Friday, July 30, 2010

Grenade vs Landmine: Who You Got?

Last night was the premier of season two for MTV's Jersey Shore. I wrote about my expectations for the show last week here.

Let's see how GTL translated into its second go-round.

The cast and crew came to Miami by both air and car. When they arrived at their new house they hugged and pretended it had been months since they saw each other. Meanwhile, since last season wrapped they've spent what seems every weekend since together on the club/bar scene making thousands of dollars to simply show up and do nothing. Just like JaMarcus Russell when he played for the Raiders.

We found out that Snooki has a boyfriend but said she'll try not to cheat on him in Miami. Someone's getting an E for effort. Snooki made a comment about Obama's tax on tanning booths. Two wars, a fragile economy, and a monumental deficit didn't get a second of airtime in the first season. But make laying in an oven slightly more inconvenient and it's activist time for Snooks. I didn't know this season of Jersey Shore would be so politically charged.

Pauly D and The Situation decided to road trip down to Miami. Along the way they stopped to buy fireworks at what I am assuming is South of the Border. If you've never been to South of the Border you are missing out on one of America's great rest stops. If you want to take a rest from driving, go to the bathroom, and take a ride in a glass elevator to the top of a Sombrero Tower, this is your place.

First season castaway Angelina is back because she feels she deserves another shot at becoming a talentless celebrity. Really don't we all? This is America in the 21st century after all.

Not that this is breaking news but The Situation is a few cards short of a deck by allowing Angelina to room with him and Pauly D. First of all, she's proven to be a terrible person to be around socially. Second of all, she's fooled around with both Pauly D and The Situation. They say not to shit where you eat, but this scenario is shaping up for a season-long menu of turd sandwiches. Pauly D didn't seem too thrilled by The Situation's invitation to Angelina, but that's what happens when you hitch your wagon to someone whose nickname is part of a show on CNN. Don't be surprised if there's some crossfire in that room this season - most likely involving a grenade or landmine.

Angelina had a lengthy talk with Pauly D and The Situation about their living arrangement. I haven't heard that many yous thrown around since the last time I counted sheep.

At one point The Situation said he's going to bring a little New Jersey down to M-I-A. He then clarified that he meant Miami. Phew, I thought he was referring to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Once the whole gang arrived they decided to go out and party it up. Just like in season one, Ronnie and Sammy got into a fight even though they are no longer together. Ronnie, being the distinguished gentleman that he his called Sammy a word you don't a call a girl unless you want to be fed your balls through a straw. The guys got Ronnie out of the cab to avoid his becoming a eunuch. Shortly thereafter Vinny said Ronny was "obliviated". I'm pretty sure he meant obliterated, but then again maybe the cast is trying to start their own dialect of English. You's dig?

It may seem by my comments that I don't like Jersey Shore, but it's just the opposite. I'd watch this show every day if it were on.

After all, you can't get this kind of material watching The City.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In Man vs. Food Everyone Wins

Is it East vs. West? Is it man against man? Or is it you against you? These questions can be answered by the 80s band Survivor. However, if you don't have a copy of Rocky IV and like to see some sort of conflict play itself out, there's always the Travel Channel's Man vs. Food to fill that need.

In its third season, Man vs. Food follows host Adam Richman around the country as he samples various cities' culinary landmarks. In each city he visits three places. The first two are usually well-known for famous dishes. The final visit is to an eatery where he competes in some sort of challenge where there's a chance he'll win a t-shirt or get his name on the wall, but there's a guarantee he'll be in serious pain.

This is a great show. Think about it, Adam gets to tour the country while eating at the country's coolest restaurants and eateries. Plus he gets paid to do it. Talk about free room and board.

Since I've never done it, one day I'd like to travel this great land by car. But instead of taking the more popular Northern Route or Southern Route, I want to take the Richman Route. Rather than stopping at vista points and monuments, I want to design the trip around Iguana's Burritozilla in San Jose, Big Pie in the Sky's Carnivore Challenge in Atlanta, or the Kodiak Challenge in Alaska, among many more.

In the show's opening, Adam claims he's worked every job in the restaurant business. I wonder if this includes dishwasher. I was a dishwasher in high school and it sucked. The hours were terrible - we had to stay well past midnight. Our social interaction was based almost entirely on listening to bitter line chefs bitch and moan about their lives. When they weren't complaining about their own lives they were yelling at us to produce a faster turnaround on the dishes. Not to mention none of the waitresses would talk to us. They just dropped off the dirty dishes and bee-lined back out to the floor to flirt with the bartenders - Sam Malone was really onto something.

At the time I thought the only good thing about being a dishwasher was getting to eat leftovers the diners didn't want. That's right, I ate food leftover from someone else's meal. I now see the error of my ways, but it's not like I had a date to impress. Maybe if I didn't eat food other people saw as trash I would have. High school wasn't a great time for me.

There have been more than 35 episodes of Man vs. Food. He's traveled to almost every major American city and is starting to branch out beyond our borders. One place I'd like to see the show go to is Paul Bunyan's in Pechoggin, Wisconsin. There's a six pound steak that goes by the name The Old 96'er waiting for him there. Or it would be if the town and restaurant existed and I didn't base reality on John Candy movies.

One of the better aspects of the show is Richman doesn't discriminate on the challenges. They range from spicy foods to large portions in a fixed amount of time to enormous desserts. He'll take challenges that feature beef, eggs, chicken, ice cream or pancakes. It doesn't matter. He eats them at establishments that feature BBQ, Mexican, Indian, pizza, burgers and host of other cuisines. He's an equal opportunity eater. Not to mention I think he holds the upper-hand against food in the weekly battles.

This brings me to my final point. As much as I like this show, just once I'd like to see Adam not like something he tries. I respect his love for food and know he goes to some awesome places, but just once I'd like to see Adam give something the Josh Baskin treatment (go to the 2:00 mark). Granted the restaurant owner might not be happy, but come on...there are some things people just don't like.

Fortunately for the Travel Channel, Man vs. Food isn't one of them.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Got Any Garlic?

It seems that every month there’s a new vampire show or movie available for public consumption. In the last year Twilight movies were released, HBO’s True Blood returned for its third season, the CW premiered The Vampire Diaries, and ABC debuted The Gates, among others.

Everywhere you look there’s someone with sharp teeth and a taste for human blood getting a TV deal. Dracula is probably stewing somewhere in Transylvania really pissed off – talk about peaking too early. Being popular in high school has nothing on the original Count.

While I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of popular trends, I really don’t understand this fervor over vampires. It seems every female from junior high schoolers to grandmothers can’t get enough of pasty guys with bad haircuts. This reaction is surprising because I don’t remember the girls I went to high school with swooning at the mention of Bram Stoker.

Aside from all being about vampires in some way, every show or movie about the blood-drinkers has a cast made up of attractive people. According to my wife, who falls into the aforementioned category of the previous paragraph, the vampires are attractive so they can entice their prey. If that’s true how come Count Chocula only hung out with Franberry and Boo-Berry but never Halle Berry? Aren’t vampires creatures of the night who have bad teeth and wear makeshift tuxedos? Come to think of it, what separates them from British waiters?

Given the vampire craze, it has to be considered what other monsters of lore will see a comeback? The werewolf was played out pretty extensively in the 1980s with Teen Wolf, An American Werewolf in London, and anything featuring Robin Williams. Hopefully there will be a resurrection of movies and shows where deranged scientists try to create a person. Although to be honest, the genre peaked with Weird Science and there’s nowhere to go but down – at least that’s what Wyatt’s probably telling people.

I’m curious if the mid-90s film Interview with the Vampire planted the creative seeds in Stephenie Meyer to write the Twilight series. If so, then I’m really looking forward to the book where of a group of friends decide to start their own fraternity after one of their relationships ends when he caught the early flight home from San Diego.

Unfortunately, we know that most movies made were originally books. Rarely is it the other way around. There are always indicators to tell when a movie wasn’t originally a book – for example, the words "starring Dane Cook". Dead giveaway.

The question is, with the vampire phenomenon in full gear, will Hollywood remake the Leslie Nielsen vehicle Dracula: Dead and Loving It co-starring the other brother from Wings and Marian from Robin Hood Men in Tights.

Nah, nothing should bring that vampire back from the dead.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Seaside Heights - Southern Campus

Jersey Shore’s second season moves from Seaside Heights to Miami. This move is logical because it seems like every self-centered narcissist (LeBron James) or reality TV cast (Kardashian sisters) is going there these days. Fortunately for the cast of Jersey Shore, they seem to fit both criteria. So if Jersey Shore is going to be based in Miami isn't that kind of like how Kid Minneapolis fought out of Detroit?

The odds are against them for the second season being as good as the original. Rarely are sequels better than the first installment. Unless you count The Empire Strikes Back and the second time you got laid.

Watching the show takes me back to when I used to go to the Jersey Shore with my friend Mike. Sure we didn't work in a t-shirt store, live in a beach house, or walk around "putting people to sleep", but we did other things rebellious kids driving 30 mph in a 25 zone. Seriously, it's 25 everywhere you go down there...and is strictly enforced!!

Gym-Tan-Laundry, or GTL, was their motto and they stuck to it what seemed like everyday. Keep in mind this was before the show became a hit so this was actually part of their daily routine. Notice how the letter W (work) is missing - no wonder these people ended up on a reality show. You know how certain professions like medicine bring out the best and the brightest? Well reality TV is just like that, except completely opposite.

The entire cast is returning for season two, even though they held out for more money. Not sure if this was a real hold out or just a bluff. I mean what else were they going to if MTV said no, start a law firm? Even Angelina is back. I don't blame her for leaving season one since she left before the show was big and she had her reasons even though they were juvenile, but she was by far the worst character on the show. Think of how much Jersey Shore gained by her leaving. She didn’t like to party, and when she did she was a wet blanket. She wasn’t tan and I don’t remember her ever doing laundry. If you don’t GTL you’re not true NJ. Angelina’s leaving was like Dave Mustaine getting the boot from Metallica. Would they have invited him back after emerging as an iconic metal band? Not likely. This is one of many differences b/w Metallica and MTV, the main one being only one of them still plays music.

This season says there will be more drama than last season, which is promising because the cast had a false sense of confidence before they were celebrities. Now that they have some fame, the show’s potential for conflict only gets better. Apparently celebrities, especially ones with no discernible talent, are difficult to be around.

As a side note, the one place that doesn't need more drama is HBO - as in Johnny Drama. Read the tea leaves Bill Nelson and cancel that waste of a half hour called Entourage because the Lucky Charms box misses Kevin Connolly and Jeremy Piven needs to be John Cusak's likable buddy again instead of the poster boy for hair plugs. In case you haven't seen Entourage in a while, this is what you missed. Every. Single. Week.

Back to Jersey Shore. It starts next week and really couldn't come at a better time. 30 Rock and Modern Family are in re-runs and I'm getting tired of watching my beloved Orioles lose night after night. Not to mention the NFL is still 6 weeks away.

I can think of no better way to pass the time than by watching a show whose first season taught me a very valuable lesson - instead of studying and trying to make something of myself when I was a kid all I really needed to succeed was to do sit-ups and generously apply hair gel.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Property Virgins Someone is Probably Getting Screwed

Real estate brokers, first-time home buyers and mortgage lenders capitalized on the housing boom of the mid 2000s. Since nothing lasts forever, the market collapsed and took much of the country’s economy with it. One thing has withstood the housing bubble bursting, and that is a reality TV show focusing on first time buyers shooting for the moon when it comes to their dream house. When Armageddon comes knocking the rumor is cockroaches will be the only survivors. Well if by then they’ve mastered watching TV, if they tune into HGTV’s Property Virgins they’ll have something to pass the time with.

HGTV does have some worthwhile programming, like Curb Appeal and Holmes on Homes. These shows help homeowners who need to improve their homes but don’t want to give a month’s mortgage payment to Home Depot to do it. For those that need a reason to crack open the liquor cabinet, National Open House lets those of us who bought property in Washington know that we could have owned a house in Kansas City with guest rooms that have their own guest rooms for a third of the price the one bedroom condo with a view of Massachusetts Avenue set us back. Apparently this show isn’t on anymore, which is a shame for when a homeowner in a metropolitan area is feeling a little too good about themselves.

Property Virgins is hosted by Sandra Rinomato, a Toronto-based real estate agent. Since she’s Canadian she might seem to be sweet and friendly, like our neighbors to the North tend to be. Canadians, as a whole, are great people. They love hockey, beer and in the 1970s and 80s sent us some of their most talented comedians. In the only episode of Property Virgins I saw, Sandra took these centuries of good will and used it to her advantage in up-selling a young lady from Washington into an apartment well above her original qualifying limit.

This girl, let’s call her Jen since that’s what she said her name was on the show, wanted to buy her first home in Washington DC. She wanted a place close to the city, near a Metro station, with parking and was within her $400,000-$430,000 budget. Of course the first place Sandra took Jen was to Georgetown – which doesn’t have a Metro station, has extremely high-end property and is an area where if you want to park something not in a garage, buy a boat. Needless to say, there was no match for Jen.

Next up was the Adams Morgan area. What part of close to the Metro does Sandra not understand? She tells Jen the Metro is a short walk away from the apartment being shown. In July the walk over the Calvert Street bridge connecting Adams Morgan to the Metro might as well be six miles long and made of nails. Strike Two.

The first two apartments Jen saw were basically closets with a bathroom. These places are fine if you’re renting, but call me crazy, if I 'm buying something I don’t want to be able to go to the bathroom and eat dinner at the same time. Or do I?

Like most gripping television, Sandra saved the best for last. In the U Street Corridor Jen found a place that anyone would have jumped at, let alone someone who just saw a shoebox and attic that were zoned as apartments. This place had all the bells and whistles. And for only about $100,000 more than Jen was qualified for. But the place came with its own parking space…for only $40,000. What a deal! At Sandra's suggestion to act quickly if she wanted the condo, Jen made a few calls and was able to work out the finances. Surprise, surprise a realtor preyed on a na├»ve purchaser’s emotions and got her to go $100,000 over her original budget.

Which leads me to my main point beef with this program - it promotes realtors, who are some of the most dishonest people you will ever meet. When my wife and I were looking to buy we saw a place that my wife really liked but I thought was too small. My wife talked about how we could make it work, where we could find storage, and so forth. The realtor went right along with her agreeing with everything being said. Then I was asked my thoughts, to which I said “It’s too small.” The realtor, without missing a beat said, “You’re right.” In her former life she must have been the Queen's mirror from Snow White.

Did you know in Virginia the realtor represents both the buyer and seller unless noted otherwise? Amazingly this is not a common fact disclosed by the agent. It’s easy to negotiate with yourself.

Buying Couple: “Do you think the sellers would take $50,000 less than asking?”
Realtor: “I don’t know, let me check with them.”

Realtor to Buying Couple: “I’m sorry, the price is what is listed.”

The moral of this little story is, and I can’t stress this enough, don't trust realtors. You give them an inch and they’ll take a foot - out of your savings.

At least when a mugger robs you, they have the decency to look you in the eye.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why ESPN Can Be Confused with a Roman Emperor

The ESPYs ran last night on ESPN. I made a point to not even get close to ESPN on my channel surfing to make sure I didn’t accidentally put this abomination of an awards show on my television.

These awards are on par with any awards show on SPIKE TV, the MTV Movie Awards and other meaningless ceremonies. ESPN claims the ESPYs are the biggest night in sports. The Super Bowl, Final Four, BCS Title Game, World Series, Scripps Spelling Bee, Chess, Cricket, and basically anything else that qualifies as a sporting event would beg to differ. The following conversation isn’t taking place at dinner tables around the country:

Dad: “Son, if you decide to play at Alabama you will have the opportunity to win a national title.”

Son: “You might be right, Dad, and that would be great. But will it help me win an ESPY?”

Dad: “Go to your room. It’s no wonder you’re taking Algebra for the third time this year.”

Saturday Night Live head writer Seth Meyers hosted this year’s event. Apparently Chris Kattan wasn’t available – someone needs to close the In-N-Out on Melrose. Meyers writes for the same show that produced John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase (when he was funny), Gilda Radner, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, and a host of others. These all-time great comedians watching the enterprise they helped build being run by someone whose best part of a joke is as soon as it’s over must be what it is like for Dr. J and Charles Barkley to watch the 76ers. Seth Meyers has to have compromising pictures of Lorne Michaels, there’s really no other answer for his current employment.

The ESPYs are nothing more than ESPN displaying its narcissistic self-absorption in front of a live audience. Of course athletes and celebrities attend. If any groups like themselves more than ESPN, it’s these two.

Given how bad ESPN’s rep is these days in light of the LeBron ‘Decision’, one would think they’d be a little more reserve. However, I’m more surprised they didn’t team up with the LeBrontourage and have the self-proclaimed King James announce his decision to destroy an American city at the ESPYs. It should be pointed out that to be a king of something one usually has to be a success in their chosen field. That makes Dwayne Wade the King and LBJ the court jester. Keep making pre-game underhanded shots LeBron, they come in handy when you’re watching Kobe in the Finals on TV.

Over the past decade or so, ESPN has gone from a source of sports news to a creator of sports news. The anchors, with the exception of a few, should be included with political commentators as what not to strive for in journalism school. I’ve never met anyone who tunes in to SportsCenter hoping Stu Scott or Chris Berman is leading the telecast, or even worse both of them on the same show.

Speaking of Berman and Scott, how the hell are these guys still on the air? Berman is a caricature of himself. His shtick of nicknames, whoops, and back back backs has worn thin. However, he has been with ESPN since the beginning so his presence is at least understood. But Bob Ley and John Saunders also have a lot of ESPN miles under their belts and they are relegated to Sunday morning shows that compete with Meet the Press, This Week and others. ESPN is so cruel they make Saunders spend that half hour with Mike Lupica, which must be similar to this. Can’t Ley or Saunders switch roles with Berman? Also, someone needs to explain to me how Stu Scott is on air. I know a lot of sports fans, and not one of them watches ESPN to see him. It seems he is more interested in breaking bread with the athletes he covers than breaking stories. The only thing lower than his Q Rating has to be the number of viewers for 1st Take.

ESPN is not a news source anymore. The only news it seems to break are stories about them. This was never more evident than when SportsCenter’s bottom line ticker said something along the lines of “ESPN reports LeBron James will announce his new team on Thursday night special aired on ESPN.” ESPN reporter Chris Broussard then went on air and said he confirmed with his sources the story was accurate. Confirmed with his sources? What did he do, run upstairs to production?

The Roman ruler Nero is infamous for letting his empire falter due to his own extravagance. Nero has four letters, ESPN has four letters. Coincidence?

I think not.

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