life-size building blocks, even though–on camera at least–he never made the case for durable plastic as a disaster-averter over, say, reinforced concrete. I'm hoping he makes the cut next week, just so I can hear more about this crazy scheme. And he may just squeak through, since he wasn't part of a montage. If the AI producers squeeze your successful pitch into a montage, you're not going any further, my friend.
Line Of The Week:: "It's a hat/cap combination"

Top Chef
I've been meaning to blog for weeks about the curse of the "trio" on Top Chef, and how it's usually a sign of creative desperation, indicating that a contestant, devoid of any one good idea, has thrown three half-ideas out there. And Tom Colicchio usually hates them, too. But this week the contestants were commanded to do trios, which ended up being a clever way to have them all work in teams of three without forcing any one chef to submit fully to the will of another. That is, unless you count the dessert team, which all ran with Mr. Faux-hawk's "Ooh, let's do pineapple!" plan, to their everlasting disgrace. (Aside: A lot of faux-hawks on this show, yes? Isn't that hairdo dead yet?) To me though, the best part of the trios challenge was that, out of nowhere, the producers unveiled a new music cue to accompany the beef trio: a kind of dreamy guitar riff, neither ominous nor hopeful. Will this be the new indicator that a dish is passable, but not superb? Also this week, our resident egotistical jackass Hung got a minor comeuppance in the Quickfire, when he insisted in his interview that his rich dish would pair well with a sweet cocktail because "sweetness goes with creaminess." And then, when the guest judge dismissed the dish, Hung suddenly turned into a defense attorney, saying, "So the sweetness didn't work with the creaminess, thank you," as though he were getting a point read into the record so he could rebut it in his closing statement. Anyway, in the spirit of the Top Chef blogs, which increasingly are being abandoned by their keepers because of "personal issues", I was tempted to bring in a guest blogger to cover this week's entry. But I don't think anyone could've done better than Anthony Bourdain, who's subbing for Colicchio. Please to enjoy Tony's thoughts, much more cogent than my own.
Line Of The Week:: "Probably one of the worst desserts I've had in five years."