Pepsi Smash I don't know which was more disturbing: An almost orange Jessica Simpson's herky-jerky performance of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" (or as Simpson sings it, "Take My Bweaf Away") or getting an eyeful of a puffy and not-so-gracefully aging Robert Smith of The Cure. Dearest Robert, the makeup and big hair may have been cool 20 years ago, but for a moment there I thought Liz Taylor was onstage singing "Love Song." And is the whiny-voiced lead singer of New Found Glory also Quentin Tarantino's long-lost son? The resemblance is uncanny. Not to mention unsettling.
National Spelling Bee I'll admit it: I purposely ignored the hype surrounding last year's surprise hit documentary about young spelling-bee competitors, Spellbound, but not for the reason that most people might think. You see, once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a budding contestant just like these kids. Well, not just like them. Let's just say that I spent months of school recesses doing practice rounds and made it to the state trials, where I was selected to be the very first speller and, of course, misspelled the word one I knew in my sleep that I was given. My mother is the only other person who knows what this word is and it's verboten between the two of us (the check's in the mail, Mommy), but every once in a while, I'll hear it and my heart skips a beat and my palms start to sweat.
Useless personal revelations aside, I tuned into tonight's live broadcast and found myself at the edge of my couch cushion by contest's end. These kids are amazing. And more than a little bit scary. What 13, 14 or 15-year-olds do you know who can spell longicollous or lyophilize by tracing the word's country of origin and derivation? Who is ever going to need to use effleurage, vimineous, serpiginous or ophelemity words spellcheck didn't even recognize in future conversation? It took 11 rounds to narrow the field to two, Akshay Buddiga, a painfully serious young man who apparently took a fall early in the contest and was provided with a stool to sit on during his minutes at the mic (nothing like a little friendly neighborhood mortification to bolster one's confidence); and David Scott Tidmarsh, an animated wisp of a kid with huge eyes and a nervous giggle who would furiously scribble his words on his placard with an imaginary pen. I cheered and spelled along (I did get gaminerie right) as the two faced off in Rounds 12 and 13, and I held my breath as David breathlessly secured his victory with autochthonous after Akshay faltered on schwarmerei. The crowd went wild and David shed some shaky tears of joy, but I think I was the one who was most shocked by the evening's outcome when I found out what the winner had been vying for: $12,000 cash, an engraved trophy (which weighs more than most of these spellers do given their obvious lack of muscle mass) and a boatload of books. That's right, books. I'm sorry, but if I had invested as much emotional energy into this academic challenge as these kids have, my butt better damn well be going to Disney World.
Chronicles of Riddick Commercial At the end of this ad for the sequel to Pitch Black, Vin Diesel growls, "Someone just couldn't leave bad enough alone." Obviously.
Come to Papa
Tom Papa headlines this lame new sitcom about an aspiring comedy writer. And while Tom Papa was apparently discovered by Jerry Seinfeld, one thing is abundantly clear: Papa's no Seinfeld. Hell, he's not even a George Lopez. You know how it was funny to watch Jerry interact with the actors in the cast because both he and you knew he was no great thespian? Not so here. Papa's trying to mimic Seinfeld's smirking demeanor, right down to his delivery of certain lines, with absolutely no success. (All I heard when Papa asked his former teacher "How've you been, Miss Toomin?" was "How've you been, Newman?" Other obvious homages include a failed attempt at a smirking "I don't think so" while grasping a mug of coffee and his "Who wears robes?" query regarding judges' attire while on the witness stand.) Instead of blending in, he sticks out like a sore thumb. And don't even get me started on the cheesy musical interludes that smack of Seinfeld's. I won't even get into the opener's lame plot other than to note that I didn't realize that mocking the mentally challenged had become funny again. Or ever had been, for that matter. This show's only saving grace is the hilarious Steve Carell, whose comic talents glaringly surpass those of his costars. At least we can take solace in the fact that Carell's already made plans for the future by heading the cast of NBC's upcoming version of The Office. At least someone involved with this show recognized a stinker when he saw it.
White Castle Commercial The voice-over in this promo for the fast-food chain's new chicken sandwich states that their poultry patty is "the best thing to hit our bun since the burger." And with its requisite crispy coating and slice of cheese, it's guaranteed to hit your buns, too.
Celebrity Poker Showdown Try as I might, I can't grasp the rules of poker, let alone the guidelines for Texas Hold 'Em. And save your breath trying to explain it or any of the card game's other variations to me. Uno's about my speed. That said, I'm sure that there are both avid and casual poker players who are glued to the screen for two hours every time this show is on (an hour too long, if you ask me), but other than the celebrity aspect of the game, I really don't get the allure. I mean, I guess it's at the very least instructional viewing that teaches players how to proceed with different card combos and the stars can be amusing as they bluff and bully their way through their hands, but this is poker, gang. Would this show be half as popular if it starred the cigar chompers in pit-stained polyester shirts usually hogging the tables in Vegas and Atlantic City?
100 Metal Moments I was born a few years too late to have enjoyed (or been allowed to enjoy) the heyday of heavy metal, but after watching bits and pieces (pun intended) of tonight's three installments of yet another VH1 countdown package, I have only one question: Are WASP's Blackie Lawless and Xena's Lucy Lawless one and the same?