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Archive for April, 2012

The teams stay in India for this leg and the episode had its share of repetition. It starts familiarly in Mark and Bopper’s hotel room, although this time it’s Mark who’s having a health crisis, apparently still suffering from the after effects of the heat in last week’s dance challenge. He ends up being ready to go in time for the leg, though.

At the Fast Forward, Big Brother Rachel starts bawling at the very thought of shaving her head, although she seems to be more concerned about wasting the $500 extensions than the prospect of being bald. I wonder if she realizes just how many wigs a million dollars would buy. She of course doesn’t go through with it and Brendan doesn’t try to convice her, apparently deciding that even a million dollars isn’t worth dealing with another tantrum.

At the Roadblock, Ralph and Brendan continued last week’s theme of blatant sexism, wondering why they had to do the task since spooling rope is obviously women’s work.

Someone was feeling extra-clever and named the Detour “Pachyderm” or “Pack-a-Box”. The teams had to decide whether to decorate an elephant and transport 15 wheelbarrows of its dung or pack 10 boxes of ginger. Everyone except Art and JJ smartly chose Pachyderm and finished quickly enough. Art and JJ annoyingly complained the whole time they were filling the boxes – first about no one taking the Fast Foward and then about how hard their task was. Nevertheless, their impression of Rachel and Dave was pretty much dead-on and their complaints were definitely valid. Rachel and Brendan absolutely should’ve done the Fast Forward.

Correctly guessing that no one else took it, Mark and Bopper decide to go for the Fast Forward and the producers edited the episode to a make us think this would be enough to make up the over 4 hour headstart that the other teams had. Unfortunately, it was not, and Mark and Bopper’s amazing race is finished. Part of the problem with non-elimination legs is that, more often than not, it means that 2 episodes are wasted. Last week, there was no payoff because nobody went home. This week, there was no payoff because it was a foregone conclusion that Mark and Bopper would be going home. There was no suspense whatsoever, no matter how they edited it.

So, who will win? At this point, it seems to be Rachel and Dave’s race to lose, but as long as Brendan and Rachel don’t win, I’ll be satisfied. Not happy, maybe, but not angry either.

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Another week, another episode of The Office showing brief moments of humour and realism surrounded by increasingly unrealistic story lines.

The Good:

  • The talking head asides probably provided the best moments of the episode. I thought it was funny that Andy didn’t know which camera to look at since “it’s been awhile” since he’d done one of them. Kevin’s multiple asides about his intelligence (and the fact that Dwight might be the stupid one in the office, whereas before they didn’t have one) were funny enough, and his conclusion that he thinks the people he works with are idiots, not some of the time, but “every of the time” made me smile, if not outright laugh.
  • I enjoyed the re-appearance of David Wallace, even if the narrative point of having him there wasn’t clear. It is nice to know that his toy vacuum (Suck It) was actually successful though.
  • Dwight not understanding how a silent auction worked was funny enough, if bordering on unbelievability. It played out exactly as one would expect and the joy on Jim’s face when Dwight realized that he’d actually spent $34 000 on the “prizes” he thought he’d won was (almost) worth the amount of time this story line occupied. I think I would’ve liked it better if the whole thing had been a result of a prank that Jim pulled on Dwight, but I guess it’s nice that, in the end, Jim doesn’t even have to mess with Dwight and he still gets his entertainment value.
The Not-So-Good:
  • I guess the Nellie-Darryl storyline was supposed to humanize the annoying and not-rightfully-employed Nellie, but I was just confused about the whole thing. Why does Nellie want to be friends with Darryl? Out of everyone in the office, why is Darryl the one that she thinks is most important to buddy up with? She doesn’t even know where the warehouse IS. And the whole thing of “Nellie’s from England and doesn’t know anything about America!” was just annoying. Hasn’t she been living in America for awhile already? Isn’t this 2012? Isn’t everyone always complaining about the Americanization of the world? She’s actually never seen a taco before and thinks it might have eyes? Please. I was rolling mine.
  • The Oscar-(possibly)gay(State)senator storyline had some merit, but it also provided more back and forth banter between Oscar and Pam that I just found annoying. Pam seems to be rubbing me the wrong way lately and I’m not sure why. Joking about Jim’s shoes is fine, but it just didn’t seem to have the same heart behind it as it used to. Whereas before they used to make fun of each other together, now it’s Pam and Oscar against Jim? I don’t know, I’m probably reading too much into it, but something just felt a little off.
  • The whole thing with Andy at the fundraiser was just silly. I mean, yes, he would probably go. But then they let him buy an entire table? And why is there even an entire table empty? And it happens to be right next to all his friends? And obviously he was going to volunteer to adopt all the dogs, but then the charity people just let him? They don’t know who he is or where he lives or anything. Don’t they do background checks on people who want to adopt, and especially on people who want to adopt old, special needs dogs? And why are they dragging the dogs around to the charity dinner, which, as far as we were told, there wasn’t any kind of adoption drive? It just didn’t make any sense and felt really forced. As did the end bit, when we were supposed to believe that Kevin was taking care of a dead dog, only to see it lick his face. It was just too weird.

The Office worked because it was a slightly heightened version of reality, but still a recognizable one. You might not work with someone exactly like Angela, but you probably work with someone who is unreasonably rigid, or who loves her cats too much, or who pushes her religion on you, or who criticizes your lifestyle. It was funny to watch the TV versions of people you know interact in a TV world. Now, however, I don’t even recognize these people. And it makes me sad, because I watch every week hoping to catch a glimpse of them again and they give me just enough to keep coming back.

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This episode can be summed up in a series of bullet points:

  • I love Georgina Chapman. I’m so glad the people at Bravo let her judge other shows besides PR:All-Stars. She is a fantastic judge and consistently gives good insights.
  • Kelly’s description of the models’ runway walks: “Robots on Oxycontin” absolutely killed me. They need to do an ANTM special of nothing but Kelly one-liners.
  • The number of times that the models told us in asides that “these people can make or break us” smacks of script-reading. Unless they’ve completely blocked out the fact that ANTM has yet to produce a top model, they’ve been told to sell it to the audience to make sure the stakes are as high as possible.
  • Why is Sophie’s hair bright pink in the asides and blond in the other shots? How far apart are they actually filmed? And why isn’t there a bigger attempt at continuity? And why is it suddenly pink again at judging panel?  Catherine’s hair seemed more bright at panel too. Something weird is definitely going on with the order of filming.
  • Why is the Dorchester collection fashion prize only worth $40 000? Not that that’s a small sum or anything, but if they’re as exclusive as they claim, shouldn’t it be worth more than winning Project Runway?
  • I love how all the models showed up to the “purr-fect” photo shoot wearing varieties of leopard prints. Some assistant producer was on the ball that day.
  • The photo shoot was ridiculous enough with the whole Hello Kitty meets Lady Gaga thing. Throwing in the added detail of a 16-year-old photographer sent it to the over-the-top territory where ATNM lives and thrives.
  • The fact that Kelly (and the other judges) were mad that Eboni sometimes doesn’t wear pig tails is ridiculous. She still looks and acts like a baby without them guys.

So, Seymone goes home. No big surprise – she was getting the loser’s edit all episode, with shot after shot of her scowling, pouting, rolling her eyes, complaining, etc. etc. Although, her final interview demonstrated that this might have actually been reflective of reality. She definitely is too immature to be there (and considering I’m talking about a competition whose challenge was to model outfits made of Hello Kitty toys, it’s really saying something).

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With only 3 episodes left, I expected the writers to be in full wrap-up mode, but this episode unfolded in much the same format that we’ve grown to know and love. The case this time revolves around a little boy who is suffering from respiratory arrest after having nightmares about a woman strangling him. House takes the case because it fits with several similar unsolved cases from the ’80s where people died after having dreams about demons. Naturally, this leads to a review of the other characters’ dreams.

Park has sexual dreams about Chase, and then Chase has sexual dreams about Park. I was worried that they were going to end up actually sleeping together, but instead they decided that the dreams just mean that, despite their differences (as Park put it, “I’m weird and you’re pretty”), they trust each other and have formed a strong bond. This was a solid wrap-up of the sexual tension between these characters and I expect the final 2 episodes will be fun to watch with their newly-solidified friendship status.

Meanwhile, House has been dreaming about his green card wife, Dominika, and continues to lie to her about receiving a letter from immigration notifying her that she can pick up her naturalization papers (and therefore has no further use for House). He takes her to the shooting range, where it is revealed that she is not only a great shot, but has great insights about physics and House’s patient. When she’s upset by a letter from home and tearfully asks House if he was planning on going out, House responds in an uncharacteristically sensitive way by hugging her and telling her he can stay. She returns the favour the following night by comforting him when he’s consumed by his case. While others tend to leave him to sink into a depression, Dominika asks him why he’s sulking before climbing on top of him, kissing him, and taking off her top. Of course, this is the exact moment when US Immigration calls (that late in the evening?) and reveals that House has been throwing away her letters. House watches her leave and never explains why he did what he did.

I was torn on this development. On the one hand, I wanted House to tell her that he loved her, have her immediately understand (the way she immediately seems to understand so much about him) and decide that she was willing to stay. On the other hand, however, I recognize that I would have probably been disappointed in that outcome, since nothing with House is ever that neat and uncomplicated. I want things to work out for him in the end, but I know that that is probably impossible and completely incompatible with his character.

Just as the episode was sizing up to be a pretty typical episode of House, they drop the big bombshell: Wilson has cancer. My actual reaction when watching it was, “WTF?? WILSON HAS CANCER?” but now that I’ve had a minute to digest it, it makes perfect sense. Still “surprisingly depressed” (in his words) about his impending fake-divorce from his fake-marriage, House now has to deal with the fact that his best (only?) friend may also leave him. It sets up a story arc that can carry through to the final 2 episodes. How will House deal with this? Will Wilson actually die? What will happen to House if he does? It’s a good cliffhanger. Perhaps I’ve been watching too many soap operas lately, but I was worried that Wilson would follow up his revelation with “and it’s inoperable”, but he didn’t. The next episode is entitled “The C-Word” so I suspect it will revolve around the team trying to cure Wilson (or discover that it’s not cancer at all, but some random disease that can be miraculously cured by ibuprofen like this week?). While it would be terribly sad, I’m not entirely convinced that Wilson won’t die next week, leaving the finale open for an epic downward spiral that only House can deliver. However, as this episode showed, even after 8 seasons, I should learn to expect the unexpected. I have faith that the writers will provide a satisfactory conclusion to this great series.

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So, The Amazing Race. I’ve watched this show from the first season, and while I still love it (and harbour not-so-secret fantasies of being on it one day), it’s definitely changed since the beginning. In the early seasons, there was more of an emphasis on making the right travel arrangements to the extent that teams sometimes ended up a day behind the others because they booked the wrong flight, got stuck in an airport, or whatever. Additionally, there were less restrictions on how the teams had to travel once in the location, so some teams took taxis everywhere and ended up running out of money, while other teams took mass transit and saved money but also might have taken longer to get there. Now, teams are basically only given one option to fly and are told what mode of transportation they’ll need to use to get from place to place. Even when some teams do find alternate airplane routes (as Vanessa and Ralph did in this episode, opting to take a connection through Nairobi), it doesn’t seem to make a difference (they seem to have landed mere minutes before the other teams and everyone was caught up at the airport). This is a roundabout way of saying that the earlier seasons of the Race were more akin to the ups and downs of actually travelling, whereas now it’s more like other reality shows, where personalities and storylines win out.

Anyway, this week, the teams had to travel to Cochin, India. Cue the typical Race montages of honking, crowded streets, bright colours, and teams complaining about the number of people and the smell. However, the overriding theme to this episode wasn’t the usual “India is crowded and the people are poor but they’re also friendly and the bright colours are beautiful!” Rather, it was: Women are Better at Dancing and Men are Better at Everything Else. I’m not one to read sexism into everything, but the Race editors/producers made it impossible to see anything else.

 First, at the Roadblock, one team member had to learn a Bollywood style dance routine. Both Rachels, JJ, Vanessa, and Mark chose to do the task while the others sat, watched, and discussed at length how women are better dancers. Art was especially obnoxious with his constant refrain of “dudes can’t dance like chicks,” but Brendan’s musing that, “It’s good to have a girl on your team for things like this but it’s bad because then they get emotional” was maybe the worst of all. Look, I hate Big Brother Rachel, and she is extraordinarily melodramatic, but that is just straight up rude. Much to Art’s delight (since it proved his hypothesis that women are only good for dancing), Rachel, Vanessa, and Big Brother Rachel all completed the Roadblock first and those teams moved on to the Detour.

In the Detour, teams had to choose between Cricket (hitting a cricket ball past the boundary against professional cricket players) or Clutch It (drive a rickshaw taxi around an obstacle course). Rachel and Dave chose Clutch It, where the sexism theme was allowed to continue unchecked as Dave constantly yelled at her “listen to your husband!” from the backseat while she tried to drive. Ugh. The worst part is, his demeaning behaviour keeps getting validated when they win every week.

Vanessa and Ralph also chose Clutch it, but Brendan and Rachel and Art and JJ chose Cricket, setting up yet another gender battle. While Art and JJ were my second-least favourite team coming into this week (slightly edging out the obnoxious Brendan and Rachel), their antics all episode and especially their attitude at the cricket pitch moved them into last place for me. Maybe they were joking around when they yelled at the cricket pitcher for “throwing curveballs”, but it didn’t seem like it. Of course, Brendan and JJ each hit the balls over the boundary first, leading to a battle between Rachel and Art. As JJ acted as a cheerleader on the side, yelling that “There’s no way Rachel will ever do this” (since she’s, you know, a girl and only good at dancing), Rachel won! I never thought I’d be happy that Rachel won something but I was. Good job, Art and JJ, you’ve achieved the impossible.

Meanwhile, back at the Roadblock, Mark is having a terrible time with his dance. After getting motion sickness on the way over (how disgusting was that shot of him carrying his full barf bag?), he elected to do the Roadblock because of Bopper’s bad knee. Try as he might, he just could not get in rhythm and after seven tries, Bopper began insisting that Mark quit because it wasn’t worth risking his health. This was a lovely reverse of typical Race attitude in difficult tasks like this. Usually, the player doing the Roadblock whines that he/she is going to quit because it’s too hard/impossible/never going to be over, etc. Instead, Mark insisted on keeping trying while Bopper stood worryingly on the sidelines. When he finally got it on the twelfth try (after a much needed cooling down in the tent), it was obviously a pity victory but they’ll take it. The friendship between these two guys is adorable and a pleasure to watch amid the rest of the teams’ flaws.

So, Rachel and Dave won again, despite Dave’s constant belittling of his wife. Yay? They were followed by Brendan and Rachel, Art and JJ, and Vanessa and Ralph. When Mark and Bopper finally arrived at the Pit Stop (I think they did the Clutch It detour, but we didn’t get to see it), the sentimental music was going full blast. When Phil said, “Mark and Bopper, you are the last team to arrive” and then let Mark go off on a sweet, tear-filled monologue about how much the support of Bopper and his kids mean to him, I knew it was non-elimination. And it was. Which I hate. Look, I love Mark and Bopper, I want them to stay in the Race and win. I think they need the money the most and I think they deserve the money the most. But enough with the non-elimination legs already. How many have there been this season? It’s at the point where, if your favourite team is lagging behind, you can just cross your fingers for a non-elimination leg and have a reasonable expectation of getting to watch them again next week.

So, we’ll just have to wait and see! I have a feeling that Mark and Bopper will be too far behind to catch up (especially with the Speedbump in the way), but from the previews, it looks like there’s certainly room for other teams (Brendan and Rachel and Vanessa and Ralph in particular) to implode and leave some room. Anything’s possible!

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So, this season of The Office has been hard to watch. Not that the episodes are terrible necessarily. In fact, generally speaking watching an episode is a perfectly passable way of spending a half hour of one’s time. There’s usually a solid laugh or two, several moments of amused smiling, and even when the storyline gets ridiculous and unrealistic, it’s very rarely boring. No, what makes it hard to watch is the brief glimpses of its former brilliance and the realization that it’s never going to be like that again.

When Steve Carell announced that he was leaving, I crossed my fingers that the Powers That Be at NBC would just let The Office go with him. I mean, it is an ensemble show, but the ensemble revolved around Michael Scott. The decision to make Andy the new boss solidified this, since Andy is  just Michael 2.0. At first, Season 8 moved along reasonably well with this arrangement, but the increasing irrelevance of James Spader’s Robert California and the inherent unlikablity of Catherine Tate’s Nellie Bertram are making it difficult for the other characters to shine through. With the recent rumours that Mindy Kaling and Paul Lieberstein will be leaving at the end of the season, it looks more and more likely that The Office as we know it is gone for good. With the further rumours of a reconfiguration of the show and/or a spin-off focused on Dwight, I am becoming more and more pessimistic that NBC will let The Office end with dignity. I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. After all, this is the network that inflicted not one, but TWO seasons of Joey on poor, unsuspecting Friends fans.

Anyway, onto the episode:

  • Phyllis’ rainy day cliches was a fun cold open and called back to the early days when the show touched on everyday annoyances with co-workers
  • Did the Kelly-Ravi-Ryan-Pam storyline make Pam seem just a tad annoying and nosey, or was it just me?
  • The impotence meeting was just . . . awkward and desperate and sad. Michael’s meetings might have been offensive, but they never felt this sad.
  • Erin and Andy’s tantrum was perfect. It felt therapeutic to have some characters FINALLY show some anger towards this woman who just came in and took a job that she had no claim on. The whole storyline didn’t make sense from the beginning, and having Erin and Andy throw things at Nellie made me feel better as a viewer because I sure as hell would like to throw things at her most of the time she’s on the screen.

So now Andy’s fired (for no good reason). I suspect it will lead to another Dwight-esque one episode foray into a new job before being reunited with the Dunder Mifflin-Sabre crew but I could be wrong. I certainly couldn’t have predicted the whole Nellie debacle, so I suppose anything is possible. Regardless, I will be back (with some trepidation) next week.

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I wish my first TV post was about something deep and critically acclaimed, but it’s Thursday and that means I watch yesterday’s ANTM online, so that’s what I have to blog about.

We’re about halfway through the season, which means it’s time to break out the reality TV staple of Messages From Loved Ones. In this episode, it’s combined with another staple of ANTM in particular, Addressing Serious and Relevant Social Issues. The US and UK teams are competing to see who can create the best anti-bullying PSA, which gives the girls a chance to talk about how they were ALL bullied when they were kids. It’s sad! But hopeful! They paint cliched phrases on white canvas before bringing in young girls and talking about what beauty means to them.  Of course, the kids are far more intelligent than the models and make them realize that this competition means So Much More than just modelling. Tears all around.

For no real reason, the Brits won and got their video messages from home complete with gratuitous shots of the Virgin Mobile phone. Even though the Messages From Loved Ones is about as formulaic as it gets, at least Sophie’s boyfriend broke the mould by leaving a truly crappy (and probably most realistic) message. This is only the seventh episode, and each episode takes place over, what, 3 days? So they’ve been gone for a total of 3 weeks, with maybe 3 weeks left (and that’s pushing it). If you can’t be away from your loved ones for 6 weeks (and let’s not forget, they can call home as much as they want), then you are probably not cut out for the world of international modelling.

Anyway. Apparently Tyra is still trying to make “booty tooch” into a thing. Sigh. In a photo shoot with Estelle, the models are supposed to be “art instillations” that booty tooch while posing for people at a dinner party . . . or something. God I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the creative meetings where they come up with these ideas. I imagine it involves random words on bulletin boards at which darts are drunkenly thrown: “art instillation” “dinner party” “styrofoam fish” “booty TOOCH!”

At judging, Catherine “tooched” too much, Alisha is awesome in person but boring in pictures, Sophie has a better smize than a tooch, Tyra says that she doesn’t see Annalise’s shot in a high fashion magazine as if the other shots could belong there, they all inexplicably loved Eboni’s gynaecological pose, Kyle’s “fake tooch” was a non-issue because her photo sucked, Estelle photobombed Laura’s blah picture, and Seymone (the “Fiercely Real” Sized model) had, according to Nigel, a surprisingly small tooch.

God I hate that word.

So, Sophie gets best photo and its a not-so-sad goodbye to Kyle, she of one face and no booty. All in all, an average episode with no really memorable moments, except for the fact that the non-word “tooch” is now imprinted on my brain.

(Tooch.)

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