Monthly Archives: September 2007

Ox Notes: September 21, 2007

Here are yet more interviews to help you get to know Dancing with the Stars contestants Jennie Garth and Jane Seymour. Fellow competitor Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s biggest supporter might be his boxing rival, Ricky Hatton, who hopes that a long run on DwtS will keep Floyd from focusing on his boxing training.

According to the ratings, this fall season is starting slow for the networks. Perhaps some shows will be boosted by iTunes, which is offering free downloads of certain FOX premieres. ABC hopes to boost its viewership by taking some of its shows to AOL.

Or perhaps viewers are just waiting for something really big to come along — like Celebrity Rehab on VH-1. The show will feature stars from other VH-1 celebreality shows, all of whom need some sort of professional help.

Turns out Charisma Carpenter won’t appear on Donald Trump’s celebrity edition of The Apprentice, after all. Maybe instead of using celebrities, Trump should just do an all-star edition. I’m sure all of the former contestants are available, since the show hasn’t exactly turned any of them into superstars.

The debut of Survivor: China helped CBS win Thursday night in a landslide. Jeff Probst talked about the new season in this Zap2It interview, and two more of his behind-the-scenes videos have been posted at YouTube. The first video looks at how the set for Tribal Council was built, and the second follows a day in the life of Jeff Probst — specifically, the Survivors’ 15th day in the jungle.

Survivor China: Episode 1

On this week’s Survivor: China premiere, Chicken’s goose got cooked.

The setting for this season is beautiful, managing to seem isolated and otherworldly, while still evoking familiar images of China, like the Great Wall and Buddhist temples. The jungle scenery and mountainous landscapes are so lovely that every future season of Survivor should be filmed in Southeast Asia. Hell, every future season of every show on TV should be filmed there.

Based on their first few days in the jungle, the Fei Long tribe look like they could dominate the game for a while. They managed to build a shelter in half the time it took rival tribe Zhan Hu to finish arguing about building a shelter.

From the little footage we saw of them, the members of Fei Long seem to be getting along great. Great, that is, except for New York waitress Courtney, who hates everything. She rolled her eyes when Jeff Probst greeted the Survivors. She was miffed by a Buddhist monk who corrected her for not showing the proper amount of respect during a traditional ceremony. And she’s annoyed by every word that comes out of her teammates’ mouths.

So far, Courtney has shown herself to be devoid of any redeeming qualities. Needless to say, I love her. This season is going to be hilarious, thanks to her.

The Zhan Hu tribe, on the other hand, is already falling apart. Pro wrestler Ashley was sick for the first couple of days. And the entire tribe hates jewelry designer Peih-Gee (PG), whose greatest sin was in trying to make the tribe work — so they wouldn’t have to spend another night standing awake in the rain. Farmer Chicken was so annoyed with his lazy tribemates that he refused to give his opinion on anything, letting them muddle along with their feeble attempts to build a shelter, when he could’ve been giving them direction.

Throughout their struggles, former model Dave reassured his teammates one-by-one that each of them had no reason to worry about being voted out. Then he plotted their ouster behind their backs.

Thankfully, to either lighten the mood or make things even more uncomfortable, Zhan Hu has school teacher Sherea, who was cast as this season’s requisite large-breasted woman with a woefully unsupportive brassiere. Her constant jiggling is either amusing or unnerving, depending on your perspective. But at least Sherea has a bra. Tribemate Jaime wasn’t wearing one when the teams had been sent into the wild without their suitcases.

It wasn’t surprising when Fei Long’s superior teamwork helped them win the first Immunity Challenge. And the Zhan Hu tribe was similarly predictable at Tribal Council, where they followed the time-honored Survivor tradition of eliminating the annoying older person, first chance they got.

At least Chicken went out with flair, yelling, "Damn!" and scaring the crap out of Ashley after the verdict was announced.

Next week, Dave takes on a leadership role at Zhan Hu, and pro gambler Jean-Robert gets asked to pull his considerable weight at Fei Long.

Ox Notes: September 20, 2007

TV Guide posted a Dancing with the Stars interview with Melanie Brown. It should come as no surprise that she and partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy are already yelling at each other.

It turns out that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has even more on his plate that simultaneously training for DwtS and a boxing match. Starting November 18 — less than a week after DwtS 5 wraps up — Floyd will star in an HBO reality series that will follow him day and night as he prepares for his December 8 fight.

Anthony Bourdain’s blog entry about last night’s episode of Top Chef is up at Bravo’s website. And after seeing how Casey and Sara got frazzled by the dudes in the Le Cirque kitchen staring at them as they worked, Gail Simmons wrote about her own experience working there straight out of culinary school. Apparently, things haven’t changed much.

After bailing on iTunes, NBC is offering free downloads of its shows for the week following each episode’s premiere, through a service called NBC Direct.

Slate has an interesting piece about big budget network shows run amok.

I tuned in for a couple of series premieres last night: Kid Nation and Gossip Girl. Gossip Girl was exactly the kind of catty teenage drama I was hoping for. As a fan of Whit Stillman’s films, I was bound to love this sleazefest set in the world of preppy New York socialites. Gossip Girl is a show I’m planning on watching each week.

Kid Nation, on the other hand, is not. It’s not terrible, but instead of focusing on the cool premise of kids building their own society, producers interjected totally unnecessary elements of competition into the show.

After the four producer-chosen leaders were ordered to divide their comrades into teams, the adult host of the show arrived to have the kids take part in some challenge to determine which jobs each team would get, and how much money they would earn to spend at the town store. The winning team became The Upper Class, earning more money than the others without having to do any work. Just the value kids need to learn: class over community.

The show’s real drama occurred before the adults started meddling in things. The junior pioneers had to figure out how to cook a meal for 40 people, and how to run a meeting of 40 noisy, rambunctious kids. Now they know how their teachers feel every day.

But, instead of just letting the story unfold on its own, Kid Nation ultimately looked and felt like any other Mark Burnett-produced reality game show. Though not scripted, the producers have made it too crafted and structured to be a legitimate experiment. Some of the kids are sweet, but eventually they will all have some not-so-sweet moments that I’d rather not see. I’d be mortified if half of the stupid crap I said as a kid was captured on film.

Even after all of the controversy surrounding the show, Kid Nation didn’t even win its time slot. And if other viewers had the same reaction as me or TV Guide’s Matt Roush, things will only get worse.

Ox Notes: September 19, 2007

If you’ve not heard the latest bit of controversy courtesy of The View, prepare to have your mind blown.

Yesterday, as the panelists discussed their religious views, it was brought up that born-again Christian Sherri Shepherd doesn’t believe in evolution. Okay, she’s wrong, but there are a lot of people who’ve fallen prey to that fundamentalist propaganda in this country — so at least she’s not alone.

Then, attempting to determine which scientific facts Shepherd believes and which she doesn’t, Whoopi Goldberg asked Shepherd if the world is round or flat.

Shepherd’s answer: "I don’t know."

The discussion of whether the earth is flat or not continued for several minutes, and despite plenty of opportunities, Shepherd never definitively stated whether she knew if the earth is round.

I watched the first segment of today’s episode to see if yesterday’s discussion was addressed, and it was. Shepherd said that she knows the world is round, and that she was just very nervous yesterday. Or, in her own eloquent words, her brain had a "senior, poopy moment."

Elisabeth Hasselbeck comforted Shepherd by saying that it’s "okay not to care if the world is round or flat."  Well, at least until Fox News tells you to care.

What confounds me about this situation is that, during yesterday’s discussion, the panelists with some modicum of intelligence — Goldberg, Joy Behar, and Barbara Walters — were so careful not to offend Shepherd that they never said, "Everyone knows the world is round, dummy. Next topic."  It amazes me even more that Walters has let Shepherd remain a part of the cast after displaying such stupidity and a complete lack of critical thinking skills.

Embracing diversity and allowing people to form their own conclusions does not mean tolerating willful ignorance. If the producers of The View are so concerned with not offending idiots that they’re willing to let indisputable facts (which haven’t been up for debate for hundreds of years!) be called into question, that’s their prerogative.

But the next time I watch The View or post anything about the it will be when Whoopi, Joy, or Barbara quit in protest, or when Sherri or Elisabeth is fired.

Watch the clip below for an abbreviated version of the discussion. It’s pretty amazing. And you can click here for the full seven-minute clip. It’s worth it just to watch Joy Behar’s pained looks.

Moving on to happier topics, like Dancing with the Stars… Albert Reed says he’s prepared for the inevitable rumors of a romance with his professional partner, Anna Trebunskaya, despite the fact that Anna is married to fellow DwtS pro Jonathan Roberts.

The New Zealand version of Dancing with the Stars has raised $1 million for charity in three years by collecting money when fans cast their votes. Makes you wonder how much money the US version could’ve raised in its four seasons if it had done the same.

The release of the Battlestar Galactica Season 3 DVD has been pushed back again, and won’t be released until spring. It’s almost like they’re daring us nerdy fans to download the episodes illegally.

Before I shove off to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day, CBS has posted two more behind-the-scenes videos from the set of Survivor: China. Jeff Probst hosts the vids and shows the remote location of one of the challenges, as well as the efforts that went into creating and testing a challenge modeled after the Great Wall of China. Yarrr….

Handicapping DwtS 5

My track record for Dancing with the Stars preseason predictions is not good — as is evidenced by my picks for Season 3 and Season 4. But I’ve refined my evaluation technique over the years. I think this could be my season to get things right.

(Who am I kidding? I picked Season 4’s last place couple to win. And I’ll be mentally redoing this entire list halfway through this season’s first episode.)

In each season, contestants have been eliminated in roughly the same pattern. The early weeks are when the terrible dancers and least well known celebrities (unless they’re outstanding dancers) are eliminated, though not necessarily in that order.

Then the audience cuts loose the mediocre dancers who’ve gotten by thanks to a compelling story (Heather Mills) or high entertainment value (George Hamilton). After that, the best dancers usually make it to the final four.

With that pattern in mind, I took into consideration a few factors that contribute to success on Dancing with the Stars.

1) You don’t stand a chance if you can’t dance. No legitimately bad dancer has ever made it into the top three.

2) Just about everyone on the show is attractive, so good looks don’t guarantee success. If they did, Alec Mazo and Paulina Porizkova wouldn’t have gone home first, last season.

3) At the end, it seems like the most fun, relaxed couple always wins. Drew & Cheryl, Emmitt & Cheryl, and Apolo & Julianne all looked like they were having a better time than the other couples near their talent level (though Joey & Kym were about even on the fun-o-meter).

As their seasons progressed, Mario & Karina, Stacy & Tony, and even Jerry & Anna started to take the judges comments personally and went on the defensive. During Season One, the same thing happened to John O’Hurley, who got uptight right at the same time that Kelly Monaco’s dancing improved and she started enjoying herself.

The most important thing for every couple to remember is this: you’re being paid to dance on one of TV’s most popular shows. Most of us would kill (and then, over a decade later, rob memorabilia) to spend a couple of months dancing for hundreds of thousands of dollars, so at least pretend like you’re having a good time.

With all of that in mind — and knowing that I have very little idea how well most of them will actually dance — here’s how I predict this season’s contestants will finish. For comparison’s sake, here’s a link to the odds the contestants are getting in Vegas.

12. Albert Reed & Anna Trebunskaya
Who is this guy? Apart from appearing on the cover of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, Albert doesn’t have much of a resume, and he has no dance experience. Unless he’s a natural, Anna’s comeback could be brief.

11. Josie Maran & Alec Mazo
Again, who is she? Josie’s done a little acting in addition to her modeling, but I doubt many viewers will recognize her (My hubby says he remembers her as David Blaine’s hot but monosyllabic girlfriend, from when she and David were on The Howard Stern Show several years back). Alec might garner a little goodwill for his recent marriage to Edyta, but not enough to overcome his partner’s comparative anonymity.

10. Jennie Garth & Derek Hough
In previous seasons, Jennie might’ve been one of the biggest names on the dance card. But she’s in a crowded field of recognizable celebs, and it’ll be hard for her to stand out. Fans of DwtS will give Julianne’s brother a chance, and Ian Ziering’s presence in the audience might nab the couple a few extra votes, but this season’s field could be too strong for them to last long.

9. Mark Cuban & Kym Johnson
Cubes is no spring chicken (he’s 49), and he had his hip replaced three months ago. On the plus side, he’s a billionaire who’s doing this purely for fun, and he does have a background in disco. He and Kym will have a few enjoyable turns on the dance floor before his limited mobility brings their run to an end.

8. Marie Osmond & Jonathan Roberts
Marie once turned down the lead in the film version of Grease, because she objected to some of the film’s content. I worry that her routines with Jonathan will lack sex appeal. Fans of her country music career and doll collection can only carry her so far if she’s not hooking new fans.

7. Wayne Newton & Cheryl Burke
It’s hard not to like Wayne. It’s hard not to like Cheryl. But halfway through the season is when the old guys get cut.

6. Jane Seymour & Tony Dovolani
Jane’s got tons of dance experience, but the bad knee that ended her ballet career as a teenager, plus her recent back problems, could spell trouble for Dr. Quinn. She’s glamorous, and the fact that she’s dancing for her mother who recently had a stroke is touching. But she just won’t be able to match the speed of competitors 20 years her junior.

5. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. & Karina Smirnoff
Pro athletes are used to (1) being scored on quantifiable criteria and (2) being among the best at what they do. Switching to an activity in which the scoring is more subjective, and at which they are not exceptionally skilled, unnerves them.

How many times did Jerry Rice and Clyde Drexler protest, "But I’m not a ballroom dancer," when criticized by the judges? Based on Floyd’s rant at a press conference promoting his December 8 boxing match (as covered in a recent Ox Notes), I hate to think what will happen when Len and Bruno point out his missteps.

As Floyd becomes more frustrated by the judges’ criticism, he’ll find reasons to focus his attention on training for the fight, at the expense of his dancing. He won’t quit, he’ll just lose the will to keep working on something that’s really just a promotion for his real job.

4. Melanie Brown & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Like Floyd, Mel B’s schedule will get tight later in the season. The Spice Girls reunion tour starts December 7, and she’ll need time to get her lips in sync with the music. On top of that, she’s got an infant at home. Maks will inevitably get frustrated with Len, and Maks’s sour mood could rub off on Melanie, giving her incentive to put preparations for the tour ahead of her dancing.

3. Cameron Mathison & Edyta Sliwinska
Cameron brings a substantial fanbase to the show, including fans of All My Children and the entire nation of Canada. Additionally, fans of DwtS will be pulling for Edyta who, in five seasons, has only had one real chance to win: Season 3, when she was paired with Joey Lawrence.

But Cameron spent four years in leg braces as a child as a result of Legg-Calve-Perthes syndrome. Will there be any lingering effects? He’s also spending three days per week in New York, filming All My Children. He’ll have to stay dedicated to his training and always make dancing look easy if he wants to get Edyta her first trophy.

2. Helio Castroneves & Julianne Hough
Helio’s a big star in Indy Car racing, plus he has the support of everyone in his native Brazil. Julianne is riding high off of a win, so there should be no shortage of fan support for these two. But just how nimble is Helio, if his job is to sit in a car for hours at a time?

1. Sabrina Bryan & Mark Ballas
I know. Many of you are thinking, "Who?" I was one of those people, initially. But there’s one thing I learned from Monique Coleman and Billy Ray Cyrus: never underestimate the voting power of Disney Channel fans.

More importantly for this pair, Sabrina has a lot of recent dance experience. She released a dance fitness DVD last year, and she dances when performing as a member of the Cheetah Girls. Plus, she’s got a cute partner who’s new to the show, and that can’t hurt. Being a first-time DwtS pro didn’t hurt Cheryl or Julianne. (As for Brian Fortuna…)

It’s been three seasons since a female contestant won Dancing with the Stars, and I suspect Sabrina was cast to be the girl to buck that trend. Her resume makes her one of the most likely celebrities to start the season with a great performance, and in past seasons, the best dancers in week one always make it to the finale. If she stays positive and gives each dance her all, Sabrina Bryan could waltz away with the mirrorball trophy.

Ox Notes: September 18, 2007

TV Guide’s latest Dancing with the Stars interview is with Cameron Mathison, who feels guilty about forcing newlywed partner Edyta Sliwinska to commute to New York so he can tape All My Children.

Mathison’s fellow DwtS contestant Mark Cuban took a break from training to attend an exciting Chicago Cubs game last night; he’s thinking of buying the team. Jane Seymour sized up her competition, and former contestant Ian Ziering says he’s excited to sit in the audience and cheer for his 90210 castmate, Jennie Garth.

ABC might have its hands full keeping an eye on Floyd Mayweather, Jr. At a press conference to promote his December fight with Ricky Hatton, Mayweather muttered into Hatton’s ear, "I’m going to beat you like a bitch. Butt-f**k you." It could be a real problem if Floyd starts threatening Wayne Newton with non-consensual sex.

CBS has decided to hold advance screenings of Kid Nation for elementary school students, but not for TV critics. When movie studios don’t preview films for critics, the films are almost always dogs. We’ll see tomorrow night if the same holds true for Kid Nation.

Former Gilmore Girl Lauren Graham signed seven-figure development deal with NBC, and she quipped, "After having spent so many years representing the frog on the WB, I am especially comforted to be part of the only other network with an animal mascot."

And Pop Candy provided a link to a YouTube account belonging to Heroes star Adrian Pasdar. During downtime on the set, he makes short, quirky auteur films of his castmates, including Greg Grunberg going berserk and Sendhil Ramamurthy making a big decision. I liked this cute footage of Hayden Panettiere in Paris:

Ox Notes: September 17, 2007

Dancing with the Stars 5 premieres one week from tonight, and TV Guide has interviews with Albert Reed and Marie Osmond. Marie says of her physical preparedness for the competition: "I should be 20 pounds thinner. But come on — I have eight kids and I’m 47 years old! Who cares?"

If you’re interested in owning a piece of DwtS memorabilia, Charity Folks features an auction of teapots decorated by the casts of TV shows, and a teapot signed by the DwtS judges has yet to receive a single bid. Same goes for the teapot autographed by So You Think You Can Dance choreographers Alex Da Silva, Brian Friedman, Dan Karaty, Mia Michaels and Mary Murphy. Bidding starts at $150, and proceeds from the auctions benefit BAFTA/LA and the Television Academy Foundation.

Jeff Probst says he’d like to do another all-star edition of Survivor, with one caveat: "I wouldn’t be looking forward to necessarily doing another 20 all-stars, because I know the minute you call them an ‘all-star,’ suddenly the contract has four-page rider on it that they need their green M&Ms removed."

Bullz-Eye.com has an amusing article about TV stars who tried and failed to make it big on the big screen.

If you’re like me and prefer to read about awards shows rather than watch them, here’s a list of the winners at last night’s Emmys.

I’m bummed that The Colbert Report is in reruns this week, as I’m excited to see how Stephen Colbert reacts to losing out on an Emmy to Tony Bennett. He lost to Barry Manilow last year, although the two did make up on The Report.

Ox Notes: September 14, 2007

Plenty of Dancing with the Stars interviews for you today: Floyd Mayweather Jr. confessed to TV Guide that he has a weakness for gummy bears. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, new pro Mark Ballas says of Julianne Hough, a former student at his parents’ dance studio: "Now she can’t keep using my moves because I’m doing the show." And DwtS alum Lisa Rinna told The Advocate what she fears most about her red carpet duties at this weekend’s Emmys: a Joan Rivers sneak attack.

A man has been arrested for attacking Top Chef 2 contestant Josie Smith-Malave and her friends over Labor Day weekend.

Top Chef judge/blogger Anthony Bourdain just filmed what sounds like the weirdest holiday special ever for his Travel Channel series No Reservations, involving fake blood, ugly Christmas sweaters, and the band Queens of the Stone Age.

NBC might yank the only half-hour scripted comedy it picked up for the 2007-2008 season. The IT Crowd stars The Soup’s Joel McHale, so I hope the network gives it a chance.

Each year, Salon gives an award to the most underappreciated show on TV, and this year’s Buffy Award (named after the vampire slayer) went to Friday Night Lights. Since I adore all of the previous Buffy winners — The Wire, Veronica Mars, and Battlestar Galactica — and was introduced to all of them on DVD, I’ll be picking up the first season of Friday Night Lights this afternoon.

In an effort to attract folks like me, NBC priced the 22-episode first season DVD set at a modest $29.98. Amazon further slashed the price $19.99. Not a bad investment, if you ask me.

Finally, here’s video of the Access Hollywood interview in which Lauren outed dating couple Hok & Lacey during rehearsal for the So You Think You Can Dance tour.

Ox Notes: September 13, 2007

I think I’m more excited to watch the last three episodes of Top Chef 3 than I am about any of the shows premiering in the coming weeks. And last night’s breakfast Quickfire challenge was especially enjoyable. (C.J. was right; girls do like crepes.)

Fortunately, Bravo’s website has blog posts about the latest episode by Anthony Bourdain, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons, Rocco DiSpirito, Harold Dieterle, and Lee Anne Wong to tide me over until next Wednesday.

Food fans can also sign up for the Epicurious Name That Food challenge — which offers a chance to win a weekend in Savannah with Paula Deen. You might want to fast for a week before the trip, just to ease the guilt over all of the butter and mayonnaise you’ll inevitably consume at a taping of Paula’s Party.

Simon Cowell is worried about Ryan Seacrest hosting the Emmys on Sunday: "The fact that most years it’s hosted by comedians, and Ryan’s not funny, is a small issue."

Ahead of next Thursday’s premiere of Survivor: China, CBS has posted at YouTube a couple of cool videos shot by Jeff Probst. The first is a tour of Base Camp — where the production staff lives during filming.

The second introduces us to the Dream Team — the intrepid folks who test all of the challenges before the Survivors use them. It’s nice to finally put a few faces to the headless bodies we see demonstrating the challenges while Jeff explains the instructions to the contestants.

Ox Notes: September 12, 2007

TV Guide has another interview with a Dancing with the Stars contestant: Wayne Newton. Mr. Las Vegas had his right knee replaced in 2002, and says he’s most looking forward to competing against Mark Cuban — who’s had a hip replacement — in what he’s calling "the battle of the new joints."

So You Think You Can Dance’s Lauren Gottlieb spilled the beans to Access Hollywood: Hok and Lacey are dating.

Top Chef 2 contestant Josie Smith-Malave was the victim of gay bashing over Labor Day weekend. Fortunately, her injuries were minor.

Bachelor Andy Baldwin has been getting cozy with former Miss Iran, Sepideh Haftgoli, and Reality Blurred commends him: "Andy Baldwin: showing his commitment to his reality TV relationship by cuddling with a model in public."

Noooo! Charisma Carpenter is going to be on the celebrity edition of The Apprentice. Now I might have to watch it!

And Time has a list of the 100 Best TV Shows of ALL-TIME, which, of course, left off my favorite show ever: Sports Night. Is your favorite show missing as well?