Monthly Archives: September 2007

Ox Notes: September 25, 2007

TV Guide has a behind-the-scenes report from last night’s Dancing with the Stars premiere, and inside the ballroom, Sabrina Bryan was the evening’s clear winner. And the DwtS 5 premiere dominated last night’s ratings with 21.2 million viewers.

Also premiering last night were the reedited episodes of Discovery’s Man vs. Wild in which host Bear Grylls discloses which portions of the show were faked.

NBC is bringing The Biggest Loser back as a midseason replacement.

Chris Lowell — better known as Piz on Veronica Marsgave a charming interview to TV Guide about his new gig on ABC’s Private Practice.

Wired uses its vast amount of geek experience to critique this season’s geeky TV offerings, including shows like Chuck and The Big Bang Theory.

Finally, Variety’s Brian Lowry has an insightful editorial piece about the tribalism of TV audiences, and the lack of a common scripted series that everyone watches. These days, reality shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars are the closest things we’ve got to universal hits.

DwtS 5, Week 1: Women’s Performance Show

Dancing with the Stars 5 premiered with performances by the most talented cast of female celebrities in the show’s history. The men have their work cut out for them when they take the floor Tuesday night.

Tom Bergeron was joined by his special guest co-host, Drew Lachey, who’ll be filling in while Samantha Harris is on maternity leave. Samantha missed an exciting introductory performance by the cast’s professional dancers, who got to show off their chops before dancing with their amateur partners.

Jennie Garth & Derek Hough — Cha Cha Cha
Jennie said in her rehearsal footage that she wanted to look classy, and she definitely did. She’s not afraid to use her arms, which made for an expressive performance. With the help of her partner, Derek, Jennie’s already learning how to make a routine look polished. She’s got loads of potential.

Judge Len Goodman said, "You came out full of confidence. You had great hip action. I’d like you now to work on your leg action." In a nod to Jennie’s kids, who were in the rehearsal footage, Bruno Tonioli called Jennie a "yummy mummy." Carrie Ann Inaba said, "I can tell that you’re not quite there yet. But really, for the first time out there, I thought you did a really good job."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 21/30

Josie Maran & Alec Mazo — Fox Trot
Their rehearsal footage featured a clip of Alec saying, "Josie is deceptively unfit," and their first performance proved it. Alec appeared to be dragging her around the floor during some parts of their dance. But her technique was actually pretty good for someone new to dancing, and her face couldn’t hide the fun (and occasional terror) she was experiencing. Her charisma should shine through even more in one of the Latin dances.

Len told Josie, "You came out and you looked fantastic," but he called Alec out for choreographing so much of the dance in closed hold so that he could prop Josie up. Carrie Ann stayed positive, saying of Josie’s facial expressions, "You made me believe you were having a good time." But Bruno told Josie, "You looked like a beautiful sailing ship stranded on the sandbank."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…6, Len…5, Bruno…5 = 16/30

Sabrina Bryan & Mark Ballas — Cha Cha Cha
Sabrina has tremendous speed in her turns, and it’s going to be hard for any of the other women to match her in that regard. But Mark had his hands full trying to undo Sabrina’s extensive hip-hop training, and he wound up choreographing an abundance of hip-hop moves into their Cha Cha. Luckily, Sabrina’s a good enough hip-hop dancer that the moves looked like a part of the dance, rather than a separate breakdown section.

Carrie Ann shouted, "You were fierce! I’ve never, ever, ever seen anyone do a Cha Cha like that on the show!" Bruno poured on the praise: "Sabrina. You are a bewitching, blonde dynamo! Your footwork had almost surgical precision." Len told Bruno to "take a chill pill," before he warned Sabrina & Mark: "I don’t wanna see hip-hop, so for that I’m going to have to knock you off a few points."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…8, Bruno…9 = 26/30

Marie Osmond & Jonathan Roberts — Fox Trot
Marie’s strategy for winning? "25 million viewers. 22 million of those: Osmonds." And she’s going to need the help of all of them. Her performance was solid, but it was noticeably slower than those given by the other women. Jonathan’s really going to have to push Marie in practice if they hope to keep up with the pack.

Bruno said the performance was "classy, yet sassy. Your acting covered a lot of technical shortcomings." Len said that DwtS is a lot like Christmas, and "this was a lovely present." Carrie Ann told Marie, "You are just so incredibly adorable out there. You lines are beautiful; it’s not just the charisma."

Backstage as the couple waited for their scores, Drew asked Marie if she could be the woman to win to break the men’s winning streak. She didn’t say yes, instead saying, "I’m not gonna throw in the towel."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 21/30

Melanie Brown & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Cha Cha Cha
After predictable rehearsal footage of Melanie reluctantly relinquishing control to Maks, these two hit the floor with lots of energy. Maks, whose black turtleneck get up made him look like (in the words of my husband) the world’s fanciest cat burglar, worked just a couple of hip-hop moves into the routine as a concession to Mel. Their first performance was great, and Mel’s only going to get better.

Carrie Ann said, "Your energy was up there. You guys were a bit out of sync on some of the turns." Len, who suddenly developed an outrageous cockney accent, blurted, "I liked it a lot." Bruno said of Mel, "The feisty kitten was out tonight, and she was right on the money."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…8, Bruno…8 = 24/30

As Mel & Maks talked with Drew about their scores in a backstage interview, Alec sulked on a couch in the background, undoubtedly contemplating how it would feel to be the first pro eliminated for a second year in a row. (I hope it doesn’t happen, but he’s right to be worried.)

Then, as the show went to one last commercial break, Tom joked that the final contestant of the night was "going to use class and experience to get the edge on the half-naked 20-year-olds. But what will she use on the women?"

Jane Seymour & Tony Dovolani — Fox Trot
When Jane realized she’d been paired with Tony, she screamed with joy and ran at him. Tony was equally happy to have a partner who’s so self-motivating — and because it was a boyhood dream of his to dance with Jane Seymour.

Jane’s ballet background shone through in their performance. She really knows how to use her hands, and she and Tony make a lovely couple. Jane’s set a very high bar for the Ballroom dances, and it will be exciting to see what she can do with the Latin dances.

Bruno complemented Jane’s "lovely detailing. You really are very, very delicate and elegant." Carrie Ann agreed: "You were elegance personified." Len praised Jane’s partner for "a lovely job," but warned, "The turns are the things to watch."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…8, Bruno…8 = 24/30

26 — Sabrina & Mark
24 — Melanie & Maksim, Jane & Tony
21 — Jennie & Derek, Marie & Jonathan
16 — Josie & Alec

With so many great performances, it really is hard to choose a favorite. Jane was the best at the Fox Trot, and Sabrina clearly won the Cha Cha, so I’d have to split my votes between them — with a vote or two thrown Josie’s way just to see that she gets a second chance.

Tuesday night, the men perform the same two dances as the women, before the first couple is eliminated on Wednesday night.

Ox Notes: September 24, 2007

When Dancing with the Stars 5 premieres tonight at 8 ET, the show will be missing one of its key players. Co-host Samantha Harris gave birth to a baby girl yesterday, and will be taking some time off from the show.

TV Guide posted the last of its DwtS interviews over the weekend: Sabrina Bryan, Helio Castroneves, and Josie Maran.

The author of this article about Floyd Mayweather, Jr’s. bad boy reputation warns: "What the mainstream public doesn’t know about Floyd Mayweather, Jr. could hurt them."

And while every other star seems to need convincing to appear on the show, Sabrina Bryan may be the only contestant who had to beg for her spot on DwtS. When producers told her before the start of Season 4 that they thought she had too much performance experience, she responded, "Joey Fatone (from ‘N Sync) is on the show, what’s up with that?"

We’ll be starting our chat tonight as soon as the show goes live. Hope to see you there!

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….