Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Giada de Laurentiis
Everyday Italian

Authentic Italian cuisine simplified to fit the modern, fast-paced lifestyle of a young, vivacious wife, mother, and entrepreneur whose flawless features and voluminous golden hair raise doubts about her culinary prowess. Yes, I am talking about Giada de Laurentiis and her fabulous show, Everyday Italian.

From the energetic and encouraging introductions to the high-definition, vibrant stills of the prepared dishes, this cooking show has successfully set itself apart in the industry of cooking shows. To add to the modern yet authentic vibe of the show, Giada throws in a heavy Italian accent whenever discussing ingredients while she whirls around her fashionable, contemporary kitchen in figure-flattering outfits flashing your startling blue eyes at the camera on occasion.

The success of the show comes from the element of simplicity in the dishes, without the loss of sophistication, unlike its counterpart, 30 Minute Meals with Rachel Ray. Rachel Ray approaches the audience as an equally unskilled cook who somehow manages to maneuver her way through the kitchen by tips and tricks she picked up over the years in her time among the professionals. Her abbreviations and New York accent make her unrefined yet agreeable. Her techniques, or lack thereof, are generally nontraditional and somewhat haphazard. Giada on the other hand, calls upon her professional background in both explanation and technique, yet she is thorough in every description, pleasant, and through her charm and warmth, inviting and encouraging.

The episodes are always cleanly laid out, beginning with a personal introduction to the dish by Giada, followed by a visual feast of the dish that is going to be made during the episode. The cooking session of the episode is always very calm, accompanied by light, upbeat music and little background noise beyond the sizzling of the oil, and of course, Giada’s soothing voice. The set is always kept exceptionally clean, cast in soft sunlight and accented by a neutral color palette.

The conclusion of the typical episode really drives home the main theme of this series, which is that dining and entertaining can be both easy and impressive, but more importantly, fun and worthwhile. Laughing, talking, smiling and generally having a good time, the crowd always seems impressed by the food and content with the company, a situation created by the meal that was just prepared.
This cooking show is effective in inspiring the audience to create their own good memories by cooking and entertaining. The choice of host, setting, music, and camera angles all attempt to maintain sophistication despite obvious simplification.

It's not a dating show; it's not a social experiment; and it's definitely not funny.

It’s not a dating show; it’s not a social experiment; and it’s definitely not funny.
When it first aired in 2005, Ashton Kutcher’s Beauty and the Geek was pitched as “The Ultimate Social Experiment”: a show whose premise was a group of “Beauties” (namely young, attractive women who relied primarily on their looks to get by in life) and a group of “Geeks” (think complete opposite of the “Beauties”) spending six weeks together, in hopes of not only tearing down stigmas but also burying their own previous insecurities. For the “Beauties” this meant learning to appreciate and interact with men who may be missing the sex appeal that naturally comes with a set of gorgeous washboard abs; or who may be missing the charm and seduction of a modern day Valentino; or who may be, frankly, missing it all. On the flipside, for the “Geeks” this meant making the epiphany that you can’t learn everything from a book, as well as overcoming their own deeply embedded insecurities about approaching women – especially hot women. And so a show with such blatantly progressive qualities as Beauty and the Geek begs the question: really Kutcher?

Do people really believe that producer Ashton Kutcher, a star who made his claim to fame by playing the idiot in That 70’s Show and who then went on to produce Punk’d (a show whose premise is simply let’s watch Ashton Kutcher be a jackass to other celebrities), cares about the transformation of these sixteen individuals?
I think not. Beauty and the Geek is a show designed for viewers to mock the clumsy, socially inept geeks and to laugh at the ridiculous goo goos and gah gahs that come out of the mouths of the beauties as they try and answer seemingly trivial questions – all while staring at their beautifully shaped and mounted yah yahs. As viewers, what defines this show and what we derive our entertainment from are not the profound realizations that are made by each person at some point in the show. No, the highlights of each season and the moments we most remember are those moments when a nerd humiliates himself by stripping off his shirt just to reveal his strikingly white set of ribs (or in some cases his strikingly lumpy set of flab), or those moments when a beauty misspells a word we “educated” layman all learned in elementary school, and feels awful about it. Ultimately, this show is about cheap laughs at the expense of others, and the same cheap laughs can only take a show so far.

Not surprisingly, the second and third seasons of the show did considerably worse than the first. But wait! In Season 4 the producers of Beauty and the Geek promised to deliver a shocking twist that will hopefully rile up the audience and at the same time revitalize the dropping ratings brought in by the previous two seasons. Kutcher was probably taking one huge dump when he came up with the ingenious idea of taking out one male geek and one female beauty and – yup, you guessed it – adding in one female geek and one male beauty. Three letters for you Kutcher: OMG.

And wait it gets better, in Season 5 Kutcher tossed that idea and replaced it with yet another brilliant twist to the now faltering show – let’s keep it at 8 female beauties and 8 male geeks, but this time, for just the first two episodes of the season instead of beauties and the geeks, let’s make it beauties versus the geeks! And yup, you probably guessed it again, Season 6 has been put on hold (possibly indefinitely) due to lack of interest. Nice job, Kutcher, looks like the only significant results from your nifty experiment are that you’re horny, you’re obnoxious, and you aren’t even funny. Awesome.

- Jason Wei

Monday, April 27, 2009

To Wear or Not to Wear? That is the Question.


28-year-old Jennifer is a New York actor and comedian. She may by funny, but her friends think that her choice in clothing is even funnier. Jennifer's oversized men's cargo pants and army fatigues are crushing this talented actor … can this actor shed her layers and find her one true self? … at Trapeze School New York, Jennifer is unaware that some surprise spectators have moved in to witness her back flip.

[Once off the trapeze, Jennifer is met by a tall, dark-haired lady with clad in a crew-neck red-and-white printed tee, a navy structured jacket, and khaki pants and a tall, blonde man clad in a striped navy-and-cyan polo and grey pants. Jennifer looks very surprised.]

“I’m Stacey.”
“And I’m Clinton.”
“And we’re from TLC’s What Not to Wear.”

[A crowd of Jennifer’s friends and family cheers. Jennifer now looks really surprised.]

“Your lovely friend Anne called us and she's a little bit concerned about your Julliard-trained fashion sense.”

[The crowd of Jennifer’s friends cheers uncontrollably as Stacey and Clinton continue to verbally assail her choice in clothing. They then give her a better option.]

“I have some good news. I have a Bank of America Card with your name on it [crowd cheers] and $5000 for you to spend on a whole new wardrobe.”

[Jennifer inquires if she can use the money to pay her rent. Stacey and Clinton decline.]

“Actually there's a catch, you have to agree to shop by our rules, okay? And we get your entire current wardrobe. All the men's cargo pants, which I may just take for myself. Now you can get women's clothes.”

[For a split second, Jennifer contemplates the difficult decision of either staying home and mal-dressed or going on a $5000 shopping spree with two great stylists for a head-to-toe makeover. She chooses the sacrificing of her current wardrobe.]

“So here’s the deal. We would like you to go home, pack up all of your clothes to bring to our studio, and we are going to invite you and all of your friends to watch that lovely secret footage tomorrow.”

I. LOVE. THIS. SHOW. I actually considered nominating my mother for it—she knew this by the way. She wasn't amused. Although I label most all reality TV as utter and complete crap, I refuse to put What Not to Wear in that category! Why? Because I’m resigned to believe that it empowers women! The show encourages its contestants to feel comfortable in their own skin by showing that all women can look and feel great about themselves no matter what body type they may have. This thread runs through the fabric of the show and is emphasized when participants who really hate their bodies and the way they look on Monday are exclaiming “Wow, I never knew how good and confident I could look and feel until now” by Friday. However, anyone could argue that after a $5000 shopping spree with two stylists in NYC, Stacey London and Clinton Kelly, a new hairstyle by an A-list hairdresser, Nick Arrojo, and a new makeup wardrobe, compliments of Carmindy, they would teeming with self-esteem as well.

Consequently, on the surface the show also appears to suggest that change comes from the outside in, when in reality (no pun intended) change comes from the inside out. But, can we really say that clothing cannot incite internal change? For the lady who’s spent the last 10 years wearing black, putting on a vibrant color and wearing it in public may incite more change than weeks of personal introspection could do. Conquering that anxiety of wearing color in public may help her to pinpoint what is mentally crippling her from wearing something other than black, whether it be obsession with the notion that “black is slimming”, suggesting an issue with body image, or a paralyzing necessity to blend in or not stand out in a crowd, suggesting an issue with self-esteem.

I do admit that I also tune in for the cute outfits they pick out, upon which I feverishly take mental notes, but I ultimately resonate with
What Not to Wear because of positive influence it appears to have in the lives of its contestants. In general, everyone must step out of their respective comfort zones in order to grow, mature, and evolve as individuals. And for many contestants, this transition into a new wardrobe and confrontation of latent anxieties translate into the start of internal evolution, the traces of which we can begin to see on screen. Though I pine to whole-heartedly believe in the show’s genuine nature, sadly it is reality TV, and, therefore, there is a chance that the end-of-episode gratitude/massive-internal-change chatter I watch is completely staged. Of course to an extent, the act of filming the experience compromises its authenticity since it can be difficult to “pretend the camera’s not there”. Reality TV markets itself as if the storylines depicted in its shows are genuine and thus attempt to convince us as such. Though TLC’s What Not to Wear is no different, I cannot say that I don’t believe those women are walking away as externally upgraded and internally improved individuals.

Perhaps I’m right. Perhaps I’m gullible. Only the producers know.

Brianna Griffin :)


“I’ve reclaimed myself. I had to work much harder in my old look to get people to see me because they had to look past all of that outside shell. And now there’s a more positive, confident, polished, confident energy about me, and people are going to immediately feel that. I am excited for my future.”
- Jennifer

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fantasy is the New Reality

Perhaps I'm the lone cynic amongst my reality-starved fellow bloggers, but I am of the firm belief that there is no dearth of crappy reality TV. It's not so much the boring cliches, nor the insultingly aggrandized stereotypes, nor the despicable motivations that turn me off. It's the fact that I have different standards for TV shows. I watch TV not for gripping real-life drama or "moments of authenticity," but instead for fantastical, impossible situations that feed my delusions of self-grandeur and help me escape the mundaneness of everyday life. It seems, lamentably, as if my preferences are incapable of intersecting with reality culture offerings.

Not true. Luckily, in this day and age of reality overload, there exists a fix for folks like myself. Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory, one of MTV's newest "reality" offerings, is a reality show in the sense that it chronicles the daily struggles of a man with a job and everyday interactions. But it's fantasy in that the protagonist - Mr. Rob Dyrdek - assumes a lofty title that likely nobody else will ever claim: "skater/entrepreneur." For his obligations to be called a "mere" job would be fantasy to any normal mortal being.

It's reality in the sense that it chronicles his dramatic interactions with friends and family. But it's fantasy in that these daily interactions are with colorful characters such as Drama (his meek wannabe cousin/assistant whom Rob routinely hassles), Chanel (his cute, freestyle-rappin' receptionist), Jeremy (his no-nonsense manager whose sternness comically contrasts with Rob's silliness), and his adorable puppies Meaty and Beefy. Though these side characters have abundant charm and personality of their own, they find themselves consistently overshadowed by the sheer charisma and testosterone-fueled antics of Rob Dyrdek and his wondrous "Fantasy Factory."

But what's the deal with this alleged "Fantasy Factory," the other half of the title? Is it really as awe-inspiring as it sounds?

Arguably so. The "fantasy factory" refers to the second protagonist of the show: a giant warehouse of goodies that would render the pants of any fun-lovin' soul wet with glee. It is a giant factory where, as Dyrdek puts it, "dreams are made," boasting such luxuries as a giant foam pit, an indoor skate park and "super blob," a T-Rex car, a tennis-ball-powered mobile gun and zipline. Among other novelties. It is the vehicle through which Rob Dyrdek delivers his fantastical ideas, and it is the means by which he can exercise his knack for "extreme ventures" and thereby solidify his name and brand. Think the grandiose self-promotion and ego of Donald Trump in The Apprentice, but with a tinge less dickishness and instead of boring, contrived business affairs, Mr. Rob Dyrdek needs to worry about such pressing business matters as:
  • Setting the world record for fastest land-speed for a skateboarder
  • Building the largest skateboard in the world
  • Getting attacked by a swarm of sharks to promote his new line of action figures
  • Dancing in a Carl's Jr. star outfit to promote his new skate park
  • Establishing a string of motels with the Dyrdek name
  • Gathering actors to star in his own, self-filmed music video

As can be seen, for the easily-amused among us, there's a variety of pain-derived laughter á la Jackass. People get hurt, most of them innocent bystanders, and most of them at the hands of Mr. Rob Dyrdek. But realize the stunts aren't the centerpiece of the show, nor even are Dyrdek's ridiculous enterprise ventures. No, Mr. Rob Dyrdek himself is the force that keeps the show consistently fresh. He is the ideal reality character; eager to flaunt his domineering side, hungry to live the life of excess, but at the same time willing to accommodate the quirks of his supporting cast. He is a "bro" in the truest sense of the word, and his idyllic lifestyle is one any sane human being should envy and aspire to fulfill.

Indeed, the true appeal of Rob Dyrdek's antics, I believe, lies in its authentic representation of the American Dream. That may sound like high praise for a show that features Dyrdek smoking hardened dog poo like a fine cigar, but bear with me. Here's a gentleman who pursued his dream profession - one that society conditions us to consider unsustainable - and managed to generate for himself an (anything but) modest living. He builds his renown in small part by pandering to corporate fat-cats, albeit, but he does so in a way that remains true to his deeply-rooted skater identity. The Dream isn't about a comfortable lifestyle, with a loving wife, steady job and (god forbid) children. Baloney. No, The Dream is about bro-ing it up, doing what feels right, having no regard for practicality or formality, taking no s@*# from nobody, and somehow letting this mindset rake in obscene amounts of money for yourself. If Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory isn't the premier manifestation of The Dream, then I don't know what is.

Other than a startlingly high recycled-footage-to-fresh-footage ratio (one best-of episode and one unseen footage episode, both within a 12-episode season), this show packs more situational gold nuggets per episode than a primetime sitcom. Not bad for unscripted. More importantly, though, it reinforces a real representation of a very fictional and far-removed ideal: follow your passion, and your life will be set. If you want stale drama and overdone catfights, then go elsewhere. As the show's title theme asserts, "Forget all that you see / It's not reality / it's a fantasy / Life is just a fantasy." Yes, it may be fantasy, but by god, that's what makes it the best reality program on TV.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: Bravo Gets a Facelift

Almost everyone tends to associate Bravo with “culture.” In the past, a consistent problem faced by Bravo was that a relatively specific and small niche of viewers watched its shows. This had to be remedied. As would soon turn out to be ironic in reference to its future choices of programming, Bravo decided to give itself a facelift. It needed a less elitist image consisting of new programming that would tell more of America that they too could somehow find “culture.”

Such a daunting task seems frightening. How would you change your image? To whom would you turn for help? How would you make yourself a “better” person? Who would come to your rescue?

Since everyone, even Bravo, is well aware of the fact that gay men are well versed in all of the modern day arts, such as fashion, gourmet cuisine, interior design, personal hygiene, and overall fabulousness, the network enlisted the help of five gay men, each flamboyant in his own way, in order to solve its dilemma. This “Fab Five,” as they were soon deemed, brought about many changes to the network and decided the future course of its reality programming.

The premise of each episode consists of the Fab Five coming to the rescue of a seemingly hopeless, hot mess of an individual, in order to infuse them with culture. The men arrive, react dramatically at the very sight of the disgusting, embarrassing state of their subject’s life, and immediately go to work. After having some fun pointing out to the subject just how terrible the his or her life is, they have separate consultations in order to work on improvements in each of five areas of culture. The final fifteen minutes of the program show the subject come forth no longer as an ugly duckling, but a beautiful swan whose life has been improved in many ways. The subject succeeds in achieving an intended goal, such as a marriage proposal or family gathering, and there is a happy ending.

But is the ending happy for everyone? No. While the show makes for good television, it first and foremost perpetuates gay stereotypes in order to achieve ratings. And though it succeeded in helping Bravo find a new edge, it provided audiences with a different definition of culture. The subjects helped in the show come from more or less average lives and are given access to a glamorous Manhattan world of money and privilege in order to be polished up a bit, but not for long. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy provided Bravo with a specific definition of culture that it would soon exaggerate and take to new levels. The channel that once provided America with culture by way of the arts now does so through glamour, privilege, and fabulousness.

In an attempt to appeal to more viewers through its new definition of culture, Bravo’s new shows become more and more superficial and empty. It seems that the its use of the Fab Five was a double-edged sword, helping ratings but taking the meaning out of how Bravo defines culture. For the love of all that truly is cultured and classy, please rethink your choices, Bravo. Remember, facelifts do not last forever. Stay true to yourself and give audiences real culture, lest you want to one day be sorry.

Brian Stratford

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Man Without a Face - Mr. Chi-City

Even in the vast and strange world of Youtube celebrities, Mr. Chi-City stands out – we never see him. Mr. Chi-City (a name representing his hometown of Chicago), who exploded onto Youtube with his video “Keeping your refrigerator stocked will get you many women,” never shows his face, instead filming from his perspective or pointing the camera away from his face. In that first popular video, Mr. Chi-City takes the audience on a tour of his refrigerator, which, aside from two bottles of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter,” a bottle of barbeque sauce, and a bottle of ranch dressing, contains only bottled and canned beverages, organized and arranged in neat rows. Mr. Chi-City takes this absurd concept even further, explaining how his well-stocked refrigerator attracts women in an over-the-top, good-natured, distinctive style of speaking, one that is impossible to describe in words but is instantly recognizable to anyone who has every seen Mr. Chi-City’s videos.

While none of his other videos have broken the 1 million view mark, other popular Mr. Chi-City videos include “A Brotha Vs. A Bug, Mr. Chi-City Kicking some Insect A**,” where Mr. Chi-City videotapes his showdown with a massive insect inside his house, “Mr. Chi City; Ticket Destruction,” where Mr. Chi-City cooks a parking ticket with chicken, and “Christmas Give-Away, Mr. Chi-City Style,” where Mr. Chi-City drives around Chicago, handing out Christmas cards with money inside to random people on the street. Much of Mr. Chi-City’s appeal comes from this marriage of out-there premises and unique narration, which has proven to be an entertaining combination.

Watching these videos, one cannot but help but wonder how “real” Mr. Chi-City is; by never showing his face, one can only judge Mr. Chi-City based on his unique manner of speaking, which can come across as not entirely genuine. Mr. Chi-City exists only as a larger-than-life voice, and so our understanding of who he is comes only from what he chooses to say and how he chooses to say it – Mr. Chi-City has more control over audience perception than many other Youtube videos. In Mr. Chi-City’s most recent video, “Getting To Know Mr. Chi-City; Q and A,” he responds to a question about why he never shows his face by saying that initially, he just held the camera from his point of view, but now, “I just feel like what I say, and what I do, is so much more important than what I look like. I feel like my face is really irrelevant at this point, you feel me?” In a way, the appeal of Mr. Chi-City is that of a well-written novel – the audience creates their own image of Mr. Chi-City in their head; they can interpret freely. Some people might take Mr. Chi-City to be a crafted persona, à la lonelygirl15, while others might see Mr. Chi-City as a true Youtube star, a regular person who becomes famous for being himself. Whatever the case may be, Mr. Chi-City is an interesting case in Youtube celebrity – an ambiguously real persona who exists only as a voice.

- Tim Moon

She Kissed a Guy...So What?

What if I told you I kissed a guy last night? It was 1AM, and we kissed in his car. No big deal, right? You see PDAs on the street, in restaurants, at the movies…they are a fact of life.

For some reason, however, if a celebrity is caught in a lip-lock, they make headlines. Americans today are fascinated by the celebrity lifestyle. We love to know where our favorite celebrities are and what they are doing every second. We go to their favorite restaurants and buy their favorite clothes. We even vest ourselves in their love lives. Given this inexplicable obsession, it is not surprising that scandals such as Brangelina and Madonna/A-Rod have hit the tabloids in the past. Today, however, the tabloids are not alone. Now, thanks to new media, we can watch actual clips of celebrities’ lives on YouTube and enhance our pre-existing obsessions. Currently, the most viewed video on YouTube is “Ashley Tisdale Caught Kissing a Boy at 1AM,” scoring a whopping 251,980 views. So who was the guy? Nobody. Well, where were they doing it? In his car on a fairly quiet street. Scandal? Not really. So what’s the big deal?

Thanks to new networking sources like Twitter and Facebook, the line between the private and public spheres has been blurred. Not only do we have access to people’s personal lives and “statuses,” but we now also expect to know what everyone is doing. Although one may not know Ashley personally, her prominence in American culture makes her seem just as close to us as a new friend on Facebook. Now that YouTube has allowed her PDA to become public, approximately 200,000 people want to see for themselves what their pal Ashley has been up to. Although Ashley Tisdale is simply exhibiting normal American behavior, because of our interest in celebrity life coupled with today’s technology, her actions have become “newsworthy.”

With the help of YouTube, everyday civilians can now elevate themselves to celebrity status. A simple home movie giving a glimpse of your personal life can make you a star. That might sound good for a while, but one should ask himself, when will it stop? Where do we draw the line between public and private? Does such a line still exist? If YouTube mania, along with the popularity of networking sites, persists, the private sphere might not last for long.

Monday, April 20, 2009

MTV hit The Hills returns for a fifth season in predictably dramatic fashion, with a premier episode soaked rich in tears and champagne.

With this season marking the last in the series, viewers expect a sense of closure. Will Lauren forgive Heidi and rekindle their old friendship? Will Audrina ever get over Justin Bobby? What will become of Spencer and Heidi?


The first episode, the promos and teasers all indicate that the show will answer all these questions by season's end. The story line will come full circle, with season one's conundrums all solved and resolved by the season five finale. Then we see the illusion of it all.

The show only captures five years of these people's lives. True, society regards those adolescent and young adult years as the most exciting, most dramatic span in man's life, so by focusing on this period, MTV has captured here (lucrative) lightning in a bottle. However, by ending the series with a long-awaited, much-desired reconciliation of Lauren and Heidi, MTV implies that we can leave behind these two characters, who--the studio wants us to believe--will live happily ever after. They end the series on a high note because doing so will bring in profits--everyone likes a happy ending.

The truth, however, is that lives are dynamic, not static, that people continue to mature. Lauren and Heidi, should they become friends again--as seems increasingly likely--they could well break up the very week after production. This time, though, for once, there would be no camera crews, no producers, no studios to document it occurring. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, then did it happen? For Lauren and Heidi, their lives will continue to unfurl, but for the audience, it will reach an idyllic end by the end of this summer... or at least until the inevitable reunion show.

MTV thus promotes an illusion. Of course the seemingly scripted dialogue, the forced drama and edited emotions receive a great deal of attention. The underlying implication, however, that these five years are the only ones that truly matter, for the mere reason that TV covers them, presents an unsettling question. Do we exist now, if no one pays attention? Or can we really only call it living after we've been documented doing whatever it is we do?

-Danny Lin

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Millionaires are Boring

My favorite reality shows have all been on Bravo, so I had high hopes for The Millionaire Matchmaker. Now in its second season, the show follows Patti Stanger, the owner of the Millionaire Club, a matchmaking service for wealthy men. The website for the agency itself is hilarious. From female clients (depicted in the image below), it demands professionally shot photographs, bust, waist, hip, weight, and height measurements, favorite fashion designers and vacation spots, and workout regimes. From male clients, it demands a $25,000 annual fee. (Under this page, it is briefly mentioned that female millionaires can join as well, for a $50,000 annual fee. As far as I can see, there is no option for male gold-diggers to join). From viewing the website alone, I anticipated hours of mindless entertainment, lots of drama, cringe-worthy misogyny, and plenty of reality television caricatures. Instead, I just got bored.
The main problem with the show is that Patti Stanger is not just starring in it -- she's also a producer. She is running a "legitimate" business outside of the show, so the show is somewhat of an advertisement for her. As a result, you miss out on the amazing drama and mishaps you have come to expect from shows like hers. When you tune into a show that's set in Los Angeles, boasts the tag line Money can buy you love, and has such a sexist premise (rich men looking for hot women), you expect something trashy and delicious. Instead, you get the self-satisfied Stanger complimenting herself and preaching enough morals to fill Aesop's Fables.
In one episode, Stanger gleefully decides to set up a 45-year-old hotel executive who is only interested in younger woman with someone closer to his own age, thus proving the point that older women are not undesirable. She picks Heidi (pictured above), a very pretty 40-year-old with the hairstyle of a college student and a fashion label called Young, Broke, and Fabulous. Before the date, she warns her to lie about her age. The match is apparently successful, and at the end of the episode, Stanger pats herself on the back for defeating ageism. But when you match an ageist guy with a woman who looks 25, and you tell her to hide her age, are you really getting the point across?
The show is confusing. You have a premise that seems to promise an unavoidably trashy and dramatic show with gold-digging women and tool-headed men, but instead, you get two seasons of Patti Stanger advertising her company and pretending like she's promoting a social service. Ultimately, The Millionaire Matchmaker takes itself too seriously. Reality television is meant to be fun and silly. To be honest, I'd rather watch VH1's Tough Love. As stripper-esque as its contestants may be, at least they're funny.

Amanda Zhang

"I Get That a Lot" Didn't Do a Lot

On April Fool's Day, CBS premiered the candid reality television show I Get That a Lot. Let's be glad it was a one-time only special. Reminiscent of Candid Camera, the show follows 7 celebrities masking themselves as average citizens, focusing on how regular people react with both seeing a celebrity and then being tricked into thinking it's just a look-alike. This idea of fooling average people is a tried and true premise, but where other shows have succeeded, I Get That a Lot falls short. First, the celebrities weren't convincing "everyday people." Jessica Simpson as a computer technician? Please, she couldn't even figure out what firewall was. And Heidi Klum as a pizza artist? She couldn't even hold onto a piece of dough without dropping it. Then there was the problem of the celebrities being too attention-hungry when average people didn't recognize them. Jeff Probst recited lines from Survivor to spark people's memories, and LeAnn Rimes hummed her own songs when she wasn't constantly asked people if they thought the real LeAnn was cute.

The unconvincing stars didn't compare to the lackluster everyday folk, who reminded me why reality shows never cast "real" people. When Jared Fogle, famed Subway spokesperson, revealed himself three times, he never got more than, "Oh, cool," in response. Come on, people! It's Jared, and you're on TV! Can't you show some shred of excitement for the hungry viewers? Womp. The only exciting thing that happened in that hour-long (not-so) special was Ice-T pretending to make an under-the-table shoe deal with two teenage boys. When they found out they were on camera, they didn't know whether to be excited or take off running with their stolen goods. Now, that's reality!

I Get That a Lot certainly had potential, especially with the star power of celebrities like Mario Lopez and Jessica Simpson. And if this show had aired in the days of Candid Camera, it probably would have gotten a few more laughs. However, in today's "reality" world of raunchy love scenes, hair pulling, and back-stabbing, good old-fashioned prank pulling just doesn't cut it.

Lyn Mehe`ula

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rich Girl Poor Girl = Spoiled Girls

Rich Girl Poor Girl, a WB web original mini-reality series, introduces its plot as "Two Girls...One City...Two Different Worlds..." Tarra, a 19-year-old from the rich neighborhoods of the Pacific Palisades, and Angela, a 19-year-old from "ghetto" East LA, swap places to experience life beyond their comfort zones. However, this social experiment fails to live up to its title by a long shot. What was promised to be a shuffle in the lives of teenagers from drastically different socioeconomic backgrounds turns out to be nothing more than the switching of two girls with different personalities.

The first episode, The Switch, tries to outline the differences between the "hood" and the Palisades. Although there appears to be differences among the different homes, they have nothing to do with the income of the families. Tarra lives in a neat, nice home of upper-middle class range. Angela lives in a disorderly home of middle-class range. Both girls have moms who stay at home and cook them breakfast (generally, "poor" families cannot afford to have a stay-at-home parent). Both girls live care-free lives with leisure time to hang out with friends. Both girls own similar computers: iMacs that cost over $1000 a pop. The only difference between the girls is this: Angela speaks with a "ghetto" accent, lacks a sense of personal hygiene, detests organization and structure, and is very outspoken while Tarra is more reserved, orderly, put-together, and polite. These types of personalities are not distinctive to those of "rich" or "poor" people.

It seems that both girls are inherently spoiled in their own ways: Tarra materially and Angela behaviorally. Yes, the switch exposed the girls to a different life, but unfortunately, the show did not film any evidence that the girls' lives were changed "forever" within the 7 days. Angela advised Tarra to be more spontaneous and sleep with the dogs at least once a week. Tarra advised Angela to take her dancing skills to Hollywood. Both girls rejected these "words of wisdom". Neither missed living in each other's homes. The message of this show: appreciate who you are. Does it really take thousands of dollars and 12 subpar episodes to understand that?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It’s early April, and that can only mean one thing: Opening Day for Major League Baseball has finally arrived! After months of being bombarded by dramatic winter trade talks, expensive free agent signings, and Spring Training rumors, it’s always a relief to see the players actually suit up and play ball. Indeed, this off-season was more tumultuous and gossip-ridden than any in recent history, with three main stories grabbing the bulk of the headlines.

The New York Yankees made the first big splash on December 10th by signing ace free-agent pitcher CC Sabathia for $161 million over seven years. Because committing $161 million to their books wasn’t enough during the greatest financial meltdown in our lifetime, the Bronx Bombers followed this expenditure two days later by signing pitcher A.J. Burnett for $82 million over five years. Add in their $180 million deal with first baseman Mark Teixeira, and the Yankees managed to spend $423 million over the course of two weeks. Let’s see Paris Hilton match that.

Then there was “Manny being Manny.” Manny Ramirez, known for his ability to wreck both his own team’s chemistry and the opposition’s pitching, couldn’t find a team willing to shell out the nine-figure deal that he wanted. In the end, after months of failed negotiations with multiple teams, Ramirez was forced to settle for a measly $45 million over two years with the Dodgers. Ramirez might have been better off following Alex Rodriguez’s example by ditching super-agent Scott Boras.

Speaking of Rodriguez: never one to be upstaged, A-Fraud managed to wrack up enough negative headlines that ESPN sportswriter Bill Simmons claims he has “broken the Tyson Zone” (ESPN). After his affair with Madonna (really?), Rodriguez faced his steroids scandal haphazardly, offering the “full” story over the course of a week instead of all at once. If that weren’t enough, Details featured a picture of the star kissing his own image in a mirror (picture courtesy of Details).

Yet the show must go on, and Opening Day always allows us to forget all of the off-field garbage and remember why baseball truly is America’s pastime. So, next time you can’t find anything exciting on television, try going out to the ballpark.

Patrick Hayes