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Thursday, Feb 18, 2010
The Top 24 was just a Bing away for the last two weeks, but that didn’t stop American Idol from dragging out the official unveiling over two nights and three hours. In the end, though, it should be a fun competition with the remaining hopefuls.

A few days ago, Ryan Seacrest tweeted that he had just watched the final cut of tonight’s episode and described it as “gut wrenching” and the “most dramatic [he’d] ever seen”. Perhaps Ryno was trying to draw folks away from the Olympics—or at least relegate DVR space to them—in favor of watching the judges whittle the 70-odd contestants down to the highly-anticipated (but previously leaked) Top 24. Yes, the Dirty Double-Dozen was just a Bing away for the last two weeks, but that didn’t stop American Idol from dragging out the official unveiling over an excruciatingly boring three hours.


So with Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White winning gold on another network, Idol stretched across two nights what could have been effectively accomplished in 15 minutes; instead, they made 46 contestants walk to the stage one at a time so the judges could act out a tired fake-out (“You know there were a lot of talented singers this year, and we only had room for 24…”) before letting them through, often delivered with Simon’s little wink, the subtlest in all of show business. The only entertaining twist on this charade was Ellen’s, who lampooned the whole thing by talking at length about how cruel it was to keep contestants’ fates a mystery by talking at length.


Tagged as: american idol, top 24
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Friday, Feb 12, 2010

At the outset, I admit that I used the shady rhetorical trick of finding incidental common threads and declaring them definitional. On the other hand, it’s the perfect huckster sleight of hand with which to skewer Runway‘s tiresome embedded advertising. When I spent some wonderful time in unemployment earlier this year, I developed something bordering on an addiction to right-wing radio (the guiltiest of guilty pleasures for an unrepentant liberal). While I loved to sit and argue by myself, I repeatedly groaned whenever the host would melt into tent revival testimonial for sponsors like the website that acts as your hard drive back up. Rush Limbaugh could be in mid-diatribe when suddenly he would segue into a seemingly personal anecdote that would turn into cheap shilling for gold, online meeting software or inhalable heavy metals. By ladling the advertising into the script, the players do far more then give advertisers a space to marketing themselves; they lend the brands their accrued authority and credibility. They advocate for these corporations rather than merely allowing advertising to fund the entertainment.


In an age where everyone purports to be a media critic and bias sleuth, it’s an awkwardly retro mode, an aesthetic choice that makes both Project Runway and talk radio gaudy. With the AM cognoscenti this tackiness amounts to a badge of authenticity, but on Runway, our supposed glimpse into the world of superior taste, it forces the show into constant, embarrassing interruption. This throwback in style and attitude where the “stars” of programs hold up cereal boxes and smoke Pall Malls on stallions is not the kind of homage that, in the demolition phrasing of the show, one could call “fashion forward”.


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Thursday, Feb 11, 2010
Group Day. The fatigue and the frustration. The mania and the mascara. The chiding and the childbirth. Yes, American Idol, after sending 85 golden-ticket-holders on a quick turnaround back home, 96 contestants competed in groups for a second round of cuts.

Group Day. The fatigue and the frustration. The mania and the mascara. The chiding and the childbirth. Yes, American Idol, after sending 85 golden-ticket-holders on a quick turnaround back home, 96 contestants competed in groups for a second round of cuts. Previews and lead-ins for this show hyped all kinds of drama with fights and meltdowns and general emotional devastation, looking like clips from The Blair Witch Project. Assuming folks at home aren’t tuning in for a singing competition, the producers last night focused over half the episode on rehearsal tears and tantrums.


There’s almost nothing more tedious than a bunch of teenagers trying to work out vocal harmonies, so the show attempted to ferment as much commotion as possible by forcing singers to quickly and chaotically find their own groups, limiting rehearsal space (they had to either seek cramped spaces or rehearse next to other groups’ competitive caterwauling), giving them tricky, word-tripping song choices, and limiting prep time so that late-night hours would lead to frayed nerves and short tempers.


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Thursday, Feb 11, 2010

I came to Season Two of RuPaul’s Drag Race with an unbelievable amount of prejudical goodwill. Unbelievable for me, because I’ve long been a strident critic of gay cliché burdensomely called “culture”. RuPaul and I have a long history from back in the high schools days when, like any credentialed dork, I had a long distance debate camp friend. She was the cosmopolitan Atlantan; I was the rube.  She used to send me video tapes full of Atlanta public access shows which included the inimitable “Star Booty”, a series that followed the trials of a cross-dressing hooker (RuPaul) with martial arts moves borrowed heavily from renowned sensei, Miss Piggy. Here I learned the true meaning of “good bad”.


The first season of Drag Race was a slapdash riot, sloppily sewn, but with a cast of characters that held it together and an intensity belied by the quality of the gift baskets. Drag Race had momentum that glossed over the webcam quality and the viewer think that surely “they’ll fix some of this stuff once it catches on”. Nope.


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Thursday, Feb 11, 2010
The CW's Life Unexpected is the first series the network has created that hearkens back to the great relationship dramas that defined the WB and is their first new series that can appeal to adults as much as the teen girls the network targets.

To understand why the new CW series Life Unexpected is such a pleasant surprise, one has to consider both the long string of successful character-driven family dramas created by the earlier WB and the shorter string of unsuccessful and persistently disappointing teen-oriented dramas created by the CW, the successor network to both the WB and UPN.


Back before the CW, the WB’s many family dramas were staple viewing for viewers who preferred relationship-driven drama over reality TV and police procedurals. At the heart of shows like Seventh Heaven, Dawson’s Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, Angel, Charmed, Popular, Roswell, Gilmore Girls, Smallville, and Everwood was a focus on relationships and families, even if some of the families were chosen rather than biological (family was at the heart of both Buffy and Angel, though few characters were biologically-related to one another). Although targeted at a younger demographic, these shows also appealed to adults. Some shows may have had a stronger appeal to adults than others (Buffy, Gilmore Girls, Everwood), but all of these shows handled relationships with sufficient intelligence to appeal to more than just teen girls. Even a teen drama like Dawson’s Creek had more than its fair share of adult viewers.


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