It's a Full House all over again for Lori Loughlin, a free-spirited artsy type who takes in her sister's kids when their parents are killed in a car accident. Somehow she thinks it's a brilliant idea to uproot them from Kansas to her California beach house, where her hunky ex, her diva business partner and their hippy-dippy Aussie mate also happen to live. And surprise, surprise, none of them knows how to take care of the three clichéd orphans — the horny 16-year-old, the thorny 13-year-old and the moody 5-year-old — who have ruined their beach-party lifestyle.
But haven't we seen this show before? Actually, Summerland doesn't just rip off Party of Five, it also borrows liberally from Beverly Hills, 90210 (wholesome Midwestern kids who pray before dinner are suddenly dropped into the big-boobs-and-botox world of Southern California) and The O.C. (a sullen outsider who, ironically, could pass for Benjamin McKenzie's younger brother, falls for a girl way out of his league). I want to feel for these kids but I barely get the chance as they're thrown from one crisis to the next. Where are these kids' grandparents? And instead of easing them into playa Linda's decadence, how 'bout finding them a good shrink?
I never liked the premise of this show — 50 grand just doesn't seem like enough cash for choking down pig testicles. But when the chokers happen to be Miss America contestants, well, suddenly things get interesting. While the six girls don't look like they'd cry if they broke a nail (all of them are fairly buff and tower over host Joe Rogan), they do giggle like schoolgirls. I'll admit: Standing on a tilting suspended platform and holding on to a trapeze attached to a moving helicopter ain't easy. Yet it's hard not to laugh when the girls wait on the sidelines wearing their tiaras and sashes. Or when one of them utters the most ridiculous line in the show's history: "Ah'll praw-bly dah if Ah have to eat somethin' gross," drawls Miss Alabama. (Um, has she ever seen this show?) Lucky for her, she wins her contest and doesn't have to chow on slimy sea cucumbers. (Shame on the producers for picking something so obviously phallic.) This show is always brawn over brains and 'Bama edges out Michigan for the Miss Fear Factor title. One she's sure to put on the top of her résumé.
Diet Dr. Pepper Commercial
I'm getting married this summer, so I absolutely love this spot for Diet Doc featuring a clearly insane drill sergeant of a bride. "Your nails will be done! Your shoes will be dyed" she barks at her poor bridesmaids, who are standing in formation in the summer heat wearing unfortunately poufy lavender gowns. "You make sacrifices for your friends," says the voice-over. "You don't have to sacrifice great taste." Clearly, it's time for the Doctor. "Let's get married," chirps Bridezilla. But when she marches off to get hitched, her dress gets caught on a sprinkler head and the bottom half rips off, revealing her underwear. Cracks me up every time. 'Cause I'm not like that. Right? Right?
Miss Universe Pageant
First there was the infamous "wardrobe malfunction." Now comes the latest Jackson scandal, the "inadvertent interaction." Okay, so it's Kwame Jackson, who got kicked off the judges panel for mingling with the ladies. Looks like he got the good end of the deal. The show, broadcast live from Ecuador, is a technical disaster from the start. A clip reel goes haywire, presenting the same two women four times. And a faulty sound system leaves Gloria Estefan struggling to hear herself sing. When the producers finally iron out the glitches, I'm barely able to stay awake through the parade of indistinguishable women, all impossibly thin and wearing creepy smiles. When the competition is narrowed down from 80 to 15 women, I perk up long enough to single out Miss Paraguay, who sorta looks like an exotic Liz Hurley. I root for her through the gown competition (damn, girl, you look fierce in that slit-up-to-here dress) and the swimsuit competition (what man watching did not want to be that bikini). I'm disappointed when she places third, especially when the competition narrows down to Miss U.S.A., a bland California blonde, and Miss Australia, another nondescript blonde. The Aussie wins. Cue music, tears and roses. Yep, another two hours of my life I'll never get back.
Degrassi: The Next Generation
I can't wait for the new season to start this Friday, but I'm happy to settle for a Season 2 rerun of this smart drama where the teens actually look and act like, well, teens. Sure, this show makes me feel a little old, especially when I figure out that these kids were born in 1989. But not much has changed since I was in junior high and I find myself nodding when Ashley's not sure whether she should go to her ex-boyfriend's party. Or when Emma's, like, totally mortified after her parents quiz her reformed troublemaker boyfriend over dinner (sushi, natch, it's so this millennium). But Degrassi never gets too goody-goody, and Sean downs a bottle of alcohol at Jimmy's soiree. We're spared an underage-drinking-is-bad-for-you lecture; instead we see Sean suffer the consequences the next day. Which is exactly why I'm hooked on this show: Degrassi serves up lots of soapy conflict while avoiding After School Special-like clichés. After this half-hour, I almost miss my junior-high days. Notice I said almost.
At first, I was glad Vic Mackey so cleverly rid himself of the Decoy Squad. They were treading on the Strike Team's turf, and had overstayed their welcome. Still, it was great to see them back for that child-porn case. Can you believe that messed-up situation? Det. Claudette Wyms had to go undercover as a crooked social worker who actually helps crack-addicted mothers prostitute their pre-teen children on film. With all the rotten politics she faces at the Barn, it's great whenever Claudette at least gets to bring in her man. And what a bonus that she was able to redeem herself with the Decoy Squad folks after that previous snafu.
Boy, that sassy cop Trish sure knows how to impersonate crack hos, doesn't she? This is where overdue props go to the excellent actress Nicki Micheaux. Her Trish is so tough and yet vulnerable at the same time. You've gotta wonder what Trish's tragic backstory is — there's a recklessness to the way she takes on assignments that makes you feel she almost doesn't care whether she'll live or die. (Maybe Trish had her own troubles as a child that keep her from loving herself right.) In any case, this Shield fan says add Micheaux to the show's increasingly long list of Emmy-worthy cast members.
P.S. Can't forget to mention that poor Irish dude whom Mackey & Co. framed with the marked bills. He not only ended up with the Armenian mob's foot-choppin' treatment, his corpse got tossed into that flaming furnace by Mackey's boys. Even for a not-so-bright crook, what an awful way to go! Another week, another innocent person destroyed by the Strike Team's desperation to keep the money-train secret. And finally, Dutchboy smells a rat. It's about time! Can you tell I'm excited?
— Today's column was written by Robin Honig. Daniel R. Coleridge has the night off, but contributed his take on The Shield to keep all you loyal Mackey addicts happy.