Ox Notes: January 28, 2010

Samantha Harris is leaving Dancing with the Stars. This is not a joke.

Citing an increasing workload at The Insider, Harris has opted not to return for DwtS 10. No word on who will replace her, but I’m sure Lisa Canning is available.

Tonight, Jeff Probst’s new reality series, Live for the Moment, debuts on CBS in Survivor‘s 8 ET timeslot. It features real people who faced life-changing events that made them reevaluate their priorities. It sounds a bit like The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan’s Discovery Channel show No Opportunity Wasted.

I’m skeptical that these kinds of TV shows and movies really have the power to change the daily lives of their viewers. While they feel good to watch, I don’t think these programs have a lasting effect. After listening to their positive review of The Bucket List, I asked my in-laws if the movie inspired them to undertake any adventures of their own. They both shrugged and said, "No."

Roger Ebert explains in his terrific review of The Bucket List that, contrary to what we see on TV and in movies, brushes with death don’t usually inspire us to seek adventure. They inspire us to seek comfort in the ones we love.

Turner Classic Movies starts its annual 31 Days of Oscar programming on Monday, February 1. This year’s schedule is organized so that each successive film features one star from the previous movie. Zap2It notes that the TCM event begins and ends with films starring Kevin Bacon.

Maureen Ryan condensed her interviews with Lost creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse into a spoiler-free Q&A for fans. Cuse said that they won’t be doing interviews after the season finale in order to avoid interpreting the ending for fans, citing the show’s ambiguity as a strong point.

This worries me. The writers of Battlestar Galactica also refused to explain their ambiguous series finale, saying that fans could interpret the episode the way they wanted to. Bullshit!

The reality is that the various writers started a bunch of new plot threads during the last season of BSG that couldn’t be logically connected in the finale, so they didn’t even try. That is the height of laziness. I don’t recall any of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm containing any moral ambiguity or lacking a definitive conclusion.

Lost‘s story belongs to Lindelof and Cuse, and they need to own it. They’ve been drawing the threads back together since things went haywire in Season 2, so they’ve set themselves up to give fans a satisfying conclusion. Don’t take the easy way out now, guys!

The CW is rebooting yet another series. This time it’s USA’s La Femme Nikita (1997-2001), which was based on the French movie by the same title, which also inspired the movie Point of No Return.

Given how poorly series about butt-kicking femme fatales have performed recently — like The Bionic Woman and Dollhouse — I’m not sure why The CW thinks a Nikita revival will work. I’ve got my own theory as to why it won’t. Hopefully my brother, Dr. Lunch (not his real name), will let me know if my amateur sociology is on point or not.

I don’t think women want to watch shows about butt-kicking females right now. The current economic climate demands a different kind of feminine toughness. Right now, being a tough woman means telling your kid that you can’t afford the toy she wants, then enduring the ensuing tantrum. It means worrying about losing the job you have, finding the job you don’t have or explaining to your teenager that there’s no money for college. It means spending your vacation sleeping in a tent instead of a hotel bed.

Right now, I want the option to not be tough. I don’t want to have to beat up bad guys and balance my budget. I want my devoted vampire boyfriend to take care of the bad guys for me.

Ox Notes: January 26, 2010

The latest Paula Abdul-Dancing with the Stars rumor is that ABC offered her a development deal at the network contingent upon her participation in DwtS 10. Pure DwtS’s Princess Heidi says of Paula: "She’s tiny and she’s a ringer. Which means, she’ll dance with Mark Ballas."

People posted this news item: "Dancing‘s Cheryl Burke and Model Boyfriend Split." So long, model boyfriend. We hardly knew ye.

TV Guide Network will air a Survivor 20 preview special on February 11, hosted by Survivor Samoa winner Natalie White.

EW’s Dalton Ross is preparing us for the new season with on-site interviews with Survivor 20 contestants, including a priceless interview with Coach. He has no chance to win, but, man, I want Coach to stick around as long as possible.

CBS revealed the cast of The Amazing Race 16 last week. Because young fit couples almost always win, my money’s on either Brent & Caite, Dan & Jordan or Jordan & Jeff.

CBS renewed Survivor for two more seasons and The Amazing Race for one more, all of which will air during the 2010-2011 season. That would reduce the number of TAR seasons per broadcast season from the current two to one.

I’m cool with that. As much fondness as I have for TAR, it’s not as exciting as it used to be. I watch it for the destinations and the challenges, not for the teams. Formulaic casting has lead to predictable results, making it a glorified travel show. I’d much rather have one good season each year than two mediocre seasons.

Ox Notes: January 19, 2010

Here’s a Dancing with the Stars 10 cast rumor that delights me almost as much as the one about Jonathan Frakes. Producers unsuccessfully pursued NFL player Chad Ochocinco for DwtS 9, but now that the Cincinnati Bengals are out of the playoffs, he’s available. You have to love a guy who legally changed his name to the Spanish pronunciation of his jersey’s numerals.

NBC is reportedly ready to pay Conan O’Brien nearly $40 million to leave the network. He wouldn’t be allowed to host another show on a rival network until September, and NBC would retain the rights to many of O’Brien’s signature bits. The fate of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog is still up in the air.

Jay Leno addressed the situation on his show last night, and comedian Louis C.K. added his two cents as well.

Rob Thomas says the long hoped for Veronica Mars movie is dead in the water.

The identities of 21 of American Idol 9‘s Top 24 contestants have leaked online.

This Friday, January 22, eleven cable and broadcast networks will air a celebrity telethon to raise money for Haiti. The telethon, which starts at 8 p.m. ET, will push back the series finale of Fox’s Dollhouse one week to January 29.

Yesterday’s Oprah dealt with the dangers of texting and talking on the phone while driving. Visit Oprah’s website to sign the pledge to end distracted driving and make your car a No Phone Zone.

Ox Notes: January 14, 2010

Finally, we have a premiere date for Dancing with the Stars 10. The show debuts on Monday, March 22. Producers have promised a smaller cast than last season, which unfortunately means that some favorite pro dancers won’t make the cut.

Also coming in March is a new series on TLC about addiction, aptly titled Addicted. This seems like a cynical bid to steal viewers from A&E’s terrific show, Intervention. And I frankly don’t trust the network responsible for I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant to handle the topic of addiction with the sensitivity it deserves.

Project Runway 7 debuts tonight on Lifetime at 10 ET. Last season was such a dud that I’ve given up on the show. Are you going to watch? If so, how high are your expectations for PR7?

Also on TV tonight, Jimmy Kimmel stops by The Jay Leno Show, two nights after impersonating Jay for an entire episode of his own show.

Tech writer Andy Ihnatko wrote a wonderful history of the events that led up to NBC’s current Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien impasse. The Chicago Tribune’s Maureen Ryan has some suggestions for what NBC should do following Conan’s seemingly inevitable departure.

Ox Notes: January 7, 2010

The cast of Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains was officially revealed last night. EW asked all of the competitors why they think they’ll win and got Jeff Probst’s assessment of their chances.

There are some questions about how the cast of veterans was assembled. Reality Blurred wondered why nine of the contestants were brought back for a third time. EW’s Dalton Ross isn’t sure how Candice Woodcock and Danielle DiLorenzo made the cut. And Tocantins vet Stephen Fishbach is confused by the way producers divided the teams.

Stephen also noted in his blog post that he’s dating Courtney Yates. What an excellent couple!

Pure DwtS posted a second round of stars once rumored to be cast on Dancing with the Stars that may yet pan out for Season 10. Paula Abdul is free, after all.

DwtS 10 doesn’t have a cast yet, but you can already start betting on the pro dancers‘ chances of victory. Corky Ballas has the longest odds of the 21 dancers you can put money on, though his chances are still better than Andrea Hale‘s.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy ends his Broadway run in Burn the Floor tonight. He’ll be replaced starting Friday night by Derek Hough.

David Hasselhoff is leaving America’s Got Talent. The gang at The Soup must be devastated.

Ox Notes: January 5, 2010

Let’s start the new year with some Dancing with the Stars 10 rumors. Pure DwtS has a roundup of all of the celebrities associated with the upcoming season, however tenuously. I’m most excited by the prospect of Jonathan Frakes — best known as Commander Will Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation — joining the cast.

Donald Trump bashed the quality of past DwtS casts while promoting the cast of the new season of Celebrity Apprentice, which includes two folks who had shows on VH1 and Rod Blagojevich.

CBS is debuting the first few minutes of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains during Wednesday night’s broadcast of the People’s Choice Awards.

I’m going to have to watch the Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 23 to see Sandra Bullock present a Life Achievement Award to Betty White.

Zap2It has a photo gallery of January premiere and return dates. The Watcher’s winter TV preview is in a more readable list format.

As a promo for the final season of Lost, the cast posed for a cool photo that recreates da Vinci’s "Last Supper." I’m a fan of this, as proven by the poster of the Battlestar Galactica version of "The Last Supper" hanging on the wall behind my desk.

Chef Ina Garten turned down Jennifer Garner’s request to appear on Barefoot Contessa because the actress isn’t a "real friend." Don’t worry, Jen. I’m sure Giada would let you appear on Everyday Italian.

Some celebrities make as much at $10,000 per Tweet for mentioning products in their Twitter feeds. Wait, you can make money on Twitter?! Good thing I just started posting at @kathyfgibson. Now all I have to do is become a celebrity.

Ox Notes: December 22, 2009

Survivor: Samoa ended its entertaining season on Sunday night with a disappointing finale, as jury members cast petty votes against the man they felt had wronged them — choosing instead to reward the more palatable option among his two opponents in the final trio.

It’s not that Natalie played a bad game; she made the moves that were most likely to get her to the end. But, compared to Russell, she might as well have been camping next to the Survivor set, only to stumble into the game by accident.

As far as the audience knows, Natalie never once considered voting for Russell, despite knowing exactly how manipulative and untrustworthy he was. (Mick and Jaison are also guilty of the same blind faith and lack of initiative.) Russell, on the other hand, played the game from the second it started.

EW’s Dalton Ross subtitled his finale recap "The worst jury vote ever". Jeff Probst, despite being kind to Natalie during the reunion show, made it clear in his blog that he felt Russell should have won.

Ratings for the Survivor: Samoa finale were up over those for last fall’s Survivor: Gabon finale.

Now, on to the interviews. Winner Natalie White spoke with EW, People, TV Guide and Reality TV World. Reality Blurred combined its interviews with Natalie and Russell into one article.

Russell Hantz spoke about his defeat with EW, People and Reality TV World.

If that’s not enough, Reality TV World interviewed Mick Trimming and Jaison Robinson, while Reality Blurred interviewed Mick, Jaison and Brett Clouser. Last Thursday’s victim of the vote, Shannon "Shambo" Waters, chatted with EW, Reality TV World and People.

CBS has video of Shambo, Jaison and Brett during their brief time at Ponderosa.

Next up is Survivor 20: Heroes vs. Villains, which debuts on February 11. While CBS hasn’t announced the official cast of returning contestants, Survivor Sucks has a list of likely cast members that I’d be willing to bet on. The list contains the only name I need to see to make me excited for the new season: Coach.

Ox Notes will return on January 5, 2010. Happy Holidays!

Ox Notes: December 17, 2009

The first fall edition of So You Think You Can Dance concluded last night, and Us interviewed the winner.

Top Chef Las Vegas bid farewell for good with last night’s lame reunion show. The only good part of the reunion was this blooper footage.

Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations were announced today. Zap2It produced its own list of 2009’s underrated TV stars.

EW’s Dalton Ross ranks Survivor: Samoa — which ends on Sunday night — high on his list of best Survivor seasons.

If you’re in the mood to cry, watch this episode of Survivor: Africa winner Ethan Zohn’s People video blog in which he calls his mom to tell her that his cancer is in remission. Yay, Ethan!

EW has a guide to TV return and premiere dates in early 2010. New episodes of TLC’s What Not To Wear start on January 8, while HBO set a March 14 premiere date for the mini-series The Pacific, made by the same crew behind the excellent Band of Brothers.

Zap2It posted a list of holiday programming leading up to Christmas, as well as a preview of Christmas day’s televised NBA games.

Pure DwtS created a Christmas wish list for Dancing with the Stars. Top of the list: "Replace Samantha."

Ox Notes: December 15, 2009

Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning. I haven’t seen any of the ten TV series nominated for awards this year, apart from one episode of House. I did, however, watch every episode of Rock of Love Bus.

The Watcher compiled her list of the Top TV Shows of 2009. Again, no Rock of Love Bus.

NBC gave Parenthood a March 1 premiere date, right after the network’s Olympic coverage ends. Variety warns everyone to be on the lookout for show star Lauren Graham ringside at the figure skating for a little cross promotion.

People offers three reasons to watch The Vampire Diaries, which is airing as a five-night marathon on The CW this week.

TV Guide wants to know who you want to win this season of So You Think You Can Dance, which concludes on Wednesday night.

While on hiatus from Dancing with the Stars, two-time champ Julianne Hough created a fitness DVD called Dance with Julianne: Cardio Ballroom.

Survivor: Samoa‘s double eliminees, Dave and Monica, are making the interview rounds this week. Both chatted with EW’s Dalton Ross and Survivor: Amazon champ Jenna Morasca for Survivor Talk, where Dave got peevish when asked about his mistakes in the game.

He was back to his funny self in interviews with Reality Blurred and People, to whom he said, regarding Shambo’s psychic visions: "A lot of ladies have dreams about Danger Dave Ball." Check out the Ponderosa video "Dave Part 2" to see Danger Dave bust out some funky dance moves.

Monica also spoke with Reality Blurred, and, as always, Jeff Probst blogged about the latest episode for EW.

Ox Notes: December 10, 2009

Could this be the most absurd reality show yet? On January 4, ABC debuts the special Conveyor Belt of Love in which women chose their prospective beaus off of a moving conveyor belt. Reality Blurred proposes follow-up specials like "The Lazy Susan of Love" and "The Dry Cleaner Rack of Love."

With Survivor: Samoa winding down, EW posted odds on the remaining contestants’ chances of winning. I agree that Natalie’s probably the fave to win, at this point.

You’ve got until Friday to visit the charity auction site Clothes Off Our Backs and bid on tickets to the Dancing with the Stars 10 season premiere or a private dance lesson with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. The site is also auctioning off autographed holiday items.

I’m bummed that tonight’s new episode of Soundstage — a Michael McDonald Christmas special — isn’t airing on any of the PBS stations in the Chicago region.

The Amazing Race‘s third place finishers, Brian & Ericka, gave interviews to People and Reality TV World.

TV Guide interviewed Top Chef Las Vegas fourth place finisher, Jennifer Carroll.

Now, on to last night’s Top Chef finale. (Caution: spoilers ahead)

I thought that the editing was dishonest. Until Padma said that Michael was the winner, I was 100% positive that Bryan had won. Even Tom Colicchio wrote in his blog: "Based on how the episode was cut, it had me wondering up until the end whether my memory had failed me or not."

I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that Michael had been edited as a kind of villain all season, and no one likes to see the villain win. In a TV Guide poll taken before the finale aired, only 12% of respondents felt that Michael should win.

As a result of the way the finale was edited, Michael’s victory didn’t seem justified. Tom and his fellow judges, Gail Simmons and Toby Young, explained the outcome in their blogs, but only a small portion of the viewing audience reads the blogs. Everyone else is left to wonder why Bryan lost after he seemingly won two of the four rounds last night (Chef’s Choice and Dessert).

I am glad that the editors included Toby’s comment that Kevin may be the real star of the season. If anyone can inspire a cult following, it’s Kevin, Patron Saint of Pork. He and some of his fellow castmates spent last weekend dining at his restaurant, Woodfire Grill, as part of their culinary tour of Atlanta.

Bravo’s website has interviews with all of the finalists, including a Q&A with the winner and a depressing morning-after video interview with Kevin. Bryan was his usual animated self in his video, while Michael was understandably pleased in his.