Monthly Archives: April 2006

BJ and Tyler of Arabia (Episode 9-8)

Don’t worry. BJ & Tyler are still on The Amazing Race. They’re just broke and have a whole lot less to carry.

In
this week’s episode, it didn’t take the Hippies long to work their way
back into the race from last place. Teams flew from Athens, Greece to
Muscat, Oman, where they all waited until the 6 a.m. opening of a park
with a giant incense burner.

It’s probably safe to assume that
most Americans aren’t too familiar with Oman (who is not the woman
married to David Bowie), and the teams took the time to appreciate the
country’s cleanliness. Frat Guy Jeremy remarked that even the
McDonald’s looked like “a temple McDonald’s.”

When the park
opened, teams found a clue that instructed them to drive 135 miles to
the city of Sur. Ray & Yolanda fell behind, as their arguing
hampered their navigating skills.

All of the teams took things
slowly driving across two flooded roadways. At the first flood, a tiny,
old guy everyone described as “ripped” guided the vehicles across.
Monica said she wanted to take the guy home in her pocket.

With
no one to guide them across the second flood, pack leaders MoJo and the
Hippies dared each other to go first. The Frat Guys didn’t feel like
waiting and forded ahead, taking the lead. Tyler prophesied that one
day, the Frats would know what it was like to finish last.

Once
they arrived in Sur, teams were given a choice of Detours: “Camel” or
“Watch Towers.” MoJo, the Hippies, and Fran & Barry elected to do
“Watch Towers,” which required them to find out which of three ancient
towers held silver message boxes. Teams would receive their clue after
delivering a box to a silver shop one mile away.

The Hippies and
Fran & Barry decided not to look in the closest tower first, and
were rewarded by finding their boxes on the first try. When MoJo
realized how much time they’d already wasted in choosing one wrong
tower, they gave up and switched to “Camel.”

In “Camel,” teams
used a pulley system to hoist a camel onto the back of a pickup truck.
They then used a hand-drawn map to find a village one mile away, where
they received their next clue.

The Frats, who’d chosen to do
“Camel” right away and had loaded their animal quickly, misread their
map and became totally lost. MoJo found the village right away and were
off to their next location, the town of Al Hawiya, 80 miles away.

As
the Frats finally delivered their camel, Ray & Yolanda arrived at
the Detour. They loaded and delivered their camel with no problem, but
they were still well behind the other teams.

In Al Hawiya, a
Road Block forced one team member to dig through 107 mounds of sand
looking for one of five that hid an underground oven. They had to be
careful while extracting the oven’s contents, as the woven bag filled
with chicken would be their dinner that night.

BJ and Barry were
the first to undertake the frustrating task, made worse by the
sweltering desert heat. MoJo and the Frats arrived shortly thereafter,
and Monica was first to finish. Soon, Barry and Eric found their
dinners as well, leaving Tyler with plenty of time to befriend a noisy
camel, as BJ struggled to dig through the mounds.

Ray &
Yolanda arrived as the Frats left the parking lot. After arriving first
and watching all but one team finish before him, BJ started snapping
back at Tyler, whose frequent cheers were more grating than encouraging
at that point. Yolanda dug in the sand nearby, muttering, “You tell
him, BJ.”

Yolanda found her bag of dinner next, adding to BJ’s
misery. He kept digging and eventually found his, but over an hour of
strenuous labor had drained his peppy spirit. The teams raced 150 miles
to the Pit Stop at Jabreen Castle.

Along the way, the Frats
decided to take a short cut, only to discover that the map led them
over dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. They lost time backtracking
to the highway, and it looked as if Tyler’s prophecy from earlier in
the show might come true.

MoJo lost time as well by stopping to
ask for directions to the castle, which was straight ahead of them.
That allowed Fran & Barry to zip by and finish in first place.
Their prize was a trip to Rome.

A second place finish was a
disappointment for MoJo, and Ray & Yolanda weren’t much happier
after spending two days at each other’s throats. Miraculously, Eric
& Jeremy made it back to civilization and finished in fourth, a
little wiser after their near-fatal mistake of thinking they could
outwit a map.

The Hippies arrived in last, landing on the mat
wearing an extra layer of clothing. Their suspicions were right, as
this was the first non-elimination of this season. Phil took their
backpacks and money, and they will start the next leg with $0.

BJ
& Tyler may not have much trouble raising funds next week. They
were the only team to learn how to say “Thank you,” in Arabic, and a
little effort with the language always goes a long way. Plus, they have
the advantage of being, in the words of Tyler, “BJ & Tyler of
Arabia.”

Teams fly to the west coast of Australia next week,
where Joseph uses his top-notch motivational skills to keep Monica on
task. We’ll see if Dr. Phil, Jr., can again come up with something as
inspiring as, “Lift up your spirit before I get pissed.”

Chill Bumps (Episode 4-6)

Nicole Jamrose may have been spared tonight on Nashville Star,
at wee Jared Ashley’s expense, but she only earned a one week reprieve.
After rocking out every week until now, Nicole decided to slow things
down, and the results weren’t pretty. She’s the next one out, no doubt
about it.

Casey Rivers and his skimpy soul patch also slowed
things down, but with greater success. He even gave judge Phil Vassar a
hybrid of goose bumps and chills called “chill bumps.”

Casey’s
sounded his best on ballads, which leaves some doubt as to whether he
can really rock. How does he plan to ease those doubts next week? By
performing “How Great Thou Art.”

When I think “gospel singer,” a
white frat guy is not the first image that pops into my head. Prepare
for an embarrassing scoop up to the note on the word “soul.” That will
pave the way for Matt Mason and Chris Young to boot-scoot their way
into the final two.

Matt had one of his better performances,
singing Johnny Cash’s song, “Folsom Prison Blues.” He even changed the
words to, “I shot a Nashville Star judge just to watch him
die,” got a laugh from Phil and Anastasia. He needs to keep doing his
Johnny Cash impression to keep the nasal quality out of his voice.

Chris
blew the other contestants out of the water, even with a forgettable
song. His biggest advantage is that he always sounds like Chris Young
no matter what he sings, something the others haven’t learned how to do
yet.

Chris’s biggest competition for the night was actually
Phil, who, accompanied by the contestants, performed a medley of his
hits to promote the upcoming release of his Greatest Hits album. Unfortunately, Phil was so good that it showed just how far the five hopefuls have to go before they sound like pros.

Show
sponsor Wal-Mart would like you to know that you can help fund their
campaign to quietly destroy smalltown America by trading your
foodstamps for Phil’s album at the cashwrap of one of their
soul-sucking monoliths. While you’re there, you can buy a copy of an
album by this week’s guest performer, Trace Atkins. And I’m sure the
band Velvet Revolver has an album available at Wal-Mart, too. Why else
would band members Scott Weiland and Duff McKagan be serving as guest
judges next week, unless it’s to warn the contestants to stay off drugs?

More than one corporate giant used Nashville Star to promote their product. Tonight’s guest judge was NBC’s Celebrity Cooking Showdown contestant Patti LaBelle. Next week, we’ll probably learn that guest performer Hank Williams Jr. has a bit part on Scrubs, and that Wynonna’s much cooler sister Ashley, who’s stopping by to say hello, is going to be a briefcase holder on Deal or No Deal.

The Next Food Network Star

There’s a subgenre of reality shows built on the premise that there are
talented people in America who could, and should, become stars if just given the
chance: American Idol, Project Runway, and Star Search, for example. The Next Food Network Star is proof that the subgenre’s premise is wrong.

Landing
your own TV show, record deal, etc. typically involves years spent
perfecting your craft, jumping through hoops set up by the companies in
power, and making sure you meet the right people at the right time.

This
reality subgenre bypasses the traditional method. Presumably, everyone
cast on these shows has some credentials, but they haven’t done the
jumping-through-hoops, meeting-the-right-people parts of the process.

But
those parts are an integral part of making someone a success.
Undertaking the bureaucratic tasks allows time for candidates to find
out how to fit into the system. If they fit the system, they are more
marketable, and what is more important to large corporations than
marketing?

If candidates are not willing to do the work to get a
contract the traditional way, they probably don’t have the drive to
really succeed, even if given the opportunity. And, truthfully, if they
were talented enough, someone would’ve noticed along the way.

This is why few winners of any of these shows have gone on to serious stardom. In five seasons, the only American Idol
winner with sustained chart impact is Kelly Clarkson. Bill Rancic, the
original Apprentice, is best known for his appearances on subsequent
seasons of The Apprentice. And the winners of the first season of The Next Food Network Star, Dan and Steve, have been judged almost universally as failures.

Reggie
and Guy, this season’s finalists, are no different. Both of them seem
like perfectly nice, competent individuals, but they lack that
intangible star power. That they were judged the best amongst their
competitors is not necessarily an achievement to be proud of.

Guy
is an accomplished chef, whose delicious looking cuisine would surely
please most restaurant patrons. But his show idea, “Off the Hook,”
lacks focus and originality.

His spiky hair, loud shirts, and
fast paced delivery are meant to convey his exciting personality. But,
as he’s shown over the course of the show, there’s just not that much
to Guy. His bold style masks a lack of substance.

This
deficiency was most apparent when he pitched his show to Food Network
execs. He promised to take a core demographic of 18-35 year olds to the
“wild side” of cooking, including how to recreate the fun food they
love to eat at concerts and ballparks in their own home.

But he
missed an obvious problem with his idea: that demographic eats out so
that they don’t have to cook for themselves. It’s not terribly hard to
recreate popcorn and hotdogs, anyway. And he never did define what
“wild” means in terms of cooking.

Guy came close to showing us
“wild” on last night’s two-hour road to the final two. He made sushi
rolls without either seaweed or raw fish, he fried up a
tequila-marinated turkey breast, and he stirred up an ice cream pie
topped with Junior Mints. Until last night, none of his dishes had been
close to “wild,” so it’s hard to believe he really has enough ideas to
build a show around.

Reggie’s proposed show suffers from a
similar lack of focus. “Simply Spectacular,” the working title, doesn’t
describe what the show is about, unlike network stalwarts 30 Minute Meals or Semi-Homemade Cooking. And are those shows any less simple or spectacular than Reggie’s?

For
a while, Reggie billed his cuisine as Southern comfort food with city
style, but his herb-roasted chicken and pot pie didn’t waver much from
traditional recipes. And focusing on Southern foods would put him in
direct competition with reigning queen of the Food Network, Paula Dean.
I know who I’m putting my money on in that fight.

Another
sensitive problem hurts Reggie’s chances for success: his weight. Few
of the chefs on Food Network are slim, but Reggie is obese. It’s
something viewers notice immediately about him, and it may make them
wonder, “Is that what his food will do to me?”

It’s a tricky
problem for the network, and for Reggie, because it’s not something
that can be solved easily or in a short period of time, and it’s not
something that can be ignored. On two separate occasions during this
season, writers for TV Guide praised ousted contestants
Nathan and Carissa for looking fit, saying (without saying) that they
looked the part of a TV host. That praise helped Nathan and Carissa
coast to spots in the final four with Reggie and Guy.

The same
writers emphasized Reggie’s great personality, which is code for,
“First, we noticed his looks, but he won us over anyway.” It’s a
compliment to Reggie as a person, but it’s a signal that he may have to
work extra hard to earn an audience.

That said, there’s still a
good chance that Reggie’s engaging personality will triumph over Guy’s
caffeinated mannerisms and wild food. After filming demo segments of
his show, the crew and judges in attendance cheered loudly for Reggie.
Guy only received a modest round of applause.

The winner will be
determined by audience voting, and will be announced on Sunday night’s
finale. Cast your vote through Thursday at FoodNetwork.com.

DwtS Offseason Update 4-14-06

John O’Hurley in Chicago
Season 1 runner-up John O’Hurley has signed on for a limited run with the national tour of the musical Chicago. He’ll assume the role of Billy Flynn for the following dates: June 13-18 at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC; June 20-25 at the Theater of the Stars in Atlanta, GA; June 27-July 2 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa, FL.

Stacy’s Diva Days Numbered?
Stacy Keibler’s absence from April 2nd’s Wrestlemania event is being interpreted as a sign that she won’t renew her contract with the WWE when it expires in July.

Valentin Chmerkovskiy Wins in Philly
Valentin Chmerkovskiy (Maksim’s younger brother) and his partner won the Amateur Latin competition at last weekend’s Philadelphia Festival Dancesport Championships. Who’s that sharply dressed gentleman standing next to the champs in this photo?

Nude Cartoon Characters (Episode 12-9)

At this rate, Terry might win all the remaining immunity challenges on Survivor: Panama – Exile Island.
But his bad strategy revealed that he’s not as smart as he thinks he
is, and it cost Sally, his only ally, her chance at $1 million.

After
22 days on the island, the contestants competed for the perennial
videos-from-home reward. Everyone watched a few seconds of footage of
their loved ones, including Aras’s dad, who has a tepee in his backyard.

Shane
broke down at the mere prospect of seeing his son. “He’s my
everything,” Shane said. “He’s my best friend. He’s my brother.” That
can only mean that Shane fathered his son… with his own mother!

For
the challenge, contestants were split into two teams. Three members of
each team used ropes to maneuver a fourth member, who was suspended
above the ground, facedown, on a panel of wood. Teams swung the panel
so that the team member on it could grab 15 numbered flags around the
game area, and then place the flags into corresponding slots on a log.

Aras,
Cirie, and Shane jumped ahead early, as they swung Danielle about. But
Aras’ rope knocked one of the flags out of its slot, halting their
progress until Danielle put it back in place. Just after she got it,
Shane knocked the same flag out again.

Bruce, Sally, Terry, and
Courtney finished their task while the other team fixed their mistakes.
The winning team sent Aras to Exile Island, and then snacked on peanut
butter and jelly sandwiches and milk, as they watched their complete
videos.

Aras was excited about being sent to Exile Island, at
first. It gave him a chance to search for the hidden Immunity Idol, in
case Terry hadn’t actually found it. But the clues to the Idol’s
whereabouts confused Aras, so he gave up and ate a coconut.

Back
at camp, Shane seized the opportunity to ask nurse Cirie about a
medical problem while the other tribe members were away. He’d developed
a rash on his nether region, and dropped his shorts so that the nurse
could examine it.

Begrudgingly, Cirie gave his condition a peek.
“Shane is like a cartoon character anyway,” she said, “and now he’s
like a nude cartoon character.” Through uproarious laughter, Cirie told
him that his condition was similar to diaper rash, and had been caused
by wearing the same wet pair of underwear for 23 days straight. Shane’s
remedy was to wear his t-shirt around his waist like a skirt, using the
crewneck as a waistband.

At the Immunity Challenge beach, Aras
rejoined the tribe. The Survivors were given the option of skipping the
challenge to eat cheeseburgers. Bruce, Cirie, Danielle, Courtney, and
Shane eagerly took Jeff Probst up on his offer, leaving Aras as the old
Casaya tribe’s only hope for keeping Immunity out of Terry’s or Sally’s
hands.

Terry, Aras, and Sally swam out to a long plank suspended
under water, where they memorized seven symbols attatched on the plank:
variations of skulls, candles, and knives. The three competitors then
swam back to the beach, where they raced to arrange some symbol-etched
blocks in the same order as shown on the plank.

Aras finished
first but had the symbols in the wrong order. Terry nailed it on his
first try, and Jeff ordered the cheeseburger gang to stop eating. Shane
looked forlorn, as a droopy french fry dangled from his frowning mouth.

Sally
and Terry tried to sway people to their side by hinting that the hidden
Immunity Idol would be played that night. But, since Bruce and Danielle
had only briefly glimpsed what Terry claimed to be the idol, and Terry
refused to confirm that he even had it, no one committed to joining
with them. As a result, Sally was voted off.

The only chance
Terry and Sally had to stay in the game together was for Terry to
explicitly tell everyone, “Here’s the idol and I’m giving it to Sally.
Decide amongst yourself who will be voted off.” Even if some people
voted for Sally and the idol had to be played, one of the gang of six
would’ve been eliminated.

Better still for Terry: give the same
speech but don’t actually give Sally the idol. If they don’t call the
bluff, great, but even if they do, they still know it’s one of them
next, no matter what happens in the next Immunity Challenge.

Next
week, Bruce has some serious medical problems. If he has to leave the
game permanently, there’s a good chance there will be no Tribal Council
vote. However, if there is a vote, lots of likely elimination
candidates will emerge — as it looks like Shane is back to his
premerge habit of arguing with Courtney and Danielle.

This Is Where Thinking Began (Episode 9-7)

Going into the last 15 minutes of this week’s Amazing Race,
the only question was whether or not the Hippies would be spared by a
non-elimination leg, after falling hours behind the other teams. Their
salvation came from another source — as a lost Lake & Michelle
were eliminated.

All six remaining teams left the Pit Stop
within three hours of each other, and bunched up at the Siracusa train
station. Teams rode the same train to Rome, where they made their way
to Trevi Fountain, the landmark made famous by the deodorant commercial
in which the crazy girl from Invasion pretends she doesn’t understand Italian in order to meet guys.

The fountain’s marketability didn’t escape the producers of the film version of The DaVinci Code. Teams received a clue and half of a DaVinci-related
puzzle from a guy on a scooter. Their clues led them to the second half
of the puzzle, which was at the nearby Spanish Steps.

The puzzle
was as absurdly simple as any of the mysteries in the original book —
like when the genius main characters took forever to figure out that
the best way to read backwards writing is to hold it in front of a
mirror. All the racers had to do with their puzzle was lay one piece of
vellum on top of another to reveal a secret message, which told them
that the first team to bring the puzzle to Phil would win a prize.

Their
clue instructed teams to fly to Athens, Greece, and everyone traveled
on the same flight. Upon arrival, Monica gushed, “This is where
thinking began!” Of Monica, Yolanda said, “I’m not sure there’s a lot
going on there.”

At an ancient marketplace, teams were given the
option to follow their clue or pursue the first of two Fast Forwards on
the race. In order to complete the Fast Forward and proceed directly to
the Pit Stop, teams needed to smash plates at a nearby restaurant to
find a small red and yellow flag within the plate.

Luck
continued to favor Frat Guys Eric & Jeremy, who found the flag
before MoJo and Fran & Barry. The Frats celebrated by breaking the
rest of the plates in the restaurant. They drove to the Pit Stop at the
Fortress of Rion, where Phil informed them that their prize was a pair
of tickets to the Hollywood premiere of The DaVinci Code.

Having
elected not to try the Fast Forward, the Hippies, Ray & Yolanda,
and Lake & Michelle got on an early train from Corinth. But they
got off at the wrong station, violating the rules of the clue. While
they were able to take a bus to the correct station, each team would be
assessed a 15-minute penalty upon reaching the Pit Stop.

MoJo
and Fran & Barry sulked on their train, 45 minutes behind the other
teams. Joseph tried to motivate Monica in his own sage way: “Lift your
spirit up before I get pissed.”

At the Isthmos Station, the five
teams still racing met up and reached a Roadblock: bungee jumping. Ray,
Tyler, Michelle, Monica, and Fran took the plunge for their teams.

A
Detour followed, offering teams the choice of “Herculean Effort” or
“It’s All Greek to Me.” In “Herculean Effort,” teams competed in three
ancient Olympic sports: discus, javelin, and wrestling. MoJo finished
their events just ahead of Ray & Yolanda, and headed for the Pit
Stop.

In “It’s All Greek to Me,” teams collected tiles with nine
Greek letters. Guys dressed in togas translated the letters into
English, and teams rearranged the letters to form the name of a town on
a map of Greece.

Because it was the more tedious option, Fran
& Barry elected to rearrange the letters. Lake & Michelle
stumbled upon the task while trying to find “Herculean Effort,” but
decided to just rearrange letters as well. They finished just after
Fran & Barry.

On their way to the Detour, Tyler navigated
the Hippies in the wrong direction, putting them over an hour behind
the other teams. When they arrived, long after the other teams had
departed for the Pit Stop, they decided to have fun with the Olympic
games. Tyler took off his shirt and got body slammed by a Greek
wrestler multiple times before they finally completed the task.

Luckily
for the hippies, all of the teams had trouble with directions to the
Pit Stop, the Fortress of Rion, which was over 100 miles away. What
made the difference was whether teams asked for directions early into
the trip or later.

Ray & Yolanda arrived at the Pit Stop in
second place, but the penalty they were assessed for illegally riding a
bus allowed MoJo to catch up. Because MoJo were not penalized, they
were awarded second place behind the Frat Guys, putting Ray &
Yolanda in third.

Fran & Barry, the other team not
penalized, arrived in fourth place. Perhaps they’ll be awarded less
money at the start of the next leg to pay for the back window that
Barry broke when he backed his SUV into a tree along the way.

BJ
& Tyler arrived in fifth place. Evidently, Lake & Michelle had
driven around for a while before asking for help, getting them more
lost than other teams. BJ & Tyler endured their penalty and were
awarded fifth place.

When Lake & Michelle finally arrived,
it seemed that this would be a non-elimination week, as show editors
hadn’t made much of a deal over the team getting lost and falling
behind the hippies. But instead of asking for all their possessions,
Phil told Lake & Michelle that they’d been eliminated from the race.

Maintaining
her stalwart exterior, Michelle explained that she was aware that her
marriage may seem dysfunctional to outside viewers. But, she said, it
works for them, and they’ve got two great kids to prove it.

Leaderboard:
1 – Eric & Jeremy
2 – Monica & Joseph
3 – Ray & Yolanda
4 – Fran & Barry
5 – BJ & Tyler
6 – Lake & Michelle

Next
week, Ray takes over Lake’s role and starts bickering with Yolanda.
Teams travel to the Middle East, where BJ fights heat exhaustion in an
effort to dig his team out of last place.

Nashville Sausage Fest (Episode 4-5)

A disturbing trend continued on this week’s Nashville Star, as
Kristen McNamara became the third consecutive woman eliminated from the
show. Judge Phil Vassar summed things up: “This is becoming a sausage
fest.”

Tonight, contestants performed original songs, and only
one of them benefited from it. Chris Young proved that he can write as
well as he performs. He’s also embraced the fact that he’s a hunk, and
the camera loves him for it. Now if he’d only embrace the fact that he
still has all his hair, he might keep his cowboy hat off for a while.

His
slow tune showed off his vocal range, including a nice falsetto.
Tonight’s guest judge, music producer David Foster, was impressed. He
told Chris, “I’m betting you’re going to win this thing.”

All of
the other contestants had trouble writing melodies that suited their
voice. It’s as if they focused all of their energy on the instruments,
and didn’t think of their voice as a separate, if not more important
instrument.

Jared Ashley took the worst beating from the judges
for his cliched, redneck-themed song. He gave the first performance of
the evening, and Anastasia Brown said, “I’m stunned that you’re here,
and one of them is going home.”

Anastasia reiterated her opinion
when she told Kristen, “America made a mistake tonight.” It’s hard to
disagree, as Jared has yet to do anything to distinguish himself. But,
with recent history on his side, he’ll stick around next week and
Nicole Jamrose will be sent home.