No Gold for this Olympic “Survivor:Gabon”

Hed: No Gold For This Olympic Survivor
tease: Gold medalist Crystal Cox no physical threat on Survivor

When Crystal Cox struggled climbing up that hill in the season opener of Survivor: Gabon, didn’t you think she was just sandbagging for the camera?

I mean, the girl had to have some game, right? That huffing and wheezing had to be an act, right down to needing a little booty push to make it up the hill. No need to show her hand just yet. Like other professional athletes playing reality shows, she needed to hide that light under the nearest bushel if she wanted to live to compete another day.

Right from the beginning, Crystal said her game plan was not to reveal her past. Plan noted. But lately, it seems less like a plan and more like an excuse to be lazy. Look, most of us aren’t in the shape we were in four years ago, but unless this sprinter is biding her time for the final leg of the Survivor race, she looks like the high school star quarterback who’s now a gone-to-seed used car salesman.

After a few outings, we’ve come to the conclusion this isn’t an act, and we want to see that gold medal for ourselves. Crystal, 29, won the gold in Athens during the 2004 Olympics in the 4 x 400m relay race. A quick Google search turns up little on her after a few wins in 2006. Crystal still thinks she’s got the goods, but we sense she’s a little past the expiration date.

But bless her heart, she still has this self-image of a warrior woman who could knock the smack right out of the toughest gang-banger. She’s talking the talk, but the walk needs some work.

“We got rid of a major physical weak link” Crystal proclaimed after being instrumental in booting off creaky Gillian Larson in the first episode.

This from the woman who sat in a corner, not even trying to paddle her little rubber boat over to help teammate Ace Gordon during the Oct. 9 immunity challenge. The challenge had teammates paddling around to get to a ball that was then lobbed with a long stick into a goal. This was a challenge where cranky wedding videographer Randy Bailey, a man I suspect seldom leaves his sofa, turned into a shining super star.

Even Jeff Probst couldn’t believe Crystal’s monumental immobility in this challenge.

Sure, she was instrumental in dragging Ace across the line to win reward the week before the team switch up. But that has been the extent of her physical prowess, and she had personal trainer Matty Whitmore to help her out.

And she’s joined an alliance that looks like the worst trio to play Survivor in recent history.

In a switch-up last week that could have helped the struggling Fang team, the losers at Team Failure could have regrouped with a stronger bunch and made it a more even game. Instead, Crystal joined forces with Danny “GC” Brown and Kenny Hoang. After losing the immunity challenge, they took out one of the stronger players for a weak teammate, Kelly Czarnecki, who doesn’t even pretend to try at the challenges.

They dumped stronger player Jacquie Berg because they were afraid she would form an alliance with Ace and Jessica “Sugar” Kiper, whom they suspect may have found the immunity idol during her stint on exile island. Which she did. Still, they needed to be thinking about team strength in winning challenges before going into strategy mode. Without strong players helping them win immunity, the trio is just setting themselves up to be picked off after the tribe merge.

My pick for the sleeper of the series is Sugar. She’s the one who found the immunity idol. She got a second shot at exile island, and because she already found the idol she could partake of the alternate offering to the clue to finding the idol, which was healthy food, a comfortable bed and a relaxing respite from camp.

As for Crystal, she probably should have beefed up the training before heading to Africa. Telling her teammates she’s an Olympic gold medalist in track at this point would probably just result in mocking.

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Amazing Race Gives Life Lessons

The Amazing Race isn’t just about beautiful locales, crazy competitions and catty encounters, although that certainly adds to the fun each week.

It’s also about life lessons. Over the past few seasons we’ve learned that karma can come back and bite you in the backside. We’ve learned good guys often finish first, and that bad things can happen to good people, and worse things can happen to annoying people.

We’ve watched as a dad patched up a tattered relationship with his daughter, couples who should never be together realize they need to cut the ties and other couples making those ties even stronger. The season is still young, yet we’ve already learned some very valuable life lessons.

10. When I wanted a driver’s license, my father insisted that I first needed to know how to check the oil and the water and how to fix a flat. Too bad Ty’s dad didn’t give him those same requirements. After hitting the wheel on a curb, the tire had to be changed and he didn’t know how to do it. Lesson learned. Never get behind the wheel before knowing how to change a tire.

9. Pay attention. As recently eliminated team Marisa and Brooke realized, you can’t just go running around aimlessly while missing things like a big old rope knot sitting out in the open. Or, as frat nerds Andrew and Dan learned when they climbed all those steps on their hands and knees – and forgot to count the steps.

8. Sometimes people are just mean. Kelly and Christy, the divorcees, could be the cover girls for Mean Magazine. We don’t even know their ex-spouses and we feel sorry for them. And Starr has been too conniving early on. While Sarah of Sarah and Terence may have acted like a shelter puppy trying to make friends in the beginning, it was still a little sad when she complained about Starr and said that she didn’t even say “Hi” to her. OK, more pathetic than sad.

7. And speaking of Starr, she’s certainly on a roll with teaching us all what not to do. Like never say something behind someone’s back that you don’t want them to hear later. Starr told Aja and Ty to U-turn the divorcees. Not only did the team refuse to do so, Aja told the vengeful Kelly and Christy about Starr’s request. As Scooby would say, “Rut-row.”

6. Think twice before shaving off your eyebrows. We hope Ken and Tina work it out during the race, we really do. But we’ve got to wonder if those scary painted-on eyebrows might have turned Ken off. All we know is that every time we see her, she looks surprised. And all we are saying is that a little less arch could make all the difference in the world.

5. Telling someone to go faster, especially if you try to do it in a condescending accent, just makes them want to put on the brakes. Unless, of course, you promise a big tip. Or you are cute and giggly.

4. Most people learn early on that trying to pick the fastest line in the grocery store is a true art. And that you have to make sure that you always get in the correct line at the airport. How many times have we watched these poor misguided fools get into the wrong line and lose valuable time?

3. When the challenge instructors tell you not to do something, don’t do it. We don’t think Starr has ever listened to another human being in her lifetime, so we weren’t surprised when the wind racers told her not to put her hands down if she fell – and then she put her hands down every time when she fell. Even severe road rash didn’t seem to make her comply.

2. The show’s a race. It’s even in the title. So why do people like the almost Grateful Dead Anita and Arthur meander around like they had just been puffing the magic dragon? Or Mark and Bill the sci fi guys arrive so out of shape that they need oxygen just to get through a challenge? And before you go crying high altitude, remember than no other team needed the oxy-boost.

1. Always read the directions. This always happens in every season of The Amazing Race. Someone decides to skim over the instructions and it costs them big time. This season several teams have done it, but only one failed to correct their mistake: Mark and Bill ignored the clue’s directions about not taking a taxi to their next destination. The Comic Con pals admitted early on that they couldn’t physically match most of the other teams. So they had to rely on their wits. Oops.

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Tina Fey blasts TV comedies off endangered species list

Veteran producer Bob Daily says it might be too early to take the sitcom off the Do Not Resuscitate list, but he’s cautiously optimistic about the state of half hour comedies.

“I think shows like 30 Rock and The Office are as good as anything from the genre’s so-called Golden Age,” Daily, the Emmy-award winning writer/executive producer of Frasier and Desperate Housewives, says. “The question is, are the networks committed to putting more half-hour comedies on the air? It doesn’t seem like it. The only way to get more hits is to give writers more trips to the plate.”

The broadcast networks haven’t allowed much shelf space to comedies in the last decade, when they flooded the schedules with tepid sitcoms. When those shows fell flat, the window began to close. That could change in a year where Tina Fey has shot to the top of the Google search engine with her dead-on impersonation of Sarah Palin and an Emmy for 30 Rock, which premieres online Oct. 23 on Hulu in advance of the network premiere of 30 Rock at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 30 on NBC.

Because of the writers strike, more than a few series were given a chance at a second season, leading to series like The Big Bang Theory and
Samantha Who?
to grow into solid comedies while returning shows like How I Met Your Mother remain buzz-worthy.

“One thing that’s happening, now that there are so few sitcoms on the air, is that show runners are able to assemble writing staffs that are comic all-star teams — chock full of writers with great credits and a lot of awards on their shelves,” Daily says. “I think that a decade ago, when sitcoms ruled the networks, the writing talent was stretched a little thin. Not anymore. And that bodes well for today’s shows.”

With the ratings success of SNL Weekend Update on Thursday, and the presidential debates, as well as the economic fears most Americans face right now, it would seem the time is ripe for networks to re-examine their schedules.

“I believe the economy will bring people back to comedy, but not just any comedy,” Mike Schiff (3rd Rock From the Sun, Grounded for Life) says. “If you watch an old All in the Family today, it’s still compelling not because Archie says outrageous things, but because those four characters are so true to themselves that you believe them utterly and want to see how they’ll react to a given situation.”

Schiff says these years are just as charged politically from an unpopular war and as troubled economically as the early 1970s when All in the Family reigned.

“Isn’t it time for comedies to reflect this reality? I believe people are inclined to turn to comedy in these troubled times, but only if we are smart and courageous (in making the shows),” Schiff says. “(The shows) don’t have to be political, just more concerned with the way real humans interact and less concerned with turns of phrase that they can print in Entertainment Weekly.”

The fact remains that although the half-hour comedies are getting creatively stronger, only Two and a Half Men consistently makes it into the Nielsen top-10. But
producer Bill Lawrence, who moves his comedy from NBC to ABC midseason, says he thinks these are exciting times for comedies on network television.

“It’s both a great time and scary time,” Lawrence says. “If you do a show that finds a core audience that will support it, you’ll have a chance to survive.”

And thrive?

“Mark my words,” Lawrence says with a smile. “This is the year Scrubs is a huge hit. Year 8.”

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Dancing with the Stars more like ER

It’s starting to look more like the Waltz of the Wounded than Dancing with the Stars.

Even before the competition started, every tabloid in town posted screaming headlines and video about the Kim Kardashian’s bout with a hotel room coffee table. The glass broke, and Kimmers received a nasty slice on her big toe. Her pals over-reacted by saying there was so much blood, it looked like a war zone. Actually, it looked more like someone got a bad paper cut. But the little princess played it for all it was worth.

Who can forget poor Kim getting wheeled out of hospital, vowing to return to DWTS? You would have thought she was the last soldier coming out of Iraq, ready to back to fight al Qaeda with her bare mitts.

I’m calling this season the Curse of the Kardashian.

The season has only been on the air for a little more than two weeks, and KK’s curse is in full force. Her first victim was comic Jeffrey Ross, but you probably didn’t mind because he was such an obnoxious oaf who deserved to be booted off first. JR suffered a scratched cornea while rehearsing with his dancing partner Edyta Sliwinska, who poked him in the eye with her acrylic nails.

And this was the season fans were hoping to see more of Edyta, the queen of the barely there costumes. Instead, she was sent home after JR and his entire family donned glitter eye patches. JR and Edyta quick-stepped off into the sunset.

KK’s curse landed briefly on Karina Smirnoff, who sprained her ankle on the morning of the show’s premiere last month. Judges barely noticed the hitch in her giddy-up compared to the awkward fox trot she performed with celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito.

And is it the curse or the spirit of Marie Osmond that has Toni Braxton looking like she’s ready to faint at almost every turn of this competition? Sure, put a woman with a heart condition in a live dancing show and see what happens.

But the full fury of the KK came last week, when Gold Medalist Misty May Treanor ruptured her Achilles tendon while practicing the jive dance with partner Max. It was an automatic DWTS exit card, but even worse, it could hamper her volleyball career.

On Monday, viewers watched the video of the rehearsal that resulted in Treanor’s injury. The loud pop could be heard, then Treanor eventually began feeling the intense pain which she compared to being hit in the back of the leg with a baseball bat. How crazy is it that an athlete like Treanor could get hurt that badly dancing?

While fans fretted about Treanor’s fate over the weekend, another dancer went down. Derek Hough, who suffered a back injury last season, was walking backwards during a rehearsal when he tripped and hit his head on the ground. He blacked out and the paramedics were called. But he survived to come in first with the judges on Monday.

But after seeing the wicked little exchange between him and dancing partner Brooke Burke, we’re wondering if BB might have put a little hex on blondie.

Even the queen of the daytime soaps, Susan Lucci, horned in on the KK curse. She showed up with an ace bandage on her ankle, saying she tweaked it a little. The judges said they noticed a wincing when she did her lively jive with partner Tony Dovolani, but she still got relatively low marks.

With Misty May Treanor out, rumor has it KK will be back on DWTS. Was this her diabolical plan all along?

Is there nothing or no one to combat the Curse of the Kardashian? We’re betting on octogenarian Cloris Leachman, who has been letting curses fly out of her mouth from the beginning. She’s sure to give the censors finger strains from hitting that mute button so many times during the live shows.

Cloris, it’s up to you.

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Welcome to Tyra-Land

Welcome to Tyraland, where models come in second to the upstaging antics of America’s Next Top Model host Tyra Banks, a former top model who oozes excess like she’s some contemporary Hunter S. Thompson.

Only Tyra’s drug of choice is Tyra, and non-addicts are overdosing on her self-love.

This isn’t anything new for someone I suspect sneaks down to the kitchen every night to open the fridge just so she can stand in the spotlight. But this season seems to be even more Tyra-centric, and that isn’t good news. Right from the start, she set the cheese bar low with a low-budget skit with the Jay boys as mad scientists and Tyra emerging as robo-Tyra from a cylinder that looked like it came right out of an elementary school’s haunted house.

As if that wasn’t enough, please, let my eyes stop burning from the princess party scene, when an uglified Miss J came as the crone who passes the poisoned apple to the fair maiden, or in this case Tyra.

Even her fellow judges seem to be getting tired of Tyra’s narcissistic act. And that’s not easy with a bunch of people who probably can’t pass a mirror without taking a moment to bask in their own beauty. Noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker can’t contain his disgust some weeks, and seems to be taking his anger out on some of the poor models who have to put up with Tyra – and even laugh and squeal at her bizarre behavior.

Barker thought pre-op transgender contestant Isis made too much of the fact that she was placed in a tight bathing suit and dunked underwater for Barker’s pool shoot. Barker condemned the aspiring model for “just bobbing in the water…(making) too much of a big deal’’ about the real fear of man parts popping loose.

You can’t miss Paulina Porizkova’s displeasure at Tyra’s choices for the best models. When she sneered at a photo she said looked like the headless horseman in a pool of blood, Tyra snatched the photo back and declared “Fierce!”

Porizkova showed a face that looked like she’d just sucked a lemon, or watched that apple scene with Tyra again.

Let’s keep in mind this is a television show, not a real search for America’s next top photo fodder.
So the least they deserve is to get their last few moments in front of the judges. Poor Hannah didn’t even get that courtesy. We’re not saying the gawky gal from Alaska didn’t deserve to go. Just that walk down the bowling alley lane was enough to get her expelled. But she should have gotten her shot in front of her royal psychoness to hear those golden words “Two girls stand before me, but I only have one photo in my hand…”

Instead, it was just Mr. and Miss J saying they were the spokesmen for Tyra, so just pack your bags and skedaddle back to Alaska.

But you can’t ignore the ratings, showing women 18-34 don’t mind Tyra’s oddness. In fact, they embrace it. In last week’s head-to-head competition, America’s Next Top Model soundly beat Dancing with the Stars in the Nielsens.

And I know why, It’s for those moments when fashion designer Jeremy Scott threw a justified hissy fit after model Samantha kept hiking up his creation past her lady parts on the runway after he specifically told her not to several times.

“You thought you saw a (stripper) pole down (at the end of the runway,” an angry Scott told Sam at the judging. “You are representing me and it’s not your show.”

Nope. It’s Tyra’s show. And she apparently knows what her people want.

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The Ex List could get dumped early

It’s never a good thing when the show runner ditches a series before it even hits the air.
That’s exactly what happened on Sept. 12 when Diane Ruggiero ( Veronica Mars ) took a flyer on The Ex List , a series she adapted from the Israeli TV show Mythological X

Both shows center on a woman in her early 30s yearning for a committed relationship. She’s told by a psychic that she has already met and dated her soul mate – and if she doesn’t hook up with him within the year, she’ll never marry anyone.

It’s enough to make Carrie Bradshaw weep. After all, Sex and the City was nothing if not about a fashion crazed Cinderella looking for her Big prince. In the American version, Grey’s Anatomy recurring guest star Elisabeth Reaser plays Bella Bloom, a serial dater. Bella goes through men like they were stacked in box of unmarked chocolates, sampling each one, usually finding them lacking and then going on to the next.

But after her most recent break-up with Elliott (Mark Deklin), a man uninterested in marriage, has Bella thinking about her long-term relationship goals.

Reaser proves she can carry a show, but this one might prove to be too much for even her skill set.
Bella owns a flower shop in San Diego, spends her spare time surfing with her roommates Cyrus (Amir Tali) and Augie (Adam Rothenberg). In fact, it’s a little like Friends, with Bella hanging out with her sister Daphne (Rachel Boston), and her roommates, which also include Augie’s girlfriend Vivian (Alexandra Breckenridge).

Ruggiero opted to make the caustic psychic Marina (Anne Bedian), who only appeared in the first episode of Mythology X , a recurring character. She also created a sister for Bella to help plump out the story possibilities.

These changes didn’t endear her to CBS.

Ruggiero told reporters she was being pressured by CBS to make it more like the Israeli version. She bolted after CBS brought Segahl Avin, producer of the Israeli series, on board.

But what can you expect from a network that doesn’t know what to do with a series that doesn’t include a dead body every week?

Still, all the blame can’t be placed entirely on CBS. Ruggiero started out as a slightly hostile employee. Her personal project, about friends who turn into Superheroes, was shelved after the writers strike and she was offered The Ex List as an alternative to unemployment.

While Ruggiero’s delightfully funny in real life, she didn’t exactly hit the pilot out of the ball park. The first episode has some memorable moments, especially when Bella hooks up with her teary young ex Johnny. She dumped the overly emotional singer seven years ago on his birthday. Now he’s a tatted out hard rocker who whisks Bella off her feet with his hard-driving style.

Eric Balfour gets a little over melodramatic at Johnny past, but once we get into Johnny present he oozes sensuality and, ultimately, deadly humor. The B story, about Bella’s roommate Vivian getting her lady parts shaved, turns off the viewer as much as it disgusts boyfriend Augie.

Yeah, this actually goes on for most of the episode. We would much rather spend that time with Daphne, Bella’s soon-to-be-married mischievous sister played by the always interesting Boston (American Dreams).

It’s never easy handicapping new series, but while The Ex List starts out rocky with a hint of promise, the exit of Ruggiero after completion of less than a half-dozen episodes could spell a short run for this CBS show.

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Ricky Gervais Saves the Emmy Awards

OK, so really nothing could save the Emmy Awards telecast, which was the most ghastly thing we’ve seen since…well, we’ve never seen anything worse than this on TV.

Honestly, what were these people thinking? The San Diego Zoo produces less dung that this smelly beast. Right from the beginning, we knew it couldn’t be saved. When you have reality show hosts Jeff Probst, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Ryan Seacrest and Tom Bergeron just standing around looking at each other saying “We’ve go nothing,” you know it’s going to be a bad night all the way around.

Although Ricky was the one bright spot:

And then there was the bit by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, which at least grabbed a couple of laughs.

But the only guy to rival Gervais was Don Rickles, who zapped the show like a pro. Too bad I can’t find a video of it.
Don Rickles and Kathy Griffith at the 2008 Emmys

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Simon Baker – Love “The Mentalist”

Oh, Simon Baker. You’re back exactly where I want you.

“Red Hair and Silver Tape” — California Bureau of Investigation consultant Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) on THE MENTALIST, Tuesday, September 30 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS. ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

I’ll admit it. The last time I saw you, I was a little freaked out. You were playing the creepy Jeff in Smith, which was some kind of ode to bad guys that intrigued critics but never had a shot on broadcast TV. And talking about a shot, it was hard to look at you on the screen after you decided to gun down those surfers who tried to bully you for poaching on their beach turf.

They deserved a nasty smack down, not a sandy grave.

Sure, you played the slightly damaged attorney Nick in The Guardian, but underneath it all you were a good guy who made some mistakes – drug conviction – but you were doing community service helping kids. I could overlook the way you sort of ran roughshod over your young charges. Somewhere, there was a caring guy.

But now, Aussie surfer boy, you’ve landed smack in the middle of my comfort zone as the witty, slightly twisted crime solver Patrick Jane in The Mentalist at 9 p.m. Tuesday on CBS.
As Patrick Jane, you bring that sassy bravado to the forefront. Patrick admits that he was a charlatan in his former life as a celebrity psychic, hoodwinking the unsuspecting with his ultra powers of observation. Again, what woman could resist a man who actually remembers every minute detail from the shoes you were wearing last week to what she ordered on your first date?

Some might say you are playing a more sophisticated version of USA’s Psych, about a slacker who uses his powers of observation to convince cops that he really is a psychic who can help solve crimes. But that’s like comparing sirloin to filet mignon. Both are fine, but one is just a few notches up on the quality scale.
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CBS’ Worst Week proves to be the Best

Things can’t get any worse than showing up at your girlfriend’s parent’s house in the middle of the night wearing a diaper made of trash bags and needing money to pay your cab fare.
Sam (Kyle Bornheimer) in his trash bag diaper with girlfriend, Melanie Clayton (Erinn Hayes, left) and Mel’s conservative mother, Angela (Nancy Lenehan) on “Worst Week” airing at 9:30 p.m. Mondays on CBS. Photo: Chris Haston/NBC Universal. ©2008 CBS BROADCASTING INC,

Scratch that. It does get worse for Sam and only funnier for those watching his crazy antics in this almost flawless pilot. The only problem with this first episode is the fear that the producers can never quite come up with other episodes to compare with this first one out of the gate.

CBS has given this nimble comedy series a perfect spot on the schedule at 9:30 p.m. Monday right after the hilarious testosterone filled “Two and a Half Men.” The humor sensibilities of these two series should mesh perfectly for viewers.

From the time we first meet Sam (Kyle Bornheimer), the laughs come fast and furious. Don’t look for the typical sitcom style of joke after joke. The slapstick humor can melt anyone into a laughing puddle if you’re the kind of person who loves the kind of humor that makes you almost want to cover your eyes while the situation unfolds or thinks someone taking a tumble is the highest form of comedy.

And tumble he does. Sam takes more falls than a stuntman as he bumbles along in his quest.
Sam’s a magazine editor who has a pathological urge to please his beautiful girlfriend Melanie’s upper class parents. They, in turn, can barely acknowledge him as being any more than just a friend to their beloved Mel (Erinn Hayes). Kyle Bornheimer plays Sam with a sweetness that makes his horrific blunders just that much harder to watch.
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90210 Gets a Full Season Order

The CW believed so strongly that 90210 would be a hit, they didn’t bother sending out review copies to critics.

What was the point? The network already knew they had a built-in audience ready to go back to the zip code that built the House of Fox. And they were right. Audiences turned out for 90210 in record numbers.

And the CW gained a lot of ground with young women viewers. Even if US Weekly says the girls on the show are too skinny.

And critics probably would be less than kind about the acting range of most of the cast – with the exception of Tristan Wilds who came from the critically acclaimed but low rated HBO series The Wire.

“Model Behavior”– Dustin Milligan as Ethan and AnnaLynne McCord as Naomi on 90210 on The CW. Photo: Michael Desmond/The CW ©2008

Barely a few weeks after the premiere, the CW has announced it has picked the series up for a full season run.

“The successful addition of ‘90210’ has taken The CW another step forward in building a cohesive schedule that defines this network as a destination for young women with shows that get our audience talking — and watching,” said CW Entertainment president Dawn Ostroff. “We’re very excited about the chance to watch this ensemble of newcomers and familiar faces coalesce and grow together as we move forward.”

The two-hour debut of “90210” shattered ratings records for The CW Network, becoming the highest-rated series premiere in the network’s history with women 18-34 (4.5/12), adults 18-34 (3.1/9) and adults 18-49 (2.6/7).

The most recent telecast of 90210 scored week-to-week gains in target demos, including 6% in women 18-34 (3.3/10), 14% in adults 18-34 (2.4/7) and 3% in total viewers (3.3mil).

As for the critics, 90210 don’t need no stinkin’ critics to be a success. All they needed was the was the powerhouse producers Gabe Sachs & Jeff Judah (“Freaks & Geeks”). With those two on board, the critics probably would have given the show a thumbs-up. If anyone cared.

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