How To Ruin A Perfectly Good (or at least, watchable) Show

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I'll preface by saying this is a One Tree Hill post...kind of. At least, that's the source of inspiration.

I've noticed a trend over the years of shows going to seed when a new, random character is introduced that doesn't quite jibe with the show's original vibe. This is perhaps observed as early as the 1970s with shows that introduced the mysterious child character - usually an obscure cousin (I'm looking at you Brady Bunch).

But this trend STILL continues to this day. And One Tree Hill is horrendously, but not unforgivably, guilty of it. I will straight up say, I'm embarrassed to say I watch this show (never mind the phrase 'still watch this show'), I have been since it first debuted. My sister and I used to turn to one another and ask "WHY are we still watching this crap?" The original answer was the character of Lucas Scott played by Chad Michael Murray, our teen dream love from Dawson's Creek and Gilmore Girls. But alas, Lucas was no Tristan or Charlie - he was a whiny, self-absorbed, squinty zero.

And yet...we watched. And the show did hit a peak in seasons 3 & 4, before beginning a slow descent in the 'fast forward' seasons. To recap, the first four seasons are set in grades 11 & 12 - rather than pull a mystery grade out of thin air a la the OC, each grade was divided into two seasons. Season 5 saw the characters (thankfully) fast-forwarded through the college years, picking up 4 years and 6 months after graduation. Lo and behold, everything was sorta kinda peachy keen in the OTH's world, plus Jamie (Naley's love child in S4) was a cute pick-me-up in a non-random-child way (at first). Season 5 was actually kind of good, offering lots of 'Where are they now?' surprises and Easter eggs for the loyal fans, and introducing some interesting characters including Brooke's mama.

The beginning of season 6 was a big fat pile of OMGWTFBBQ, but in a good dramatic tension way...but that started to unravel as well. I'll point out that the character of 'Sam', Brooke's adopted-ish teeny-bopper, was an example of the way introducing a new young un is a BAD idea, especially considering that Sam resembled an actual teen next to these adults who played teens in the previous season. At the end of Season 6, Lucas and Peyton, two of the show's core core core characters (despite them being amongst my most hated) were unceremoniously dumped. I never thought I'd say it, but the gap has NOT been filled.

Instead, we got introduced to a pairing of new key characters, meant to replace ultimate couple Leyton. One of Haley's miscellaneous sisters, Quinn, she of the perfect marriage and inexplicable photography career, arrives out of nowhere to crash at the Scott mansion. And Nathan is back on his game with a handsome devil of an agent, Clay, at his side.

Now...I love Clay, I do.

The show has done a decent job of integrating him into the cast, although it's a far cry from brotherly camaraderie that was really starting to feel real between Lucas and Nate over the last few seasons. Plus I LOVED his back story episode(s), where we were introduced to a mysteriously awesome, charming chick in his life only to find out she was his WIFE that died randomly of a heart disorder. Brutal as I'd much rather see the actress that played Sarah be alive and well than well...


Other than having a nice hair colour, I can't STAND this chick. It's partially the show's fault for forcing the point that 'QUINN IS A GOOD PERSON LOVE HER AND HER SUNNY WANDERLUST!' down our throats to the point where I wish she'd walk into the ocean she so greatly fears and get drowned by Dan Scott. Her back story about her newly-loveless marriage to David made me unsympathetic to her cause (vs. Clay), and basically nothing she's done on this show has convinced me she's nothing but a spoiled, whiny brat. Perhaps she's the new Lucas then. In slight fairness, the casting department cast the biggest oaf of a husband they could find, but I STILLLLLL found him more endearing than Quinn. Also, although the term 'career' can be used loosely for most of our cast, she takes it to a new level, bunking in her sister's manse and randomly snapping people on the beach while cozying up to Clay.

So the show has decided to put a ton of focus on these two. Which pretty much makes me want to gag - I could handle them apart in small doses and their interactions with everyone else, but as a couple and their supremely unrealistic cheesmo conversations, including Clay's declaration at the mid-season break, are pretty much the WORST things to happen to this show, ever.

I get that you can't have a show (really) around 3 core characters - but I miss my Hayley/Nathan/Brooke face time. Instead we have the three of them constantly having to prop up these new additions to the show, and then some. Julian was interesting last season but now he's an inexplicable, unreadable knob a la cheating Lucas in early years. Alex can provide intermittent bouts of funny but as a sympathetic foil I find her irritating - just let her make her $*#(@&$( movie, be redeemed, and ideally leave town with Julian in her pocket. No one is good enough for Brooke (still / yet). Millicent had a fun run as an Alex wannabe but in general she's downerville, and I'm over her and Mouth's less-than-ideal relationship. Alexander Coin = snore and not good-looking enough for Mme. Brooke.

Ugh. I can't dwell on this show any longer other to say that I'm pretty sure the creator has been developing a music label-centred show for another network, and I think it's hurt a show that straddles the line between brutal and watchable.

So I meant for this post to be more about a number of shows that have fallen prey to the new core character problem, but I'll just leave you with this example. Season 3 of the OC was no picnic. Marissa was elsewhere with a cast of losers, Summer and Seth were on their own educational wavelength, and the one likable character introduced all season - Sadie - was unceremoniously tossed. But let me tell you why this season REALLY sucked, and who singlehandedly led to the demise of what could have been the best teen soap of all time had it kept up Season 1's momentum.

Taylor Townsend (played by Autumn Reeser)

Originally serving as a foil to our blissfully happy (in episode 1) couples Marissa & Ryan and Seth & Summer, Taylor tried to take down Summer in the college department, woo Seth in the comics department, and evict Marissa and Ryan from school. Predictably or not, by mid-season she was suddenly their sad little fifth wheel.

The main reason why I blame the demise of the show on Taylor (as early as S3)? The humour that they attached to a character like Taylor was COMPLETELY different than the vibe of the show. Consider the season 1 episode where Summer is randomly dating some funny dude who in fact, Seth and Sandy identify as not funny, but 'BIG'. Taylor is the female, camp equivalent. The show suddenly became about slapstick pratfalls and cheesy mean girl showdowns - but without the bite, irony, wit, or quirkiness of the earlier seasons. The show asked us to worship this completely ridiculous character with a penchant for older men in pastels and Yakuza films - there's Seth Cohen nerdy hip, and then there's Taylor's obnoxious cutesy psychoticness. BLAH!

Beyond that, the show really soured for me after Marissa's death (well, me and the world I guess). A friend and I had a long chat the night after the finale, and he pointed out that things might not be all bad. I tried to see the light and pointed out that, having enjoyed Sadie of S3, he was right - I was super excited to see Ryan: the college years and him finding a new Marissa type. But no. Instead the show decided to be pitifully lazy, continue the random not-funny brand of funny, and make TAYLOR - mortal enemy of Ryan in the first half of season 3 and barely on his radar in the latter half - Ryan's LOVE INTEREST? I DONT THINK SO. And yet it was so.

There are many things that could have saved the OC from an early death - not having the mysterious 'gap year' where they repeated grade 11, Mischa Barton getting her drunk ass to set on a more regular basis, the horrible Kirsten-out-of-rehab plot not being so entirely random...and so on. But really, I'm pinning this one on campy Taylor. Did I mention season 4 totally failed in the bringing a random child onto the scene? Yeah, I'm looking at you Katelin.

To the TV I go!

Britt's On

Red Carpet Conundrum

8:47 PM Posted In , , , , , Edit This 0 Comments »
I really wasn't planning to post after yesterday's epic Survivor post, but here I am.

Incidentally for some GREAT insight and analyses of each character, backed up by real-life observations, check out Dalton Ross' columns on Entertainment Weekly that are being posted daily in the lead-up to the show. Oh EW, how I heart thee. Even your website is wicked. Sadly it looks like one of my early picks might be bested by a physical injury...or perhaps Dalton's just teasing.

Anyway back to why I'm posting. I decided to review the best/worst dresses lists for this Saturday's Screen Actors Guild Awards. Typically no one really cares about the SAGs, although as part of the illustrious 'road to the Oscars' people are putting more emphasis on every little hop, skip, and jump to the Academy Awards. And thus, the dresses.

I think the SAGs in general accounted for a better dressed bunch than the GG's, something I can only chalk up to people trying to go for it on the much higher profile GG's and feeling like they simply have to look 'nice' at the SAGs.

However in my more in-depth paying-attention-to-dresses run up to the Oscars, it seems that everyone is a critic, and everyone has criteria for what makes or breaks someone on either list.

Consider for example, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men's 'Joan') at the GG's. I LOVE this girl, especially for wearing Project Runway wunderkid Christian Siriano's custom-made dress. This picture actually does it more justice than both TV and other photos I've seen, yet the critics seemed wholly divided between awarding her a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I can see both sides - on one hand, her curves are out of control and this dress kind of emphasizes them through it's fleshy colour and it's wobbly waves. On the other hand, typically speaking Christina doesn't rock the red carpet (it's hard to find modern-day clothes that work with her rockin bod) and I think this dress was more successful than her usual outings.

In contrast, Christina is getting better vibes for this much 'safer' ensemble worn at this weekend's SAGs:

To me, red is underwhelming on a redhead, particularly one with as much flair as Christina.

She's a bit of a specialty in Hollywood, at least in terms of Old Hollywood glamour, class, and curves on the red carpet. So what makes for a guaranteed best dress spot? Here's what I can gather.

The best dressed are:
- Put together from head to toe: the hair, make-up, shoes, accessories, and most importantly the dress work together, not against one another. If one of these things is jarringly bad (like Emily Blunt's poor make-up at the GG's) it may knock you out of the running.

- More often than not, they aren't 'safe'. Black dresses rarely simultaneously top all best dressed lists, because too many people will deem them 'safe'.

- At the same time, the 'risk takers' can't be too risky. If the print is too wacky, if the features of the dress are too bizarre (like Drew Barrymore's wacky crystal anemones at the GG's), if the style is too unfamiliar (like Nicole Kidman's boho chic look at this year's SAGs), you will be deemed badly dressed, with the dress wearing you.

- The dress / look must be 'age appropriate'. This means if you're young, you can't be in something too fussy, and if you're old, you can't be in something too raunchy.

- The dress must cover and conceal well, while still showing an appropriate amount of skin. There are countless examples of where this rule bedevils some of them at the GGs - Annalynne McCord, Felicity Huffman, Mariah Carey, and even Marion Cotillard's hint of a slip were all cause for chatter.

- The gown must also be flattering - ideally. There needs to be some feature that either showcases a jealous-rage-inducing body part (like Jennifer Aniston's 'to there' slit at the GGs, not that I'm condoning basic black)

- And a cardinal, but inescapable rule. Your dress may NEVER incite predictable comparisons like "This wouldn't look out of place in a Hollywood wedding bridal party" (Fergie at the GG's) or "This dress will be the flying off the shelves for prom - because it already LOOKS like a prom dress" (Jenna Fischer at the SAGs). Thus, the oft-worst-dressed gals will try and slink by in simple, slightly adorned dresses, and be labeled worse than safe - pedestrian. Shudder.

There are a few dresses, and a few awards shows that break convention. Hillary Swank's fugly navy blue nun dress the year she won for Million Dollar Baby is an example - it was a TOTAL snoozefest on the red carpet, and while normally that dress would be cause for subtly passing Hillary Rachel Zoe's business card, it was interesting enough to make us all do a double take and consider that maybe just maybe it had some sex appeal and style after all.

Another example of defying all laws are the show stoppers, like J Lo's infamous Versace green dress, or Halle Berry's boobular flower-pastie dress (I'm being crass, it was no Lil Kim debacle, but it certainly wouldn't have worked for anyone else who wasn't winning that night). If you have the attitude, momentum, and popularity behind you, almost anything is possible on 'your' night.

For the record, who do I often count on for red carpet magic? Diane Kruger has really be working the carpet in the last while, to the point where she almost has me convinced her confectionery pink GG gown is fab (her mustard yellow dress from the SAGs truly IS fab, although a total take-off of Michelle Williams at the Oscars circa Brokeback Mountain).

Beyond that, Reese Witherspoon and Kate Winslet can generally be counted on for flattering, fashion-forward looks that embody all of the good things a 'best dress' asks for, even if they veer slightly into 'safe' territory a little too often.

Other than that Hollywood is a total crapshoot on the red carpet. I have no respect for Jennifer Aniston's entirely black/cream/navy wardrobe, and it makes me sad to see Jenna Fischer and Mandy Moore continually not get it right.

Penelope Cruz generally does a solid job, but her style just isn't for me, and I can't put my finger on it. Perhaps it's the ease with which she carries everything off, the fact she spots dresses and bides her time for years before she wears them. I don't know.

What I DO know is I'll be watching the Oscar red carpet (hopefully NOT under an umbrella) like a hawk, and making my picks right then and there.

Till later,

Britt's On

Heros Vs. Villains

12:19 PM Posted In , , Edit This 0 Comments »
Man this is what I live for - Survivor All Star season cast analyses. The new season starts in just a couple of weeks, and while I spotted the unofficial (which turned out to be the official list) a month or so ago, NOW is the time to put my odds on. Why? Mostly because my mom just called me and explained in the Survivor pool she's a part of they get to pick their top 5, and from there will be assigned one of them. I just spent 15 minutes doing a brief analysis of each competitor and realized it's a tougher call than usual for who might win. In general the All Star winners tend to be people who do decently physically (but aren't overpowering threats), have a solid social and strategic game, and tend to fly under the early days radar...Amber and Parvati? I mean who woulda thunk it?

So here we go...a look at our top 20, by the alphabetical order listed on the CBS website.

Amanda (China, Fans vs. Favorites)
(Presumed)Tribe: Heroes
Summary: Amanda currently holds the record for days spent on the island, having made it to the finals twice, but never winning. She tends to align herself with people who make bolder, flashier strategic moves, and her 'but I'm a nice girl' argument at the end earns her resentment, not votes.

Working For Her:
- The gamers might respect if she can make it to the end three times. That's a LOT of time to spend in the jungle for a measly $500K after taxes.
- People might glom onto her as an 'easy win' in the end, putting her in an ideal alliance yet again

Working Against Her:
- People might think she's more than had her chance - twice - and will simply cast her off - again - if she makes it to the end
- Her drippy empathy pleas irritate even the most fervent Amanda fans by season's end
- People might target her as someone to slow burn their way to the end, and eliminate this semi-threat early on

Candice (Cook Islands, aka the 'race' season)
Tribe: Heroes?
Summary: If anything, I expected Candice to fall under the villains category. A totally unremarkable player other than the fact she mutinied tribes with Jonathan, leaving a weak foursome to take her old-new tribe down (and eventually win). I don't think I'm alone in thinking everyone was cheering for Yul/Ozzy & co. and NOT Candice & co.

Working For Her:
- Candice did stick it out longer than some other members of the once powerful tribe she mutinied to (although notably, Parvati outlasted her)...she might be able to pull a Parvati this time and fly under the radar / play a solid strategic game, although I don't know the heroes she's stuck with will buy her game
- As a relatively forgettable player who didn't really shine in her season, she'll likely escape the early heat the big names put out for past winners / major threats

Working Against Her:
- She has NO previous relationship with anyone on her tribe. This is actually a pro/con. On one hand, she has no hurt emotions, but on the other hand, she has no assets to say "Remember when we...?" to make people align with her. Which might make her a match for Russell...ack but he's also on the villains tribe.
- She wasn't particularly strong physically on her season...but you only need to be marginally fit to win the all stars usually
- She's on the wrong tribe. Her game (or the one she needs to play) is much more suited to the Villains than the Heroes.

Cirie (Panama, Fans vs. Faves)
Summary: Cirie plays one of the best social / secret strategy games around, which has propelled her to the near-top on both seasons she's been on. Unfortunately she fails to make that tight bond with her alliance, which has inevitably led to her being axed at the 11th hour.

Working For Her:
- Great social player, as I mentioned, and she's got the momentum of a big fan push back home to keep her mind set that she can do it...or get closer than she has in the past.
- People don't really (rightfully so) see her as a physical threat, so as long as she's careful strategically, she'll probably be okay during the first week heat
- She looks lovely and mom-like in her photo above :)

Working Against Her:
- Cirie's 'game' was really showcased on the last All Stars season...people will be paying WAY more attention to this little engine that can and will take you out with a smile on her face
- Her lack of physicality could hurt her, especially with the dominant physical forces this season vs. the last All Stars
- Danielle. I'm not saying she's a threat or anything, but these two were on the same season and had a tough relationship with each other in the final days.
- Parvati and Amanda. This will easily be the most interesting dynamic this season as the three ladies split on relatively negative terms (at least in TV land) and now two of them are back on the same tribe. Will the real hero stand up?
- Wonder if the girl's learnt how to build a fire yet?

Coach (Tocantins)

Tribe: Villains ?
Summary: Coach really is one of the most colourful, bizarre characters the show has ever seen...and one that makes you wonder how stringently they do their psychology / background checks. Not the greatest strategist and surprisingly unfit, he does play a loyal game.

Working For Him:
- He's got two Tocantins members with him - one on each tribe - that he had decently tight relationships with last time around that may keep him as a mute ally. Coach doesn't question those that are loyal to him.
- People might underestimate him strategically (maybe), so he might be able to concoct a non-ridiculous plan for once.

Working Against Him:
- He's supremely annoying and doesn't exactly fit the profile of a villain (aka strategic) - everyone knows what he's planning 10 steps before he does
- No one will want to align with him, or Tyson might get rid of him just to avoid the perception that they've got an alliance
- He's a weak physical threat (unless he's beefed up in the last year)
- The people he'd be most likely to root (/ align) for are all on the other tribe! What will the noble Coach do amongst villains?

Colby (Australia, All Stars)
Tribe: Heroes
Summary: Survivor's poster child of prettiness, athleticism, and a penchant for mom figures, Colby is the winner that never won. The game has come a long way since BOTH seasons he played, but that also means it's been a long time since anyone has seen him in action - which may let him lay low in light of his more recently competing tribemates.

Working For Him:
- All around likable (if slightly boisterous) guy that seems like a bit of a wacky relic in the world of cutthroat Survivor playing
- If he's kept it up in the last decade, some great physical dominance
- Again, people haven't seen him play in awhile, so they might not see him as a big gun

Working Against Him:
- Colby's a relic, when days were much simpler on the island...even since All Stars things have changed dramatically. Hidden idols might confuddle him.
- The boy has milked his Survivor fame better than most others, landing some commercials and recurring TV roles. He's probably not hurting for cash (although that receding hairline isn't helping much).
- Doesn't really seem like someone that will really be there to play - he knows next to no one playing this season (Jerri & Rupert?) so it'll be harder for him to work his way into a comfortable alliance.
- Isn't as likable as JT.

Courtney (China)
Tribe: Villains?
Summary: Courtney played an acidic, but tagalong game, which I guess earned her a villain spot. I'd call her more of an anti-hero. She didn't strike out on her own beyond the nest Amanda and Todd feathered for her, but she did play a vocal one, which earned her some props when all was said and done.

Working For Her:
- Could be under the radar, although not as much as Candice and Danielle
- Banks her strategy on her alliances - if she finds a good one she can go far
- Weakness (strength-wise) could be seen as a benefit for people who want to beat her at the end
- Being on the villains tribe works for Courtney. These are strategists that will see her flaws and capitalize on them, for a sidekick game.

Working Against Her:
- Supremely weak, up there as the weakest gamer this season with Sugar
- If her whiny attitude persists, the gamers that are SERIOUS about being there will have no tolerance for it this time and boot her out
- Has the highest profile of the low-profile players, there's a good chance Candice and Danielle will be there to 'prove something' and manipulate people into voting out their compatriots like Courtney

Danielle (Panama)
Tribe: Villains ?
Summary: Danielle had a pretty unremarkable season, although she worked her way into the final two with a few impressive showings come final 5 - she ultimately lost to much more likable but forgettable homeless yoga instructor Aras. No one had anything particularly scathing or complimentary to say to her, and she in fact only earned one actual vote (her other one was a random guessing game).

Working For Her:
- Another very under the radar player (although I think Candice takes top honours there) that will easily escape notice in the first week if she plays hard in the challenges and sucks up to those that she needs to
- Similar to Courtney, Villains work better with under-the-radar types. If she finds a good alliance here she can ride it to the end, and hopefully take credit for a few things along the way.
- Candice and Danielle are probably the most likely to be out there to 'prove something' to the world, so they'll probably play harder than they did before.

Working Against Her:
- She had a pretty negative personality from what I remember, and is just the type of person you want to pick on. Her fellow GAMERS might take offense and get rid of her in a "no contest" vote
- If her and Cirie meet up, sparks might fly...or they might not acknowledge one another, so entrenched in their various tribes they'll likely be by that point.
- Much like Candice, she has no connection to anyone on her existing tribe, which could make it hard for her to find a place. If you're that unmemorable, people might go with a 'sure thing' like Courtney over Danielle. Although she might make a good idiot alliance with Russell.

James (China, Fans vs. Faves)
Tribe: Heroes
Summary: James has got this game made in the shade. He never makes it to the end (once out of stupidity, once out of injury) but he always wins the fan favourite award, giving him second place by default...twice. Beyond that, he's actually a great player - you can't help but like him and want him on your side, plus he's got a body like a battle axe.

Working For Him:
- Fan power (not to win, but to get the mega fan award again...last all stars it was a million bucks...)
- Physical prowess
- Likable in a slightly less threatening way than Colby and Tom

Working Against Him:
- Weak strategist, more content to get by on good looks and personality
- Not a great social game - known as a bit of a renegade loner
- Is one of the big guns other players will go for early on
- The whole two fan faves prizes might work against him. If these players were intelligent they'd get rid of him early on so he doesn't have a chance to shine in the fans eyes (typically only merged players get shorlisted for the fan fave prize)

Jerri (Australia, All Stars)
Tribe: Villains
Summary: Jerri's similar to Colby in that she'll be challenged by how dramatically how the game has changed...and she's a lot older / can't play the looks card to anyone but Coach at this point. Beyond that, she's also more effed than Colby because while his prowess has been questioned (He ain't all that!), Jerri's bitchtastic reputation has lasted.

Working For Her:
- Older & wiser, Jerri might come back with a solid strategy to go with her big mouth
- She looks pretty fit and was always a solid but not overpowering physical competitor from what I recall
- Probably not the most villainous of the villains to go after in the beginning

Working Against Her:
- The game's evolution will confound her
- She's got NO friends in this game...Colby and Rupert dislike her, and everyone else is newer than that
- She might be an easy 'no contest' throwaway bitch vote
- Her reputation proceeds her - she's someone no one will really want to keep in the game, and if she tries to soften her image, they'll eat her alive

JT (Tocantins)
Tribe: Heroes
Summary: Ah JT...your season relatively sucked because we knew you were going to win all along, but in some ways, I think everyone was okay with that because you're adorable, smart, and strong. Love!

Working For Him:
- The dude doesn't scheme to win people over...he just does.
- One of the greatest physical competitors ever, and a lot more recently / at a younger age than his fellow physically dominant players of Colby, James, and Tom
- Who doesn't want to align with him? Seriously?

Working Against Him:
- Winners generally have no shot at winning again. BUT if any past winner did, JT would be it.
- Without brainiac and best buddy Stephen by his side, he might be too trusting. The sharks will be swimming around him early on and JT might be a tad too innocent to realize it.

Parvati (Cook Islands, Fans vs. Faves)
Summary: Parvati was the surprise winner of Fans vs. Faves, but not really an undeserving one. Most people will probably be immune to her giggle & backstab strategy this time though - it's a shame her and Candice aren't on the same tribe as I can see them working well together again.

Working For Her:
- Expert strategist who plays a very strong rallying game
- Decent physical threat
- The girl 'villains' aren't very tough and might rally around Parvati (Courtney & Danielle in particular)

Working Against Her:
- As strong as Parv is, she's a past winner, and a very high-profile schemer. People will be gunning for her in early days and it's unlikely any of the Villains will want to be aligned with her after seeing her beat Cirie and Amanda quite handily towards the end. Plus the guys on the villains will be impervious to her charms - Randy is anti-love, Rob is married with a baby, Russell and Tyson will think she's a dumb girl. Sadly, everything is working against her this time around.

Randy (Gabon)
Tribe: Villains
Summary: Randy is one of the nastiest, personal players the game has seen. Say what you want about Johnny Fairplay and the like, Randy was rude to people's faces - and yet he still made it decently far in one of the most vindictive vote-out sessions the show had ever seen. A well-deserving spot on the villains tribe.

Working For Him:
- He's not a threat on the surface...he isn't super strong strategically, his personality is a turn-off for the final tribal, and he isn't particularly physically strong compared to some of the big guns playing this season. Thus, good material for a tagalong finish.
- In some ways, not having any Gabon tribemates - other than the tolerant Sugar - in this season is an advantage for Randy (unlike other solo stars). People will be able to deal with his attitude for longer.
- Randy seems the type to come back with a vengeance, I can see him angling to win this if only for the bragging rights (a la Russell).

Working Against Him:
- Serious gamers have no room for complaining. While Randy isn't a big whiner, his negative tude might drag down his tribe enough to vote him out early on.
- Typically speaking the final cluster is strong enough in challenges that one of them can almost always win the necklace, at least when it counts. Randy doesn't exactly factor into that.
- His vile past game might turn off even the most villainous of villains.

Rob (Marquesas, All Stars)
Tribe: Villains
Summary: Rob has dominated reality TV more than any other player from the show - after wifey Amber won the $1M in the first All Star season, they cruised through two seasons of Amazing Race (sadly not winning, but snagging plenty of trips and cash along the way), got CBS to pay for a lavish wedding and dream life, AND Rob starred in a short-lived poker series. It's a bit weird to see him return to his Survivor roots while Amber stays home with their baby girl.

Working For Him:
- Rob might be one of the game's most notorious strategists (in what I can imagine will be some fun cat and mouse antics between him and Russell), but he hasn't played the game 10 seasons. It's changed a lot, but unlike Jerri and Colby, Rob's apt to be able to keep up with it. It also means that compared to some more recent all stars, he might be able to slip under the radar a bit more than if he had, say, come back for fans vs. faves

Working Against Him:
- Rob's high-profile extra-Survivor affairs will easily make him a target...he doesn't need the money, he'd just like the bragging rights
- Colby, Jerri, and Rob are all crippled in the lack-of-connections department
- There's no lady love for Rob to use as a shield (she's at home!)
- While he might not be a winner, he's a near-winner, and that's good enough motivation for the gutsier players to get him out (and earn bragging rights of their own)

Rupert (Pearl Islands, All Stars)
Tribe: Heroes
Summary: In retrospect, Rupert is somewhat in the same boat as Colby, Rob, and Jerri - it's been awhile since any of them have played the game. Yet Rupert (along with Rob) just seems more likely to be able to tune in earlier on. He's a weird hybrid of supremely lovable (JT & James), supremely strong (like the other heroes men), but also threatened by these same things (him and James will duke it out for fan fave if they make it far this season).

Working For Him:
- You love Rupert in the same way as you love James and JT, he's also loyal to a fault as show in past seasons, whereas James and JT were never really put in a position to show to the world that they were also quite loyal
- Strong as a horse, and looks more fit than usual in this picture

Working Against Him:
- Although not a technical winner, Rupert did pwn in the fan favourite contests, walking away with $1.1 million between the two past seasons he was on.
- Loyal to a fault as mentioned, and people in the all star editions will be savvier than ever
- His lovableness has lost some of its's been awhile since we've seen him on TV and other lovable stars might take the cake

Russell (Samoa)
Tribe: Villains
Summary: Russell dominated last season, and was visibly upset that he didn't take the title of Sole Survivor (rightfully so) - which may be a tip that he doesn't take the cake this season. Although he completely owned Samoa, it'll be a treat to see him play with real players...but real players that don't know what he's capable of.

Working For Him:
- These people don't know who Russell is or what he's done or why he's on the villains tribe. He might be able to use that shady southern charm to lure a few weaklings in like he did with Natalie (although that didn't exactly work out)
- If the production crew doesn't change things up too much, Russell has a knack for finding idols which will likely serve him as well this time as it did last season
- He looked VERY beat up in the finale of Samoa which implies he was out there for a good long time

Working Against Him:
- Just as they don't know what he's capable of, people might be wary to trust a player that's cast as a villain before it's even aired
- These are real, serious players - Russell was playing with infants compared to these grown-ups!
- It's unlikely idols will be as easy to come by as they were last season
- The fact he was so moved at the finale implies he was banking on *something* to come out of it that didn't happen in the all star season

Sandra (Pearl Islands)
Tribe: Villains
Summary: Yikes, being a relatively forgettable villain / winner is NOT a good place to be, especially if you're not as young and good-looking as Danielle. Sandra basically somewhat orchestrated Rupert's ousting and uh, walked to the win mysteriously.

Working For Her:
- She gives off the weak mom vibe, which'll work for her in the early weeks (or could backfire)
- She's forgettable next to the much bigger threat of Rupert, despite being a former winner

Working Against Her:
- She had a temper and an annoying attitude from what I remember, which are easy ways to get voted out of the happy fun All Star world
- She's a past winner
- She won't fall into line with Parvati's army of chicklets

Stephenie (Pulau, Guatemala)
Tribe: Heroes
Summary: Stephenie was a total hero after valiantly fighting her way to the jury in Pulau - but when she and former tribemate Bobby Jon returned in Guatemala she was somewhat villainized and failed to walk away with the title, despite making it to the finale. She remains one of my more-liked players and one of the better bets to win this season based on her physical prowess, likability, and strategic powers over her fellow hero females.

Working For Her:
- Super strong (look at her abs!)
- Good strategic / social game, people tend to respect her
- Possibly the strongest overall of the female heroes, the guys will want to keep her around

Working Against Her:
- She's a scarily strong female threat, if the guys stick together she'll be gone come merge time
- She doesn't relate to girls so well, and she'll need them to get anywhere
- Similar to a few others this season (despite several players coming back for the 3rd time) she seems to be one of those people that you feel like had your chance lady!

Sugar (Gabon)
Tribe: Heroes
Summary: Okay. I'm glad Bob won this season and all, but Sugar does not pass for a hero - she was irritating throughout the whole season, but wildly popular for whatever reason, so I get why she's back, I'm just not happy about it. I thought she played a weak all around game, with her blatant handing-over-the-win to Bob. Plus I've heard rumblings she's the first to go (not a spoiler because I didn't read it anywhere 'official' - just speculation).

Working For Her:
- Weak player, might be fodder for an idiot alliance a la Russell

Working Against Her:
- Weak player, thus easy to cut if your tribe should win the first immunity challenge as dead weight
- Wasn't very liked by her tribemates - more by the fans
- Dippiness will have no place among the fierce strategists playing this season

Tom (Pulau)
Tribe: Heroes
Summary: Tom was asked to come back for fans vs. faves, but apparently turned them down. My personal thought is that he was a bit of an arrogant winner compared to fellow likable men Rupert, James, and JT, and that might hurt him this time around. Plus I don't feel his was a fair trial against ad exec Katie, him and Dolphin Trainer boy should have been the final 2.

Working For Him:
- Super strong
- Hasn't been in the spotlight for a good long time, and wasn't on as high-profile a season as his fellow hero men
- Older guy can command the children a bit

Working Against Him:
- Winners never have a shot at winning again
- Arrogance will make him less approachable than the other hero men
- Might not bond with younger tribemates

Tyson (Tocantins)
Tribe: Villains
Summary: Despite being a blah season, Tocantins gave us three characters for this season. Curious. I put Tyson up there as another very solid potential competitor, as he is in a very similar position to Boston Rob in All Stars - a great schemer that was ousted too soon that will work double hard to make things work this time (and not be as blatantly vicious as he was in the past).

Working For Him:
- People haven't seen the full range of what he's capable of
- He's kind of a 'lite' version of the other 'known' villains. He's not as vicious as Randy, and he's not as well-known for strategy as Rob - the lesser of three evils if you will since no one knows what Russell's about.
- Solid physical competitor, decent strategizer

Working Against Him:
- He is the most recently SEEN villain, which might hurt him
- He might play an immature social game again which will kill him
- The chicks might be out for him as he was particularly nasty to Sierra back in the day

So there you have it...the full cast list. My top two picks are Stephenie and Tyson based on the aforementioned mix of physical, social, and strategizing strength - but they also might be able to earn some respect from their peers as well. That being said, I'm also pointing to some of the "I WILL PROVE MYSELF" candidates like Danielle, Candice, and possibly even James as surprising you, just as Amber and Parvati's wins surprised us all.

Till Feb 11th!

Britt's On

Of Constellations & Golden Planets

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So in the road to the Oscars, I’m still left scratching my head and wondering who will take top honours this year. After racking up accolades across the globe, Hurt Locker was completely shut out of the Golden Globes, while Avatar walked away with (arguably) the two top prizes. The comedic side was quite literally a joke with the Hangover taking the title – it wasn’t THAT good and it will NOT be nominated for an Oscar, which leaves Avatar the frontrunner (?) for best picture.

The top five shoo-ins for this year’s race – Avatar, Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Up In The Air, and Precious – represent very different films that all weigh heavily on different elements of ‘what makes a best picture’. If you want to bank on commercial success, revolutionary filmmaking, and the momentum of the Globes, then maybe Avatar will win. At the same time, a humorous Fail post recently showed up where a young ‘un managed to draw extremely parallel lines between the plots of Disney’s Pocahontas and Avatar, and I sincerely doubt the Academy can dust off their crustiness to give this film top accolades next to far more critically acclaimed films.

When it comes to acting, it’s another very mixed bag. Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges were both standout winners last night with awards that represented a lifetime’s worth of work rather than singular ‘good’ roles. Yet the Blindside hasn’t favoured supremely well with critics, and Bridges’ ‘Crazy Heart’ hasn’t been widely released yet, which might hurt their chances to take the title down the line. Other best actor winner Robert Downey Jr. stands little chance of being nominated at the Oscars, which again points to a tip of the hat from the GG’s towards commercialism. Meryl Streep still has a very solid chance of earning her third Oscar, as other chicklets in the category like Gabourey Sidibe, Carrie Mulligan, and Emily Blunt should all just thank their lucky stars to be nominated and at the Oscars.

And in the TV department – a couple of surprises as the Globes extended a welcoming to some new programs, including the Good Wife and Julianna Marguiles’ new starring role and Glee (both shows of which only have a dozen or less episodes to their name). Not much to say other than thank god Mad Men won for its best season yet – and I kinda wish someone would show awkward beauty January Jones some love for a performance that was equally heart-wrenching and maddening over the last six months.

Finally the fashion. Although the rain certainly put a damper on things (glad that wasn’t the red carpet I was due to sit on), I was disappointed by the choices the stars would have been rocking regardless of the weather. Too much black, nude, h2t sparkles, and plunging necklines – it was like watching a fashion show put together by the designers of the world on four basic themes. So far the ‘best / worst dressed’ lists I’ve consulted seem pretty split – moreso than usual – other than to say Mariah’s boobage was all up in your face. Two ‘just say no’ fashion shout-outs – Kate Hudson’s hooker shoes and Drew Barrymore’s stalagmite growths that reminded me of crystals growing out of my laundry room floor (no joke). I think Emily Blunt had a pretty dress although her hair (likely owing to the rain) was a bit drab, and Toni Collette looked lovely if on par with the h2t sparkle trend, but other than that there were really no standouts in the good department. There were people who looked okay, and people who looked like sh*t.

Well folks, I guess I’ll just keep reading my EW’s until I have some more direction for the Oscars 2010…the Globes have scrambled my brain.

- B

PS – Christoph Waltz and Inglorious Basterds how do I love thee? Christoph’s speech was nothing short of poetic, Quentin’s facial expressions throughout the night were hilarious, and the cast was among the best-looking (and most fun) in the crowd.

Television Grab Bag

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Some various musings because none of these really deserve a full entry.

Another one bites the dust…
I’m a week behind in my Desperate Housewives because my PVR was replaced this weekend, unceremoniously, and with it, all my PVR’d programs. Regardless I managed to track down the first episode of the winter season that picked up right where the plane crash left off, and need I say more? WTF DH! For one, I’ve lamented on this before, this show has become so ridiculously soapy. It went from being a satire of the television housewife to a show that regularly incurs acts of god – from tornados to plane crashes – and increasingly ridiculous ripped from the daytime soaps plot lines. Beyond that, this episode pissed me off on many levels. Why did you have to kill Carl, and beyond that ruin my hopes for a shiny, happy future for him and Bree by doing that stupid dream sequence? It would have been more interesting to see that relationship play out imo, and him and Bree had crackling, unexpected chemistry. What kind of message are you sending out to show that messed up marriages lead to fatness (or in Susan’s case, a generic chubbiness that’s average by US standards) and skinniness is the only way (or not) to keep a man? I don’t have much to say about Angie’s dream sequence, other than I like her as an actress and I’m sad her storyline on the show seems super lame and detached from the rest of the ‘wives. Eva Longoria’s was also stupid and shows how irrelevant she’s been this season. And Lynette’s…I have mixed feelings. At first I was shocked that DH would tackle such a sensitive topic as a disabled child, and then I was moved nearly to tears by Lynette’s ‘make your own sandwich’ rant, and then I was like “Oh of course. This is la la land where your disabled child can turn out a-ok and graduate law school with practically no problems to be seen.” Frustrating! I’m shocked this show has still dominated the ratings as much as it has in the last couple of seasons as it’s moved increasingly into glib territory. Perhaps it’ll be the next daytime soap and run for decades and decades. At least Mark Cherry will have his pick of housewives to kill off as they get too old for TV.

An Ode To Epitaph 1
So I finally got around to watching last season’s finale on Dollhouse, and I suddenly *got* it. The episode was amazing – it bridged the gap between the creepiness of the first season and the (too) rapid movement of the second season, and showed that the ‘brothel’ known as the Dollhouse really only existed to fund research that would put Rossum in full control of minds around the world. The episode channelled the desperateness of films like Children of Men, but also made you care about the small cast of new characters introduced (including the lovable actress that played Vi on Buffy). You also got glimpses of where the show was going, which put a whole new spin on the progress made this season. If the show was always going to head in this direction – sooner rather than later granted, had Joss introduced this premise even earlier (or at least had the episode broadcast on TV) I think we’d be in a totally different situation. He also failed to fully connect the many personalities of Echo to the ‘person’ that Echo becomes. It’s also weird that Caroline eventually appears and seems to be the conglomerate Echo we’ve hung around with this season. Regardless, this episode made me truly sad the show is ending – but also aware of the flaws (hi, the first three episodes of this season still felt too much like the monster-of-the-week format that plagued S1) – and hopeful that Joss’ next project really takes off. The guy’s got a cult following and if networks give him a chance, he can make magic happen.

X Marks The Spot

I’m pretty sure I called this about three or four years ago, when the X Factor launched this massive winner whose name escapes me now (ha) in the UK when I happened to be doing an internship over there for a month at the BBC. I predicted, as I had stopped watched American Idol after the third season, that eventually Simon would bring the X Factor format over here to freshen up (or replace, as it did in the UK) the American Idol format. Sure enough, it’s recently been stated that Simon has signed on Paula for The X Factor, which he sure enough is bringing over here. Although AI is still a ratings juggernaut, it’s hardly producing megastars anymore – Adam Lambert is the freshest thing to walk off the show in years but I couldn’t name you a single song of his, nor imitate his voice, because he’s not on my radar at all. Carrie and Kelly still continue to dominate (and I still like em both) so that’s two stars out of something like seven seasons – it’s time for a change. For the record, my inbox featured an email from People with the subject line “What Is The X Factor?” In my own words – it’s nearly identical to AI but you can compete in three different categories: groups, older solo artists, and younger solo artists. This is the show that brought us Susan Boyle, one of the older soloists. Will I watch it when the show begins its reign over here? I’m sceptical, but maybe. Regardless, whoever airs this show is a smart cookie because it might bring back lapsed AI viewers (like myself), plus the huge AI fan base, for a fresh new spin on manufactured by the fans talent shows.

Those are my thoughts!

Britt’s On

Food Ick.

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Food Ick

What a juxtaposition of films in the last few days as I continue my ‘road to the Oscars’. Apparently they’re on the ball as much as those around me have been eagerly anticipating details – I got a call from the prize sponsor yesterday and was informed today the ‘Academy’ would be contacting me to coordinate my trip to the red carpet. Fancy!

Anyway on Saturday I watched the delightful Julie & Julia, as my previous post mentions. Last night I opted to watch the squirm-inducing ‘Food Inc.’ as it’s being tapped for best documentary (unless ‘Big Food’ gets in the way).

First, some background. Several years ago I opted to read ‘Fast Food Nation’ for a journalism book project, and I was pretty engrossed (and grossed out) by the thing. I basically vowed to stop eating fast food on the spot, and am still pretty vigilant about what I’ll dine on in the food court. I have the occasional burger from A&W because I’ve worked there and know their standards are crazy high within the restaurant – I can’t speak to the processing, but they make tasty burgers, so sue me. Beyond that, I’ll have the occasional Subway (although their chicken is making me squeamish as I type this), Pita Pit (or other pita), Arby’s, and Taco Time. There ends my general involvement with fast food, unless it can’t be helped. Note that Subway, Pita Pit, and places I get from salad from aren’t really the big fast food psychos out there (okay, maybe Subway) – I like to believe I can make those things at home so the nutritional content isn’t quite as brutal.

But moving on. The thing that really bothered me about Fast Food Nation’s messaging, and Morgan Spurlock’s infamous doc ‘Supersize Me’, is the way the food industry engineered my dining experience. From the scene in FFN where Schlosser visits a ‘scent’ lab to McDonald’s concealment of the harmful nature of its food, I was disturbed more by the concept of mass produced, industrial food, than I was by the dollars and cents of calories and fat content.

Food Inc. is another great chapter in the exposure of the industrial food industry. Instead of pinpointing fast food restaurants, it covers the whole food industry – although it clarifies in a way no other publication has to date just why the two are so intrinsic to one another. If you’re tracing the food chain – even on a surface level as a consumer – you learn that McDonald’s is one of the largest customers of major agricultural / farming companies. If you start jacking up prices or underperforming on McD’s, they’ll threaten your contract. The farmers are under an equally brutal thumb – of the agricultural companies they’re contracted out to. If you start underperforming for Cargill and McD’s gets mad, they’ll terminate your contract. It’s a vicious cycle that is unfortunately manifested by our addiction and reliance on fast food.

While Food Inc. looks at fast food in detail – sometimes covering new territory than past efforts, sometimes not – it also looks at the ‘fast’ food packaged as ‘wholesome’ food in the grocery store. Although I’m relatively comfortable with the fact that Canada’s food production standards are higher, I’m not entirely convinced that I should continue to buy my meat at a supermarket or Costco.

It’s frustrating not to have any control over what goes in your mouth, but that’s the price we pay as consumers with little time and small food budgets. One thing is for sure though, if Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me inspired me to kick fast food to the curb (for the record, I’ve had McDonald’s approximately once in the last five years and it made me ill), then Food Inc. has encouraged me to pay attention to the ingredients in what I’m buying, look into the food quality control in Canada and products entering Canada, and to find ways to purchase more of my produce and meats at farmer’s markets, delis, and local greenhouses.

A preachy post, but I’m still a little shaken by the oversized chickens from the film.

- Britt’s On

Movie Junkie

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The last week or two have been a literal mini movie festival. One of my goals for 2010 was to watch all 10 Best Picture nominees, and at this point, I don't foresee that being a problem.

In my lamentation over the last few entries regarding Oscars 2010, I recently realized that I forgot perhaps, the most important element of all in my dissection of what makes a best picture a best picture. Watchability. Classic movies are called classics, and ideally Best Pictures are called Best Pictures, because you want to watch them over and over again - and they are watched over and over again by many ages in different time periods and still appreciated.

A big problem with the Academy's picks as of late is that they aren't necessarily rewatchable - they don't generate the tidal wave of adoration that something like Titanic manages to accomplish. Last year's Slumdog Millionaire is an example of a movie that beams with watchability. It is a movie you can watch over and over and still appreciate - the climactic ending is just one piece of a much greater, warmer puzzle.

There's a reason why you rarely see thrillers take home the title ('The Departed' is about as close as you get - still watchable, still tense, even if you know the outcomes) and it's the same reason why thrillers are often sitting in stacks on the Blockbuster 'Previously Viewed' shelves. After you watch it once, the thing that propels the movie is forever lost.

So taking yet ANOTHER glimpse at this year's Best Picture nods...I mean, this is my problem with The Hurt Locker, Precious, and Up In The Air. All three are such downers, do you really want to sit through them again and again? With the exception of potentially the latter, if only for some smoldering enjoyment of Clooney at his finest, the answer is a resounding no. I'm not even sure how often I could watch Inglourious Basterds (which indeed, relies heavily on the elements of surprise and suspense), and Avatar will definitely lose its resonance off the big screen. The exceptions to this years potential nods are two lovely, story-driven films - (500) Days of Summer, which I'm itching to buy, and Julie & Julia, which I literally just finished. Yet I suspect neither of these films will take top honours.

Just a thought anyway. Julie & Julia was very sweet and surprisingly commercially appealing for a relatively limited run film. In the last week I also ticked off Paranormal Activity (snooze...who the HELL thought that was scary?), District 9 (Loved), Angels & Demons (sadly snoozy next to the electrifying books), and the aforementioned Hurt Locker (extremely tense, I appreciated the realism, but I have no desire to see it again).

Till next time...

Britt's On

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