Hell's Kitchen
Am I a bad person for digging into this one? Because it may be the nastiest reality show ever to hit the air. Yet there's something about culinary guru Gordon Ramsay raking 12 chef wannabes over the coals that's just delicious. As is Ramsay himself: He's like Bobby Flay, Simon Cowell and the planet's scariest Little League coach all rolled into one seriously unflattering apron that's cinched in the back by a string of bleeped-out expletives. God bless him. The bit where he sampled the assorted trainees' signature meals was both cruel and grueling, though I'm not sure who suffered most — the cooks responsible for the recipes or Ramsay's taste buds. It's no wonder he was in such a sour mood when the actual eatery opened for business. Poor guy probably still tasted "executive chef" and master tool Jeff's undercooked salmon. Or Dewberry's horrifying baked pasta. What the hell was that mess? And who names their kid after a Body Shop fragrance, anyway? Whatever the case, this was a satisfying opening course. And now that Dewdrop is stewing over Elsie's having put him on the chopping block alongside the Red Team's first loss, Carolann, and the mouthy patrons are getting served new asses by the so-salty Ramsay, I am totally coming back for seconds. Let's just hope it stays this hot. And that I quit it with these overdone food puns. Oops. Sorry about that. — Damian J. Holbrook

Miss Universe
First, what was up with the Miss Universe pageant being presented at 8 am Thai time? No one looks that good that early in the morning. Airing this live was really that important? And second, Miss Venezuela totally got robbed by Miss Canada. All right, the South American beauty queen did completely flub the interview portion, but she was the only one who got a political question, and besides, she rocked that ugly-as-sin bikini they were forced to wear and had the most stylish evening gown of all. When they decide to launch "The World's Next Top Model," she should totally try out. And not to sound all unpatriotic on Memorial Day weekend, but I was baffled by Miss USA's inclusion in the Top 15 and then the Top 10 — the "celebrity" judges must have seen something that I didn't. Because she should have been disqualified after the parade of country costumes; her horrible dress made her look like she came straight from Dollywood. And Miss El Salvador should have been given a prize for the most painful piece of headgear. By the way, since this is The Donald's event — I mean, he hyped it on The Apprentice — where was he? I had to fast-forward through some parts, especially the tour of Thailand — sorry, beautiful country — but I'd rather watch Amazing Racers play in tuk tuk's than watch pretty pageant people play nice with the locals. But did I miss him? Instead of the King of Monotone, I had to suffer through Billy Bush embarrassing himself by trying unsuccessfully to sound cool — dude, only Matthew McConaughey can pull off a line like, "I keep getting older but they stay the same age." Eww. That is so not beautiful. — Angel Cohn


The Shield
"Now I need you to tell me the truth," Shane is told. Stop right there... Apparently, someone's forgotten what series he's on. Minutes later, however, Shane scores the best line of the hour when he grabs Weed's cell phone and asks him, "Can you hear me now?" Obvious, sure, but it made me grin. As the parade of ugliness continues, Dutch tells Corinne that he and Vic "may have bumped heads over a case or two," but nothing more. Does anyone not lie on this show? Oh, yeah... no.

And oh, how Army picks an interesting time to plead the Fifth and take a stand. He's screwing every cop in the building, Monica tells him. Nah, just a few, really. But they're precisely the ones you shouldn't — Vic, first and foremost. As Shane's due to find out before the season ends, I think.

As for Dutch's "relationship" with Corrine: She asks him if he got close to her just to get back at Vic, and he first says no, then admits maybe a little. Lies, of course. But, hey — she's gotta be used to those after all the years with her husband. — Michael Peck


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. — AC

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


Hit Me Baby One More Time
Ever since they started airing commercials for this show, I've been psyched. Tiffany! I mean,

"And so we're running just as fast as we can.
Holding on to one another's hands.
Trying to get away into the night.
Then you put your arms around me
And we tumble to the ground, and then you say,
'I think we're alone now.
There doesn't seem to be anyone around.
I think we're alone now.
The beating of our hearts is the only sound.'"

Seriously, when I was in third grade, I freaking loved that song. My best friend Lauren and I (and yes, we even had "Be Fri" and "St End" necklaces to solidify our BFF status) even had a dance to it. I couldn't wait for it. I mean, Tiffany! So why, oh, why did this show have to be so bad? It wasn't even an it's-so-bad-it's-good show. It was pretty much 52 minutes of bad with eight minutes of good mixed in — and the commercials went in the good pile.

Mistake 1: Vernon Kay. Who is he? Britain's poor man's Ashton Kutcher? And why is he yelling at the camera? Honestly, this show would have been like, 10 times better if they'd cast some has-been sitcom star like Candace Cameron or Tina Yothers, or even an old talk-show host like Jenny Jones, just to keep with the theme of whole thing.
Mistakes 2, 3 and 4: Loverboy, Flock of Seagulls and CeCe Peniston, respectively. Loverboy and Flock totally sucked. They're old. They're ugly. And, well, they can't sing. As for CeCe, who even knew she was the chick singing that song "Finally"? Sure, we — and by we I mean me and my girlfriends — grooved to it at my ninth-grade dance, but I have zero interest in her. However, to give props where props are due, I will note that the girl can sing.
Mistake 5: The whole second half of the show. Arrested Development's version of Los Lonely Boys' "Heaven" was cool, but I did not need to hear any of these bands performing "the hits of today." And, for the record, the words "hit" and "stars" were used more loosely tonight than ever before.

That being said, tonight's hour wasn't a total wash. I renewed my long-lost love for Arrested Development. They'll be on my iPod tomorrow. Some record company should snatch them up ASAP. My only issue with them is that they didn't get to that part in "Tennessee" where the chick yells "a game of horseshoes!" It's the best part of the song! But since they were otherwise awesome, I'm willing to let that slide.

Still, the piece de resistance was, of course, Tiffany doing "I Think We're Alone Now." I even sang along and did the hand motions to my old dance routine. (They came back to me like I'd done them just yesterday. It was like riding a bike.) And if you're saying that you a) do not like this song and b) did not have a dance to this song and c) did not both sing and dance along while watching the show, you are totally lying. Seriously, the only thing that could have improved the Tiffany portion of the show would be if she'd been followed by Debbie Gibson doing "Electric Youth." Now that would have been a showdown. — Ali Gazan

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