Beauty and the Geek
A Geek's View:
Put a smart misfit into humiliating situations each week, throw in a bevy of mean hotties, add some disingenuous flirtation and a big cash prize and you have perhaps the greatest reality show ever. But enough about Paradise Hotel. As a bona fide geek (my comic-book collection and bespectacled mug speak for themselves), I was hoping that executive producer Ashton Kutcher's "social experiment" would prove to be a worthy successor to the sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy that marked Boston Dave's reign of supremacy over the forces of shallowness.

However, I found it unexpectedly hard to sympathize with my supposed brethren on B&TG. For starters, at least half of them are actually in the ballpark of attractiveness by any reasonable (i.e., non-Hollywood) standards. Granted, Richard is a Frankenstein's monster of dork proportions, but his unnatural physicality and Woody Allenesque mannerisms are so exaggerated (who says "agog" in conversation?) that one can only suspect it's all a put-on for the cameras.

Nor can I relate to any so-called nerds who are as clueless about entertainment as this bunch, especially Eric, the computer programmer who's totally ignorant about pop music. C'mon, who do you think invented iPods and illegal file-sharing? Hint: not Ashton Kutcher. And while I want to appreciate Bill's obsession with The Dukes of Hazzard (if he's the VP of the fan club, I'd love to see the actual president), his presence on this show smacks of pure product placement — WB is a sister company of Warner Bros., distributor of the upcoming Dukes feature film.

But what surprises me most about B&TG is how sorry I feel for the women. Cast in the villain roles — catty, superficial sirens — they come across as merely sad: cute but not truly beautiful; forced to rely on body parts, not brains; employed in degrading, soul-sucking jobs such as lingerie model, beer company spokesmodel and "life-size Barbie model." Instead of following the script and resenting these young ladies, I want to rescue them (especially sweet, sweet Mindi) from their pathetic lives before they do something truly demeaning — like let strangers leer at their scantily clad bodies on national television. Oh, wait. That's next week. — Daniel Manu

A Beauty's View:
I honestly think this might be one of the most laugh-out-loud reality shows I have ever seen. While I may not be model-beautiful, some flirting has earned me a few free drinks in my time, and I even married a geeky guy. So I think that Ashton Kutcher may have tapped into something pretty special with this show; he's been playing dopey Kelso for all those years while his goofy fa&#231ade has hidden the fact that he's actually got a warped and genius mind inside that well-coifed head. He could have done another mismatched dating show like The Littlest Groom or Average Joe, where pretty girls are paired up with guys who are way below their standards and even if they find a "love" match you just know it won't even last until the show airs. But taking the romance out of the equation and focusing instead on the social aspect makes the show infinitely more entertaining.

How can you not want to hug someone like Joe, who admits on national TV that he's a virgin and not because he's saving himself. He's sweet, and he was so excited when his partner Erika — a life-size Barbie model, which I didn't even know could be an occupation — got any answers right. And the fella tried hard not to look overly devastated by the fact that his easy teammate instantly fell into the arms of another nerdy boy. I was thrilled to see obnoxious Cheryl and Eric go; he was too good looking to be a full-fledged geek.

And on the girl side, I also kind of adore Lauren, a lingerie model who thinks her IQ is about 500. The na&#239ve beauty seems genuinely delighted and amused by the whole situation and just giggles when she can't spell tattoo. In the trivia quiz, it was hysterical to hear their answers to questions like "What state is east of West Virginia?" — "Massachusetts." (You can't make that stuff up!) It was even scarier to watch some of the cheesy dance routines, especially Richard's winning Napoleon Dynamite-inspired act. With this kind of unscripted entertainment comes the innate hope that two very different groups of people will learn to respect each other over the course of the summer. If not, at least watching the fur fly will be fun. — Angel Cohn

Dancing with the Stars
OK, secret confession time: I love dancing movies. I've watched Strictly Ballroom more than anyone should, and I even kind of liked the J.Lo Shall We Dance? So I was drawn to this bizarre show like a bee to honey. After five weeks of intense training, six celebrities show off their stuff live; then the judges critique them and the audience votes for their favorites. What a nice American Idol substitute. I thought about throwing a pity vote in Kelly Monaco's direction, since the General Hospital star took a beating from the judges. But I'm seriously concerned that with her equilibrium problem she'd have to overdose on Dramamine every week just to stay in the competition. Maybe it's better that she go home and leave the dancing to the professionals, or to Trista, who seems thrilled to have another moment in the limelight, even if it means causing permanent back damage. Did you catch the grateful look on Ryan's face when they panned to him? Sure, some might think he was just proud of his wife, but secretly I think he was thrilled that this wacky adventure didn't involve him so he could just sit on the sidelines.

I'm a bit confused, though, because I thought former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre went through this big rigmarole a few years back to be billed as Joe or Joseph. I guess he gave up on that. But all those "Hangin' Tough" moves came in handy; he looked pretty graceful while cha-cha-cha-ing. And the screaming groupies must have prepared him for his swooning partner, who looked positively delighted to strut her stuff with the Beantown boy. In fact, I was pretty impressed with all the male contestants' moves on the dance floor. Even Evander Holyfield seemed markedly improved from his rehearsal sessions and will soon be floating like a butterfly, and John O'Hurley just hammed it up with delicious flair. I wasn't sold on Rachel Hunter's waltz, but seeing the supermodel suffer through lessons was great. My biggest problem is that you have to wait an entire week to hear the results. I'm the queen of little patience and while I'll be tuning in again next Wednesday, the anticipation might drive me crazy, especially if I become obsessed (if I'm not already). — AC

Eagles Farewell 1 Tour Way back in the summer of 1994, I doled out a fair amount of cash, stood in a cold, relentless downpour and got covered in mud, all because "Hell was freezing over." Yep, the Eagles were reuniting for a one-time-only tour, and I had to be there as music history was being made. So imagine my surprise when the Eagles later released a new album. Then toured. Again. And now they've decided to broadcast nationally yet another farewell show. For free! Well, at least this time, my couch was way more comfy than the grungy fields of Mansfield, Mass. (and it's minus any stumbling, bumbling Eagleheads, unless you count the cat, who seemed to be enjoying the music as she weaved and bobbed her way around my living room). While the Eagles were a renegade rock-and-roll band back in the hippie-dippy '70s, they've now become a lot like comfort food — solid, satisfying and offering up very few surprises. And that's actually OK, because you know you'll always get something you like. Even after all these years, their harmonies are perfect and their voices are still strong, especially Glenn Frey's, who sang lead on most of their songs. "Peaceful Easy Feeling" sounded fantastic with an added violin. A four-piece horn section gave an extra boost to "The Long Run," and it always impresses me when Don Henley sings "Hotel California" from behind the drum kit. But it was wacky Joe Walsh who stole the show dressed in black-and-yellow polka-dot clown pants and a hard hat fitted with an audience camera. While everyone else played each song note for note and word for word, Walsh was the only one with the cojones to add extra guitar solos and ad-lib his lyrics for his solo hit "Life's Been Good." ("I have a limo/Ride in the back/Lock the door/In case I'm attacked" was changed to "Lock the door/Watch the war in Iraq.") Even more impressive: The former party guy totally cleaned up his act and sang "One Day At a Time" about his recovery and 10 years of sober living. Like the Eagles, he's a survivor. And it looks like the band isn't disappearing anytime soon. Before the show ended, Henley explained that the whole "Farewell 1" thing is actually a joke; they "can reunite as many times as they like, as long as they keep changing the number." Looks like Hell is not just frozen, it's permafrost. — Robin Honig

Sports Kids Moms & Dads
The hardest thing about watching these pushy, single-minded parents is that it's obvious they really think they're doing the best for their kids, and it's equally plain to us that they're probably doing more harm than good. Take Craig, the endearing father of 8-year-old football player Trenton, who offers up this frightening philosophy: "I believe we choose our parents, and I believe that Trenton chose me because he wanted to be a football player." Wha'? When did I miss the part where I could apply to be a Hilton daughter? (Oh, wait, that's in a few weeks.) I mean, it does seem like Trenton enjoys playing football, but as his dad details his seven-days-a-week training schedule, you have to wonder if maybe the kid would also enjoy hanging out with friends or even doing some homework once in a while.

The other kids have equally rigorous regimens. There's Sarah, also 8, whose mom, Sharon, says she knew that cheerleading was her daughter's dream when she was 3. Cut to the home video of Sarah as a toddler being scolded for playing in the pool instead of training to stand in proper cheer form on her parents' arms. Cute. Next we meet Bryce, a 16-year-old figure skater who has three coaches, a personal trainer, weekly Pilates classes and attends a charter school so he can schedule school around practice. He seems reasonably well-adjusted (though he does admit to not telling his classmates that he's an ice-skater). But when talk turns to the recent regional competition in which he only placed fifth, it's clear that his mother, Kim, is too emotionally invested in Bryce's success. She chides Bryce for not being No. 1 and practically glows when recounting how the fourth place boy broke his ankle, leaving a spot open for Bryce to compete in nationals.

Thankfully, two teenage girls and their mothers bring a touch of sanity to the show. Pretty 14-year-old Lindsay is the second-highest scorer on the high school varsity basketball team her mother, TJ, coaches. TJ was in college on a basketball scholarship when she got pregnant with Lindsay, and she's hell-bent on making sure her daughter doesn't make the same mistake. Karli, 17, seems like a very self-motivated equestrian (and she's a dead ringer for Keira Knightley). Her mother, Karen, has enough on her plate raising four other kids, working as an obstetric nurse-practitioner and going through a messy divorce to get too involved in Karli's ambitions. She did, however, take out a second mortgage on the house two years ago to buy Karli's trusty $40,000 steed, Disco. Unfortunately, in next week's previews it looks like the financial strain of divorce might require Karli to sacrifice what is, after all, a hobby.

Freaky as the parents are, I eventually found myself rooting along with them at their kids' games and competitions. Just like in Showbiz Moms & Dads and Showdog Moms & Dads, Sports Kids' producers know how to turn these caricatures into humans before our very eyes. And now I can't wait to see how next week's competitions will play out. — Sabrina Rojas Weiss

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