Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Five Cents: The Paper...

It's a real shame when today's society (and by that, I mean the entertainment media) gravitates toward (and by that, I mean caters to) the glossy, melodramatic, and sensational rather than the substantial but at times, serious. It's a shame, then, that The Real World, which glorifies the drinking and random sex of young people, gets a twenty-first season, and The Paper, which focused on some very driven, very intelligent young people, was only given eight episodes and probably won't be back for another season.

Sure, it's a lot easier to find seven mactors willing to relocate for a few months to get a chance to party on national television than to convince a school board to allow a three-camera setup (and therefore three-ring circus) into their classrooms, but the kids of The Paper were those boys and girls next door with whom you felt like you actually could have gone to high school (actually Dan did look an awful lot like my friend Scott from back then, and Adam reminded me of Tommy-- not people you probably know, but it was thrilling for me to see nonetheless because they were far less stereotypical than one would assume to allow the "average" viewer to relate). They each were studious but not depicted as nerds: in fact, the first episode showed them playing good old-fashioned beer pong at some house party (though MTV was very careful not to show any actual bottles or kegs, but we all know what goes inside those red, plastic cups!). They were the anti-Hills and deserve to be celebrated, not shuffled off to the archives of MTV reality history, for it! They celebrated fellow students who were musical prodigies or got perfect SAT scores; they were in clubs outside of newspaper; they held interests outside of newspaper; and they were even celebrated during homecoming like any of the "cool" kids.

Considering the finale aired last week, it may seem like I jumped on The Paper's bandwagon a bit late... it may seem that way because it is that way. But the episodes are airing on MTV On Demand through June 1st, and they are also on, so you have ample time and opportunity to check them out and start sending in your Number 2 pencils or whatever to MTV to demand a second season.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Can Small Screen Success Translate To Big Box Office?...

With so many long-running series coming to an end of late, it hasn't taken long for the message boards and fansites to buzz with ideas for big screen reunions. With a ton of television shows already greenlit and in various stages of development (The A-Team, Dallas, Knight Rider, and I Dream of Jeannie, to name a few), it doesn't seem too farfetched to assume even more producers are awaiting the opening numbers from this Friday's release of the HBO hit Sex and the City Movie before they offer a firm stance one way or the other. If it's a hit, even four years after the show went off the air, the wheels will undoubtedly start turning for at least a couple of those men and women determined to milk every last cent out of their fans. But before they jump into something prematurely and make some rash story decisions, they need to do a little research on the television shows turned feature films that worked... and those that didn't.

Part of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's success with South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (Paramount; 1999) came from the fact that the film was released when the show was really finding its popularity. By allowing a big screen version, they were able to get controversial jokes and images past censors that even on the cable television level are too strict. Expanding on gags already touched upon in the show proved to any still skeptical that these guys were not just about potty mouths and fart humor; their once toss-off line about Brian Boitano or what Cartman deems Kyle's mom turned into full-on musical numbers, raising the bar for themselves but also for primetime cartoons everywhere, begging for more wit and creativity. Bigger, Longer, & Uncut was able to reach past the normal Comedy Central audience and bring new butts in the seats, which only led to new eyes to the tube when their next season began, deeming it an even bigger success than could have been initially anticipated.

Another Comedy Central cult favorite, RENO 911! Miami (Robert Ben Garant for 20th Century Fox; 2007), improvs their way through each week's thirty minute installment, but the feature length transition became a more crass, more skin-filled version of a Christopher Guest film. Chock full of "That Guy (and Gal)" cameos, as well as bringing on some past favorites (though some in different roles), RENO 911! Miami took their sexual innuedos and phone-fumbling to new heights and even threw in a low-speed vehicle chase for good measure.

Joss Whedon's cult hit Firefly seemed almost made for a movie from the minute it debuted on-air. Set in space but told in the vein of a western, its characters were involved (dimensionally and with each other), and its dialogue snappy and fun, giving it all of the right parts to be the modern Star Wars (hell, it even had the clunky spaceship!). In 2005 when Universal released it as Serenity and that spaceship crashed into theaters, it was as if it had found its home. Everything could be done bigger-- offering better, flashier special effects, more suspense, and more comic relief. Without worrying about keeping characters fresh and interesting episode after episode, Whedon had more freedom with their arcs... and their lives, offering bigger drama, as well.

Based on these winning examples, perhaps a successful television to film transformation seems to require a few things in its formula, one being that it focuses a good chunk on comedic elements (which, luckily, Sex and the City has going for it), and another being that the show has not been gone too long from our televisions and therefore our consciousnesses. Unfortunately the longer the show is off the air, the more willing producers seem to be to just do a remake rather than come up with a new, original plot to carry their characters through to present time. Perhaps it is because the original cast is often difficult to round up, often being off in different parts of the country (or world), working on new, exciting, and different projects; perhaps it is because they fear the original is too long gone to be remembered, and there is too much time for which to account; or perhaps it is because they simply just get lazy. Whatever the reason, more often than not, parallels to the original can't help but be drawn, and in comparison, despite any technological advancements or tongue-in-cheek humor, the new versions usually just don't work.

The most atrocious example has to be the Will Ferrell/Nicole Kidman helmed Bewitched (Nora Ephron for Columbia; 2005), which took the most post-modern approach to updating a classic possible by poking a self-reflexive stab at the original, and the industry in general, by having a show within a movie about a show. Despite the name talent attached (supporting cast included Michael Caine, Steve Carrell, and Shirley MacLaine) and a few chuckle-worthy one-liners, audiences were mostly just left scratching their heads, not tossing them back in laughter. In a way, this "redoing" of a story that reached across generations just came off as disrespectful and mocking, and audiences immaterialized from theaters as quickly as Endora herself.

Turning the procedural formula (in that, the crimes get solved within the hour) into a two hour feature doomed The Mod Squad (Scott Silver for MGM; 1999) before it was even past the concept and development stage. Instead of a finely-crafted A to B plot exercise, the writers attempted to "update" the 1975 show by filling the script with fakeouts and wrong turns but ended up getting tangled in their own twists, confusing everyone in the process. Never mind the fact that it is completely unfathomable that meek-mannered Claire Danes could be a juvenile delinquent or a toe-to-toe with drug dealers Undercover!

Without the bumble-brained Jessica Simpson leading its cast, The Dukes of Hazzard (Jay Chandrasekhar for Warner Brothers; 2005) might have stood a fighting chance.

Without the bumble-brained Jessica Simpson and the ADD-adrenaline of Johnny Knoxville leading its cast, The Dukes of Hazzard (Jay Chandrasekhar for Warner Brothers; 2005) might have stood a fighting chance.

Without the bumble-brained Jessica Simpson, the ADD-adrenaline of Johnny Knoxville, and the "aw shucks" infancy of Seann William Scott, leading its cast, The Dukes of Hazzard (Jay Chandrasekhar for Warner Brothers; 2005) might have stood a fighting chance. There; that's better. When all three leads are inept, the dialogue teeters on the edge between racist and just plain offensive to intelligence, and the light-hearted, silly, family friendly family turns into a sexualized trio, though, it can't even be a fun, enjoyable fluff piece of a film. Producers and fans of the original are just embarrassed by the display.

So where does this leave some of those aforementioned recently-ended fan favorites like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Gilmore Girls... or even Friends? The Sopranos creator David Chase just signed a deal with Paramount to write, produce, and direct his first feature. Is he getting his feet wet for a big-screen adaptation of his acclaimed drama? Will more follow his lead? Only time (and the box office) will tell…

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Talk About Your Sibling Rivalry!...

Those Winchester boys just can't seem to escape the demons of hell they inadvertently set loose at the end of season one of Supernatural. Unfortunately for the actors that portray Sam and Dean (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively), though they're currently the ones doing the chasing on the small screen (and in those exploits they are doing their fighting together), the tables are about to be turned and the stakes (as well as the screen) are about to get bigger, pitting brother against brother in a battle for the number one box office spot.

Perhaps due to a bit of typecasting, both Ackles and Padalecki have been cast in upcoming horror films-- films, I might add, that were originally supposed to be released on the same day of February 13 2009. Since the initial announcements, however, Ackles' My Bloody Valentine 3-D (which we'll get to in a minute) has been pushed up to late January to keep it out of direct competition with such a similar release. Undoubtedly, though, it will still be in theaters when Padalecki's Friday the 13th remake premieres, and can't you just hear the studios' bickering now?

The comparisons and pitting of brother against brother started early, when Padalecki was the first to sign onto a summer project, nabbing the role of Clay in the Friday the 13th remake. While not much is known about the characters or the plot, it is safe to assume Padalecki's role will closely mirror that of his in the 2005 version of House of Wax. With floppy brown hair, a non-threatening wide white smile, and two pencil eraser-sized dimples, Padalecki pretty much screams innocent in such material. In House of Wax, he played the supporting male eye candy, a character who was the sensitive boyfriend type, and who managed to appear pensive even when poking around a creepy mausoleum. Though it was obvious from the get-go he would be... getting it, so to speak, his death scene did at least provide one of the cooler visuals in recent horror film history.

Only a few weeks after the trades reported Padalecki's deal, Ackles' followed suit with the lead in My Bloody Valentine 3-D. Just like with his straight-to-DVD indie release, Devour, Ackles' character in My Bloody Valentine 3-D promises to encompass his trademark duality with which fans and critics alike have fallen in love. Hopping from sarcastic to sadistic with just a slight adjustment of a smirk and in a split second, Ackles successfully towed the line between the game-manipulated and the Satanic manipulator in Devour. Though the film as a whole often felt contrived, Ackles' boyish charm kept the audience in the journey, and you wanted to root for him, even when it seemed clear he was the bad guy. As Tom, a man who returns to his hometown on the eve of the anniversary of a twenty-two victim massacre, Ackles will have to tap into the same conflicting emotions to throw the audience off the track, as he will be suspected of those original murders while inevitably getting caught in the middle of a new string of violence.

So whose film will come out on top... or as the months and weeks tick off on the calendar, will the dates just be spread further and further apart so as not to cause the competition after all? The Supernatural fans I spoke to a few months ago at the convention in L.A. all were eager to tell me which brother they fancied most, but will that preference mean they will only see one film to have that brother come out on top? Or will their support for both boys translate to modest numbers for both films? If you're an avid reader of my blog, you already know where my loyalty (and my money) will lie, but regardless, it is an interesting concept to track nonetheless.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Missing Person In Hollywood Can Be A Good Thing...

Considering she was seen in the bubblegum pop musical Hairspray only last year and has been quietly designing her own clothing line for tween girls, Amanda Bynes hardly seems a likely candidate for a Whatever Happened To...? segment. However, considering she mastered the art of multi-tasking at the early age of thirteen, embarking on a career that had her bouncing back and forth from television show to television show to movie, this recent change of pace has left her always sunny demeanor and manic peppiness sorely missing in action on both screens alike.

Beginning her career on the Nickelodeon hit All That!, Bynes quickly proved herself as quite the little sponge, soaking up as much as she could from those that went before her in similar roles (the title may have been flippantly tossed at Debra Messing a few years ago, but Bynes truly is the next Lucille Ball), as well as all she could from the set. Though she entered into this business at a young numerical age, Bynes' wide eyes were not merely with awe; she was overly alert, the wheels turning as she took careful note of how things were working around her and how she could work to improve and further her talent.

Bynes just as quickly won over young fans, as well as their parents, for her girl-next-door appearance and clean sense of humor, which garnered her her own headliner, aptly named The Amanda Show. There she spent two years introducing sketch comedy to a new generation before taking on her first feature in Big Fat Liar, opposite fellow child star Frankie Muniz (ironically, someone who just announced his retirement from entertainment). Bynes' popularity began to take off like a snowball rolling down a hill, and while voicing a character on the (also Nickelodeon) animated favorite Rugrats, she was given her second show, What I Like About You with Jennie Garth. Finally Bynes was playing to girls her own age.

Proving time and again she is not just another trendy but dumb member of the Young Hollywood elite, Bynes has always chosen her parts carefully, picking scripts that allow her to shine as both a comedienne and a role model. She knows where her talent lies, as well as where her limitations do, and she embraces both, determined to do the bet she can do. She is exceptionally professional, but she is also smart about her decisions; from day one, she was creating a brand, and now she has expanded to do so in the most literal (and lucrative!) sense with her fashion line. Additionally (and exceptionally importantly today), she has kept her personal life out of the flashing paparazzi bulbs, as well, focusing on her work instead of what club she'll hit tonight. She poured herself into cute and personable turns in teen chick flicks like What A Girl Wants, Lovewrecked, Sydney White, and even a modern day take on Shakespeare with She's The Man, a group of films which helped parlay her onto the list of the Richest People Under 21 (in 2007).
Perhaps this break, then, is just Bynes choosing to follow in Natalie Portman's footsteps, someone who said she choose college because "[she'd] rather be smart than be a movie star." While Bynes may not have enrolled in a university (or maybe she has but has managed to keep that from the press as well), she is undoubtedly off learning something, whether it's about how to successfully transition from child star to adult actor or just some new things about herself. In that way, she is an even bigger breath of fresh air. Maybe she's holding out for the perfect script; maybe she's finally slowing down and taking a much deserved break; or maybe she's considering pursuing a life in another field altogether. Whatever the case may be, Bynes' choice to walk away while she was still climbing to the top is admirable; she is a breath of fresh air when she is working and also when she is not.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Five Cents: The RENT They Should Have Made...

Entertainment Weekly announced today that Sony Pictures plans to introduce "Hot Ticket," a program which will screen concerts, plays, and games in a limited release in specially equipped movie theaters across the country. While the first to test the waters will be the trippy Cirque Du Soleil, supposedly (the article was in the Truths, Rumors, and Exclusives section so less hope it is not the middle one!) RENT will hit the screen in September, right around the time the show closes its Broadway doors after its extended run.

For years I was rallying for someone to just stick a five camera set-up in the Nederlander, film a performance, and release it as a feature film. Preferably with the original cast, but I figured that was pushing my luck. I knew the energy from the stage would transform the audience in their chairs, each one itching to jump up on the Life Cafe table along with the ensemble. It's what happens night after night in that small, dark theater just east of Broadway, so it certainly would also happen in equally dark movie theaters. Sadly, in November 2005 when Chris Columbus released his Chris Columbus' watered-down theatrical take on the heartwrenching tale, that was not the case, though. His bastardiz-- I mean, adaptation just left RENTheads begging for more, myself perhaps louder than any of them. He had the original cast (well, the majority of them anyway), and he still produced something that was dragging in parts, too bass-heavy in others, and just plain lackluster and yawn-worthy. With the inclusion of Closing Night footage and tidbits from the O.B.C., thankfully Sony's new plan appears on target to rectify the situation. And then some. I'll be the first to tell you otherwise come Fall 2008.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Whatever Happened To A Woman's Prerogative?...

Though headlines claim Obama is inching closer to having his name officially inked on the Democratic ballots, Hillary Clinton is not throwing in the towel just yet. In fact, just yesterday she spoke out announcing she would not be giving up until one nominee won the delegates they needed to win the traditional way. Now, both are in Florida today, trying to court new voters. Is she spunky and tenacious, showing us the "never back down" side that she will bring to successful work once (and if) she makes it into the oval office? Or is she just stubborn, digging her stiletto heels into the metaphorical ground? Either way it has positive merits, as well as detriments.

While Clinton is proving she can hold her own in the boys' club and take criticism from her own party, the opponents, and the media (and even poking fun at herself by appearing on Saturday Night Live opposite impersonator Amy Poehler), she is also beginning to show her desperation. Is she afraid of being called wishy-washy if she gracefully ends her campaigning? Is she afraid of perceived inevitable headlines: "Typical Woman Just Changes Her Mind" or being compared to Al Gore's submissive step-aside during the 2004 "Hanging Chad" fiasco? Or is she just stamping her foot and shaking her head, refusing to do anything unless she gets her way? Whatever the case may be, Clinton's stoic nature has already proved to the parties and the public that Democrats are not usually so meek-mannered. Yes, she just took Kentucky; however, Obama won Oregon with a margin of 58-42 and now only has less than one hundred delegates to go (leading Clinton with 1,956 to her 1,776).

The fear now is that the party is still divided so close to the election that once-Clinton (or once-Obama) supporters won't have enough time to come around to the other candidate once someone finally backs down (or is forced down by obtaining those ever-elusive remaining delegates). There is a sense of "but I'm still doing so well; there is a chance" emanating from Clinton's camp, offering the kind of blind but hopeful optimism on which this country more often than is positive relies. Clinton has already crossed milestones and boundaries alike and changed the course of our political future; if those who are egging her on are doing so to try to stamp her in place as the first woman president, that is not enough reason to drag out this fight. More than ever we need to unite the party so we can, in turn, work on uniting the country, and right now, the way to do that appears to be to have Ms. Clinton swallow her pride and concede to Obama's lead. What happens at the end of that third and final primary still on the calendar if she hasn't won but she hasn't graciously shaken Obama's hand either? Will her supporters have enough time to get over their perceived slight and bitterness at the loss? Or will there be a lot of Democratic voters not turning out in November, just because they didn't have enough time to get over their disappointment and who would rather not vote at all than not be able to pencil in a bubble for Clinton?

Clinton should go out now, while she's still on top, and with her head held high. It's not what she, her camp, or her supporters want to hear, but it might be the best political step she could make at this time. She has put up a hell of a fight and should be written about (and commended) for that instead of the grasping-at-straws approach that seems to be forthcoming.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Five Cents: American Idol's 7th Finale...

Despite the judges' seeming incessant need to drive-home their love for lil Davey Archie, probably with the hope of swaying the votes (really, guys? You want ANOTHER seventeen year-old to win? ‘Cause Jordin’s sales did so well for you?), I must admit that tonight's performances made me a fan of David Cook's. I admit I missed the first song, and the second, as Randy would say, was "only okay" for me-- probably because of the screamy-ness of it all, but the power in his voice on the third-- and the mere fact that he opted not to take the "safe road" and re-do a track he already performed once in the season-- sold me.

Whether he wins or not, after his take on the Collective Soul song I usually find too sappy for anything but an eye-roll, I will seek out and (pay to) download his next album. Paula, for her credit, seemed to regret the collective (pardon the pun) decision to back the prepubescent David, as she stood and applauded D.C. not once but twice. Sure, the constant tearing up every time he finishes a performance is annoying, but I assume he'll grow out of that. And the Adam Pascal comparison can't be ignored.

Archuleta, meanwhile, made me hate runs in more than just pantyhose. After a lifetime of R&B, I didn't think that was possible.

I think it's a HUGE discredit to D.C. how Simon referred to tonight as a "K.O." for Archuleta, as well as how Randy said the Collective Soul song was the kind of record he could “just get by with,” but I think in the end, he will do better if he doesn't win and therefore isn't resigned to the pop-sounding first album of all Idols past. I also think it would have been HIGHlarious to see a boxing metaphor play out between Archuleta and 3rd place finisher Syesha Mercado, just for the images it provokes in my mind, though I don't think either would deserve to take home the title at the end of that fight.

Threats and Cover-Ups, Now THAT's Friendship!...

Television friendships often start out strong but through time get lost in the shuffle of the ever-growing intricacies of new characters, new plots, and new twists. The women of Wisteria Lane introduced themselves to us as friends first-- a fearsome foursome who had survived tragedy (then their fifth wheel Mary Alice's suicide) amidst their Stepford-perfect suburban life. The loss of one seemed to bring the others closer, sharing their grief as they would a basket of muffins or some cold refreshments around the poker table. As the years (and seasons) went on, though, moments shared by all of the ladies were few and farther between, giving way for relationship drama of a different sort. Men were paraded in and out (and sometimes back in again) of their lives; they got wrapped up in their children, their jobs, their pasts coming back to haunt them, and even the occasional illness or natural disaster. With the fourth season so abbreviated by the WGA strike-- and the post-strike numbers for shows across the board being so low-- Marc Cherry and his team of writer minions really stepped it up... ironically by taking a giant step back and rediscovering the show's roots.

There were glimpses of the friends' strength in numbers, namely when Lynette was diagnosed with cancer, but even then they seemed to pair off in smaller duos than really come together as a group. The last few episodes of Desperate Housewives finally started to once again rely very heavily on the women putting aside their pride (and at times their differences) and rallying around each other for help and support. After all, it is their friendship to which the audience can most relate (after all, I don't know how many viewers have also dealt with murders living next door or affairs with teenage handymen, but my guess would be not many!), and therefore, it is said friendship that binds the show. It all seemed to resume two episodes ago ("Mother Said") when Edie (Nicollette Sheridan) found out the truth behind Bree and Orson's newborn son and blackmailed her with it. Cherry could (and probably would but for the need to get to a certain point faster) have drawn that storyline out; Bree has always been so desperate (pardon the pun) to seem perfect at all times and all costs that it would have made sense for her to give into Edie's threats just to keep her secret. Instead, though, her character, and the show in general, showed tremendous growth by arriving on her friends' doorsteps to ask for help. And of course their strong bond rallied around her without even a second thought: they marched down the Lane to Edie's house as an impenetrable wall and announced they were done with her: they would be freezing her out completely. Not one of the other three women even breathed mention of Bree's original deceit in keeping the secret from them this whole time; not one brought up the fact that it is only because she needs something does she come clean. Instead, they just immediately pulled up their metaphorical bootstraps and joined their good friend and neighbor in battle without even a second thought.

Similarly, in the fourth season ender ("Free"), upon seeing the squad cars arrive at Katherine (Dana Delany)'s house, post-shot-fired, Bree-- perhaps in a "pay it forward" sort of way--gathered all of the girls and concocted a story just generic enough to be plausible. Though up until this point Katherine had kept all of them at an arm's length away-- a point touched on earlier in the episode-- when they saw her in need of help, they banded together with the same strength in numbers approach that took down Edie. Only this time they were in the face of a much bigger monster: an abuser and murderer who hid behind his badge to get away with his crimes. They didn't know the details about what he had done to deserve the fatal shot straight to his heart, and they didn't ask (or really even seem to care); though Katherine may have built a wall up around herself, they were always hoping to be let in, and they seized their chance by coming to her defense and describing enough details to make the cops believe the shot was fired in self-defense. They are nothing if not loyal to their own.They didn't even laugh in her face when Susan said her baby boy's name was Maynard. If that's not true friendship, I don't know what is!

It was equally great to see that in the last few minutes of "Free," when it was suddenly five years in the future, despite the many changes each character as undergone individually (if you didn't see it, has the full episode), they still come together regularly (perhaps even moreso than before) to play poker, gossip, and just generally share their lives. And it's even better to see that they seem to have permanently added a fifth in Katherine. They, and in turn the show, will only be better for it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

In Odder News: My Kind Of Guy!...

I once got pulled over for driving 90+ on the 101 freeway while blasting Mariah Carey's "Music Box" album. I'm partially convinced that I was pulled over because of what I was blasting. The highway patrol probably assumed I was a chick based on my music selection and therefore would be an easy target. The night I got pulled over I ended up getting off with just a warning (and I'm not entirely convinced the guy was even a real cop, but that's really neither here nor there), but had he said something negative about my music selection, I probably would have mouthed off and gotten cuffs slapped on me for it. At least I am not the only one, though; Mariah fans are hardcore! We're like diamonds, y'all: we don't crack; we cut!

Madison's Gonna Be Famous, Y'all!...

Just another something to add to his resume! Today Daily Puppy chose Madison as their Grown Up Puppy of the Day! Please visit the page and offer positive comments; maybe I can get him on The Greatest American Dog after all. Or at least get him some print work that will help me in my new mortgage goals.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's A Nice Day (For A White Wedding)...

This week the Supreme Court of California finally overturned the ban against gay marriage, prompting dozens of on-the-spot proposals. As I watched the press conference and the subsequent coverage, I couldn't help but feel a mixture of "it's a bad time" but also a deep sadness. Not only did I wonder how many people were going to get married this weekend just because they were afraid of another reversal, but I was overwhelmed with the insanity of it all. In our country’s darkest hour (slavery), we didn’t deny those people the right to marry... At least, I don’t think we did, but I can’t be one hundred percent sure considering the biased, rah-rah America texts that my New York City public school provided. We owned people; we bought and sold and traded people, treating them like second-class citizens or even animals, but we still let them pair off and have families. It’s a basic human right-- we could see it back then-- and yet for many citizens it has been denied until just this past week (and is still being denied in many states). It's ridiculous, and also unfortunate, that something which so many take for granted is something for which some others have to fight so hard, but California has always been a leader when it comes to trends, so though this is a baby step, it's at least in the right direction.

The first public figure to take advantage of the newfound equality was Ellen Degeneres, who when she announced she will be marrying long-time girlfriend Portia de Rossi, received a standing ovation from her studio audience. I admit I teared up a bit just watching from my couch at home. Ellen turned fifty a few months ago, and she probably spent the majority of those years resigning herself to the fact that she'd never be able to walk down the aisle. Last week she finally held her fiftieth birthday party-- with a carnival theme, no less-- and gave a speech saying how amazing and blessed her life is and how she could have never imagined her life would turn out this way. Now she has another reason-- perhaps one of the most important reasons-- to add to that list. I only wish I still worked for her show so I could get invited 'cause you know that is going to be The party of the year.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Still Fighting For Nineteen...

Time and again Mariah Carey has claimed she is "eternally twelve," but her most recent album, E=MC2 takes her fans back to 1989, when at the ingenue age of nineteen, her demos were up-tempo, her skirts were short, and figure was waify-- before Tommy and Sony got a hold of her and molded her into the ballad queen, putting her in high-necked but form-fitting dresses that made her look (and sound) much older than her years. The Mariah of E=MC2 is the not the sober, somber MC from "Close My Eyes," "Looking In," or "Outside;" she is fun, flirty, and seemingly the most comfortable in her own skin that she has ever been. "Touch My Body," then, a light-hearted, G-rated romp, was the perfect choice for the first single to showcase not only the place Mariah is in today but also to fit in nicely with the place radio is in today. It was no surprise that "Touch My Body" quickly soared to Number 1, making it Mariah's eighteenth hit, and officially crowning her the biggest selling female artist of all time. After surpassing Elvis, Mariah was on track to take on the Fab Four themselves, but unfortunately her deeply personal "Bye Bye" never reached those same heights, holding Mariah at bay from that coveted nineteen.

Where "Touch My Body" was tongue-in-cheek and kitschy, "Bye Bye" was a regression to her early nineties debut on the music scene. For the true lambs, this was Classic Mariah at her best: emotional and chock full of the powerhouse five-octave notes that made her a superstar. For newer listeners and the ones who wrote her off during the tumultuous 2001 escapades, though, "Bye Bye" was a little too old-school. Radio may be almost dead in its traditional sense, with MTV, VH1, and BET following suit (their line-up boasts so many reality shows now that their On-Demand channel doesn't even offer videos anymore!), but the Internet has busted open the music industry, introducing potential new fans to artists they might never have found without the aid of MySpace or iTunes. And unfortunately, the Internet is a very vapid, superficial place. With thirty second preview clips offered, there has to be a solid (usually fast-paced) hook to get "the kids" coming back, as most of them want light-hearted, at times comical, joints that they can bump in their cars just as they would in the clubs.

With a deep bass driving beat and equally deep romantic lyrics, Mariah's just-announced third single off E=MC2, "Love Story," stands a better shot than the death-laden "Bye Bye" at turning into her next Number 1. Both are stripped-down songs returning to reliance on the simplicity of a strong vocal-- even the video for "Bye Bye" features the normally glitter-glam Mariah in a simple pair of jeans and white tee. Returning to her roots as a storyteller, Mariah no longer uses a million and one metaphors (to this day most don't realize "Vision of Love" was about the power of God) to tell her stories. In "Love Story," she weaves a tale of a young couple as they come together after time just specific enough to raise eyebrows about her own relationship ("And then his friends/Said "it's too soon to settle down"/And then her friends/Said "he's a playa, slow it down...") and just general enough to create yet another one for the prom play list.

And that's what Mariah's lambs love most about her: the intricacy with which she can weave details of her own sagas into songs that really could be speaking to just about any (and every)one. Will that translate into widespread, mainstream success, though? For the casual listener, as long as they're entertained, they don't really care how, and in today's frenetic, ADD-laded society, what entertains is often only the flashy. "Love Story's" climb on the charts may rely very heavily on its video then, so though I never thought I'd say this, Mariah's camp would be well-advised to follow a little more in Bret Ratner's lead of "Touch My Body" than the home movie route of "Bye Bye."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In Odder News: The Real World Just Won't Die...

Next season, the record twenty-first for the chain-smoking, hard-drinking MTV reality series, The Real World will be set in none other than Brooklyn NY. Despite the gentrification and the influx of hipsters, Brooklyn is still known for few things, namely pizza (good), racism (bad), big gold chains (eh), drug deals in schoolyards (bad), the birthplace of dark lip-liner with light lipstick (ridiculous), trash blowing down the street (dirty), and bad accents (just plain bad). In other words: tacky and classless. Those kids should fit right in!

Or not. This may be the season to finally kill off the show once and for all.

My Five Cents: SVU's Lake A Criminal...Sort Of...

I may have given up with the second (and often highest-rated) in the Law & Order franchise prematurely. After declaring the show treading in dangerous waters following some very strategic “get our leads Emmys” episodes, during which jurisdictions were crossed and procedures were fictionalized, I stopped watching and opted only to read the recaps the following morning. I decided I would come back to the show if they followed my post-strike plan and revealed some sort of seedy past for one Detective Chester Lake (Adam Beach), whose drawling dialogue always sounded darker and smarmier than perhaps it should. Last night, in the ninth season finale, they did just that, when the SVU detectives (again stepping over boundaries) investigated a police shooting in which Lake was the prime suspect, and of course he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, which made him look even guiltier. It’s not exactly what I had in mind for his character, but it will do (pig; it will do).

Now since the show ended on a cliffhanger after Lake went rogue, kidnapped a previous victim, killed a rapist, and then got arrested, there’s a chance it might come back in the fall with a big “Gotcha!” to the audience, explaining it was all a set-up to get the real bad guys (ie: the other rapists and corrupt cops), and Lake isn’t really a bad guy after all. After all, some of the inner-squad beef seemed a bit staged, though they didn’t have an audience but for the other detectives (and you know, the at-home viewers). However, with Beach's intended departure being leaked to the press last month, though, it appears the show is just cleaning house: ADA Casey Novak is on the verge of disbarment with her actions in the season finale, as Diane Neal announced she will be leaving the show for greener pastures, and Fin (Ice-T) requested transfer. With two beloved characters heading out, it only make senses to also get rid of the one guy who never found his place within the department or with the fans. I just wish they had done it with some more balls— learning that "second semen sample" was his and then finding him hiding out in some dank basement, surrounded by serial killer-obsessive collections and another victim about to be slaughtered, forcing one of his “brothers in arms” to take him out. They may not have seen his snap behavior coming, but those habitual viewers who paid even the slightest bit of attention most certainly did, and SVU punked out by not making him turn out to be the twisted sociopath we all knew he had within him. Instead they made him almost a martyr and crucified fan-favorite Casey; what used to be a tough, controversial show has become a melodramatic soap opera.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Introducing My Five Cents...

A new column in which I offer short, sporadic bursts of off-the-head opinions on things ranging from real life experiences to specific episodes of television I like.

And what better for the first installment than highlights from The Top 3 on American Idol?
Rex Lee in the audience! Syesha knowing she's going out but trying her best to do so with a bang. A sexy, sassy rendition of "Fever," complete with chair choreography is not for the typical AI demographic, and it's like she's making a statement because she knows it will be her last. I like her more and more every week (for reasons like that); she's a less annoying, less arm-pitted Beyonce. Oh yeah, I voted for her. A lot. I want the producers to really have to work to fix the finale how they want it. Also, Wheezy-- I mean, David A. singing "my boo?" I thought it was weird when Mariah did, but this... takes the proverbial cake. Also, Simon picking "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" for David C. and then commending his bravery for taking on the song (he didn't have a choice, though, right?), and also: Leona Lewis knocked that one out of the park on her debut album, and I have a hard time believing Simon didn't have that in mind (her being his protege and all) when he selected the song this week. It's like he was waiting for someone to bring up his success. Diane Warren's face after David C.'s rendition of "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing;" was it just me or did she look like she thought it was kind of a mess? Maybe I was projecting.

And just for kicks and giggles, let's throw in Hell's Kitchen, too.
Lou Ross, the little one, tells Chef Ramsay his pasta is bland during a taste-test challenge; I peed myself a little. In the most obvious attempt to create drama where there isn’t much, the producers set up a “rivalry” between every-Grip-I've-ever-worked-with-looking Ben and grimace-face Matt, and Ramsay’s pained, “is this sh*t for real?” expression while comparing them to the Yankees vs. Red Sox is just priceless. It’s like he doesn’t even know who those teams are (though the red and blue analogy is fitting nonetheless). Grimace-face Matt, who Best Week Ever compared to Sam The Eagle, calls himself a metrosexual and then gets a chocolate mask during his spa reward, and I don't want to lick his face even a little bit. Rosann, the Staten Islandite, screws up scallops, and I wonder aloud if didn’t she go home last week? Oh, wait, that was Nikki from Top Chef. Jen gets yelled at and accuses Ramsay of being on his period; I peed a little again. Maybe I drink too much water. The guys are punks, sore losers, and wimps, which is pretty much redundant, but at least Ben is going home, as anti-climactic as it may be; I'm sick of looking at his arrogant face, and... HOLY F-ING SH*T, NEXT WEEK SOMEONE CUTS OFF THE TIP OF THEIR FINGER AND COOKS IT WITH THE REST OF THE PANCETTA; it's like a reality version of a Very Special Friends Thanksgiving!!!

Get Excited; TV Is Back!...

Statistics show that the 100 day writer's strike affected television for the long-term this season because though shows have been back on the air with new material as early as the end of March (for some, like Cold Case), viewership is still down. Whether once-fans just turned their loyalties toward other media like Netflix or streaming online videos, or whether they're just keeping their TV off altogether, networks are working overtime to win them back. With the announcements of new shows on the horizon, as well as returning favorites, Fall 2008 is certainly looking up!

The majority of the new fall programs that has me personally excited, I must admit, only are what they are due to the casting choices. Since the WGA strike forced an abbreviated pilot season, little is known about the details of the following shows (at least to me, who hasn't been privy to reading the scripts), but the buzz around the talent attached is enough to get me to tune in. After all, unique plotlines and punchy dialogue is hard to come by; usually a show's quality can be exponentially raised just by who's involved. If someone I admire believes enough in the project, I usually will, too.

First up on the "Must See" (or "Must TiVo," for today's day and age) is Fox' The Inn. Starring Jason Bateman!, Niecy Nash!, Jerry O'Connell, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson!, The Inn focuses on the goings-on for staffers and guests alike in a posh Manhattan hotel. While on paper it sounds a bit like the short-lived (and rightfully so) The Captain, with talent like the aforementioned attached, I have to believe it is destined to be just offbeat and quirky enough for today's sardonic audience-- myself included. After all, it is starring, written by, and produced by an Arrested Development alum.

Though the show went off the air prematurely a few years ago, the talent Arrested Development is well-represented in the upcoming lineup with projects that will undoubtedly garner them their much-deserved widespread exposure and even wider fan base. Jessica Walter will be appearing on The CW's still untitled 90210 reunion/spin-off. Normally that kind of program is not something about which I would normally be gung-ho, but between her, Lori Loughlin, and the recent official signing of Jennie Garth, all the show needs is a few gay pin-up male leads, and I'll be officially in.

And just in case you haven't had your fill of adult cartoons, Fox has also ordered episodes of Sit Down, Shut Up, by Mitch Hurwitz. The show, which is based on a show made popular overseas (though in the live action form there in Australia), is an animated look at high school teachers who are all much more invested in their own problems than helping their students. Following his wife's lead, Will Arnett will voice a character on this show, as will his Arrested co-stars Henry Winkler and Jason Bateman (again). Though Fox may have canceled the show that launched them all as comedic geniuses, they are trying to do right by them now with this new program, it seems, and more power to them for finally realizing the potential in such actors... though it is a bit too little too late. Sit Down, Shut Up will also star SNL favorites Cheri Oteri and Will Forte and sounds a bit like Miss/Guided (which, sadly, ABC is not giving more of a chance!), but that only makes it more appealing to this reviewer.

On NBC's horizon is yet another Americanized version of an Australian favorite: Kath & Kim. Though I've never seen the original, a part of me just hopes for a slightly more mature (but just as rapid-fire) Gilmore Girls. After all, with Molly Shannon playing the mom role, and Selma Blair as the daughter-- and the age difference so close-- you just know this isn't going to be your typical familial sitcom. NBC gave this show an order without even greenlighting a pilot, that's how screwed up the industry is due to the strike, and despite the fact that the summary for the show was only one line, the press release did feature the word "dysfunctional," which intrigued me.

Not premiering until the summer, NBC has a reality food competition all their own with Chopping Block. Designed in a "Last Restaurant Standing" format, eight couples will be split apart and given competing restaurant space, embarking on challenges that range from designing the space to preparing the menu to publicizing it. While the show doesn't sound as food heavy as say Top Chef, The Next Food Network Star, or even Hell's Kitchen, anything dealing with imaginative dishes wins me over on concept alone.

So far not all networks have announced their line-ups-- and those that have don't seem entirely complete anyway; really, ABC; only two news shows? WTF?. I'm hoping once the grid is full, I will some additions to make to my "What To Watch" list, but in all honesty, I don't have the highest hopes. Considering recent years, I'm expecting a lot of copycat programming and returns of shows with which I'm already none-too-thrilled. These are my early picks, but they are subject to change at any time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

For Your (Late) Consideration...

While watching How I Met Your Mother this evening, I happened upon a commercial for a new CBS reality show called The Greatest American Dog, in which pets and their owners live together in the same house (well, duh) while competing for the top prize. Some dogs operate on a "show" level, while others are just typical pets, some of whom have been trained to do some pretty odd things. And I only have one thing to say: how the hell did I not know about this sooner???

My dog Madison is not only the Greatest American Dog, but he is the Greatest Dog in general. I know it's much too late in the game to send in his headshot and demo reel (seriously, where was I when Craigslist was looking?), but I must throw his hat in the ring for any internet write-in vote there may be. Not only is he the cutest and sweetest, but he's also exceptionally smart. He learned his name within a day of me taking him home, and he was pee pad trained a day or two after that. In fact, I can count the number of housebreaking accidents he had on one hand. He also manages to learn the names of all of his new toys within an hour of receiving them. He puts a smile on everyone's face-- from strangers at the beach to neighbors walking by who just spot him sitting in the window. He loves other dogs and all people, and he mostly just wants attention and love. LePaws even wants to sign him, though I'm still not sure how I feel about making him a "working dog." I do, however, feel he deserves the attention and love of America, which is why I broadcast him on the internet For Your Consideration:

Madison, exhibiting uncharacteristic self-restraint as he performs his "pick a cookie" trick.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

39 Days... 16 People... One Winner... THIS Is "Survivor"...

Judging from the show’s tagline of “Out Wit, Out Play, Out Last,” it really should be no surprise that the sixteenth season of Survivor ended up with an all-girls finale. What should be surprising, however, is that it took so long to turn out that way.Life on the island (whichever one it may be depending on what year/twist it is) is not easy for the sixteen castaways that embark on a life-changing journey and a quest for a one million dollar prize. While some reward and immunity challenges seem designed for the physically fit and muscle-bound, there is no arguing that the majority of the game, namely the politics that go on in camp in between challenges, is mainly mental. Time and time again we have seen big guys cut down from lack of nourishment (like when Michael, light on his feet from hunger, fainted into the fire in season two) as well as lack of alliances (James was blindsided during both of his seasons, despite being a generally well-liked, not to mention quite possibly the buffest dude ever to grace CBS’ screen). Meanwhile the perky and petite girls, often originally written off as non-threatening due to their size, slip by week after week, worming their way into hearts and beds… or what passes for beds on the Survivor islands, anyway. Some succeed by hooking onto another player and riding coattails, sure, but that can only last for so long, and the truly smart players use that as only one part of their game. In that multi-faceted way, Survivor is truly a woman’s game.

Take Parvati and Amanda, for example, in this season’s Micronesia: Fans Vs. Favorites: in the beginning they cozied up to James and Ozzy, respectively, knowing that both guys were the strongest competitors but also the biggest targets. By aligning themselves in a fearsome foursome, they solidified themselves as players to be reckoned with: Parvati and Amanda gained the respect of anyone looking at them from the outside by simply being buddy-buddy with two of the most-liked guys in the competition. They knew enough not to stop there, though; they knew enough not to share everything with those guys, assuming the others would gun for them once the merge occurred (if they were all still around at that point… and Parvati and Amanda seemed pretty sure they would be). They also knew enough not to stop befriending the newbies just because they might have the ace in their pocket that was Ozzy.

Despite being relatively quiet during the first half of the season, Natalie and Alexis appeared to be the Parvati and Amanda for the “Fans” camp and deserved to be in the finals perhaps more than anyone because their lack of screen time in the beginning implied they didn’t start any unnecessary controversy or drama. They were there to play the game in full: lean and limber during physical challenges, quick as whips during intellectual ones, and always willing to lend a hand around camp, they did everything a good Survivor needs to in order to win over their tribe mates and the at-home audience. They made friends without making enemies and didn’t seem to take elements of the game personally-- ironic considering television usually portrays such powerful women as catty, conniving, and vindictively petty. It’s something the men could easily do, too, if they wanted; we’ve seen it happen on reality shows before (hell, we’ve seen it on CBS reality shows, too, with the Big Brother bromances), but for some reason, on Survivor, they don’t… or can’t. Maybe it’s because when they’re taken into the wild, into the elements, they’re stripped down and resort to their most primal instincts. Perhaps for men that often doesn’t include making room for too much emotional support or survival; they instead focus on hunting and providing—two things very important in this game, but not the end-all, be-all.

Social aspects aside, though, many of the challenges were designed as mind over matter, as well, giving the advantage to the girls who can keep their cool, too. Analytical thinking certainly helps; after all, even nutty Eliza very quickly dismissed a weakly carved stick as the immunity idol to Jason’s insistence it was the real deal. Once Amanda pulled the coveted individual immunity idol out of her bag, though, sending Alexis packing with only two votes against her, it was clear whose game this was. Though Erik still sat among the ladies, a physical threat for his quickness and agility, his youth and naivety (and perhaps a bit of blindness from the stars in his eyes of being surrounded by “Favorites”) made him an easy target to manipulate. Yet, when Jeff snuffed his torch, he could only offer a weak “You girls” in an “Aw, shucks” sort of way that proved he wasn’t even mad at them. They played a better game than he did, and they deserve their spot in the finals.

This season’s Survivor proved that when women work together instead of in competition as they are often trained to do from a very young age, they can beat everyone and everything. It’s just unfortunate it took them eight years and sixteen seasons to figure that out.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

In Odder News: More Bad News For Jason Castro...

Pot Suckers. Sounds like a joke, right? Or at least it did to me. Green lollipops wrapped in white, newspapery wrappers boasting they taste like marijuana. Even if they're real, I can't imagine they'd fly off shelves. I mean, do people really smoke pot because they like the taste? While the story that the news has been reporting about the marketing to kids (well, duh, guys; it's a piece of candy; kids are the prime demographic!) is not particularly funny, the name of the Senator spearheading the whole "no sale to minors" campaign (not unlike cigarettes, I suppose) most certainly is. That is because the man is Georgia Senator Doug Stoner.


Okay, it might be a little funnier if his name was Joe.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sometimes What Happens In Vegas... Really SHOULD Stay There!...

This Friday a new comedy about drunken debauchery leading to detrimental decisions in Las Vegas opens, starring none other than the poster children for bad decisions (at least where picking scripts is concerned), Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher. What Happens in Vegas is the story of a man and a woman each in Vegas to drink and gamble away different troubles but find themselves married overnight. A quickie divorce would follow, but Kutcher wins big on a slot machine, and Diaz decides, as his wife, she’s entitled to half. Crazy scenarios ensue.What Happens in Vegas is not the first (nor will it probably be the last) of its retched stereotypical formula that should have taken a lead from its title and stayed there-- perhaps getting a limited release in the city in which it takes place but absolutely not being unleashed on the general public.

Pay it Forward (Warner Brothers, 2000) is not your typical flashy Vegas film, choosing instead to focus on a young boy (Haley Joel Osmont) and his quest to change the world by doing good deeds for three separate individuals with the hope that they, in turn, will do good things for three people, and so on and so on. While director Mimi Leder had a nice idea of showing an alternative side to a town known for a few very specific things, her execution of the storytelling is severely contrived, especially when she brings Osmont’s teacher and mother together in an exaggerated situation just to continually preach the film’s message. Perhaps it is because most are expecting a more cynical world to come out of such a town, but none of the overly sensitive characters, nor none of the extremely sappy events, in Pay it Forward are believable to exist outside of the fictionalized world appearing on-screen.

Las Vegas is home to its fair share of ridiculous-sounding conventions and sporting events, but an arm wrestling championship might be the most “out there” one of all. In Over The Top (Warner Brothers, 1987), however, that is exactly for what Sylvester Stallone travels to Vegas, though. A truck driver with a gravely ill wife at home, he makes the road trip with his estranged son, determined to win the title and take home the grand prize money in order to buy a brand new truck. Director Menahem Golan tries to marry the drama and action genres in Over The Top but falls flat in part due to the inane expositional dialogue but also due to the exceptional talent his actors needed-- but severely lacked-- to get to those emotional places.

Honey, I Blew Up The Kid (Walt Disney Pictures, 1992), the sequel to 1989’s Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, picks the Szalinski family up with Wayne (Rick Moranis) attempting to fix an enlarging machine in the lab at which he works. Accidentally, though, his oldest son zaps his baby brother, and any time Adam (Daniel and Joshua Shalikar) gets near an electrical power source, such as the microwave, he begins to grow. With such a farfetched (and far from original) plotline, most likely director Randal Kleiser intended to rely on the imagery of Godzilla that Adam’s appearance should have evoked as he lumbers down the Vegas strip, but sadly, the FX of the day don’t even hold up, and the result is just laughable. Even Adam is shown with a gap-toothed grin as he “terrorizes” the tourists.

Ralph Bakshi’s half live-action, half animated (and half-baked) Cool World (Paramount Pictures, 1992) unbelievably stars Brad Pitt and Kim Basinger and tells the story of a cartoonist who somehow lands in the animated world that he created… but remains human in all sense of the definition while there. The film gets even more outlandish and off-track when one of his characters seduces him with the hopes of jumping off the page and into the real world. Originally, Cool World was set to be a much darker tale set in the underground world of Vegas, but when mainstream producers rejected the idea of a horror film about a half-human, half-cartoon girl who sets out to kill the man who made her such a freak, Bakshi compromised the original vision, and a two-dimensional, unfocused mess was born. It’s the kind of Roger Rabbit rip-off that might be fun if the audience is intoxicated… but that should never be a prerequisite for viewing!

And of course no list of train-wreck films (regardless of in which city they may take place) can be complete without the inclusion of Showgirls (MGM, 1995). Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Showgirls boasts an official plot summary of “a young drifter wanders into Las Vegas and climbs the social ladder from stripper to showgirl.” Most likely hoping to capitalize on Elizabeth Berkley’s star turn (she was once destined for typecasting as a brainiac ingĂ©nue due to her long-time role on the tween sensation Saved By The Bell), the filmmakers of Showgirls created a project that reflects, and ultimately glorifies, Vegas’ seedy side. Though the script holds some serious, and at the time still-controversial issues, such as interracial relationships and homosexuality, the gratuitous nudity and simulated sex dominate screen time, making a mockery of any political statement that perhaps should have been attempted in order to have Showgirls considered a legitimate and relevant piece of cinematic (and Vegas) history instead of the comic joke it has become.

Admittedly there are a handful of very clever and unique films to crawl out of the superfluous glitz of such a frenetic town. 1995’s Casino, 1996’s Swingers, and both the 1960 original and 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven, for example, boast witty dialogue and genuine character moments. Unfortunately for the majority of the list, any substance to the stories just gets buried under the bright lights, serving to as just a typical Vegas get-rich-quick-scheme for their producers.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Second Time's The Charm?...

Now that Mariah Carey's wedding has been officially confirmed (after a week of crazy speculation, I still held onto the belief it was either a) a filmed wedding for her "Bye Bye" video, in which Nick plays her dead? love or b) some elaborate publicity stunt (ala Pop Fiction) for her new album; she's gone on a lot of crazy shows to promote the hell out of it thus far, what's one more?), I officially feel okay about weighing in with my own two cents.
With the emergence of the People magazine exclusive cover/article (and kudos to everyone in her camp for keeping it so underwraps it couldn't leak to any other outlets than the one you sold it to first... take notes, Jenny McCarthy!), I guess I will have to throw my hat onto my third and quite frankly, least popular, theory. She must be pregnant.

In all of her press interviews for E=MC2, Mariah was constantly asked about motherhood (something which seemed out of the blue if not a strategic ploy to plant seeds of what's to come in the mind of her fans), and reiterated time and again that she'd have to be married, in a stable, committed relationship first. Though that's not my belief, I can understand where she's coming from: she grew up with divorced parents and was exposed to the kind of heartache that can cause, so she automatically assumes the other side is better. And she may not be wrong; I'm sure growing up in a home with two parents who are in love is healthier than anything else; I just think it's rare to find.

So the quickie marriage, following an equally quick courtship, just has my cynical conspiracy theorist eyebrows raised, and of course I would assume her new union comes out of the desire to make good on all of those promises set in print. Is there any evidence to support my claims? Not really. Not yet anyway. Not unless you count the ultrasound... sounds in the intro to the aforementioned "Bye Bye" or the fact that now when asked about motherhood she says: "It's part of the whole purpose of getting married. I'd just want our children to have the best childhood and upbringing they possibly could." Other than that, though, there are no physical signs: she is thinner now than she has been in years; she looks fantastic, if bordering on a little gaunt. But I'm going to hold to my theory until she and her infant of a groom (I'm not judging her the age difference, but he has always seemed so damn immature, and personally I find Marc Sudack MUCH more attractive!) prove me wrong.

It's not that I don't think she'd make a good mother-- it's quite the opposite, actually; I think her sensitivity and the fact that she has endured as much as she has will only make her stronger in that category-- it's just that Nick is such a baffoon, I can't imagine spending forever with him. I mean, maybe she's just still so scarred from the domineering personality of Tommy Mottola, that she wanted to go in the completely opposite direction and find someone who needs dominance and boundaries and control. Maybe it's a way to start mothering early. I can only speculate. I can't help but be skeptical because I know what it's like to be "... little protective 'bout who I let in side," and women like us just can't change overnight! Maybe it really is love, though, and if it is, I wish them all the best.

UPDATE: Apparently, Mariah also got a "Mrs. Cannon" tattoo on her back-- an oddity for two reasons: 1) It's her first tattoo, and if I remember correctly she used to say in interviews they're "just not for her" and 2) Surely she wears the pants in that relationship, and he should have gotten a "Mr. Carey" tramp stamp! And it's not like my friend K., who got her fiance's initials tattooed on her wrist... at least when she called off that relationship, it was a small, easy fix. Mariah's sounds more like Angelina Jolie ink. But again, if this is real, I wish them all the best. Hopefully there will be no need to call in the lasers.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Sexiness, like beauty in general, is in the eye of the beholder: it is completely subjective and reasons behind why one may find another sexy cannot even always be explained. Who we find attractive is not even really left up to us; there is something innate in our make-up that draws us to one person rather than another. Or at least, that's what I believe. So that being said, tonight TV Guide is airing their "TV's Sexiest Men (of All Time)" list-- a compilation of twenty-five men ranging from Patrick Dempsey to Chris Noth to even Ted Danson-- and after viewing an early copy of the special (the only perk to working in VOD), I have determined they have made quite a few oversights.

I admit that I am biased when it comes to our first contender, Mr. Jensen Ackles, but no one can deny the bouncy blond hair and deep dimples that first graced our screens back in the early nineties with his work on NBC daytime and later his broad shoulders, smoldering gaze, and knack for sarcasm on Dark Angel. Now he is proving the old adage is true that men truly do get better with age: just look at him now on Supernatural!

Mr. Mark Paul Gosselaar first won hearts as the schemer with a heart of gold, Zack Morris, on the tween sensation Saved By The Bell, but no one felt right about calling him "sexy" as a skinny minor, so he didn't truly cross over into swoon-worthy status until he started playing tough cop John Clark on NYPD Blue. Gosselaar has made everything from neon surf trunks to oversized windbreakers to plain black suits look good, but perhaps he got the most notice when he was wearing nothing at all. Fans who had grown up wallpapering their rooms with his Tiger Beat pin-ups finally got their money shot on the latter program when he rolled over in bed and flashed his bare butt-- something which was only more appreciated after years of waiting.

Mr. Jesse L. Martin spent the last nine years on NBC's original Law & Order-- just last month appearing in his final episode-- without ever winning an award (though he was nominated for several SAG and Image Awards) for his gripping portrayal of a detective who in one breath can win a victim over with a crooked smile and wink, while in the next, scare a victim with just a subtle shift of emotions behind the same lips and eyes (and okay, pounding the table with a fist probably doesn't hurt the gruff persona). So, though he's moved on now, he staked his claim in television long ago and deserves his rightful title even though his screen is a little bit bigger nowadays.

If the guys in my science classes had looked like Mr. Gary Dourdan, I definitely would have showed up to labs! Between his light eyes/dark complexion combination, his confident swagger, and his general style-- usually rocking an open-to-the-chest-button-down under a leather jacket-- he is single-handedly working week after week on CSI to redefine what the American public thinks of "science nerds." Dourdan has recently announced that if he gets his way, he will be leaving the CBS franchise shortly, but if his fans get their way, he will pop up-- and steam up-- the small screen again just as soon. Regardless of recent legal troubles, the man is beautiful!

Though he plays a harried dad now on Desperate Housewives, Mr. Doug Savant might best be remembered as a resident doctor on Melrose Place. He had audience members swooning, even with short screen time, which seems to be a pattern for him even now, all these years later. Though his on-screen relationships have always been pretty tame compared to the other characters’ around him (on Melrose Place, his character Matt was gay, and nineties television wasn’t as progressive as it is today), his sparkling eyes and wide white grin always manage to capture attention… and hearts.

Others worth mentioning: Rob Lowe, Austin Peck, Esai Morales, and Adam Rodriguez.

You can catch TV Guide's picks today on Channel 3 or just check out this clip below: