Monthly Archives: June 2006

DwtS Offseason Update: 6-30-06

George Hamilton Breaks a Record
George Hamilton recently presided over the unveiling of the world’s biggest beach towel. I wish I could offer an explanation.

Drew’s High Standards
Drew Lachey tells People magazine that he won’t allow his brother Nick to baby-sit little Isabella until his diaper-changing chops have been put to the test.

O’Hurley On Stage
John O’Hurley recently took over the role of Billy Flynn for a limited run of the musical Chicago. Here are links to an interview he conducted with the St. Petersburg Times, as well as that paper’s review of his performance.

Speaking of St. Petersburg
While vacationing in Sarasota last week, my husband and I drove to St. Petersburg for the Millenium Dancesport Championships. We went on Friday, hoping to take in some of the daytime competition.

To
our dismay, we discovered that the hotel was located in the same area
as the Warped Tour music festival, meaning that tens of thousands of
teenagers had already claimed every parking spot within miles of the
hotel. We gave up on the dance competition and headed back to Sarasota,
where we instead spent the afternoon dolphin-watching. Not such a bad trade.

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Treasure Hunters Is Brought To You By… (Episode 1-2)

I commend the producers of Treasure Hunters for making
adjustments to the show format since last week. Gone are the previews
for upcoming show segments and endless repetitions of prerecorded
clues. Still, the show feels more like an hour-long commercial than a
race.

After the Outer Limits-inspired show intro, teams
were woken up at 2 in the morning by the ringing of their (insert brand
name) cell phones. The clue: drive your (insert brand name) SUV to the
Lexington Mines in Montana, making sure to read the (insert brand name)
billboards you’ll pass along the way.

Most of the teams used
onboard GPS systems to find their way to the mine; the Hillbillies,
formally known as The Wild Hanlons, preferred to let Pat Hanlon invent
some nonsensical method of navigation.

Producers seem determined
to make the Hanlons look stupid. I’m sure they have plenty of flaky
moments, just like the other teams, but any time the Hanlons are shown,
they are doing something that ranges from moronic to insane. Only at
the very last second do they seem to display anything approaching
coherence. More on that later.

At the mine, two members of each
team piled into a coal car that took them through the mine. The car
could only hold six people, so three teams entered at a time. Inside,
contestants found a bucket inside a pit of snakes. Staying true to
stereotypes — which is one of the tenets of this show — every woman
who approached the pit squealed at the site of the snakes.

The
words “bend the light” were inscribed on the outside of the bucket.
Inside the bucket was a glass lens, concealing a clue that could only
be read when water was poured onto the lens, refracting a light which
shone from above. As soon as the first team figured out how to read the
clue, the other teams noticed the wet lens and the solution was obvious.

The
clue directed teams to drive 150 miles to the Wood Bottom camp site,
along the Missouri River in Montana. Team Air Force, the first team
out, used their (insert brand name) laptop computer to search (insert
brand name).com for directions to “Wood Bottom, Missouri.”

When
Air Force arrived at the correct location (Hey, that must be a good
search engine after all!), they were told to paddle a canoe during
daylight hourse, looking for 14 star-shaped symbols along the river
bank. Their next clue was 40 paces behind the 14th star.

As it
was already dusk when they arrived, Air Force had to wait with the rest
of the teams until the next morning before heading out. Everyone
enjoyed a steak dinner before turning in for some much needed rest.

Everyone
except the Hillbillies, that is. Josh and Ben, normally the two more
capable Hanlons, spent 11 hours looking for the clue in the mine.
Considering how quickly everyone else solved the riddle, it seems
strange that they could take so long — unless they were nudged to take
their time, knowing that the other teams wouldn’t be able to get much
of a head start on them. Again, more on this later.

The
Hillbillies finally got to camp at 3:30 a.m., where they spent about
six hours sleeping in their (insert brand name) tent. They finally left
camp nearly four hours after the lead team.

But the Hillbillies
were by no means out of contention. The Brown family capsized their
canoe, and briefly contemplated walking all 20 miles along the river
bank. They got back into the canoe, only to be passed by the Hanlons.

Then
the Grad Students, got into trouble when Jessica stepped in a hole and
twisted her knee. A medic bandaged her up and gave her crutches, but
they, too, were passed by the Hanlons.

Meanwhile, everyone else
found the next clue: a journal containing a key for decrypting a code
designed by Thomas Jefferson and Lewis & Clark. Along the way,
pastor Fogel and his family acted devilishly, and Miss USA talked about
snack food while bouncy, ditzy music played in the background.

Teams
then drove to Tower Rock State Park, where they decoded a message using
their key. The message instructed them to look under a dark rock on a
hill, where they found a compass — the show’s second artifact, to go
with they map they found last week.

The Hanlons were the seventh
team to arrive, but spent they four hours trying to crack the code
before giving up and going to get hamburgers. While they were gone, the
last two teams reached Tower Rock.

The Grad Students found their
compass and finished in seventh place. Miraculously, Josh Hanlon was
able to crack the secret code immediately after the Hanlons returned
from their burger run, and the Hillbillies found the final compass just
minutes before the Browns.

It is impossible to watch the Hanlons
blunder about, only to figure things out in the nick of time, and not
suspect that on-site producers or camerapeople coached them to take
their time or ham it up. At the very least, much of the Hanlon footage
feels like it was reshot, all in a futile effort to make the Hanlons
into the funny regular guys that viewers are supposed to root for.

The
whole cast seems like a collection of the worst reality show cliches:
bumbling Southerners, bubbleheaded babes, un-Christian Christians,
stupid geniuses, and the ever-popular black men who can’t swim. Get
some girls with eating disorders and some gay guys, and we’ve got
ourselves a season of the Real World.

The cliches, the forced humor of the Hanlons, and the excessive product placement make Treasure Hunters
feel like nothing more than a money grab by NBC. This project isn’t
somebody’s baby, a creative idea long in the hatching. Instead, NBC
said, “Let’s capitalize on the popularity of The Da Vinci Code and throw together a reality show. Just use the formula.”

Sure,
all shows are designed to make money. That’s why they get aired. But
they’re not supposed to seem to us watchers like that’s their only goal. Treasure Hunters feels formulaic and soulless–and the lack of passion behind it is obvious.

Treasure Hunters: Premiere

Hunting for treasure has a long and romantic history as a literary device. It evokes visions of swashbuckling pirates, an X that marks the spot, and chests stacked with gold doubloons.

Thanks to NBC, those images have been permanently wiped from my mind, replaced by images of cell phones, laptops, and 30 faceless people being given the same instructions over and over and over again.

NBC made treasure hunting boring.

The show’s format is hardly original, and comparisons to The Amazing Race are inevitable. But Treasure Hunters seems to have cribbed its technical elements, like camera techniques, from other NBC reality shows like Average Joe and Fear Factor. If they wanted to emulate some in-house stock, NBC should’ve borrowed more from The Apprentice–which, while not great TV, is at least decent entertainment.

The TH Producers also borrow a technique common to many Fox and WB shows: closing each segment with a preview of the action in the next, post-commercial break segment. It’s annoying enough when the WB does it on Beauty and the Geek, but it completely destroys the suspense of race-type shows that are supposed to be filled with tension and surprises.

Worst of all, Treasure Hunters has a theme — rendering it about as clever as a high school prom. Treasure Hunters, drawing off of its producers’ connections with The Da Vinci Code, claims to comprise some overarching mysteries regarding America’s Founding Fathers and clues guarded by a secret society. If the secret society is revealed to be anything other than the Freemasons or the Osmonds, I’ll be stunned.

Because the producers have decided to make the show’s theme and plot its main draw, the TH contestants become almost secondary. That was obvious from the start of the episode. Only a few of the teams were given the opportunity to tell the relationships between team members, and the premiere gave viewers no clue as to the dynamics of those relationships.

The Treasure Hunters producers assigned nicknames to all ten of the three-person teams, to help viewers tell them apart (Air Force, Geniuses, Young Professionals). But one defining thread does not a connection make. I need to know something about the individuals on the teams in order to care about them.

Casting heightened the problem. Team Miss USA is made of two blonde women and a brunette, all in their twenties. So is Team Grad Students. On several occasions, I couldn’t tell which team I was watching. Somewhere in a two-hour premiere, producers should’ve allowed time for character development, or even just some conflict. But it never happened.

Treasure Hunters began with a clever twist on the team race format. Five of the teams started in Alaska, while the other five started in Hawaii. But neither group of teams knew about the other; everyone at each location thought there were only five teams in the whole race.

While that’s an exciting way to show different locations and different tasks, it didn’t translate well to television. Just as things were getting underway in Alaska, the show cut to the teams in Hawaii. Without knowing anything about the teams, it was hard to keep track of which teams were where. There were too many people working on too many tasks for viewers to become attached to anyone.

The show’s rampant commercialism was revealed as bland host Laird McIntosh gave the teams their initial instructions. They were each given a cell phone (Motorola), laptop computer (Ask.com), and credit card (Visa) to use during the course of the race. The credit card wasn’t even used in the episode, so why bother mentioning it, other than to please the sponsoring company?

The race itself is hardly worth mentioning. Plenty happened, but all the audience was shown was the mechanical execution of tasks that were neither physically nor mentally challenging. Teams who started in Alaska deciphered a message in Morse code, hiked a glacier, and dug through piles of rocks. Hawaii teams also deciphered Morse code, but dove in a bay, and hiked on a beach.

Throughout, all we saw were teams methodically plodding through each task, which had a number of steps. On the Hawaiian beach, teams had to find a fake plane crash, find a box in the fake plane, find a cane in the rubble, and figure out that the cane contained the key for opening the box. With so many steps, there was little time to show team members interacting with each other. The audience learned plenty about the task, but little about the contestants.

At each new step in each task, host Laird called each team to give them their next clue, halting the action. Unlike The Amazing Race, where the viewing audience only hears the clue when the first team to find it reads it, the audience heard many of the clues five or six times. It was lazy and insulting to force viewers to hear Laird endlessly repeat, “Your next destination: the State Capitol Building, Lincoln, Nebraska.”

Lincoln was the site of the only really compelling part of the show. At the end of the show’s first hour, both groups of teams were instructed to meet host Laird by a statue. Both groups ran around the corner of the Capitol Building, and into each other. Everyone stared for a few seconds as they realized they had twice as many competitors as they’d been led to believe.

Just like that, the moment was over. There were a few short interview segments with contestants saying, “Whoa,” before producers jumped right back into their plot. Laird told the contestants that each team from Hawaii would be paired with a team from Alaska, and that they board buses and figure out where to go next.

Producers took no time to let the audience enjoy what was surely an exciting moment for the contestants. Instead of showing contestants introducing themselves to each other (and us) on the buses, producers cut right back into the action of them trying to figure out where to direct their bus drivers. All of the humanity was lost — in favor of map reading.

Teams decoded a puzzle to reveal that their next clue involved Theodore Roosevelt. Combined with clues from other portions of the race — involving Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln — four of the teams correctly instructed their drivers to head to Mt. Rushmore. The remaining two teams, the Geniuses and the Young Professionals, directed their driver to Mt. Roosevelt, 37 miles away. Minutes into the second hour of the premiere, the audience already knew that one of those two teams would be eliminated.

Predictably, most of the other teams found their clues before the final two teams even arrived. The lone exceptions were the Wild Hanlons, a father-son-uncle team headed by a clueless, mulleted patriarch. The only thing that Pat, the father, did right was to wait for the Geniuses to arrive and let them figure out the last riddle for him.

So the Geniuses survived and the Young Pros were eliminated, not that I have any idea who they are anyway. The only interesting fact about that team is that one of its members, Chandra, is due to give birth to twins this summer. She wasn’t pregnant during the filming of this show (at least not visibly), so I wonder just how long NBC has been sitting on this stinker.

During the rest of the series, teams will compete for an unspecified prize. Without having a dollar amount attached to the prize, it’s hard to get that excited about it. To accompany to quiet problem solving, the overwhelmingly static camera shots, and the lack of interpersonal drama, producers tacked on epic, tension-filled music — which didn’t fit the show at all. Along with the undefined prize, it actually made the contest seem less urgent, not mysterious and exciting.

Treasure Hunters needs a serious re-edit this week if it hopes to survive the summer. Tone down the dramatic music, add more dramatic content, and stop interrupting the action with product placements. It’s a great idea, executed terribly. Considering that many members of the production staff worked on The Amazing Race in the past, I expected a more compelling program.

DwtS Offseason Update: 6-17-06

Disney Company Perks
A cadre of DWTS cast members will take over the red carpet at the June 24 premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Stacy Kiebler, Lisa Rinna, Tia Carerre, Louis van Amstel, and Cheryl Burke will join Hollywood luminaries like Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Dennis Rodman at the film’s Disneyland debut.

Tia on Extra
Video of Tia Carerre’s recent appearance on Extra is available at the show’s website.

My Ox Is Broken’s Summer Schedule

Summer gives networks the opportunity to try out new shows in the hopes of striking ratings gold. When they’re lucky, networks wind up with a hit like Dancing with the Stars. When they’re not, they get stuck with shows like the painful-to-watch Game Show Marathon, currently airing on CBS.

Because of their low production costs, reality shows dominate many networks’ summer lineups. It’s much cheaper to pull a show like Celebrity Cooking Showdown off the air mid-run than it is to yank a higher-budget scripted series that fails to draw an audience (great examples from summers past include Roar and Danger Theatre). But that doesn’t keep networks from trotting out at least a few new dramas and comedies.

This summer, My Ox Is Broken is going to stick to its roots and cover only reality series. I’ve picked a few shows that seem promising, but which won’t be covered everywhere else. There are plenty of other sites where you can get your Big Brother or Project Runway fix. I’ll probably be watching those, too — just not writing about them — so feel free to send in your comments on those shows as well.

For a complete listing of new summer shows, check out Recap-Roundup’s season preview. Here’s what I may be covering here at MOIB:

Treasure Hunters: In the spirit of The Amazing Race, teams solve puzzles and decrypt clues to progress on a quest. However, unlike TAR, the contestants on Treasure Hunters won’t be looking for Phil Keoghan. They’ll be looking to unearth hidden treasure — with enough doubloons for them to buy their own Phil. Since the producers of The Da Vinci Code created Treasure Hunters, I’m willing to bet that every clue is written backwards and needs to be read in a mirror.
Premieres June 18 at 8e/7c on NBC

Master of Champions: Any show based on a Japanese game show is bound to be good (for evidence, watch an episode of MXC on Spike TV or peruse clips of other shows at TV in Japan). Contestants compete in bizarre stunts for the title Master of Champions. Who knows if it will be worth writing about, but it’ll sure be fun to watch.
Premieres June 22 at 8e/7c on ABC

Rock Star: Supernova: This show slowly built up a rabid fan base last summer, when INXS took to the airwaves to search for a new lead singer. Now, Tommy Lee and other heavy metal veterans are looking for a frontman or frontwoman to head up their supergroup (not to be confused with Supergroup on VH1). It’s just a shame that the most talented performer from last season, Suzie McNeil, won’t be back for a second go-round.
Premieres July 5 at 8e/7c on CBS

Who Wants to Be a Superhero?: I do! But I won’t be appearing on this show, where contestants with great ideas for superhero characters have to live as those characters. It sounds like such a dangerously silly idea that it has to be great.
Premieres July 27 at 9e/8c on Sci-Fi

In addition to recapping those shows, I’ll continue publishing weekly updates on Dancing with the Stars throughout the show’s offseason.

DwtS Offseason Update: 6-10-06

Latest Season 3 Rumors
Vivica Fox and Mario Lopez are the latest stars rumored to be participants for DWTS 3. Vivica’s supposedly so excited, she demands that you “drop it like it’s hot!”

Papa O’Hurley
John O’Hurley and his wife, Lisa, are expecting their first child.

Jon and Anna Teach in Tempe
Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya will teach four dance workshops at Paragon Dance Studios in Tempe, Arizona June 17-18. Each workshop covers a different dance and costs $15.

Tony Performs at HS Fundraiser
Tony Dovolani and his professional partner, Elena Grinenko, will perform on June 28 at a benefit for a New York City performing arts high school. The $25 tickets also include two free dance lessons.

You’re Hired, Old Chap (Episode 5-15)

When last week’s episode of The Apprentice came to a close, it looked like Lee’s celebrity hockey game was in big trouble. Things only got worse this week, as Lee’s team fell apart, and Sean waltzed to an easy victory, becoming the series’ first international Apprentice.

Lee was never able to please the executives from the Leary Firefighters Foundation, in large part because he wasn’t prepared at all for the event. He hadn’t thought out any details, such as how the celebrity hockey players and coaches would make their entrance onto the ice, which exemplified his inexperience to the charity executives.

Even worse, he stuck the very personable Roxanne behind the scenes and let laissez-faire Lenny handle the celebrities. Lenny failed to greet the celebrities when they arrived and angered celebrity auctioneer Jamie Pressley by ditching her in a locker room full of half-naked strangers.

When asked to distribute uniforms to the celebrities, Lenny gave every single one a medium. His reasoning? All celebs have small heads: “John McEnroe? Medium. Very small head.”

Finally, Lee committed the sin of all sins: not meeting Trump when he arrived at the event. Trump later claimed that it was a close call between the candidates, but Lee sealed his doom by running into Trump in a hallway rather than waiting for him at the helicopter pad.

At the other event, everything went smoothly for Sean. Andrea returned to the team after a doctor diagnosed her with only a broken blood vessel in her sinus. The team’s biggest crisis was temporarily misplacing a CD of music for the VIP party.

During the final boardroom, Sean continued to outperform Lee. Sean equalled Lee in terms of academic acheivement, and he had 10 years of experience making million dollar deals, a fact that Lee refused to accept as relevant.

Sean said that the task was won during team selection, and that he had the better team. Lee defended his choice of team members and said that all of them were his passionate advocates for him. Carolyn asked the most obvious question in everyone’s minds: “Why would Pepi be passionate about you winning?”

When the boardroom resumed live, Trump ribbed Sean for being so effusive in praising Tammy. Sean admitted that they are dating and that he intends to marry her.

The choice of tasks for this season’s winner was between a resort project in Hawaii and a condominium building in Soho. Mysteriously, both Sean and Lee said they’d prefer the job in New York, apparently forgetting that Hawaii is Hawaii.

Trump’s stage manager handed him the results of the at-home audience’s vote for the winner. Trump agreed with the audience’s overwhelming favorite, and he hired Sean as the fifth Apprentice.

Poor Sean had only a few seconds to celebrate with his girlfriend and the other candidates, as he was soon shuffled off to the street, where he had to drive off in a new Pontiac, the other reward for his victory.

The show ended a few minutes early, leaving all of the former candidates, Trump, George, and Carolyn to stand around uncomfortably on stage. The band continued to play the show’s theme song at full volume as the camera showed shots of confused audience members half-heartedly clapping.

The awkward, unintentionally amusing ending was a fitting coda for another season of The Apprentice.