"Are you ready for a lot of falling, screaming and gagging?" shouts Joe Rogan. In other words, same old, same old. OK, so this time they're in New York City, but the location only serves as a fancy backdrop for the beautiful opening shots. It's easy to pick out the weakest players: Cheerleaderish Kelli and self-described "crazy man" Timothy are both eliminated in the first round of pick-the-flag-off-the-moving-target. I can barely watch as Nicole and Patrick slurp down pureed rat like it was ice cream, and move to the final test. When Patrick chokes and drops his flag from the air-lifted wall, Nicole wins and I cheer out loud. After all, I love it when a woman beats a man with huge arms and an even huger ego.
Life of Luxury
Five minutes into this show, I actually start to miss Robin Leach. And I never even liked Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous! But his snooty British accent and snobby airs worked so much better than the flat delivery and forced humor of Luxury's host, George Hamilton. (When he spies a tanning bed in Michael Flatley's home, he clumsily pretends to climb in. "It feels like home to me," he lamely cracks.) As he "uncovers" the lives of one filthy-rich celeb after another, they all start to blend together. I think I've got it straight: Hugh Hefner spends $2 mil a year to run his Playboy mansion. Catherine Zeta-Jones' engagement ring is 10 karats and cost $3 mil. Britney likes to go on 60-thousand-buck, one-hour shopping sprees. Yawn. I can't keep track anymore. And haven't we just seen all of this on Cribs and The Fabulous Life of... ?
Christina doesn't want her husband to see her body. She feels like people stare at her and wonder if she knows how horrible she looks. Erica is dying inside. Her self-esteem is low, and she wants to be transformed. These girls do not need plastic surgery, just lots and lots of serious therapy. (And not just the "sessions" they feature on the show.) These aren't even bad-looking girls nothing that a good personal trainer and a few stylists can't fix. (OK, they do need a dentist to fix their scary teeth.) None of that seems to matter, since the doctors find tons of "problems" and sculpt and carve away. Voila! Identical frozen-faced blonds with curvy bods, huge boobs and blindingly white teeth. And this is what we call entertainment?
Dove Shampoo Commercial
"How long have we been chasing someone else's idea of beauty?" asks a voice-over, as hundreds of identical blonds gather at what looks like the Capitol. As the women rip off their wigs in protest, revealing different types, colors and styles of hair, I have to laugh. You think the producers of The Swan realize that this spot airs during their creepy plastic-surgery-fest? Oh, the irony.
These friends make Rachel, Monica and Phoebe look like prudish squares. Maya thinks Lynn's been ordering dirty pay-per-views (Forrest Hump, Booty and the Beast) and is sticking her with the bill. "If I were over here watching porn, I wouldn't be abusing your cable," insists Lynn. "I'd be abusing myself!" Hel-lo! Turns out, the culprit is Maya's son Jabari. (He looks a little young for such things, but OK....) Too bad the sex scandal almost obscures the best stuff in this ep: Joan's war of independence against her mother. So she gave up a law career to open a restaurant big deal! Does Carol have to be so damn mean? "I'm done trading my happiness for your approval," Joan tells her. Okay, it's a cliché but I'll say it anyway: You go, girlfriend!
The 25 Million Dollar Hoax
"Twenty minutes in, and I was already feeling crappy," says Hoax-meister Chrissy. Honey, I know exactly how you feel. It's painful watching your siblings grimacing and muttering under their breath as you transform from "a sweet small-town girl to a self-centered, materialistic snob." Forget about the $400 grand your parents deserve sainthood for supporting you as you toss away money on ugly, overpriced clothes and a decked-out Hummer. And then you insult them in the process! Something's fake about your crocodile-teared confessionals, especially when you're ready to tell your family the truth but quickly change your mind. After all, they'd be more disappointed if you won nothing. Funny thing: You already seem like a loser to me.
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Poor, poor Ellie. Dad's off fighting in Iraq, mom's too drunk to get off the couch and her punk 'tude isn't exactly scoring points with the popular crowd. Sure, this stuff goes beyond normal teenage angst, but I'm still pretty shocked when she deals with it by carving up her arms. (We never actually witness the cutting, but in true Degrassi fashion, what we don't see is often most powerful.) It's easy to understand why the producers caught flak for this ep, but I'm glad that they went there. For every Paige, who notices Ellie's bloody arm and begs her to get help, there are countless teens who wouldn't recognize such warning signs. No one said growing up is easy.