Monthly Archives: January 2007

America’s Ballroom Challenge Is Back

On Wednesday, public broadcasting’s contribution to televised ballroom dancing returns for a second season.

America’s Ballroom Challenge premiered last year, a reinvention of the perennial pledge-drive favorite, Championship Ballroom Dancing. Both seasons of America’s Ballroom Challenge were filmed at The Ohio Star Ball, one of the most prestigious ballroom competitions in America.

This
season, the show’s format changes from two episodes to five hour-long
episodes. One hour is devoted to each of the featured dance styles —
American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard, and
International Latin — before a final round of dancing to determine the
overall winner.

Several of the professional dancers featured on Dancing with the Stars participated in the competition, including show regulars Tony Dovolani and Elena Grinenko.

America’s Ballroom Challenge airs on Chicago’s WTTW at 8 pm on Wednesday, January 31. Check PBS.org for your local listing.

To get in the mood for the new season, here’s my favorite performance from last season.

Apprentice L.A.: Episode 4

“Two chickens!” That was the only argument Marisa offered in her defense in the Apprentice boardroom. No wonder she was fired.

After
Surya jumped ship from Kinetic to join the woefully undermanned Team Arrow, Trump gave the teams
the task of designing a new dish for the fast food chain, El Pollo Loco.

In
keeping with the “crazy chicken” theme of the restaurant, Marisa wanted
to promote Team Kinetic’s pineapple and mango chicken bowl — the
“Paradise Pollo Bowl” — by strategically positioning two people in
chicken costumes on street corners. Her Kinetic teammates politely
rejected the idea.

When her first idea didn’t fly, Marisa
suggested…two guys in chicken costumes, again. And again, the idea
was rejected. It wasn’t accepted after the third and fourth times she
mentioned it, either.

Kinetic ended up losing the challenge
because they relied on single sales from their restaurant, while Arrow
managed a bulk sale of their own tortilla and chicken concoctions to
the employees at a nearby car dealership.

But you can guess why Marisa thought her team lost.

In
the boardroom, she kept interrupting everyone, including Trump, crying,
“Two chickens! Two chickens!” Eventually her teammates just laughed at
her, and even Trump’s patience ran out.

Trump fired Marisa, but his customary, “That decision was very hard,” statement rang more hollow than usual.

The Apprentice
is off next week because the Chicago Bears will be busy winning Super
Bowl XLI. In two weeks, the candidates try their hand at bee farming.

DwtS Offseason Update: 1-26-07

Season 4 Rumors
ABC announced that DwtS 4 will premiere on Monday, March 19 at 8 EST with a two-hour Performance Show. No one will be eliminated until after the second Performance Show on March 26. The first Results Show will be Tuesday, March 27 at 9 EST, which prevents a direct showdown with the American Idol performance show that night.

Singer Billy Ray Cyrus, boxer Laila Ali, and Beverly Hills 90210 star Ian Ziering are the latest celebs rumored to be a part of the cast of DwtS 4, joining boy-bander Joey Fatone. According to the article at TMZ, Sarah Ferguson has dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Sharon and Kelly Osbourne were also supposedly cast but dropped out as well.

Tour News
Get the scoop on the Dancing with the Stars Tour from Cheryl Burke’s video diary at People.com.

Appearances
If you’ve been dying to get up close and personal with Maksim Chmerkovskiy,  he’ll be in Buffalo Grove, Illinois on Tuesday, January 30 conducting two dance workshops at the Fred Astaire Chicago North Studio. The studio is the home of Maks’ fellow DwtS pro, Jesse DeSoto. To reserve a place in the workshop, call 847-634-1100.

If New Jersey is more convenient for you, Maks will lead another dance workshop at the Dance With Me studio on February 15. Email contact@dancewithmecorp.com for information.

Football players-turned-dancers Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice are taking over a number of sitcoms on Monday, February 5. Both start the night on CBS, with Emmitt guesting on How I Met Your Mother at 8 EST, and Jerry on The Class at 8:30. Then Jerry moves over to the CW for an appearance on The Game at 9:30.

Beginning March 8, John O’Hurley takes on the role of King Arthur in a new Las Vegas production of the musical Spamalot through September 1.

Mario Lopez may be preparing to host the Miss America pageant on CMT on Monday, January 29 at 8 EST, but it’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas. He and former teenage witch Melissa Joan Hart have been cast as the leads in the ABC Family movie Holiday in Handcuffs, which will air in December.

Thoughts on Beauty and the Geek 3

I followed the first two seasons of Beauty and the Geek because it was a charming, harmless show featuring my kind of people: geeks. But the third season is sorely lacking the very charm that made it a success.

In
fact, this season has somehow managed to lack authenticity, while reinforcing the stereotypes it intends to break.
The cast confirms the perception that pretty women are intellectually
uninterested, cliquish, and vindictive. And the nerds in their lives
don’t stand a chance.

All of the blonde women of this season
ganged up on the non-blondes, who preferred studying for the challenges
to socializing and lounging pool-side. When any of the brunettes tried
to stand up to the blonde bullies, they were further humiliated and
targeted with vengeful retribution.

Those of us who witnessed
the same cliquish behavior in high school certainly don’t need to
relive it on television — especially not when it comes from women in
their mid-to-late twenties (Cecille, Erin, Nadia, and Megan are all 25
or older).

While this season has been dominated by the
relationships between the women, the men have been bland and
uninspiring. There’s no one to root for, because the men don’t seem to
be learning much about themselves or forging friendships with their
partners.

I’m even inclined to believe that at least a couple of
the geeks, specifically Niels and Nate, are frauds. While their
interests are a little out there, they are not socially inept — a
necessary attribute of a true geek.

Niels is a PhD candidate too
busy for an active social life; he’s not a recluse. And, in his regular
life, Nate is confident enough to play in a rock band and perform
original stand-up comedy material.

What really gives Nate away is the verse he sang in the show’s promos. His Star Wars-inspired band has a song with the following lyrics: “Han Solo can’t help with my fate. He’s still blind from the carbonate.”

Any Star Wars fan worth his or her salt knows that Han Solo was frozen in carbonite, not carbonate. Nate is either only a casual fan of the series, or he took liberty with the Star Wars canon — which, if you’re a geek, you simply do not do.

After
two seasons, it would be nearly impossible to cast the series with
authentic bubble-headed babes (more sweet and naive than stupid and
mean) and timid dweebs. Everyone applying for the show knows what is
expected, and they all play up those attributes.

Beauty and the Geek was a nice show when it started, but it’s run its course.

Apprentice L.A.: Episode 3

Michelle was singled out as her team’s bad apple last episode, and
things didn’t get any better for her on this week’s Apprentice. When it looked like she
was sure to be fired, she took control of her destiny — sort of — and
quit.

Kinetic’s victory on the last task earned them an
exemption from this episode’s task. Instead of working, they spent the
day lounging around a hotel pool, boozing it up and getting massages.

Since
Kinetic was exempt, The Donald told Arrow they would split into two
sub-teams and compete against each other in this week’s task. Aaron and
Michelle became the Project Managers (Aaron volunteered, while Michelle
was volunteered by Trump) of the squads. Their task: arranging a
double-decker bus tour of Los Angeles.

For some reason, Michelle
selected Tim, Nicole, and Frank — her most vocal detractors — for her
team. Aaron picked James and Stefani.

Aaron’s team got to work
quickly, selecting “Famous Places, Beautiful Faces” as their theme, and
running with James’s idea to hire eight Laker Girls to sign autographs
for customers waiting in line.

Michelle suggested the theme “A
Day in the Life of the Rich & Famous,” qualifying that she’d only
go with the theme if her teammates were 100% supportive. After repeated
assurances from Frank, they were on their way.

Tim and Michelle
hopped in a van and drove all over Hollywood and Beverly Hills looking
for possible tour highlights, only to realize that most of Hollywood is
unattractive and Beverly Hills is boring. By evening, Michelle was
begging Tim to just tell her what to do.

As Aaron’s team
snoozed, Michelle’s worked all night, without any real purpose or
direction. Yet Michelle was upset when Nicole decided to take an hour
nap, rather than sit in front of a laptop doing nothing.

Sleep
proved to be a critical factor in team performance on the tour. Tour
host James was actually a little too well rested, as he rambled
manically on the top deck. At first he was high on entertainment value,
but low on information. As time went on, his act wore thin. So, in a
move that may have won the task for her team, Stefani wrested the mic
from James and delivered an informative presentation with the skills of
an experienced guide.

After pulling an all-nighter, Michelle and
her team were definitely the worse for wear. On the microphone,
Michelle was incoherent and Tim used poor judgment. At one point, he
told the families on the bus about the hotel where John Belushi died
from “injecting a speedball of heroin.” It wasn’t until afterward that
Tim realized a bunch of parents were now going to have to explain
speedballs to their kids.

Mercifully, the mic’s annoying feedback drowned out most of their nonsensical chatter.

Based
on customer opinion surveys, Aaron’s team won decisively. Michelle
blamed their loss on the faulty mic, while her teammates blamed her.

When Trump asked to see the losing team back in the boardroom, Michelle announced that the Apprentice
experience — specifically living in tents — wasn’t what she signed up
for, and she’d prefer to resign and go home. Michelle said she’d love
to reapply for Trumps organization via more conventional means. It was
the most cogent she’d been all episode; too bad she waited to quit
until she was going to get fired, anyway.

Trump gave her the standard “You’re a quitter, and you’ll never succeed” speech before he accepted her resignation.

In
the end, though she was divisive and and indecisive as a contestant, I
found myself sympathizing with Michelle. Is forced camping always a
part of the Trump organization’s hiring process? The Apprentice already
finds enough excuses to ridicule its cast, without making them live
outdoors.

But Michelle should’ve kept her thoughts to herself.
All she needed to say was, “I take responsibility for the loss, and I
don’t want any of my teammates to be fired.” By daring Trump to fire
her, she’d get the same result and leave as a hero instead of a quitter.

Next week, some unnamed shocking thing happens. If the show’s ratings stop declining, I really will be shocked.

Thoughts on the TAR: All-Stars Cast

CBS announced the cast of The Amazing Race: All-Stars, and even with ten seasons of candidates to choose from, they still only got half of the teams right.

Of
the ten seasons, not all will be represented. No teams from Seasons 4,
6, or 8 made the cut. Here’s the list of teams that did:

Joe & Bill (Season 1): Team Guido set the standard for villainy on TAR.
Since their season aired, they’ve remained highly involved in the
series, through their participation in message boards and by blogging
at CBS’s website. Let’s see if the goodwill they’ve built up with the
show’s hardcore fans carries over into goodwill from their competitors.

Kevin & Drew
(Season 1): These buddies from New York also set a standard — for likable, funny-guy
teams. Their bio says they don’t see each other as often as they used
to. Can they recreate the same chemistry they had when they first ran
the race?

Oswald & Danny
(Season 2): The Cha Cha Chas had a casual attitude that carried them
far in Season 2. Here’s hoping their easy, fun style does the same this
time around.

John (Vito) & Jill
(Season 3): When they first ran the race, these nice, if bland, New
Yorkers were dating. Now that they’ve broken up — and John’s
apparently dropped the Vito from his name — let’s hope for more sparks
than they generated as lovers.

Teri & Ian (Season 3): Ugh. I hated them the first time around, and I can only hope that Ian’s changed his boorish, chauvinistic ways.

Charla & Mirna (Season 5): Without these insane cousins, All-Stars might not even be worth watching. It’s unfortunate that they’re the only representatives from a season full of worthy teams. Here are some of C&M’s greatest hits:

Uchenna & Joyce
(Season 7): The only team of previous winners, Uchenna & Joyce
garnered sympathy when they announced their plan to use their winnings
for in vitro fertilization treatments. Apparently that didn’t work,
because, according to them, their relationship is still strained by
their inability to have children. I’m not sure that this second round
of racing is going to help.

Rob & Amber
(Season 7): These reality show whores just won’t go away. In their
defense, they are two of the most skilled Racers ever, and I’m actually
looking forward to watching them compete again.

Eric & Danielle
(Season 9): This duo started dating after their season ended, ditching
their former partners, Jeremy and Dani, to create the only “new” team
on the race. They should be a competent pair, but they’ll be missing
Jeremy’s quirky sense of humor and Dani’s… whatever she has.

David & Mary
(Season 10): I’m guessing that the coal miner and his wife were brought
in only after another slow, overachieving couple — Chicololo Gretchen
& Meredith — were unable to participate. If David & Mary last more than two episodes, I’ll be stunned.

Dustin & Kandice
(Season 10): The Beauty Queens have a bad reputation (not that kind of
bad reputation), but they’re certainly strong competitors. Teams that
discount the Queens as a potential threat may be in for a big surprise.

While
I’m happy with many of the teams in the cast, I could do without John
& Jill, Teri & Ian, Uchenna & Joyce, Eric & Danielle,
and David & Mary. Of those five, only Teri & Ian left a lasting
impression the first time I saw them. Here are my suggestions for their
ideal replacements:

Colin & Christie (Season 5): Their absence from All-Stars
is unfathomable. Not only are they two of the best competitors from any
season, their ox-induced meltdown is the most memorable event in TAR history.

Kelly & Jon
(Season 4): Their season wasn’t one of the best, so it’s easy to forget
how devilishly funny they were (unless you hated them and thought they
were just devils). Kelly & Jon were the team that got me hooked on
the race, and it would’ve been great to see them again.

Ken & Gerard
(Season 3): While Kevin & Drew may be the original goofy guy team,
brothers Ken & Gerard perfected the form. The scene of them
repeatedly falling into the water while punting on the River Cam was a
highlight of Season 3.

Brian & Greg
(Season 7): What can I say, I’ve got a thing for the teams of brothers.
Brian & Greg didn’t make it anywhere near the end of Season 7, but
their exit — clad only in sunglasses, winter hats, and swim trunks —
was classic.

Kami & Karli
(Season 5): Another sibling team, these identical twins bore an uncanny
facial resemblance to John Lithgow. In nearly every episode, they
garnered one of those gong sound effects reserved for particularly
stupid moments — like when they stripped to their underwear and swam
through two feet of water to a Pit Stop, while all of the other teams
simply walked.

Honorable mention goes to Chip & Kim and
BJ & Tyler. They’re two of my favorite teams, but they’ve already
won, so I had to give other teams priority.

The Amazing Race: All-Stars begins Sunday, February 18, at 8 p.m. EST.

Apprentice L.A.: Episode 2

Carey thought that the pink man-kini bottom he designed would be the big hit of the Apprentice L.A. fashion show. He was the only one surprised when Trump gave him the axe.

Both
teams had to design three women’s and three men’s swimsuits for a
runway show on the beach at Palisades Park. Whichever team sold the
most suits to prospective buyers would spend the next week in the Apprentice mansion, take a trip to the Playboy Mansion, and also be exempt from next week’s task.

Heidi’s
team, which now calls itself Kinetic, designed six traditional suits in
solid colors. The team functioned well as a group, although Marisa
wondered if it might be time for Heidi to take a back seat and let
someone else lead. Unfortunately for Marisa, the project manager stays
in charge until the team loses, and that may not happen for a while.

Nicole
took over last week’s losers, team Arrow. She gave Carey control over
the design of the men’s suits, and that’s where it all went wrong.

Carey
said he had dreamed of being a fashion designer, and this was his
chance. His first suit was a standard knee-length board short for the
straight man. Second was a mid-thigh boxer brief style suit for the
metro sexual man. And finally, the piece de resistance — a spandex
short short in a pink print for the gay man.

And that gay man was Carey.

So
enthusiastic was Carey about his tiny swim bottom that he modeled it on
the runway himself, oblivious to the uncomfortable snickering of his
fellow candidates, Donald Trump, and the swimsuit buyers.

Carey’s
experiment in minimalism doomed team Arrow. They sold $19,600 in
merchandise, while Kinetic sold over $20,000. Arrow’s total sales from
their three men’s suits was only $360.

In the boardroom, several
people, including Carey, blamed the loss on sourpuss Michelle, but
Trump wasn’t buying it. Carey designed a suit that could be worn by
only a small number of men — although Trump did clarify that he
himself could wear it, because of his own “great, GREAT body.” Trump decided that the suit’s designer deserved the blame for the loss.

If
only Carey could have swallowed his pride and stopped defending his
design, he could’ve more forcefully argued that Nicole the Project
Manager had final approval of the suits. But he was blinded by his love
for his tiny pink swimsuit, which he continued to moon over in the
boardroom. Consequently, he was downsized.

Next week, the winning
Kinetic Corp. spends the day lounging around, while the losers of Arrow
Corp. fight for the right to spend another night in crappy tents.

I think I’d rather be fired.