Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Faye Dunaway Should Be Ashamed

The other night, watching TV with my husband, Herr Guitar, we saw an ad for a new WB reality show, The Starlet. As soon as I saw the ad I said, "I WILL NOT watch The Starlet." His response was too skeptical and disinterested to be printed here. He knows as well as you and I that, not only will I watch the worst TV imaginable, I will often shush him if he's talking over some embarrassingly bad program. Like the time when he was gushing about how beautiful I am and how much he loves me and I yelled at him because I couldn't hear what Ashlee was saying about her parent's reaction to her new hair color. I've explained it before but when it comes to the tube, I'm tasteless and devoted.

Still, I can't watch everything. I can't give my eyes and heart to every ridiculous concept dreamed up by the Yale class of 1998. The problem is, once I watch an episode, I'm invariably hooked. (On our trip to London last week we watched two episodes of the British "Apprentice," and I still can't stop thinking about the possible outcomes - write in if you know who wins!) So I have certain rules: if it's a reality show in it's second or third season, stay away. By that time, everyone involved is performing according to some script that's burned into our collective psyche (with some exceptions, this was long-ago true of The Real World, but I've only just recently begun skipping episodes). That means no Survivor, Bachelor/Bachelorette, or Apprentice (except the exotic variety when on vacation!). And while I haven't let go yet, I'm even bored with favorites America's Next Top Model and The Ashlee Simpson show.

My next rule is to ignore certain shows that fall somewhere between "It Looks So Good, I Have to Watch" and "It Looks So Bad, I Have To Watch." The blah middle is not worth my semi-precious time. Supernanny, High School Reunion, The Fox crap all fit into this category. As does The Starlet. Fine, who needs it.

But last night, while watching the Gilmore Girls (which, despite appearances is no more highbrow than any of the above, and has come to be a chore rather than a guilty pleasure), I see a commercial for The Starlet. It's the perfect reality show! Wildly Entertaining! Four Stars. Whatever, I can't remember because it all went by so fast, but I think I saw the New York Times cited under one of these glowing reviews. I thought to myself: Really? Could this be so bad it's actually good? Nah. But then I was dealt the death blow: "Coming up next on the WB."

And so I betrayed my dear HG's trust and watched The Starlet. And I'm pissed.

From the moment it started, I knew I was duped. First of all, one of the prospective starlets is a reality has-been. Neva, the dissaffected drone from Puerto Rico was among the first to leave one of my all-time favorite shows, MTV's Surf Girls. To see a familiar face on a reality show that isn't the Surreal Life is like a punch in the stomach. A stark realization that this is in fact TV, and these people are not jane schmos but wannabe actresses working every angle. As a former wannabe actress, I am appalled. What happened to doing shitty John Patrick Shanley plays in 20-seat theaters? What happened to doing a porn reel here and there to pay the rent while auditioning for agents? There was dignity, there was craft in the profession then. But schlepping from reality show to reality show masquerading as a small-town athlete or drama queen - that's tacky.

But it gets far tackier. So these girls are taken to a "world famous" acting coach whose claim to fame is he coached Cameron Diaz (thespian to the core) on her first movie (that was before I graduated college, right? I won't go into details but it was long ago). And the first task the girls are asked to do is "seduce" their partner, which is a big teddy bear. Well-deserved snickering aside, this could have been an interesting exercise. In my day a seduction scene would involve some talking, some interplay with the other actor, eye contact, physicality. Each one of these girls went straight to humping the bear. Oh it was painful to watch. I don't know whether the producers were trying to work the boner factor, and I'm not a man, but it was having the opposite effect on me - big time. A few of them even took off their tops and macked the bear in just a bra. Oh shudder shudder.

Then the bear was replaced by a bevy of so-called hunks, and the girls were asked to do their sexiest dance for them. I know this is Hollywood, but what does it have to do with acting again? At this point, even the shy girls went nuts, stripping down to bra and pantaloons and gyrating madly. Not one thought to go another way (or if they did it was probably discouraged).

But the kicker was the next "acting challenge," in which the girls are to recreate a scene from the popular hit (wha?) series, Fastlane. The challenging scene originally pitted the venerable Tiffany Amber Thiessen against the esteemed Jaime Pressly, and took place in the familiar hot tub. It also involved lines like, "If I can't be a better me, I might as well date her," followed by a lesbian kiss.

This is when I started clicking around, but damn it if I couldn't find anything else to watch. I even contemplated taking the dog for a walk, just to get some fresh air. But my laziness and curiosity won out, and I'm sorry for it. Because the girls' filmed performances (in bathing suits, hot tub and all) were sent before a panel of judges that includes the dreaded and talentless Vivica A. Fox, the talented by far fallen Faye Dunaway, and some chubby gay mensch who I guess is a casting director. Before I tell you what made me throw the remote at the screen, I should point out that two losers are sent away each week as Dunaway Trump's the phrase: "Don't call us, we'll call you." Stomach churning. Cheeks blushing. Hands instinctively covering face.

These three idiots talk to the girls about their acting. ("I wanted to see more from you." etc.) But the girls are, for the most part, so talentless. And in the worst scene, one girl, who happens to have short red hair and "not what it takes to be The Starlet," was trying to act sexy and lezzie and into it while her partner sat there stiff and constipated looking. When the judges praised Ms. Stone Face rather than recommending Ex-Lax, I was shocked. But when they commended her for playing like she wasn't into it because inside she was a spy or something, I threw the remote. And poor Short-Hair was chastized for being "A Monkey on Crack," because she was trying to do as told and kiss this idiot who wouldn't even turn her face toward her. Crack Monkey, as they continued to refer to her, was out. As was Neva, the has been (and good riddance!).

And so I can now honestly vow to the love of my life that I will never, ever, EVA, watch The Starlet again.

By the way, I found a good bad review of the show on Hollywood Reporter. Apparently the brain-child of the guy who created the Bachelor and improv idiot, Jamie Kennedy. Maybe viewers are being Punk'd? (I know, it's Ashton Kutcher who Punk'ds, but Kennedy does something similar, right?)

Also, note to Ashlee: I love the new hair color.


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