Friday, November 28, 2008


-- This week Oprah aired her "Favorite Things" episode (same day I announced mine, I might add!), except this time she listed all items that cost next to nothing in order to keep up with these lean times. I would kill to see the raw footage from in between segments when the audience revolted, knowing they weren't going to walk away with thousands of dollars worth of swag; they must have felt gypped!

-- Cobie Smulders from How I Met Your Mother might be pregnant. Or her character might be. Or both of them. Or none of them. The "announcement" was quite fuzzy, and really I think Cobie was just sick of being one of two female leads who gets less press time than the Special Guest Stars. Also, she lost a lot of weight recently, so the bump in her stomach may have just been the pre-Thanksgiving cheesecake. Or is that just my tradition?

-- People Magazine released their "Sexiest Man Alive" issue, and Hugh Jackman took the top prize (and the cover), but the real story was that the issue came complete with "Scratch N Sniff" hunks. Christopher Meloni, Chace Crawford, Taye Diggs, and Michael Phelps all offered their favorite "sexy" scents, and People built a sample right into the page. And Taye's was truly yummy: vanilla, chocolate, and sandalwood musk. I wore out that page!

-- Kanye West released "808s & Heartbreak" this past week, displaying a different side to himself through slightly more techno beats and autotuned vocals. Even his lyrics are softer, and the album doesn't even come with the "explicit" option. The first single, "Love Lockdown," is catchy to the point of derangement, but upon closer inspection, it seems to sample "Viva La Vogue," which you may remember from the fashion show scene in Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead, which just makes it more awesome than it ever could have been on its own.

-- Did you know Ann Coulter broke her jaw? That might be old news, but I just found out about it this week, and while it does give me a sick little pleasure to know she can't promote her new book in time for the holiday season, or even enjoy the holiday feasts in all their non-puree glory, but it also explains why it has been so peaceful since the election.

-- Oh yeah, and "teams played sports."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Favorite Things '08 (What I'm Thankful For This Year)...

Last year I posted an article about my favorite things of 2007 ala Oprah Winfrey (though I didn't admit it then, nor do I want to now, considering how little I like her), but I did enjoy the period of reflection on the year that writing said article brought me, so I have decided to continue and make it an annual thing. Without further ado, I present to you, my favorite pop culture things/happenings of-- you know, the ones that kept me sane and entertained for hours on end-- in 2008.

VH1. This year alone it has brought me the joys of Rock of Love: Charm School with Sharon Osbourne, I Love Money, and a second season of Dr. Drew's Celebrity Rehab. Those shows have gotten me through some severely boring mornings at work. Oh yeah, and then there was EgoTrip's Miss Rap Supreme, which made as great a mockery of hip-hop as 50 Cent just made on the last episode of The Money and the Power when he announced a challenge was all about "speaking the truth" but then rewarded the sell-out team who wanted to market a rapper sponsored by a cell phone company, but also introduced me to the musical stylings of Byata whose songs "Hush Little Lady" and "Look Into My Eyes" were my anthems-- at least for a little while.

Along similar lines, HGTV. When I first started looking at condos to potentially purchase, I quickly learned I wasn't going to find something in my price range that needed absolutely no improvements. I began watching shows like Property Virgins and House Hunters simply to feel a comraderie with some others (albeit strangers) who were in a similar boat to me, but I continued with Design on a Dime and Rate My Space to see the kinds of things that could be done, cheaply or not, and what kind of a return they would yield. I needed tips on how to put in wood flooring myself and on a budget and how to use splashes of color and simple moldings to make a room look bigger and brighter. Then as I began to realize that even though foreclosures were rising, I still wasn't finding anything in my price range that felt like a good fit, I began watching the shows for tips on other neighborhoods, in other cities and states, that could offer me more for my money. It has had me considering parts of the country I've never even seen in person.

Comebacks. This year Q-Tip released a new album ("The Renaissance"), NKOTB went back on tour, childhood favorites like Mark-Paul Gosselaar returned to television, and even Britney Spears made headlines for something other than a drunken (or stoned) escapade with the paparazzi. Though none of them have been perfect (Gosselaar desperately needs a haircut!), it bodes well for the future of their careers rather than having to endure yet some more teeny bopper up-and-comers. It's always nice when the ones that have since faded away quite a bit end up pulling through and proving their talent and hard work will again lead to success.

Express Editor pants. Spending the past eleven months in a cubicle farm at which the dress code is "business casual" even though no one ever sees us has meant I have had to retire my Junk Food and SuperExcellent Tees and Blochs. I love the way these pants come pre-creased and pre-cuffed, and miraculously I have never had to alter them.

Stephen King. With his two new releases for the year ("Duma Key" and "Just After Sunset") he has managed to bring thinking back to reading. In the last few years, at least for me, reading has become as mindless an activity as watching television. I would pick up a novel, and whether it was a series of personal short stories (Chelsea Handler, for example) or suspenseful fiction (like Jodi Picoult) I could always figure out the formula from the early chapters and then know exactly where it was going. And sure, while the journey of how the story got there might still be interesting, some of the fun was taken out of the fact that nothing was so unique it was a surprise. Years after his "retirement," King still manages to catch the reader off-guard, even though at the core of his new work still lies the same issues of his old, with new and rich characters and settings, from an artist who paints another reality and finds himself spiraling into it to a survivor of 9/11 who finds objects of his co-workers who weren't so lucky magically turning up in his apartment. Master of Horror, sure, but also Master of my Heart!

Sugar Free Popsicles. At only fifteen calories each, I can eat three of these and not feel badly about myself. Usually, I stop at two, though-- one orange and one cherry and chuck the grape down the garbage disposal. It's a refreshing treat after I've been exercising and my mouth is dry because all of my fluids are sweating out the top of my head and the bottoms of my feet, but it's also just nice on a hot summer night in the valley when I don't feel like turning on my air conditioner.

Neil Patrick Harris. It really was his year, from his larger role in the sequel to Harold & Kumar due to the wild popularity of his original cameo to the online sensation (that let's face it, was only as big as it was because of who it had in it) Dr. Horrible's Sing A Long Blog. This was also the year I revisited Doogie Howser thanks to the wonders of the DVD box set; his Barney Stinson finally grappled with real emotions after sleeping with and then falling for his good friend Robin (fueling my whole "Aunt Robin and Uncle Barney" said-in-one-breath in-season-one-which-led-me-to-believe-they-end-up-together argument); and let's not forget his one line quip at the Emmy's that summed up what everybody was feeling. He’s the kind of inspirational talent I try to find more of every year.

Tina Fey. So Baby Mama left something to be desired, but the DVD release of 30 Rock's season two more than made up for Fey's sophomore film misstep. It is remarkable what such a talented, smart lady could do with a shortened season. Then there's her double duty as Liz Lemon on the current episodes while moonlighting as Sarah Palin on SNL. She single-handedly saved that sketch comedy and brought back Monday morning water cooler moments in the office with her dead-on impression. She has tact, but she is best when she doesn't use it, like with her "Bitch is the new black" declaration and her winking and "ya know"-ing through a skit right in front of the person it's about. And did I mention she makes me feel better about my glasses?

Democrats. A few years ago a friend emailed me the line: "We took back the house! Now let's take back the big white one in '08." And we actually did it. Sometimes I'm still surprised by that.

And of course, once again, there's Madison. Above everything, I am always most thankful for Madison!

Bright Lights, Mics, and More Lies: Paris' Wannabes Get Introduced To Hollywood...

Paris claimed she had no idea the house could get so catty, but now that the wannabes have dwindled down to the final four, how could it be anything else? Those remaining standing in the fight to insert herself into Paris' life are Plain Jane, the Virgin, the Snitch, and Tanorexic Barbie, who decide it would be fun to "reminisce" by going through the Burn Book, which gives the producers some nice opportunity for filler with purplescale flashbacks of wannabes past. They interview about why they're going to end up as Paris' BFF and not any of the other girls, and it's all very self-indulgent.

Paris talks about how a lot of her time is spent "in photo shoots and on set" and so she needs a BFF who has a sense of style and can handle the bright lights (read: she needs a gopher). So naturally, their first challenge of the episode is to choose from a variety of props and set dressing in order to design the backdrop for one of Paris' photo shoot. The Virgin heads out first to find only a bunch of dirty rakes, brooms, and sad Charlie Brown trees. She wants Paris to be painting one of the trees, but the photographer finds that as boring as the Virgin herself. He tells her she's too quiet and needs to step it up, as she wanders around aimlessly, admitting she has no frame of reference when it comes to this stuff and doesn't know what would look best on camera. But can't she even tell a story? That's all that's really involved here, and we learned basic story structure in elementary school, which is when it appears her social maturation halted. Anyway, she opts to scatter around dead leaves and lay a ladder on its side, as Paris stretches in front of it, with a weird bird and bush perched atop her head. The Virgin actually musters up the cajones to ask the photographer to change his angle, inserting herself into this project, however unsuccessful it may be. That's a turning point for her, but it leads me to believe this little spot of growth may be too little too late, and she may be ousted in forty-five minutes.

The Snitch butts heads with the photographer over the placement of the mirror she absolutely has to have in her shot, and then she pumps herself up while he snaps photos by saying how awesome everything looks. Um, it really doesn't. The dead tree sandwiching Paris to the mirror is dark and ominous but doesn't work with the bright sunlight attacking her as it bounces off the mirror. The Snitch keeps telling Paris how "gorgeous" and "hot" and "sexy" she looks (um, I think the Snitch is actually vying for the role of Paris' new lover!), which means she'll probably win this round because in these situations, all a girl really needs is someone who can validate her and give her the confidence (even if its false) necessary to continue with this almost unnatural display.

Tanorexic Barbie wants to use a necklace that she thinks looks like a dog collar (it doesn't) and ends up with photos of Paris caressing and looking lovingly into the eyes of a llama. She must not cause as much drama as one would assume (personally I thought she'd try to insert herself into the photos, too!) because her whole segment is about twenty seconds long. Still when Plain Jane's up, the photographer says they're "running out of time," presumably because none of these wannabes knows what it means to "lose light," even though it's one of the most literal industry terms. The photographer tells Plain Jane he did half her job already by sliding a bathtub half-heartedly into the middle of a tennis court, and she decides she wants Paris in a bath of leaves, blowing them as if they were bubbles. He nixes that, and she gets all Mini Me on him, unwilling to get shoved aside because "it's [her] shoot, too." She's the only one of the wannabes to thank everyone after the shoot, though.

When it's time to unveil the shots, the Snitch keeps reiterating how perfect a model Paris is, and the photographer actually utters "creepy," a sentiment which Tanorexic Barbie echoes in an interview-- a sentiment which I have been saying for awhile now! They like Plain Jane's work, though they admit they "helped her," and they love the Virgin's, especially her suggestion to shoot from a lower angle and make Paris look even more statuesque. The photographer is not super thrilled to hear he may have some competition. They like the other two, too, so there is no clear loser here, but the Snitch is the winner, and her photo will be featured in Genlux magazine. I'm sure she'd be more excited if she were in the picture with Paris, though, as all she seems to want to do is show off that she knows someone famous.

Get in line, honey! Paris meets the girls at the E!/KIIS-FM studios for their next challenge, where guest judge RYAN SEACREST will test them on interview skills. Paris has to go on-air first, leaving the wannabes in the black greenroom where the Snitch squeals about how he "has interviewed everybody, and now he's going to interview us!" The Virgin is the one who is the most visibly nervous about this, but it's hard to tell if the Snitch is deliberately trying to sabotage her by pointing that out, or if she's just so self-involved she actually can't see the nerves that are literally vibrating through her legs.

Ryan, to his credit, looks like he wants to punch Paris in the eye when she says that she doesn't know everyone's intentions but honestly believes at least some of them look up to her and want to follow what she does. Huh, it's funny; I always thought if Paris and Ryan were in the same room together, I'd still want to punch Ryan more, but right now... not so much. He offers a backhanded: "I've had so many celebrities lie to me, I can tell when they're lying," which means the claws are coming out-- which means I'm getting my popcorn!

Tanorexic Barbie gets called into the hot seat first. I think it might have been more interesting if they were all in the booth together, fighting for airtime and confronting each other in front of each other, but no, that would have been too much to ask. I also think it might have been a nice bonus to the challenge to turn the tables and make the wannabes ask a few of the "tough" questions. If Paris wants a media savvy BFF, that's one way to find out who follows the trends and news (or "news") and who doesn't. The first thing Ryan says is that he has a note that her nickname is "Whorey Corrie," and he wants to know where that comes from. In the black greenroom, the Snitch bursts out in a cackle. She takes that in stride, blaming Onch's jealousy for that branding, but when he asks her if friendship is more important than her career, she seems to take a Big Gulp. She does admit that thus far it's been career-- but only because she hasn't had any "good girlfriends" to whom to open up her heart, but she says she is ready for that now. Ryan asks her who she hates out of the wannabes left, and surprisingly, she picks Plain Jane for "wanting what she wants when she wants it." Um, what? I don't think Onch was the only jealous one in this group!

Plain Jane is up next and calls the Snitch out on the fact that she's trying to psyche everyone out (well, only in an interview). I really think the Snitch has a little bit of that Fatal Attraction psychosis, and maybe Paris keeps her around because she's afraid of her. Sometimes her eyes go really wide, and she looks like she's trying to hypnotize Paris, too-- or send her telepathic message-- and maybe she has succeeded. Plain Jane stabs right back when Ryan asks her which girl Paris should be most worried about in terms of being in the competition for the "right reasons," and then tells Ryan that Paris is a lot like her, and that's why she's inspiring. Um, what? Ryan asks Plain Jane to sing for him since she wants to be a rockstar, which is kind of a cool opportunity, and she says she feels like she's on American Idol. Well, if this whole BFF thing doesn't work out, I'm sure we can see her on there next!

Ryan points out the Virgin is shaking when she sits down across from him and slides on her headphones, but plays it off, saying she's always shaking. He then point-blank asks her if it's true she's a virgin because Paris says she's "the only virgin she knows." To her credit, she doesn't clam-- or tense-- up; she's not ashamed-- this is who she is-- and she holds her ground, regardless of how awkward it might be to broadcast it for all of Los Angeles to hear. She does start to sputter when he talks of the temptation she may find in Hollywood, but she laughs when he asks if she thinks everyone there is going to hell, and he says he finds her "endearing."

The Snitch gangs up on Plain Jane, too, saying she doesn't feel she's there for the right reasons. When she explains why she wants to be Paris' best friend (the usual "she's an amazing person" b.s. we've all come to know and loathe), she looks sideways at Paris, as if she's trying to drill it into her dead little eyes. Ellen K is remarkably quiet throughout this whole exchange, and if she didn't leave the room, I'll assume it's because she fell asleep due to these standard press release answers. Where's the hard-hitting journalism, Ryan? You could at least ask these wannabes what kind of a tree they would be if they were a tree!

The Snitch rambles on about how Paris is a role model, and she's loved "every single second," especially her "alone time" with Paris. Um, is there an After Dark version of this show that MTV has been unable to get past the censors? The creepy "I'm going to snatch your baby" music that filters in when she talks of the connection they share doesn't help the mood, by the way, and Ryan calls her out for being a bit crazy. He says he feels like he's on The Bachelor. You just went up a notch in my book, Ry-Ry.

Ryan doesn't say much more than we already know about these wannabes when he offers Paris his opinion, although he does use Plain Jane's drive against her, pointing out that she was "brazen" enough to talk about "what she really wants to do" right in front of Paris. I guess Paris just wants someone who will be happy to simply follow her around like Tinkerbell used to (aw, Tinkerbell...). Nichole Richie found ambition, and she was kicked to the curb, after all!

Paris decides to have a little fun with the girls (and perhaps at their expense), and she has a producer grab just the Snitch and tell her to go upstairs because "Paris needs to talk." Paris brings her into a closet of a room and tells her she's the one who is going home. She just wants to see how the wannabes will react, with the hopes of gauging who is more genuine than some of the others. I now need popcorn and a box of Raisinets; this sh*t is gettin' gooood!

The Snitch doesn't seem to quite believe Paris when she says "TTYN," but in the post-interview, she breaks down and says she feels "blindsided" and that it happened too fast for her to even talk Paris out of the decision. She talks about how she quit her job to come here, and she isn't sure what she'll do now. Then she looks directly into the lens and talks directly to Paris about how much she really does love her. Paris fakes sadness of her own.

The other wannabes downstairs in the kitchen thought the "surprise" the Snitch was getting was going to be a good one, but they quickly learn the truth. Tanorexic Barbie is up next, and Paris gives her the same spiel, verbatim, that she gave the Snitch. Then Plain Jane, then the Virgin, and with each one, Paris sounds a little more tired and a lot less interested (read: sincere). Everyone handles themselves well and simply says okay and gives Paris a hug. The "I didn't get my pony for Christmas" pout Paris puts on as the last one leaves her is ah-MAY-zing, by the way!

The Virgin doesn't cry in her post-interview and says "whatever is meant to be will be" and that if Paris doesn't like her as much as she likes her, she'll just accept it. Paris takes that to mean "she doesn't even care." Plain Jane surprisingly does cry, though, she turns it around quickly and talks of the album she's going to go write and the tour she's going to start. Paris scoffs, but in the back of her mind, she's probably a bit jealous because Plain Jane's voice, well, it isn't so plain. Tanorexic Barbie stuns everyone by admitting she's happy to go home because she's sick of putting up with "so much criticism and bullshit." She says she was there for Paris, but she's ready to go home where there is actually love. She thanks Paris for having her in the "cast," which is the first self-reflexive term any of these wannabes have used-- even Plain Jane, who everyone is accusing of just using Paris to get ahead in her own career-- but she also says that there's no "TTYN," only "TTYL." I was waiting for someone to say that, and I'm kind of surprised it took so long but also that it came out of her mouth.

Oh, and Paris' "Benji" necklace is super ironic now that they've broken up. I wonder when they shot this... So the producers drag all four wannabes out of the Escalades and back up to the roof so Paris can make her announcement in front of everyone. Sitting in her big white throne, she says none of them are actually eliminated... yet. The Snitch is freaking out, and I want to grab and shake her the way a parent would get arrested for treating his or her baby. Paris ultimately says "TTYS"-- talk to you soon-- to the Virgin, who she says seemed a bit relieved in her interview. She also says that maybe God sent her to this house as an angel to guide her through this tough (WTF???) decision. I can't hear what else she says because I'm laughing too hard. I'm laughing as hard as the Snitch is crying. Cue the purplescale montage of the Virgin's progress along the season!!

Then Paris drops the real bombshell: she's eliminating one more to make a final two for the finale episode! Everyone except Tanorexic Barbie says she should be the one to go, and based on the exit interview video she saw, Paris agrees in the most anticlimactic elimination ever, and my predictions for who will win have come true! The Snitch was my frontrunner from the casting special, when I saw that she had a short blonde bob that I knew had Paris' name all over it. Plain Jane only emerged as the second favorite at about week four or five, when she finally got some screen time and didn't seem so plain anymore.

For the finale, Paris takes her final two to NYC, where they will undoubtedly learn that three is a crowd. You never want to take catty girls anywhere in groups of odd numbers because there is always a majority to gang up on a minority... and I can't wait! You guys, I'm so sad there's only one more episode of this show! First The Real Housewives of Atlanta came to an end, and now this! Now what am I going to do with my Tuesday nights??

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All The Real Sh*t's Goin' Down On Bravo!...

Last week Bravo's The Real Housewives of Atlanta aired its first season finale with a montage at the end that featured on-screen text announcing what each woman has been up to since the season finished taping. It was an odd choice for a show that I had assumed would be coming back sometime in mid-2009. After all, the other two Real Housewives programs cycle around, and when one end, the next begins, and so on. This time around, though, it looked like the season finale was actually the series finale. Add to that all of the drama that had been in the press about what really went down behind-the-scenes at the reunion special, and it certainly looked like certain doom-- or at least a lot of liability-- if these women were to get back in the same room all at the same time.

If you missed the finale, you can still catch it on, but basically each woman was put in her place when it came to her professional aspirations, as everyone from Dallas Austin to Mychael Knight told them that passion wasn't enough; they were going to have to put in a lot of hard work, too. Unfortunately, it appears the only hard work they have put in recently is in hating each other and spreading vicious rumors.

09:00 Andy Cohen introduces the ladies and says they are broadcasting from the historical Imperial Ballroom in downtown Atlanta. Already I think the setting is too fancy and too classy for the shenanigans that are about to go on, and I feel bad for the ghosts of galas past that must live in those walls. He wastes no time getting into the emails from fans on the website, though, and he flat out accuses Kim of not being the 29 she claims to be. Oh, this is going to be good! Andy can be just as bitchy as the rest of them, but Kim just laughs it off, saying that in some of the footage she did look ten years older. Um, try 20! She also laughs off her spelling of "kat."

09:01 Sheree talks seriously about the portrayal of these women as strong African American women because this is the first time Bravo has "allowed" African American women to represent the wealthy elite. Nene, though, didn't think about the referencing... nor did she think it would be so much drama.

09:02 Andy Cohen almost outs Anderson Cooper but instead just adds he has come out... "with his love for Nene." She tells Anderson to call her. BAM!

09:03 Montage of Nene, her arc, and her "isms." There is picture-in-picture the whole time of Nene watching herself, nodding along, pleased with how she came off.

09:04 Nene admits she has not had any contact with Curtis since learning the DNA results. She says she feels like he should reach out to her since she was the child in this situation, and she feels badly for her children because Curtis was the only grandfather they ever knew.

09:05 Nene has fun with a question about being an ex-stripper, saying she still strips every night for her husband. She also claims she's not a trash-talker because she simply "tells it like it is." Sheree disagrees.

09:05 Nene says she likes her boobs, and she doesn't think they sag. This was in response to something, but I don't remember what.

09:06 Kim's montage: big hair, big boobs, big spender. She doesn't look as comfortable watching how she is depicted. Maybe that is because everything revolves on her faults, from her smoking to her inability to carry a tune... and then there's all of the references to Big Papa, who she is no longer with. And on that note:

No one knows who Kim's "Big Papa" is, but there has been much speculation; considering his ease at getting Kim into the studio with Dallas Austin, it has been assumed he's a bigwig in the music industry, like Tommy Mottola or Quincy Jones, and Nene flat out accuses Kim of messing around with a married man (which again, could be either of those men), and for once Kim's claws don't come out, but she instead looks like she is about to cry. Her face falls, and she looks genuinely nervous that Nene is going to spill her big secret. That should teach her to confide in someone and then freeze them out of her life! In high school, when secrets don't get told, it may ruin adolescent relationships, but these women's high school antics can potentially ruin families. As much as I'm on the edge of my seat to finally find out just who "Big Papa" is, even I have to admit Nene is taking it one step too far.

09:08 Andy accuses Kim of cringing during her singing clip, and Kim says that everyone can hear for themself how good she is when her album "drops" in January. She is simply excited for where she is going.

09:08 Nene expresses her opinion that Kim cannot sing.

09:09 And the first bit of drama explodes. Kim announces Big Papa is still legally married, but he has been separated for a few years. Nene expresses her upset that he said she was bad news when he doesn't know anything about her, and it must be due to something Kim fabricated or exaggerated.

09:10 Poor Andy Cohen is visably nervous, leaning as far back in his chair as he can to escape Nene's finger which she is pointing in Kim's face and scooting off the edge of her own seat. Um, ladies, what happened to the very political "we're going to move past everything" and "Aunt Nene is always going to be Aunt Nene" declaration of the finale?

09:11 Kim announces there will be a next season! I guess all of the publicity garnered by the TMZ death threats paid off! And we may see Big Papa in it because they're "on again off again," and it was her decision to have him remain anonymous, but now she just wants to set the record straight. Nene begs to differ. Lisa decides it would be a good idea to sit on Nene to hold her back from jumping up and down Kim's throat, I guess, but really she just looks like one of those third wheel kids who is finally just happy to have a place in the group, even if it is simply to get in the middle of the other best friends' business.

09:12 First commercial break. I don't have a DVR so I use these three minutes to Google "Who is Big Papa on Real Housewives?" and the first entry that pops up is a blog that speculates he is real estate mogul Lee Rajjar. The evidence is lengthy (and damning); supposedly if you freeze-frame the video on Kim's cell phone, you can see various text messages from a "Lee," and one of them says "Miss U." Also, court records show that while he is legally married, he and his wife (ironically also named Kim) are estranged. Oh and supposedly he has a twenty-something son who is BFFs with Brody Jenner and has supplied his friends with lavish gifts like luxury cars, since he has a black card.

09:15 A viewer asks if Kim wears a weave, and she breaks down and says she got very sick about three years ago with cancer. She claims she didn't choose to walk around wearing a hairpiece-- but she doesn't deny that she wears one. Nene says she never heard any of this before, and Kim backpeddles and says she found out she did not actually have cancer. She had "some other stuff" going on-- that she doesn't want to talk about, mind you (I'm thinking syphilis!).

09:17 She's still smoking, though.

09:17 DeShawn's turn! She's so sweet and cute and non-confrontational. For some reason, they show in the picture-in-picture box for as long as they show DeShawn, and it's not long to begin with. I guess she isn't camera-savvy enough to know how to work the dramatic reactions.

09:19 They talk about DeShawn's husband and the "fatal flaw" in her charity event, and it's all what we've heard before in the interview section of the episodes, so sadly all I'm hoping for is another outburst.

09:20 Sheree is called out for blowing off DeShawn time and time again. She blames the fact that DeShawn was close with Nene for why she was so standoffish. She calls DeShawn out for not reaching out to her for the auction, too, and then she practically blames her cell phone for not getting messages. Please, this woman dropped $100,000 on a start-up of a clothing line that was sewed together with elastic; she sure as shit can afford a phone that works!

09:21 DeShawn doesn't know how much she spends on her staffing. She doesn't apologize for it, but she does get defensive about it.

09:22 Lisa might be a little drunk-- or just bitter about the lack of airtime she got during the season-- because she's screechy and posey as her montage rolls.

09:23 A clip comes on of the "peacemaker" Lisa.

09:24 Andy reiterates the "peacemaker" Lisa. All that means is that we're about to see the opposite.

09:24 Andy asks if they can ever move on and all be friends. Lisa is a bit diplomatic in her answer, saying that a lot of things were said that can never be taken back, but it's water under the bridge now, and she hopes they can look forward.

09:25 Ed was released from the Raiders, and Lisa is oddly happy about it. Some dude writes in, asking her to share her "hot" husband with him, and none of the women seem to realize they are on a channel that caters to gay men.

09:30 Sheree takes a turn with questions before a montage. A girl asks why she thinks everyone should look and dress like her, and she denies that she acts like that. She says she can't talk about her divorce because her attorney has advised her not to. Andy asks if she'll let him know if she gets the seven figures, and she stutters as if she knows she's not getting it.

09:32 Kim admits the "you're beautiful"/"no, you're beautiful" behavior between her and Sheree was ridiculous. Nene agrees without a shred of humor in her tone.

09:32 Sheree says her clothing line will be in stores in a few months, and she says most designers don't need to sew to be a designer. It's her vision and her dream. She admits that it was embarrassing to hear what Mychael Knight had to say, though, because she looks up to him.

09:33 Sheree thinks she treats her staff well, but the footage looks like she "beats them."

09:34 What's up with Sheree being uninterested in "the dating thing?" We still don't have an answer, but I feel this is the most real she's ever been.

09:34 Fashion montage! ...Or at least that's how Andy intros it, but really it's another Nene vs Sheree montage.

09:35 Sheree says she never intended to leave Nene off the list. Nene points out, though, that she had a camera crew with her, so how could the woman at the door not know she was a part of the cast? Good point. ...I can't believe I just said that.

09:35 Nene doesn't care about Sheree's opinion of her sense of style.

09:37 Sheree claims she tried to apologize to Nene, but then she started to hear things Nene was saying... that Nene says she never actually said. I don't see how they were friends for years "without incident;" I can't believe you throw a few cameras in the mix, and so much blows up all at once.

09:38 Nene and Sheree argue over the definition of classy.

09:41 Does every timezone get the same commercials? The Curious Case of Benjamin Button looks like a bad attempt to get an Academy nod, but Brad Pitt is still hot!

09:43 We're back with a Kim/Nene montage! Nene watches disapprovingly from the picture-in-picture box.

09:45 Andy addresses Nene first, saying she seemed surprised by some of the events that transpired and the way Kim treated her, and Nene elaborates, using the spa day as an example of how she felt disrespected and like Kim was playing games with them. Kim gets in on it, talking over Nene, and accusing Nene's foundation of being fake. Low blow, Barbie.

09:46 Kim claims she thought everything was okay between Nene and Sheree because they had hung out at some party. A viewer calls her "two-faced," and Kim says she was floored by what Nene sang about her in the limo. She calls out Sheree and then Lisa for snitching.

09:47 Lisa snaps. She calls Kim a "habitual liar" and tells her she needs medication quite a few times. Then she turns into a middle school brat, too, and starts pointing the finger at how (and who) Kim lies about, including the cancer thing.

09:48 WTF is going on with Lisa?

Now, I don't believe in using the term "hoodrat," but I think this may be the epitome of it; all of a sudden she has to be in the middle of everything and threaten to "flip you over the couch?" Maybe she realized how little screentime she got in the seven episodes of the season, but she's climbing all over Nene and playing the "hold her back" friend. Now that I think about it, even in the finale, she tried to stir stuff up by insisting that Sheree and Nene be in a picture together. And this woman is a mother? Doesn't she know if your kid doesn't get along with another kid, you just keep them out of each other's way so they don't beat each other up? All season I marveled at how drama free she and DeShawn were; I called them "normal" for crying out loud! I feel that I must now apologize, DeShawn, for lumping you in any category with Lisa, because she is clearly as batshit as the rest of them, but in a very different, and slightly more dangerous since she's not at least upfront about it, way.

09:49 Andy wants DeShawn to weigh in, but she stays silent, seeming to look for the emergency exit. He moves on.

09:49 And back to Kim who sort-of apologizes for some of the things she interviewed about Nene but then defends Sheree and some of her behavior.

09:49 Nene pulls the racist card on Kim for saying she didn't want to go to DeShawn's to "hang with Nene and eat chicken."

09:50 Nene has enough friends. Kim seems to want to keep the door open, though she hasn't quite forgiven Nene for the song. Nene does not bring up all of the things Kim said that she may not have forgiven, though.

09:50 A montage for Dwight, the honorary sixth housewife!!!

09:52 They accuse Sheree of being a bigger diva than Dwight, and then they bring him out to prove it. His hair is super long, as if he's wearing a hairpiece just like Kim! He weighs in on the ladies' new looks. He loves everyone but Kim, who he says he needs to bring to the twenty-first century.

09:53 Dwight's opinion on all the fighting and melodrama is that they are all unladylike and unnecessary, but he thinks he is the bigger diva and raises a glass of champagne in his own honor.

09:54 Andy pitches to the last commercial, encouraging everyone to take some of their own cocktails. Oh, I don't even want to imagine what would have gone down if he had said that at the start of the show. These women are uninhibited enough without alcohol!

09:57 Andy recaps where the women are at, and DeShawn finally has her three minutes to announce she is in grad school. Nene and Lisa are working on a book together about surviving domestic violence. We know what everyone else is up to.

09:58 Andy thanks the women as the credits roll, and he encourages everyone to check out the extra footage at That's it? That was the fastest hour ever! So when does this show come back? And can I still catch a marathon of season one for nostalgia?

09:59 The Real Housewives of Orange County is starting it's new season. I think it's time to go to bed...

And if you want to get a taste of The Real Housewives of Atlanta in a nutshell:

Pine Trees Aren't The Only Sappy Things In Your House At Christmas...

Starting in October, a very special period begins for the entertainment industry, and I'm not talking about awards season: Christmas movies bust out of their shiny tinsel packaging and take over the airwaves. While channels like CBS and ABC run classics (Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas) and ABC Family contributes "25 Days of Christmas" with everything from childhood favorites (Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story) to more recent, low budget productions (A Carol Christmas, Christmas Caper), in my household, I prefer to indulge in a select, specific modern few that are one part cheesy, one part corny, and dusted with an all-around healthy dose of saccharine.

In Borrowed Hearts, a 1997 made-for-television holiday romance movie, Eric McCormack is a wealthy businessman who has his biggest client coming to spend the holidays with him. The problem is, his biggest client is a huge family man (the film ignores the fact that he would be away from his own family at the most important time of year), and McCormack is a self-proclaimed bachelor. Roma Downey is one of his factory workers who is a single mom with a precocious daughter who wants nothing more than her parents to get back together for Christmas. McCormack ends up needing to rent a family for the holidays, and Downey needs the money, so in a perfect twist of fate, it's, well, perfect. McCormack learns to love, and Downey learns to trust a man again. Did I mention that important client is Hector Elizondo, who also just happens to be an angel? It wouldn't be a stereotypical sappy Christmas movie without one!

2003 brought every little girl's favorite friend who lives at the Plaza, Eloise, to the small screen in a made-for-TV holiday film, Eloise at Christmastime. Sofia Vassilieva brings Eloise to life, skipping and hopping and causing trouble all around the hotel for the manager, Jeffrey Tambor, and her nanny, Julie Andrews. Deciding she wants to be a spy that particular week, she also begins to keep an eye on the fiance of the Plaza's manager's daughter, who she is convinced is not simply wrong for the daughter but bad news altogether. Instead, she schemes to bring her back to who Eloise perceives to be her true love, one of the waiters in the downstairs restaurant. It is a film that gives a little girl an immense amount of power and clout and is perfect for any eight or nine or ten year old who needs tips on how to manipulate the situations around them.

The Perfect Holiday is one of the more recent (2007) soon-to-be cheesy holiday classics. Starring Gabrielle Union, Charlie Murphy, and Morris Chestnut (with appearances by Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard, and Katt Williams), The Perfect Holiday has it all: adorably precocious kids, the magic of Santa, catchy original holiday tunes, and enough miscommunication to warrant the typical relationship upset.

Union is a single mom who just wants to hear a nice, genuine compliment from a man for Christmas; her daughter asks the mall Santa (Chestnut) for just that, and he decides to go ahead and follow through, never assuming he'd start to fall for her, the ex of a big time music producer (Murphy) who he hopes will give him his big break. While some of the antics Latifah and Howard, as the angelic figures in this tale, get up to are quite ridiculous, it is young actor Malik Hammond as Union and Murphy's oldest son who keeps the film real and grounded.

The Muppet Family Christmas originally aired on PBS in 1987 and finally came to home video almost a decade later in 1995. Featuring all of Jim Henson's creations-- from Kermit and Fozzie to Big Bird and Bert and Ernie, and of course, Fraggle Rock, The Muppet Family Christmas was a puppet musical about friends and strangers alike coming together for the holidays. Fozzie and his friends plan to surprise Fozzie's mother with their arrival on her doorstep for the holidays, but unfortunately she had been playing to head to Florida and enjoy the sun while renting out her house to a nice gentle(hu)man and his dog. When a snowstorm comes, trapping everyone inside-- well, everyone but Miss Piggy, who is still en route-- they make the best of a rough situation, laughing, singing, and cooking along the way. Unfortunately the home video release was significantly shorter than the original airing, cutting out some cute moments where the muppets watched slides of themselves as Muppet Babies, as well as a song with Fozzie and a snowman. However, each and every important lesson (from "giving is better than receiving" to pardoning a turkey to opening your heart-- and your home-- at the holidays) is intact, as well as each and every "icy patch" gag, still warming the heart and provoking giggles even after all of these years.

In 1991, the first Christmas movie entitled All I Want For Christmas was released starring a pre-pubescent Thora Birch and Ethan Embry as a brother-sister duo who want nothing more for Christmas than for their parents to get back together (which appears to be a theme in the nineties!). Along with the help of a pet mouse and a department store Santa (Leslie Nielsen), they set about making that wish come true, and because it is a film meant to lift the spirits, especially during such a magical, wonderful time of year, of course things work out for the family just in the nick of time. It may not be the most realistic depiction, but then, tis the season to feel good, not necessarily realistic!

Santa Baby (2006) is one of those ABC Family Channel movies that tries to tie old-fashioned Christmas magic with flashy, modern-day "get ahead" plans and schemes to revamp the family business. George Wendt is Santa, and Jenny McCarthy is his daughter who has become cynical and jaded after years of living and working away from the North Pole. When Santa gets sick and won't finish making the toys by Christmas Eve, she flies home to help out and reconnects with a childhood friend (Ivan Sergei), finding the true self (and spirit!) that got buried with all of her time (and miles!) away. When her boyfriend from the so-called real world crashes the party and wants to turn the elves’ workshop into a destination shopping mall (basically what Jack Frost did in The Santa Clause 3), Mary learns, and then reiterates to the audience, that at Christmas, tradition really is better.

In October 2004, critics panned the Ben Affleck/Christina Applegate/James Gandolfini holiday treat Surviving Christmas for being too over-the-top in everything from basic idea (eccentric millionaire pays a quarter of a million dollars to rent a family for the holiday season) to the performances (personally, though, I found Affleck's wide-eyed excitement endearing, as if he was seeing Christmas through a child's eyes once again). This has become, hands down, one of my new favorite Christmas movies, though, because it is just cynical enough for the modern audiences who can laugh at some of the outrageous behavior that occurs around this time (the opening credits sequences shows a guy struggling to wrap presents and getting tangled in the ribbon and a woman making sad gingerbread men) but also features some very sweet character moments between Affleck and Applegate when he finally opens up about his true loneliness.

Christmas movies are notorious for being just a little bit out there, and it is just understood that there has to be some suspension of disbelief around those times, so it is easy to ignore the fact that it is most likely just the lights on the tree or the snow in the air that is making these men and women giddy enough to believe they're really falling in love with each other. Or maybe it's the eggnog; it's easy to fall in love, even with just these films, after a tall glass of eggnog!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Death, Lies, And Videotape (S3, Ep9)...

Dex-Bot prepares for a normal day, from making Rita's kids' lunches to dressing for work, because he has had dozens (if not almost one hundred) of these so-called "mornings after." Jimmy Smits, however, is flying high, and Wifey actually shows up on Rita's doorstep to ask if he was with Dex-Bot last night. Dex-Bot says he was, but it only relieves her for about four seconds because though Dex-Bot got home around midnight, Jimmy Smits just sauntered in an hour ago. She assumes an affair, but Dex-Bot takes off for their house, assuming the truth.

Jimmy Smits lies about his whereabouts to Dex-Bot, probably because Dex-Bot was the one who nixed the plan in the first place, and he looks genuinely surprised to catch him in that lie. Are we supposed to believe that no one has ever lied to Dex-Bot before or just that he never questioned the lie? Anyway, it's clearly only a matter of time before Jimmy Smits begins to throw his own cases just to get to kill some more perps, so Dex-Bot better act fast.

Dex-Bot heads to the C.I.'s apartment, where Deb is itching for some answers. He doesn't find any blood inside, but the trash liner is gone, and one look at the dumpster behind the building proves he was escorted out of the area against his will: there is blood and hair on the wall, as if he was shoved into it from behind. Quick cut to the C.I. sitting in, and assumedly tied to, a chair with a big chunk of his right shoulder missing. The Tree Skinner looms over him, wiping the knife free of blood for the entire scene, taking his time, taunting him, and all the while allowing the C.I. to beg and barter. He tells the C.I. that this is not about Pheebo owing him some money but respect, and then he leans in to get back to work.

Batista organizes a hotline to get any tips on the C.I. or the Tree Skinner, and Kristin Dattilo shows up to help out. I hope it's her day off or the Miami citizens' tax dollars are going to waste. Masuka is there on his day off, but he's there to "meet chicks from other departments." Dex-Bot overhears Girlfriend calling Ellen and just getting her voicemail, assuming she's sick. His stomach appears to sink.

Hot Cop (who needs a haircut, btw) and Deb head to some little shack owned by the Tree Skinner where they stand around, digging their toes into the dirt, waiting on a warrant. Deb is panicky and wants to save the C.I. as soon as possible, so she busts down the door only to find some rakes and garden hoses and boxes and stuff. Hot Cop is surprisingly level-headed and lets Deb dig her own grave, basically, even when she is snapping at the Tree Skinner who arrives home looking surprisingly refreshed (come to think of it, so did Jimmy Smits, even though he got no sleep after his kill-- murder seems to do wonders for the skin and the spirit!).

The Tree Skinner and Mario are being questioned in side by side rooms; Mario is cracking but refusing to speak. Dex-Bot watches from a security monitor and can see his fear is real but wonders what he is so afraid of. The Tree Skinner is a small, slight man, who "looks harmless" according to Deb, and she lunges at him in the interrogation room, accusing him of showing no mercy and probably using some sort of back-country/old-country military techniques in order to get information. Hot Cop excuses her, and she runs into Dex-Bot in the hall and asks for his help. He divulges that guys like the Tree Skinner (and guys like him) usually abide by some kind of code, and disrespect is probably pretty high on his list. Nailed him in a nutshell again, Dex-Bot! Or are you just talking about yourself? Jimmy Smits disrespected you by going behind your back, and after all you shared with him, too; that has to be a slap in the face. He must pay.

Though it's only been a few hours, Girlfriend is worried about Ellen, and Dex-Bot agrees, so he goes to check out her home office to see if there are any signs of a struggle. Surely a newb like Jimmy Smits would make mistakes, especially since Dex-Bot never taught him how to dispose of a body. And he did; there is blood there. Just for the record, though, sometimes people just decide not to answer their phone for a little while. One time I decided to turn mine off for about a day and a half just because I had come off a really busy week and needed a chance to relax. My friends were so paranoid that they actually drove out to my apartment and started pounding on the door because they thought I was dead. I wasn't; I was just severely pissed off, and I couldn't help but point out that pounding on my door would do no good if I actually was lying motionless on the floor.

Jimmy Smits stops by Rita's open house to see Wifey; she's not there, but Rita offers some advice on how he should proceed to make things right. He sits and listens patiently, but the wheels are slowly turning in his head, and it's obvious. A few more "righteous" kills, and he'll go for the truly innocent, too, just because they piss him off. That's called escalation, my friend, and that's what serial killers do.

Hot Cop leaves the Tree Skinner alone for a few minutes, and Deb seizes the opportunity to jump back in and jump back on him, quite literally actually, and not only earn herself a place on his shit list but also play Mario's name. He glares over at the wall, knowing Mario's behind it and silently vowing revenge, and Hot Cop busts in and pulls her out. They argue over the fact that he used the C.I. and that she was too caught up emotionally to play the right cards, and they realize they can only hold the Tree Skinner for a few more hours, so they head back in to get something on him before having to let him loose and then finding not only a dead C.I. but also a dead apprentice gardener.

Dex-Bot goes to the cemetary and digs under the four graves that are prepped and ready for the day's funerals. He had told Jimmy Smits the best place to dispose of a body was under a freshly-dug grave because they were just going to lower a coffin and dump some dirt on top of it in a day or two anyway. He finds her body in the second one he tries, apologizes to her but zips her back into her own plastic coffin, and hallucinates his Harry-Conscience because he realizes she didn't deserve this. Harry-Conscience is the only part of Dex-Bot that can admit he has to do something to stop this before the bodies pile. So he calls Jimmy Smits to meet him for lunch.

True to form, Jimmy Smits tells Dex-Bot he can have the Tree Skinner out on the street in a mere few hours, and then they can take care of him, but Dex-Bot confronts him about Ellen. He admits to it, finally but only after being forced into a corner with the evidence, and he cleans his knife while telling Dex-Bot that they have different definitions of innocent. He is clearly letting the rush go to his head, and Dex-Bot clenches his fist and plays with a balled-up napkin under the table just to keep himself from reaching out and socking Jimmy Smits in the eye. Or at least, that's why I'd be fidgeting in the same way.

Instead, though, he heads back to the cemetary so that Ellen's body can be found. It gets called in when Jimmy Smits just happens to be there, sipping a cup of coffee, and Dex-Bot glares at him, knowingly. He doesn't want Jimmy Smits to get caught, though, so he wiped the body first "just in case." Girlfriend is quite distraught, especially because the killing was particularly brutal: strangled, beaten, and stabbed. He comments once again how gruesome it is when "the innocent die" because he wants Jimmy Smits to learn that no one is untouchable. No, the real way to do that would be to plunge his syringe deep into his neck. Making a point is all well and good, but he's still a loose cannon and bad for business. Dex-Bot no longer believes what Jimmy Smits says to him, so when he admits: "you're going to save my life," though it seems like the lesson was learned, it will most likely come back to bite him on the ass. Dex-Bot, you have to take his life.

Turns out, though, that Jimmy Smits fed the same line to Rita earlier, and he suddenly remembers the shirt with Pheebo's blood on it. He leaves in a hurry. Jimmy Smits, meanwhile, is at the station, about to lie to the Tree Skinner about what he can do for him simply because Batista doesn't want the guy to walk out and either finish off the C.I. or completely skip and leave the C.I. to die of blood loss in some place they can't get to him. Batista even goes so far to tell a fib of his own and says the security monitors are on the fritz, so no one will ever know what Jimmy Smits is saying or promising or offering. It won't jeopardize his career. While Jimmy Smits works his lying magic, Dex-Bot tests the blood on the shirt to see just how long ago those lies started. Personally, I can't believe he isn't kicking himself for not testing the shirt earlier; it's not like he's a naturally trusting person, and he could have avoided getting in too deep with this nutbar.

Hot Cop and Deb take Mario home, where he spots the trimmed trees. Deb is using this to work on him, to get information on where the Tree Skinner takes his victims. It works. He leads them to some building under the highway, and since they had to cut the Tree Skinner loose, he is of course making his way there, too, as they are. He spots the headlights, though, and takes off before Hot Cop can drive his beautiful car right into the wall of the building in order to bust in and save the C.I. who is miraculously not dead, though he has finally stopped screaming for help.

The blood on the shirt is not human. Dex-Bot is enraged at how he was used and throws a chair through the glass window overlooking the rest of the department (well, in his mind). He found an emotion, though: for the first time, he feels something real-- something he doesn't even feel when killing. Instead he just promises to play golf the following day with Jimmy Smits. He needs to keep "face" for a little while, probably because the show was picked up for two more seasons, and without Jimmy Smits, there is no threat to Dex-Bot. Sigh. I'm back to yawning.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanks To A Few Special X-Files Fans, We Can All Believe...

Two Saturdays from today, in a small theater in Los Angeles, dozens and dozens of fans of The X-Files (or simply, X-Philes, if you will) will turn out for a charity screening of the two feature films and a Q&A with writer Frank Spotnitz and director Rob Bowman, moderated by TV Guide's Erin Fox. It is the first time in ten years that the original theatrical release (Fight The Future) is being shown on the big screen, which means some of the younger fans will be seeing it in all of its true film glory for the first time. Event organizers Patricia Steffy, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Caileigh Scott, and Karen Mendez didn't want to stop at giving them just another screening experience, though, so with a little help from Fox Home Entertainment and Gillian Anderson, they set to work creating a unique event where strangers can come together for a very worthy cause. And perhaps the best part is that these women did not have prior connections to The X-Files; they, too, were just fans who wanted to use the power of their numbers to do some good.

When the idea came to Rodriguez, Scott, and Mendez to set up "Inspired By Gillian" and throw such an event, the long-time fans who were active members of message boards and online groups never expected it to take off in the way that it has. They planned to rent a small one hundred and ninety seat theater at the Regency Fairfax and invite other diehard Philes they knew from those viral communities and have a fun afternoon enjoying their favorite on-screen duo. They recruited Steffy, though, about a month later to help reach out to media outlets because the event was growing dramatically simply through word of mouth and bulletins on MySpace and Facebook (they are handling all of the PR for this event themselves). After contacting one of the executives at Spotnitz' production company, Big Light, for help in getting copies of the film prints, the event was officially on Fox' radar, and even KROQ took notice, announcing the event information on Ralph's Friday afternoon broadcast.

The X-Files screening event will benefit Neurofibromatosis, Inc., which is a charity that fights to educate the public on the nervous system disorder that causes tumors to form on the nerves at any given time. It is a genetic disease, and it is one of the most common (one out of every three thousand births), but it is rarely talked about. It is also a cause that Anderson holds close to her heart, as her brother has been affected by the disease, and it is through her celebrity advocacy that these women even became aware of it in the first place. In fact, Anderson was so impressed with all these women have been able to do, she donated some autographed promotional photos for an online auction leading up to the event, including one from I Want To Believe also signed by David Duchovny. Proceeds from the items go to NF, as well.

And for those who are not local to Los Angeles and therefore can't make the screening, there is a "be there in spirit" party pack available for purchase on the website, which includes a commemorative program from the event and an opportunity to include a personal message in the guestbook that will be sent to Anderson as a thank you for all her help in making the event a success. But those that deserve the real thanks, though, are the women behind this event; they took it upon themselves to use their passion to fuel some real philanthropy and have never asked for a thing in return-- although if Spotnitz or Bowman offered them parts in any subsequent X-Files project, I'm sure they wouldn't turn it down!

Check back here in two weeks for exclusive coverage of this X-Files charity screening!

An Open Letter To Alan Rosenberg...

Dear Mr. Rosenberg:

As president of the Screen Actors Guild, I understand you have a lot on your plate. Add to that a teenage son, a wife whose own production schedule could be the work of two, and the fact that you're still a working actor, and anyone could understand if you were just too tired and wanted a break. But you stick it out-- you take your responsibilities extremely seriously-- and when you say you're going to sit down with the other party and discuss an important matter, you actually follow through, unlike so many in your business who promise to "do lunch" or "work with you down the line" only to fade away and never be heard from again.

Therefore, I understand the recent round of negotiations with the AMPTP have been extremely stressful. Going to all hours of the night, and right before the holiday season, too, is hard on everybody involved, even if they're not showing that, but I have to ask you for a favor now, Mr. Rosenberg: no matter how tired you may be and how much of a break you may feel you (rightly) deserve, you cannot lead your fellow actors to a strike! Not now, not after the year we've had with the economy in general, let alone the residual hits from the previous year's WGA strike.

Now, I understand your plight as an actor, Mr. Rosenberg; I have friends who are actors; I have dated actors; and I have even considered becoming a background extra to earn some extra cash and get myself onto more sets. I agree you deserve a new media contract, and I don't think any of you in SAG should agree to work in those realms without one. That being said, though, I think it is enough to boycott the new media side of things without having to grind all work to a halt. Any SAG actor who agrees to partake in an internet only production during this time should be penalized and his or her status with your union jeopardized. I say that with a heavy heart as a fan of many of those productions-- from Dr. Horrible to In The Motherhood-- and also as a producer of an up and coming web series that would probably benefit from your talented actors, but I think it needs to be done in order to avoid a repeat of last fall's quarter. Too many families were hurt by the WGA strike, and as much as I supported the writers at the time, just as I would ultimately support the actors, too, it took all year for some of them to recover, and to hit them again now would just be a slap in the face to all the loyal, hardworking below the line individuals who are so often overlooked on set, let alone in the press.

That being said, I have a few other ideas for what you can do to avoid a strike but still let the AMPTP feel your anger and disappointment, and the next time you are meeting with them or the MPAA, if you'd like to stop upstairs in Suite 3000, I'd be happy to abandon my cubicle for a few minutes and deliver my presentation to you in one of our state of the art (and named for the famous movie theaters of LA, I might add) conference rooms.

Seriously, think about it...

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Perfect Man?...

On this week's 30 Rock Liz met the man of her dreams, only to learn that he is actually an entirely different kind of crazy than he let on. Tracy was convinced his two sons were going to "Menendez" him; Kenneth let Jack invest his hard-earned savings; and Jenna was nowhere to be seen. "Gavin Volure" is perhaps the first episode of this third season (though numerically it is already the fourth) where the famous guest star played perfectly into the kooky story instead of the story taking a backseat to the kooky guest star.

The episode opens with Jack taking Liz to some big, fancy dinner for big, fancy, important people at an eccentric millionaire (Gavin Volure, played by Steve Martin)'s house. Volure is an agoraphobic and a germaphobe, so all of his parties must be thrown in the house he hasn't left for the past four years, which works out just perfectly because it's a huge mansion. Volure asked Jack personally to bring Liz after seeing her photo in a magazine, and he seems quite taken with her. In fact, the next morning he calls Liz to ask her out... or in. Since he cannot leave his house, he wants her to come back there so they can watch television, eat, and just generally sit around on the couch. Oh yeah, and since he has germ issues, there will be no physical intimacy of any kind. Liz, needless to say, is smitten.

Tracy, meanwhile, has noticed some changes with his two adolescent sons, and while sitting around his dressing room, happens upon a CourtTV documentary on the Menendez brothers. Convinced that is going to happen to him, he buys one of his own Tracy Jordan lifesize sex dolls (that are apparently HUGE, no pun intended, in Japan) to put in his place in the bed so when his kids creep into his room to kill him in his sleep, they'll stab or shoot or smother the inanimate Tracy instead. Of course the plan backfires, as his son creeps into his room only to tell him that he had a bad dream that his dad was making so much money he decided to go off and start a new family. It would be a sweet moment except Tracy sneaks up on the kid, who in turn hits him with a lamp.

Pete is desperately trying to unload the responsibility of Floor Safety Manager, mostly because the hardhat is too small for his head. Kenneth needs some extra cash and has started doing other people's laundry for them, but Jack convinces him to invest his life savings ($4000) with Jack's personal stockbroker. Unfortunately, the account gets cleaned out by the eccentric millionaire in a twist that will be explained in a few minutes, and Jack, having ruined both Liz's personal life and Kenneth's financial one, is running around like a bumbling fool to try to make it right. He just hasn't been the same since he got back from D.C.; I'm sure there's an explanatory episode coming up some time soon... maybe? hopefully? I'm not sure I can hold onto the faith! He offers to just give Kenneth the money, but Kenneth is too good to take it, so when Pete assigns the task of Floor Safety Manager to Kenneth, Jack says it comes with a $4000 signing bonus. Well, that worked out just perfectly, didn't it? And also, it appears some of the recycled Friends storylines have crept over into this episode, too, as Chandler once tricked Joey into taking rent money by inventing a card game and then letting him win. Or maybe I just watch too much TV.

Liz spends the weekend with Gavin, who confides in her that he isn't really afraid to go outside, but he actually can't leave because he is under house arrest for fraud, arson, and racketeering. Funny how he doesn't have to wear the ankle bracelet, though; even Martha had to wear the ankle bracelet! He attempts to escape but "miscounts the men" and gets tackled on his lawn. It figures, though, that the minute Liz meets someone seemingly perfect for her, something will come out of left field and screw it up-- first it was the "he's actually your cousin" thing with "The Hair," and now this!

Anyway, Gavin eventually escapes through an open bathroom window while Jack is trying to get back Kenneth's money that apparently he stole from him. He shows up at the studio to try to convince Liz to flee with him, offering: "Come with me to Canada; Toronto is just like New York, only without all of the stuff." When she rejects him, and Jack says he's going to turn him in, though, he climbs up into the rafters and threatens to jump. Kenneth busts in with his bright orange safety hardhat but can only offer bottled water or saltines. Jack distracts Gavin with an impassioned speech that appears to be working until he urges Gavin to come clean and admit what he did wrong, and then Gavin says he is no longer making any sense. It doesn't much matter, though, because Tracy is behind him on the rafters and takes him down. With the Tracy Jordan sex doll propped up in the chair that Tracy himself had been sitting in down on the stage, once again, it appears that Gavin "miscounted the men."

Best lines of the night:

Liz: "I just wish I could start a relationship about twelve years in-- when you don't have to try anymore, and you can just sit around together and goof on TV shows, and then go to bed without any funny business."

Liz: "He's not a germaphobe; I thought I was helping him when I let him hold my boob while watching Top Chef."

Kenneth: "What would this country be if our economy didn't allow wealthy people to take advantage of rubes?"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Look What Happens When They Stop Being Real...

Recently photos were snapped on the set of The Joneses, the 2009 Demi Moore/David Duchovny film about a family who moves into a prestigious community only to peddle very specific products. They are an affluent, powerful, popular family, so everyone else wants to follow their lead ala "keeping up with the Joneses," hence the title. These photos showed two very big reality television personalities playing even bigger versions of themselves to match the upgrade in screen size: Kim Zolciak and Sheree Whitfield from Bravo's The Real Housewives of Atlanta. This project seemed as tailor-made for these women as the custom clothing that their personal stylists create for their charity events and birthday parties. Hell, their show even boasts the tagline "I don't keep up with the Joneses; I am the Joneses!" With the job of basically just playing trumped up versions of themselves, there's virtually no way for Kim and Sheree to fail here, which will undoubtedly lead them to believe that they can try their hand at busting down genre doors and attempting their hands at legitimate acting roles. They would be far from the first reality stars to test the waters in the scripted side of the industry, but considering those who came before them, it is doubtful they can turn their reality run into a long-term and lucrative career.

Hands down the best example of reality stars who try to act and fail comes with the stars of The Scorned, the 2005 E! Channel horror film whose filming was captured by yet some more reality cameras for the tongue-in-cheek Kill Reality. The Scorned featured everyone from Jenna Lewis and Ethan Zohn (Survivor) to Tonya Cooley, Steven Hill, and Trishelle Cannatella (The Real World) to Bob Guiney (The Bachelor), among many, many others. The plot revolves on a group of young couples vacationing together in a shared house, making the story self-reflexive enough that it should be good for a few laughs, especially when a so-called "Angel of Death" begins offing them one by one due to their sinful, cheating ways. The film is so full of bad squibs, corn syrup, flying wires, and shower sex scenes that the one redeeming actor gets lost in the mess. Ethan Zohn actually does a decent job of portraying schizophrenic Murray, who everyone mistakes as crazy but actually just knows the truth about what haunts their beautiful vacation hideaway. Everyone else, though, is an odd combination of flat and stereotypical, all rolled into one, which was all the worse when paired with the episodes of the "making of" show, when all of them came alive while screaming at each other, hooking up, or in the case of one Johnny Fairplay, literally crapping on another's bed. It wasn't a metaphor, but it could have been: after watching The Scorned, one kind of feels like they were just immersed in sh*t. Needless to say, the only credits any of these people have had since have been of the softcore and late night variety.

Colleen Haskell was the fourth juror on Survivor's first season in Borneo before somehow winning the female romantic lead in Rob Schneider's The Animal a year later. Though her young, cute, bubbly big smile made her a breath of fresh air to watch week after week on Survivor-- especially when surrounded by others who were dirty, cranky, and foul-mouthed-- in carrying a ninety minute feature, it just got annoying and fast. She tried her hand at guest starring roles in television comedies like That 70's Show and Maybe It's Me, but she came across as whiny, and after 2002, she disappeared from the limelight, proving that it is a rare case when a reality star can extend his or her fifteen minutes.

Survivor Jerri Manthey was trying to be an actress long before she appeared on the second season of the CBS hit. She pretty much only had an episode of Blind Date to her name prior to the reality show, though, but since then it hasn't been much better. Sure, she has appeared as herself on everything from The Surreal Life to countless VH1 "I Love The..."s, but basically that was her as a commentator, not an actress. She has had a few supporting roles in independent films you've never heard of, such as 2004's Commitment Pledge and 2006's Chloe's Prayer, but other than trying to get invited to premieres for bigger movies that she is not in simply to be photographed on the red carpet in an attempt to remain a relevant part of pop culture, she has virtually, and for good reason, fallen off the grid. Perhaps she should have spent thirty-nine days in acting classes instead of in the Outback!

The Real World is perhaps the most obvious outlet for wannabe actors to get accustomed to cameras and to garner the fans necessary to open films later on in their careers, and since its stars start out savvy about this industry, it is the place (if any) one would expect the alumni to go onto fictional projects (Big Brother contestants like Jase Wirey, "the firefighter," and Janelle Pierzina have both only had featured roles in shows like Will & Grace and Entourage, respectively, with their line counts coming in as under-fives, so that show takes a distant second place in the success department). This was best exploited in season XX: Hollywood, which featured kids who were upfront and honest that they were doing the show to further their in-front of the camera careers. The season even gave them the "job" of taking classes and performing improv classes at the I.O. West. However, it is not a guaranteed recipe for success; Joey Kovar, the only one who seemed to want to make it as an actor, ironically enough, became overwhelmed during his season with the temptations of Hollywood and has since moved back to his native Chicago. Though he has completed an independent film, 10,000 Doors, it still remains to be seen if he will go the way of Robin Hibbard or Kellyanne Judd, both of whom have had so much plastic surgery they can't possibly not be auditioning for things, or follow in the footsteps of those rare few that actually made it.

Despite claiming his true professional intention was to be a politician during his season of The Real World: Chicago, Kyle Brandt experienced moderate success as Philip Kirakis on Days of our Lives for five years and has since gone onto star in an independent film with Jennifer Hall and Larisa Oleynik.

Jacinda Barrett from The Real World: London, on the other hand, did a little bit of everything from television (episodes of MilleniuM, as well as Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane) to horror (Urban Legend: The Final Cut) before being able to really show off her acting chops in dramatic character pieces and opposite some of today's biggest stars. Her resume includes The Human Stain with Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins, Bridget Jones Diary: The Edge of Reason with Renee Zellwegger and Hugh Grant, and School for Scoundrels with Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder.

She should be, by far, an inspiration for any reality star aspiring for more, but her tale should still be cautionary at best, as she is clearly one out of hundreds, and she happens to have a very rare talent that just being yourself on television cannot cultivate. So for anyone with visions of bright Hollywood lights dancing in your head, please don't assume getting yourself onto a reality show is the way to go: for one things, producers and casting directors do not offer automatic roles, let alone respect, just based on ten or twelve or even eighteen episodes of such programming that might already be under your belt because conditions there (especially if you are in some sort of challenge-related program) are not indicative of life on a set. Instead, please take classes and participate in theatre workshops; not only will it strengthen any innate talent you have, but it will also spare the public from yet some more uninspired (reality) star turns.