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Friday, Mar 12, 2010
These people are sad, but it is a sadness wholly self-imposed, accumulated over years of lacking a critical inner voice.

I like to think of insanity as the best way to put your finger to the cultural breeze. Crazies tend to latch onto predominant themes in the ether tacking on justifications for some insane stuff they would have done anyway. Consequently, we now have people gunning down guards or flying planes into the IRS in order to cement their anti-government bona fides. Because nothing fights the power like murdering secretaries. When I saw Lindsay Lohan outing her clutter to Niecy Nash, I realized that hoarding had arrived. It’s this year’s molestation, for stars who want to resuscitate their careers by setting themselves up as national empathy objects. Despite the celubante hangers on, Hoarders is another triumph for A&E’s “in the mouth of madness” lineup, which includes dysfunction staples like Intervention and Dog the Bounty Hunter.


The psychology of Hoarders makes for such compelling TV because it’s a disordered behavior with an infinitely complex web of origins. Some people hoard in post traumatic response, like some kind of compulsive gathering of synechdoche, every piece of junk is in some way the person they lost. Some hoarders collect in anticipation of all the activities and hobbies they will begin just as soon as they stop hoarding, like cokeheads who talk about all the things they’re gonna do, unless of course, they just end up doing more coke. Of course, there are also the Saint Hoarders who clutch the shopping binges because they are going to be gifts or donated to charity and people who insist that they’re grandchildren will be able to rake in cash by liquidating the junk when they die. Like any good rationalization, these excuses are diversions designed to prevent the afflicted from touching their open-sored compulsions. These might be shit piles, but they’re just one garage sale away from becoming junior’s tuition.


Tagged as: a&e, hoarders, judge judy
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Thursday, Mar 11, 2010

Wednesday night was a death match for the guys in a field that has, to this point, been defined by mediocrity. It’s safe to say that this week was a solid one for both girls and boys, and voters have successfully whittled the field down to an acceptable, if slightly underwhelming, final sixteen. What helped was saying adios last week to John Park and Jermaine Sellers, although in the case of Sellers, it was a major slap in God’s face.


I hate to raise an ugly subject, but how has race been a factor so far in the voting?  While the judges did commendable work in offering a cross-section of ethnicity in the initial Top 24, voters have skewed very white since then. Last week alone, three of the four castaways were black (Sellers, Haely Vaughn, and Michelle Delamor), and the fourth was Park, an Asian-American. The week before, two of those sent home were Latin-Americans. The sole African-American girl, Paige Miles, faces almost-certain expulsion Thursday, and, of the guys, Todrick Hall has been hanging by a thread. Is Michael Lynche the Great Black Hope?  Can we really chalk this up to colorblind merit?  Has the viewer demographic changed since Ruben Studdard and Fantasia went the distance?  Is someone going to say that this is related to the economy?  What do you think?  The phonelines are open.


In any case, the boys went big on Wednesday—big song choices, big performances, and, in some case, big turnarounds. Here were the night’s Biggests:


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Wednesday, Mar 10, 2010

The girls are down to eight and looking to cut two more this week, merging with the boys for the Dirty Dozen. Michelle Delamor was cut last week, after failing to connect with audiences, perhaps because everyone hates Creed. Haeley Vaughn was also shown the door, to great relief, but not before delivering one of the most skin-crawlingly awful performances in Idol history. It’s one of the show’s most peculiar rituals—making the contestants sing immediately after voting them off the show. Such a tradition is simultaneously compassionate and cruel, leading to a flood of emotions that often leads to bizarre final performances like Haeley’s and to melodramatic tears from the remaining hopefuls. (Haeley was endorsed by Vote for the Worst, by the way, so so much for that group. If they can’t even concentrate enough votes to save a singer when there are ten to choose from, then VFTW has, without question, no real impact on results. But I’m sure it’s time well spent.)


Tuesday’s Ladies Night was a tight show—eight songs in an hour, which, by Idol standards, is flying. The judges still took up a majority of the airtime, and most of their commentary was typically redundant. They did, however, find plenty to admire as the girls, for the most part, continue to improve. After Tuesday, a clear favorite and a clear clunker had emerged among the women. The other six are all knotted up together, but one of them has to go, so we’ll be saying goodbye to a worthy singer no matter who gets sliced. I’m in a bad mood, so for these awards, let’s focus on the worsts.


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Thursday, Mar 4, 2010

The big question on the minds of Idol Nation all day Wednesday was whether or not Crystal Bowersox would be cleared to perform. Bowersox was hospitalized for an undisclosed malady on Tuesday, and if she were unable to perform, she would be, according the show’s rules, disqualified from the entire competition, a fate that Tuesday night’s boy-girl swap was an attempt to avoid. The show’s producers, though, must have been dry heaving. Had she not been able to sing Wednesday, the show would have lost its most promising contestant, and it can hardly afford such a setback as weak as the overall field is.


On Wednesday, the girls were, like the boys the night before, typically hot and cold. Randy Jackson was exasperated all night, offering identical responses to nearly every contestant: “Uhnnghh, I don’t know, dude; you didn’t bring anything new to it. I don’t know. What do you think, E? [Enjoys a swig of healthy and delicious Vitamin Water Zero]”. A couple of times, Randy did provide his highest compliment: “That was hot”. It’s one of the show’s most reliable broken-record catchphrases along with “If I’m being honest” (Simon), “You’re adorable” (Ellen), and “There were a couple of little pitch problems” (everyone, ad nauseam). So to work it out with the Dawg, here are Wednesday’s Hot Awards:


Hot Performance: Crystal. She didn’t just show up against the odds, she killed it, leading off the show with a version of CCR’s “As Long as I Can See the Light” that slayed the field before the competition had even begun and made all of the others look like little girls. Bowersox may be saving a sinking-ship of a show, if only by reshaping the show’s archetypes. She claims that she’d never watched American Idol before auditioning, and you can believe it since she’s like no contestant before her. Bowersox brings elements of hard-singing folk-soul singers from Janis Joplin to Melissa Etheridge with terrific natural instincts for rhythm, nuance, power, and taste. If her own songs are good, it’s easy to see her attracting an enthusiastic crowd at next year’s Bonnaroo Festival, something you can’t say about any former Idol contestant.



Tagged as: american idol
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Thursday, Mar 4, 2010
When NBC moved Jay Leno to ten, the network thought it was going to change the very face of TV. The goals in developing Jerry Seinfeld's The Marriage Ref were undoubtedly more modest. But Jerry may yet succeed where Jay failed.

The post-mortem on the Jay Leno failure has been extensive. According to pretty much everyone, the 10 o’clock hour is safe for scripted drama again. Already the Law and Order and CSI clones are flooding into the networks for this development season. All is right in the world. 


Or maybe not. As the goofy closing ceremony of the otherwise stellar Vancouver Olympics ended abruptly on NBC, the network unveiled its latest effort to revolutionize almost-late-night TV: The Marriage Ref.


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