Friday, March 20, 2009

Winner of PWR Webby: Him Again???

Poison frontman Bret Michaels is back looking for love in Rock of Love Bus. After two competitions failed to yield a long-term love interest for the washed-up rocker, VH1 is at it again with the third and final installment of one of its most successful reality franchises. What makes this season different from its predecessors? Not much, other than the setting. This season, contestants get a taste of life on the road by traveling around the country on a tour bus. In vying for Bret’s affections, the girls compete in various challenges, ranging from a stage appearance during one of his concerts to a hockey game against the University of Illinois women’s hockey team.

While the season has only just begun, the first three episodes already have established contestant personas. For starters, Samantha is a party girl who frequently suffers from motion sickness, a good condition to have on a tour bus. While she is amusing, she cannot compare to Nikki, a woman who looks like she went three rounds with Mike Tyson before undergoing breast augmentation surgery. But it is not her silicone bosom that separates her from the rest field. After all, most of the women on the show have been “enhanced.” Nikki is unique because she combines plasticity with lasciviousness, drug abuse, alcoholism, rage, and general incoherence. Not surprisingly, she is the most volatile and ridiculous contestant of all. Other contestants, such as Gia and Farrah, are similar in some respects but do not have the same full package of personality traits. That is not to say, however, that all the contestants are blonde women of ill repute. In fact, much of the action and drama occurs between blondes and women with very different appearances and personas. For example, Stephanie is a relative prude whose personality smacks of the all-American girl next door. Another contestant, Natasha, is a mouthy black woman who constantly fights with Nikki and her blonde cohort.

As in past seasons, much of the conflict occurs between the blondes and the brunettes. The lone foreigner, a Brazilian named Marcia, endures teasing and ridicule from the horde of blondes for her thick accent and brown hair. Similarly, Beverly, a brunette who claims to be “all natural,” clashes with the blondes over her appearance. Alas, such conflict does not make this season any different from the other two. The drunken tirades and catfights are just as much a part of this show as in competitions past. On top of this, it’s not like the people have changed either. Bret Michaels and the women who fight for his heart are just as debauched and superficial as before. Perhaps, if even possible, it has gotten even worse this time around. The show is so trashy that Taya, the only contestant famous before the show, pointed out in a confessional that, “I’m a centerfold model for Penthouse and I’m the classiest one here at this point.” There are no signs that the rest of the season will be any different.

-Joseph Golden

Monday, March 2, 2009

Top Chef Season 5 Review

I chose to write my RBA on three food-based reality shows: Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, and The Next Food Network Star. In reality (no pun intended), I just needed an excuse to keep watching (“researching”) the current season of Top Chef. The season ended this week with Hosea, a chef from Colorado, winning it all. I think the judges made the right call—Carla clearly didn’t deserve to win despite being a definite fan favorite, and while Stefan proved his mettle in the kitchen, I don’t think Bravo would have let the egotistical European triumph. I really enjoyed the twist in the final competition, where Hosea was allowed to pick the ingredients that the chefs had to use in their hor d’oeurvres. Stefan getting stuck having to cook alligator, which he had done before, was probably one of the best moments of schadenfreude in the show’s history (though it was tempered by the fact that Stefan actually managed to put out a solid alligator soup offering).

Overall, I found this season of Top Chef to be one of the better ones for the show. I liked the contestants, especially the scrappy mom from New Jersey, Ariane, and the funny Italian, Fabio. The contests were clever for the most part. I think having the finale in New Orleans was a great idea, not only because Emeril Lagasse, one of my favorite chefs, took part, but also because it is just such an incredible culinary hotspot. The season did have some low points, though. The overplayed “drama” elements, especially the romantic tension between Hosea and Leah, weren’t particularly interesting nor entertaining. Also, Toby Young, even if he is such an expert on food, turned out to be a rather annoying judge. His jokes and critiques were unnecessarily harsh and usually did not have the redeeming humor factor seen, say, with Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen. Despite these minor complaints, I was quite pleased with the fifth season of Top Chef and eagerly look forward to the next one.

-James Gische

Sunday, March 1, 2009

She's Baaccckkkkkk.....Ex-Bachelorette to Return to the Season Finale of The Bachelor

Arranged marriages. The phrase conjures up images of traditional practices of many cultures, bringing man and future-wife together for the purpose of secure and stable marriage. Happiness and love are said to often stem from this security, companionship to follow in the years they spend as a married couple.

Bringing men and women together in the hopes of gaining a secure and stable marriage in the end...arranged marriages seem to be basis of ABC's hit show The Bachelor. In the latest season, previous reject from The Bachelorette Jason Mesnick has begun the search for love once again, choosing from 25 beautiful, interesting women in the hopes of finding his wife and the mother of his son from a previous marriage.

However, this season is markedly different from years past. Sure, the contestants are beautiful and the competition fierce, but this season exemplifies a different type of woman. That is to say, one who will make the move to do anything to be with "her" man, her number one. This was demonstrated in forwardness of the contestants: early sleepovers (first alone date with Molly), women making up cards for "the fantasy suite," and cutthroat competition between women in group dates. However, perhaps the most anticipated moment is the return of Deanna Pappas, the infamous Bachelorette (well, infamous in this context) who broke Jason's heart. From the beginning of the show, Deanna has been hinted at returning, pleading with Jason saying that "she made a mistake..but he still had time to fix it." Turns out, her engagement to the carefree snowboarder Jesse didn't last. Shocking.

Previews for the highly anticipated episode have shown Jason positively distraught in this love web: should he go for the girl who got away, or either of these two girls who have gone through this dreadful process thus far under the pretense that he was over his ex? Never before in Bachelor history as a bachelor/bachelorette from a previous season crashed another's has to question her motives. Has she just missed the limelight? Is she jealous that one of the men who "loved" her is about to propose to another woman (keep in mind, she got very angry at contestants on her show for not paying attention to her....could this be round 2?), or does she truly believe she made a mistake (in spite of her intense break up sesh with Jason while he was on bent knee in proposal...).

For many viewers, Deanna's return is not welcome; after choosing a different man, Jason became the hero of his new show and as a result Deanna became the bad guy. Deanna was the reason behind this great guy's unhappiness. We have to ask ourselves, is the dislike of Deanna's return about what she did to him , or a depiction of the failure of the show to function as a social experiment? Indeed, Deanna's return is nothing short of outlier results in this setting: first, it demonstrates that the Bachelorette failed in keeping her love with Jesse, while actively throwing a kink in the Bachelor, essentially disrupting the whole process that we have designed. Indeed, the shift with Deanna interrupts the concept of the arranged marriage to which we so desperately cling in these intense moments. She is not supposed to be there, she can't present him with a choice....he has two women left, and that's it. (or so many think)

Tune in for his final decision tonight, deciding between the confines of the social experiment and the limelight for his previous love...on The Bachelor.