Archive for November, 2008

America’s Next Top Model Needs to Get its Freak

On America’s Next Top Model…zzzzzz….

Yeah, you heard us. The zs. The Big Sleep. After investing a lot of time into our once favorite guilty wallow this season, we’re at the breaking free point. There’s only three episodes left before the Nov. 19 finale, and we can’t believe we’re still watching. Must be that OCD kicking in.

In the season, all anyone could talk about were the absurd antics of Tyra Banks – you remember the silly mad scientist skit and the drooling Sleeping Beauty/wicked witch/Prince Charming fiasco. Never thought we would miss Tyra’s over-the-top attention grabbing, but at least it provided a bit of entertainment.

We’ve come to expect the expected from Tyra when it comes to kitschy tangents, and we can deal with that. Bring on the cheese, because the full buffet just isn’t cutting it. Even the bored to their gourd judges can’t whip up any passion. If Miss J can’t get riled up, there’s no hope for sour noted fashion photog Nigel Barker, who seemed to have given up on this crew a long time ago.

And yes, we know that ratings-wise, the show is doing fine. Well, fine for the Can’t Watch network. It’s still a bottom feeder, but 4 million plus watch each week, and lately those numbers have looked pretty good to the CW. But the buzz has long since left this swarm.

Last week, ANTM went all Amazing Race on us, with the girls running around Amsterdam on a where-did-they-put-our-house search. Then they did a little cable trash bit with the rub-a-dub-dub, three models in a tub action. But even going into the Red Light District for a fashion shoot couldn’t turn up the heat on this show.

The only person giving out some much needed wattage on the show was hootchie momma Sheena, who was bounced for her inability to distinguish the difference between high fashion and soft porn. We’ll admit, it’s a fine line. But we’d rather watch sassy Sheena than pickle faced Elina, who should have been winging her way back to the states if there was any justice in the world.

Our favorite part of ANTM is sitting in as the judges confer, each ripping the contestants’ aspirations to ribbony shreds.

Too pretty. Poses wrong. No expression. Too catalogue. Set ’em up and take those pretty babies down. This season, however, the judges have virtually left the building after deeming this group as a bunch of pound puppies who will never be adopted into the fashion world.

And we’ve got to agree with them. There’s not a single snap, crackle or pop in the entire group. In fact, we’re having trouble just remembering their names. Whiny hunchback girl, stubborn lesbian girl, awkward skater girl, fashion challenged blond and the girl formerly known as Brittany – who can remember them as Marjorie, Elina, Analeigh, Sam and McKey?

You can’t must enough personality from the entire group to make for one interesting character. Their subservient behavior had one judge asking Marjorie if she even wanted to be there.

“I just don’t want to spazz out,” Marjorie said.

Oh, spazz Marjorie. Please spazz.

When McKey came out in an interesting tog statement last week, Nigel finally lashed out. Seeing her in a Lady Heather like outfit made him realize there might be more to this gawky mixed martial arts geek than someone who hides behind her hair when she steps up to talk to the panel.

“What I want to know is why we haven’t seen this part of you until now,” says the testy Nigel, finally seeing a woman warrior in front of him, albeit a kind of kinky one.

“Fashion loves a little bit of freak. Don’t make it boring. Don’t make it staid.”

Our point exactly, Nigel.

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Time to Scrub In with release of “Scrubs” DVD

Zach Braff‘s still a little bitter about how the whole season seven finale of Scrubs turned out.

Only 11 episodes aired because of the writers’ strike and NBC’s decision not to renew it. The DVD comes out on Nov. 11.

Scrubs — which is produced by ABC Disney — jumped back to the mothership for Season 8, which has already been produced and will air sometime next year. Instead of going with the planned season finale, NBC opted to air the fairy tale episode directed by Braff as the final, leading some viewers to believe that it was the final send-off episode.

The episode has Dr. Cox telling his son a medieval fairy tale that mirrors his day at work. J.D. becomes the village idiot, Elliot is a princess, Turk and Carla become a two-headed witch and Dr. Kelso is a demon. Since it was supposed to air before the episode in which Dr. Kelso is booted, he’s still seen as the head of the hospital.

“That was really frustrating. It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done, one of the most ambitious things we’ve ever done and then it was sort of got judged as the finale of Scrubs, which it was never meant to me,” Braff says. “NBC decided, because it was sort of a spectacle, to market it as a finale.”

Braff says that just angered the fans.

“The fans were like, ‘That’s the finale? What the hell does that have to do with anything?’ I was a little bummed out,” Braff says. “If it was just a regular, cool out-of-the-box sort of concept show within the season, I think it would have been received a little better than it was.”

Fans can be the judge of that, but right now we’d like to offer up our own top-10 favorite episodes from the past seven seasons.

10. My Night to Remember – In season six, Scrubs did a little clip show of six seasons that made us think of all the reasons why we love this series. The staff of Sacred Heart tries to get a patient to regain his memory, and takes a walk down their own memory lane.

9. My Long Goodbye – Nurse Roberts, who always stood on her faith, causes the staff to have a crisis of faith when she slips into a coma and no one knows whether she’ll wake up or not.

8. My Musical – Take a couple of guys like creator Bill Lawrence and star Zach Braff and give them an episode to share their love of musical theater, and this is what you get. It may have been little more than a stunt, but it was a great stunt.

7. My First Day – This nicely crafted episode introduced viewers to the quirky series, which was so well executed viewers accepted the wacky way Scrubs tells a story.

6. My Unicorn – Matthew Perry made his debut as a director in this touching story about a man who needs his son’s kidney to live – but son Murray is too bitter towards his father to donate the kidney. The dad is played by Perry’s real-life dad John Bennett Perry.

5. My Way Home – This was the 100th episode of Scrubs, and is known for all the Wizard of Oz references. It’s fun trip down the Yellow Brick Road.

4. My Half Acre – This could have been a typically good episode, with J.D. getting set up on a blind date and trying to make sure he avoids scaring her off. But it is Turk’s performance of Poison by Bell Biv DeVoe when he auditions for the hospital’s air band that puts this episode up with the best.

3. My Fallen Idol – Dr. Cox has always been a favorite no matter what the episode, but this one is the best as Dr. Cox struggles to deal with the death of three patients. He comes to work drunk and is placed on administrative leave.

2. My Old Lady – One in four patients die. That’s the statistic that begins this episode that deftly mixes humor and heartbreak. It’s Scrubs at its best, where it goes back to the best of the best, M*A*S*H to prove what a real dramedy is.

1. My Screw-up – Dr. Cox’s beloved brother-in-law Ben, played by Brendon Fraser, appeared in three episodes that could count as No. 1 material. But the final episode we have Dr. Cox talking to him through the entire episode and we don’t discover until the end that Ben is dead. The tip-off came early, however, when he says that his ubiquitous camera will be around his neck until the day he dies. And in a subsequent scene, he has no camera. A classic Scrubs.

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Heroes a Zero and Project Runway Crashes: What happened to appointment TV?

Over lunch at a local burger joint with my TV obsessed pals, I asked if anyone had watched Heroes this week.

Cue the crickets.

Not that long ago, we could have spent hours talking about the shows we loved. Now, it’s like a flashpoint love affair gone cold. A few comments on Mad Men, including the confession by two buddies that they just couldn’t get into the dark drama. No one even knew the top contender on America’s Next Top Model, and not even a whisper about who was robbed on the recently wrapped Project Runway.

And that’s just the top layer of this collapsing cake.

Prison Break was worth watching just to see Wentworth Miller. Even a little WM isn’t enough to cover for a show that brought a beheaded woman back to life. That title has been banned from the DVR for life. One Tree Hill‘s time warp turned the once spankin’ hot show into a silly daytime soap opera.

We used to spout the hug-it-out buzz from Entourage. Now we have to think twice to remember if the HBO show is even on. Still on air, but it’s coming from life support.

So where’s the snap? Where’s that Leg-en-wait for it- dary moments? Right now, the most quotable lines on TV are coming from political candidates.

And that’s just wrong.

We’ve got the Palin-McCain Maverick drinking game. The Joe the Plumber cracks. Even some Mr. Burns-McCain look-alike contests. Next time you hear Main Street vs. Wall Street, feel free to knock back a shot of Jack for me.

What we don’t have are any poppin’ TV series moments. It’s enough to make The Soup hang up its ladle.

At what point did Heroes go from a show we couldn’t wait to see to something that looks as appealing as a term paper? Pass the meds, I think I’m slipping into a coma.

Parkman is walking around with a turtle, for cripes sake. That’s almost as bad as the Twin Peaks log lady. Mohinder has some freaky fly deal going on by wrapping his victims up in cocoons. We don’t know and we don’t care how past and present Peter work.

And how many times do we have to watch Hiro attempt sneaking up on a guy who can see the future, only to get bonked on the bean. Clearly, these writers have been watching too many Roadrunner episodes.

Project Runway just concluded, if anyone was paying attention. Which they weren’t. Because it never got off the ground this year. Kenley’s incessant whining wasn’t even fun mocking material. Tim Gunn couldn’t have looked more disgusted this season if someone had just asked him to wear Wal-Mart apparel.

Bravo’s lawsuit over the series moving to Lifetime seems ridiculous at this point. Open that door, and don’t let it hit you on the backside as you slink out after this stinker season.

Our once beloved Grey’s Anatomy started skidding with Gizzie. George and Izzie? Please. You’d get more heat out of a wet match. MerDer bludgeoned the show. But the real turnoff point came when Callie and Erica hooked up. You can’t jump a bigger shark than turning your hot for anything in pants character into a lesbian.

Although the tantalizing idea of more Kevin McKidd as Dr. Owen Hunt bringing Cristina Yang to a rolling boil does have me thinking of watching Grey’s live again. For a long time, the episodes just stacked up on the DVR while we dreaded the thought of plowing through them all in a marathon weekend.

So maybe Grey’s will come through.

But in the meantime, the only thing we’re looking forward to is the return of Flight of the Conchords in January. Bret and Jemaine, don’t let us down mates.

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Gross Out TV

Not too long ago, the most disgusting thing you might see on TV would be someone picking their nose. That’s just too tame these days. You can blame it on South Park‘s Mr. Hanky, Family Guy’s barf-o-rama, or, more likely, CSI‘s gross-out of the week, but things have gotten downright tummy turning on television.

Vomiting has gotten to be so common place that you almost expect there will be some up-chucking occuring on any show these days. While
Desperate Housewives
didn’t actually show streaming puke like so many other shows love to do, they did have a discussion of stomach contents during a dinner party Bree threw. She had given her vegetarian grandson a couple of hot dogs that day, and the evidence of her deception was dissected while her guests visible squirmed in their seats.


So in the spirit of the season, we give you the top-10 disgusting scenes that made us feel more than a little nauseous.

10. House can always be counted on to deliver some new piece of gore, from people projectile vomiting the oddest things to bodies practically erupting. But this season they preyed on those of us who wonder if we’ve missed some metal in our bodies before getting into an MRI tube. A young woman had needles in her brain that started tearing out when she went into the MRI.

9. The grand master of gross, CSI and all the franchise siblings, have done so many things we find it hard to pin down the worst offense among the burned, mutilated and decomposed bodies. But what creeped us out was the Quentin Tarantino episode when Nick was trapped in an insect filled coffin. That little excursion continued to bug Nick, and us, every time a critter came close.

8. In Worst Week, Sam Briggs gets lost in the spacious home of his future in-laws during a power outage, only to discover he has mistaken the kitchen for the bathroom. And he’s just peed on the turkey cooking in the oven. Far-fetched? You bet. But try looking at turkey broth in the same light this Thanksgiving.

7. Our aversion to spit is legendary, so imagine how curdling it could be to see Pumpkin spitting into New York’s mouth in a episode of Flavor of Love.

6. Reaching back a few years, you have the season 9 skit from MadTV that could turn everyone off of eggs for their lifetime. Your practically hurl when the TV chef nearly loses it into a vat of eggs and clams. You can still catch The Eggsellent Marathon on YouTube if you have masochistic tendencies.

has left no putrid stone unturned, yet the one episode we remember as the most gut-wrenching in every sense was the one about the morbidly obese woman who was glued to her sofa by her own feces and body fluids leaking out. She has to be surgically removed from the couch.

4. We’re going back to the House again. But you can’t ignore giving a dead guy an colonoscopy, especially when the pressure builds in the body and erupts all over Foreman.

3. Fringe seems determined to up the ick at every turn. It was bad enough when the first episode had a guy vomit into the mouth of a pilot to infect him, then we had skin peeling off revealing the slippery goo underneath the victims. But the pregnancy episode still has us trying to figure out how to burn those images out of our brains.

2. Grey’s Anatomy seldom goes for the gore – and yes, we did see the episode where they guy cut his foot off with a saw – so when the show recently went over to the gross side by showing a face being peeled back during tumor surgery, it hit us right in the gut.

1. Can anyone not get the heebie-jeebies after seeing this season’s episode of My Name is Earl and the woman with the oozy eye? When the eye goo landed in Earl’s mouth during their excruciating sexual encounter, the bile never came so quickly.

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Eleventh Hour strikes out

Rufus Sewell may be best known for period pieces like Middlemarch, A Knight’s Tale and Helen of Troy, says he was tired of being offered parts that always involved horses.

“People generally come to me with edgy characters they throw on horses,” Sewell says. “So the idea of being a non titled, non-over-the-edgy person who actually walk on their own two feet rather than four and someone who is ultimately a good guy but with many layers and complex, really appealed to me.”

He might want to reconsider the option to pony up.

In Eleventh Hour, airing at 10 p.m. Thursday on CBS, Sewell plays Dr. Jacob Hood, a special science advisor to the FBI who investigates science and technology crimes that cannot be solved. So he’s brought in at the Eleventh Hour to solve these mysteries.

Think of it as The X-Files, but without the mythology, the sci-fi or the charisma.

Like Mulder and Scully, Hood and his FBI handler Rachel Young (Marley Shelton) pop on a scene, collect the evidence and solve the crime.

But unlike The X-Files, this is supposed to be taking place in the real world, where the FBI steps in to help solve these impossible cases. Judging from tonight’s first episode and next week’s offering, there hasn’t been much in the way of investigating until Hood comes on the scene and wraps everything up before the clock strikes midnight.

The series comes from CSI franchise producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who has had extraordinary success with his procedural shows. Eleventh Hour, based on a four-part British miniseries, has a flatness that never gets you revved up about the characters or the plot. You quickly learn to expect the expected. In the two episodes offered up for review, you could go make a sandwich, come back, and still know exactly where the story was heading.

In the first episode, which clearly outshines the second one airing next week, Hood must rescue a young mother who has sold her womb. She doesn’t know that the fetus she is carrying isn’t for a childless couple, but is part of a cloning experiment to bring back the dead son of a multimillionaire.

No spoilers in that. The previews have all but spelled out what happens in this slow-moving episode that offers only slight promise of better things to come. Sewell has incredible presence, but we’re not quite sure how to take Hood. Hood’s kind of quirky like House or Life’s Charlie Crews, but doesn’t have that sly bit of humor that makes those other characters intriguing.

Hood’s so valuable he requires a personal FBI bodyguard, but we never get a sense of any real danger to Hood. It’s almost like hiring muscle for Monk or Columbo. What’s the point? Except that Rachel offers the chance to introduce someone who is blonde, pretty and lethal.

In the first episode, Rachel pops as she flattens a plainclothes cop aggressively approaching Hood or reacts to a false alarm that has her coming out half-dressed with guns blazing in a scene that’s both intense and slightly amusing.

The British series starred Patrick Stewart and Ashley Jensen, with both characters taking up equal parts of the on screen drama. In this version, Rachel starts out as being slightly less equal than Hood, and by the second episode she’s barely a sidekick.

Eleventh Hour gets a good shove from a CBS lineup that begins with Survivor and the still mighty CSI, but viewers will be better served switching to newcomer Life on Mars on ABC, or sticking with the final season of ER, which still has more juice than this plodding procedural.

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NBC’s Crusoe lightweight fun

Friday night needs a little fantasy, and Crusoe fits the bill for putting your mind in neutral and just coasting along for the ride.

Just don’t look too hard at the construction of this leaky vessel.

NBC tosses its hat into the island castaway arena, far behind CBS’ Survivor and ABC’s Lost, in this throwback to an ageless classic about a man stranded on a tropical island, using his wits and skills to survive while trying to figure out a way to get home to his family.

People tend to pop up on a regular basis on this deserted island, then leave without taking our desperate castaway with them. Pirates, mutineers, cannibals, renegades… who could blame poor Robinson for not wanting to tag along with that lot of undesirables?

Besides, once he’s off the island there’s no more series.

Could there be a more suitable name for a swashbuckling hero than Philip Winchester? The Montana-born actor honed his craft on the London stage, and brings a sort of Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones playfulness to the role of Robinson Crusoe.

Few actors could steal the show from Winchester, but Tongayi Chirisa as Friday, Crusoe’s “savage” friend, does just that. Chirisa, 25, is a Zimbabwean actor who plays the intelligent, multi-lingual Friday with a wild flair that adds not only humor but also humanity to the role. It’s the ultimate buddy flick when the two are on the screen together.

Loosely based on the ubiquitous Daniel Defoe work, this series owes more to MacGyver than the 1719 adventure tale regarded as the first English language novel that spawned countless spin-offs and cultural references.

In this incarnation, Robinson’s a married man with a family back in England. He longs for his true love Susannah (Anna Walton). While his main goal is returning to England, he uses his time to build the coolest treehouse in the world, and plenty of other contraptions. In the pilot, he snares bad guys and makes orange juice with his Rube Goldberg-like inventions.

There’s an anachronistic quality about the writing that gets downright goofy at times. The pirates couldn’t be more stereotypical, yet oddly engaging. The head pirate Lynch (Jonathan Pienaar) has a breezy quality that belies his tendancy to kill crew members who get in his way.

There’s also a sassy woman pirate named Judy (Georgina Rylance), who outwits and outfights Robinson at every turn. We’d love to see more of her, however a publicist on the show says she isn’t scheduled to return in the near future.

More’s the pity.

The flashbacks to Robinson’s former life in England are supposed to help flesh out the storylines, but instead the intrusions jar viewers out of the vivid world created on the island. Instead of the dreamy, otherworldly sequences, we’d rather just see a straightforward look at what Robinson’s life was like leading up to his isolation on the island.

We do learn that his mother may have committed suicide by drowning, and that his father (Sean Bean) has a mysterious rich friend named Blackthorn (Sam Neill), who is Robinson’s patron. There’s a hint in the pilot that Blackthorn might actually be Robinson’s papa, and that his intentions are less than honorable.

So it’s all Masterpiece Theater back home in England, and Gilligan’s Island with Crusoe, which makes for an uneven tone. The two stories need to blend more closely in style. Or better yet, just let the adventures on the island take center stage.

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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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