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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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Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010
On the verge of driving a stake into its own heart with interminable audition shows, Idol finally reaches Hollywood week to separate the wheat from the chaff and end up with the Top 24 singers who'll make up the season's official talent pool.

On the verge of driving a stake into its own heart with interminable audition shows, Idol finally reaches Hollywood week to separate the wheat from the chaff and end up with the Top 24 singers who’ll make up the season’s official talent pool. The show to this point has been a typical sleight of hand in showing some promising auditions but also withholding others in order to keep a lid on the Top 24, already decided behind locked and heavily guarded doors. Amid the technocalypse, however, it’s virtually impossible to keep anything under wraps that involves two-dozen people, so not only did a story surface that one of the finalists was yanked for blabbing, but the entire Top 24 was leaked last week by a mystery source who has been accurate when letting the cat out the bag during two previous seasons. In any case, it’s down to (mostly) people who can actually sing, so hooray for Hollywood.


As the show unveiled this season’s first look at the Kodak Theater (described by Ryan Seacrest at “The Most High-Profile Stage in the World”: Hmm.), we also got our first look at new judge Ellen Degeneres, strolling out in denim and heavy makeup. News sites last week, with story lines running thin, were trying to make hay out of Ellen’s supposed comments that Simon was meaner than she thought he was. No signs of salty-vs.-sweet friction last night between the two of them, as Ellen seemed to charm about everyone, including Simon and, based on early poll results, the home audience, as well, by finding a balance between praise, criticism, and wit.


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Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010
American Idol has never been accused of being subtle, particularly during the audition weeks. But the number of sob stories being foisted on viewers this season has gotten out of hand. And, yes, I’ve made a list.

This week on Lifetime, the story of a guy/girl who overcame disability/disease/hardship to reach a lifelong dream of auditioning for American Idol and getting that golden ticket to Hollywood.


So far this season, I’ve felt like I’m watching that TV movie promo over and over. Nearly every decent singer that has gotten airtime so far seems to have a tragic tale to tell. It has happened more during the auditions this year than any season in the past, so far as I can tell. The I’m-a-special-person music starts to play, letting us know that the judges will be putting this person through before a single note is sung. Then, the pre-packaged video montage of their sob story. Oh, and if you didn’t get the point, next comes the interview where they actually sob.


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Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010

Call this episode a hooker with a heart of gold. Project Runway oh-so-cleverly spent an entire show shilling for Campbell’s Soup, and managed to look noble in the process.


The challenge was to make a red evening dress for a gala sponsored by Campbell’s AdDRESS Your Heart Program. The crassness of the designers being forced to incorporate the brand’s logo into their garments was somewhat leavened by the fact that the models this week were real women who had survived heart disease. Confronted with altruism and normal-sized women (two things that cannot be found on the Bluefly accessory wall), several of the designers seemed to lose their ability to form rational sentences. To wit:


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