Friday, November 30, 2007

Good Models Gone Bad (Part 2)

Continued from part 1.

In the first part of episode eight of America's Most Smartest Model, it was seen that model Brett Novek had not followed the better angels of his nature1 and had instead joined a plot to prevent fellow contestant VJ Logan (an inexperienced but talented model) from winning. In listening to the bad little Brett on one shoulder and the good little Brett on the other, he had chosen to follow the advice of the bad one.2 Granted, depending on how dirty he talked to me, I would have probably followed the commands of a bad little Brett Novek on my shoulder also. Hell, if I could see a good Brett and a bad Brett on either shoulder, I might never face forward again.

However, having chosen the ways of the dark side, Brett faced divine retribution and it was quick in coming. He and his AMSMBFF3 Jeff Pickel lost the Edge Challenge (along with co-conspirators Andre Birleanu and Aussie Rachel) to VJ and Angela Hart. The penalty for losing was at first stated to be nothing but a greater distance between changing room and runway for a runway show, so Brett did not see the foreshadowing of worse punishment to come. If he had, he might have tried to reverse the situation instead of joining in with Andre(!) the night before the show in badmouthing Angela's runway experience.

VJ LoganAt the start of the Callback Challenge, Andre, Brett, and Pickel found out that not only would their changing area be farther away, but that they also would have to go through an obstacle course in between getting dressed and doing their walk. The other three (Rachel having been give the Edge as well) started the challenge. They each had to do three outfits, completing the task from start to finish in fifteen minutes. VJ had a great performance, looking like he had been doing runway for years. His hair and makeup were fantastic. You might have to slow down the replay to fully appreciate it, but the backside in the swimsuit walking away was truly saucy4. His teammate Angela, who usually wore her hair in an unflattering way, looked incredible. You won't see me saying this very often about a member of the other gender, but she was super hot. The body, the hair, the clothes, the walk, all worked together for a superior performance. I didn't know she had it in her.

Rachel, on the other hand, walked like (in her words) a horse. Perhaps it was a little intercession from St. Eligius5 to teach her a lesson for joining the alliance against VJ. Still, she's a pretty little filly. Maybe there's a second career there in human dressage6.

The three bad boys meanwhile were getting ready for their attack run. It didn't seem possible that these unknowing participants in this little morality play could put themselves in a worse position, but they did so with a invocation to the pagan "gods of fashion" and a strong display of Pride (as in "... goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."7).

They started the task in a flurry of dressing, which reminded me of being in a situation of jumping out of a trick's bed realizing I was late for work and not sure where all of my clothes were. They went through the obstacle course and it didn't seem to be too much of a hindrance for these physically fit men. When they got to the runway it did seem to have a residual effect. Brett did a so-so job, which looked very different from his walks in previous competitions. He was so stiff, looking like he was trying to balance a book on his head. It was amazing he could walk so upright having spun around a baseball bat five times, but the walk and the expression really detracted from the presentation of the clothes, which is the whole purpose of being on the runway. Pickel did a pretty good job while Andre looked like someone shuffling on their way to the dining hall at Rikers8.

Brett NovekThe models received their reviews from the judges and they were consistent with what any lay person could see. Angela won the automatic callback and Brett and Andre received the brunt of the criticisms. Andre was stoic about it but Brett got very agitated with Mary Alice Stephenson. Under other circumstances, I believe he would have been polite about it, but in this case, he was watching the alliance's plans totally blow up in his face and the explosion was painful. Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad9 (or just plain pissed off). At the ceremony to announce who was leaving, he started talking again and Ben told him the show came down to something really simple: Mary Alice judging the models' fashion sense and Ben judging their intelligence. Here I disagree with Ben but concur with an earlier statement: the show comes down to being grist for gay-themed blogs and I say hoyay!10 (See the breathtaking Pickel package extension11 during the quick change competition as evidence.)

Pickel, Brett, and Andre were sent to an eighth circle of Hell12 as the bottom three and Pickel paid the price for the alliance's transgressions by being sent packing. America’s favorite scrubs-wearing, organ-pulling, clothes-making, female-touching, body-washing, self-tanning, chicken-loving, young Einstein impersonator13 was banished, leaving his beloved companion to gasp a Kerriganian "Why?"14 before one last embrace in a tableau of unbearable pathos15.

While it is sad and depressing to see Pickel go, I hope it was a wake-up call to Brett to listen to the good little Brett for the rest of the series.

Jeff Pickel
In depth coverage and photos of -> America's Most Smartest Model.

1 Reference to Lincoln's First Inaugural Address (1861).
2 An opposing angelic and demonic figure on either shoulder is a plot device often used to indicate an internal conflict with one's conscience.
America's Most Smartest Model best friend forever.
4 adj. Characterized by a lightly pert and exuberant quality.
5 St. Eligius is one of several patron saints of horses.
6 The art of training a horse to make specific and precise movements.
7 Proverbs 16:18.
8 Rikers Island is the name of New York City's largest jail facility.
9 Quote attributed to Euripides.
10 Abbreviation for "homoeroticism, yay"; it is usually followed by an exclamation mark.
11 Pickel has a big wiener.
12 Reference to Dante's
The Divine Comedy.
13 Multiple references to previous episodes.
14 Reference to Nancy Kerrigan's famous cry after being assaulted in 1994.
15 n. A quality that arouses feelings of pity or sorrow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Good Models Gone Bad

Harken, gentle readers, and I will tell you a tale of abiding love and beauty, dark deception and intrigue, and harrowing adversity and endurance. Vestem virumque cano. This is the story of episode eight of America's Most Smartest Model.

This chapter continues the heroic epic of the competition to win the glory and reward of being crowned the nations' most intelligent model. The contestants include, among others, two arch-rivals: comely Brett Novek and determined VJ Logan. Brett has used his inherent qualities of love and charisma to charm the judges and become one of the top contenders while VJ has relied on his raw talent and ambition to push himself into the upper echelon.

Brett NovekAt the close of the previous chapter, virtuous Brett was faced with a terrible moral dilemma. VJ's sworn enemy in the game, Andre Birleanu (the Bizarro World's grotesquely imperfect copy of Borat), had conspired with Brett's AMSMBFF Jeff Pickel in a harebrained scheme to form an alliance to reverse the ascendancy of VJ and bring him low. The impetuous Pickel asked Brett what he thought about the plan. Brett wavered, torn between being true to his personal integrity or to being loyal to Pickel, his showmo mate. Unsure of what to do, he expressed his confusion and displeasure to Pickel saying, "I don't know what to think of you, bro." Finally, rather than risk losing the affection of his most favored friend, he reluctantly agreed to join the star-crossed relationship with the malevolent Andre. The three plotters added Pickel's secret friend Aussie Rachel to the group and the coterie was complete.

Jeff PickelEpisode eight begins with the conspirators lounging by the pool, reveling in their imagined future victory. Like all close-knit alliances on reality shows where there is but a single winner, they successfully suspended disbelief enough to somehow enjoy the thought of all four of them winning together. It is here that we first see Pickel take the extra step from only complaining about people to using a term like "pick off". Following his lead, Brett exclaims the most cursed words in reality TV: "Final four!" If only Brett had known me before the start of the show and if he called me and said, "Hey, you watch a lot of reality TV. Hypothetically, if I should ever be on a reality competition show, and if I should find myself in some kind of alliance, should I ever gloat about my group being the final set of contestants?" My response would have been "Yes, but only if you absolutely want to make sure that it won't really happen." I would then have gone on to teach him the entire theory of reality show karma and saved him from the pain that was yet to come.

Brett NovekUnfortunately for Brett, no one warned him about dancing with the devil either. The Dark Prince, who sometimes appears in the form of a Russian/Romanian model, wants to use people to do his bidding and to encourage them to become evil enough to condemn themselves as well. Brett and Pickel naively let Andre's hatred of VJ to lure them to turn from working to win as the model with the most talent, the most integrity and the best sportsmanship, to being Andre's willing pawns in a decidedly uncharacteristic attempt to spoil someone else's opportunity to win. Can you feel the aura of bad karma starting to hover over our dynamic duo?

The models found running shoes and tank tops and realized that the next Edge Challenge will somehow be physical. The accompanying notice indicated there would be a grueling test of bodies and minds with the models in teams of two. VJ surprisingly asked Andre to be his teammate, explaining in the post-interview that he thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know him. VJ clearly never misses a trick, capturing good karma for his willingness to make nice with his enemy. On the other hand, Brett and Pickel met with Aussie Rachel and Andre in the bathroom and talked about smashing VJ. If you are keeping track of net karma, you would realize that the episode might just as well have ended right there. Brett and Pickel didn't stand a chance from that moment on.

Brett Novek Jeff PickelThe challenge was for one member of the team to answer correctly as many trivia questions as they could in one minute, and then after that, have the other team member run on a treadmill with a setting related to the number of correct responses. The one with the most correct answers would get the lowest setting. Brett and Pickel were a team, Andre and Rachel another, and VJ and Angela the remaining one. In the question segment, Angela and Rachel tied with most correct answers and Pickel had the least. He was unable to name a water fowl, presumably preferring only land ones (see last week).

VJ and Andre started running on their treadmills with a setting of 6 while Brett started at a 9. After five minutes, Pickel thought Brett should consider stopping to prevent overexertion. He convinced Brett to stop by asking him coyly, "Do you want me to pull it?" Brett (having waited for this for seven episodes) agreed to stop and said pleadingly, "Pull it."

VJ LoganStaying on their treadmills, Andre and VJ settled in for the long run (pun intended). As time went on, the settings increased. VJ was firm on winning for America while Andre declared that he felt "Soviet!" (History reminder for Andre: the Soviets were obliterated. Time to pick a different role model.) This reenactment of the Cold War played out to its expected end and VJ, All-American Boy, beat the commie. VJ saluted his conquered foe and then he and Angela discovered that their Edge would be a changing room close to the runway for a runway show. It didn't sound that important to the alliance so it didn't worry them too much.

An added twist came a little later when VJ found out that he needed to share the Edge with one of the four losing models. The obvious pick was Rachel since she was currently the weakest player and would most likely not benefit from the advantage. Rachel was glad to get it. Other than allying with Pickel because of her off-camera friendship with him, Rachel would have allied with anyone - Andre, VJ, last week's donkey - whatever would have kept her from being on the bottom.

The Callback Challenge is covered in part 2.

Other thoughts:
  • Mary Alice Stephenson for President and Ben Stein for Vice-President. Ben would bring some needed intelligence to Washington and Mary Alice could easily stand toe-to-toe with other world leaders. Mary Alice to Hugo Chavez: "I don't think you're smart enough and you're definitely not model enough to be President-for-life of Venezuela."
  • This bad blood between Brett, Pickel, and VJ is making it a lot less likely that my fantasy will come true of seeing them doing a remake of Madonna's Cherish video as the three mermen. I had planned to be out there on a boat with a man-size fish net. Fortunately, they are all bigger than the limit so I wouldn't have had to release any of them back into the water.

In depth coverage and photos of -> America's Most Smartest Model.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Party Animals (Part 2)

VJ LoganContinued from part 1.

VJ Logan, the one who wants to win America's Most Smartest Model the most, won the Edge Challenge in episode seven and the power that went with it. For the Callback Challenge he got the most time (30 minutes) in front of the camera for a photo shoot, and he also got to assign who got which of the remaining, lesser time allotments. The photo shoot involved animals and VJ got first pick of the set of different animals available. The stallion that is Van Jameson of course picked the horse, while our other two men of note, Jeff Pickel and Brett Novek, selected the chicken and the pig. VJ, unfortunately, went too sullen with his expressions and even though he had the most time, his photos didn't show any charisma or other emotion. Pickel's photos only showed a disturbing comfortability between man and fowl. Brett's photos were few in number and unable to show any porcine passion other than fear. Perhaps the pig had caught wind of the anatomy exercise from earlier in the series.

Andre Birleanu ended up winning the contest with a photo of him using the same choking tactic on a llama that he had used on Lisa in a previous photo. The worst photo was Daniel's, which was taken in the one minute he was given in front of the camera. It showed him exhibiting actual fear while stroking an ostrich. Such is a model's life.

Daniel's modeling challenge results in AMSM have not been spectacular, so it was not surprising that his intelligence was not enough to keep in him the show any longer, especially with the performance in the networking challenge. Therefore, like the undigestible part of the food I ate three days ago, he was pushed out.

VJ LoganToward the end of the episode, Andre and Pickel (and Brett by association) decide to ally against VJ, ostensibly because they believed VJ was too cocky, but more likely because they realize that he was the biggest threat. I remain a Brett man, but I believe that VJ is being judged too harshly because people don't appreciate his complexity.

Just from what shown on the show, it is clear that VJ is someone with a lot of internal conflict, which probably causes him a lot of unhappiness. On the one hand, from his life experiences, he may believe that he needs to have a hard exterior and be very scrappy to keep other people from taking advantage of him or knocking him around. He may also have some reluctance for trusting other people, believing that he needs to be independent and rely on himself to get ahead. On the other hand, he has a less visible side that would like very much to help others and be friends with every one. Like my mother's baking, he is rock hard on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside.

There were several signs during the episode of the dichotomy that is VJ. The harsh side was displayed with the insults that were thrown at Andre during the photo shoot and then with the shouting match afterwards. The soft side instinctively complimented Andre that he had done a good job considering he had been given only two minutes. The hard game player gave the declining Daniel the least amount of time, but the concerned kid stuck up for Daniel when he thought Andre was abusing him. The hard side teased the other models by looking in one direction before handing out a time allotment (acting as if were going to give it to who he was looking at) and then handing it to a different model. The soft side was shown by not giving Pickel and Brett the worst times, despite tiffs that he had had with Brett. In fact, when Brett's pig ran away, VJ encouraged Brett by telling him he still had time to capture it and get more photos. We need to consider that VJ may be acting in a way that he feels that he has to, and not necessarily the way he wants to.

Other thoughts:

  • The boy models' hair looks so good even when they get up in the morning. I haven't been able to make my hair look like anything other than crap for awhile, despite trying a lot of hair products. I want to know what they use on their hair.
  • I have a better opinion of Andre after his display of his humorous side. He's still someone that you would rather speak to for only a few minutes through the plexiglass at the lockup, but it's nice to see that he has a human side.
  • Mary Alice Stephenson is playing a role that she was hired to do for the show. The producers clearly wanted a Simon Cowell performance and not a Paula Abdul one, so it's not fair to Mary Alice to criticize her as a person for acting in a way she is paid to do.
  • When Brett found out they were going to the country, he said "I'm down for new things." Note to Brett: I'm a new thing.

VJ LoganVan Jameson Logan

In depth coverage and photos of -> America's Most Smartest Model.

Andre said VJ did not look like a real cowboy. This video shows what cowboys should look like:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Party Animals

Until recently, more people were searching for "VJ Logan" than "Brett Novek" (from America's Most Smartest Model) on Google, but the tide has turned in the last three weeks in Brett's favor, so that Brett is now on top of VJ. I base that unofficial finding on an assumption that with this site in the same position for both on serp, searchers for either one are equally likely to find their way here and I can measure by the number of click-throughs from the queries. I don't know that this means anything right now, and certainly the results may swing both ways such that VJ may top Brett in the future.

There are also some people searching for Brett in Papi underwear. Like Pavlov's dog, our base instincts may have created an association in our minds (Brett + underwear = hidden treasure) that leads us to uncontrollably salivate, but as the show has continued, I am seeing Brett more as a modest, restrained, altar boy type who wouldn't engage in any hanky-panky. While AMSMBFF Jeff Pickel is the natural object of the invitational phrase "For a good time call...", Brett is the take-him-home-to-meet-mother guy for whom there will be no petting the pooch until at least a commitment ceremony has occurred.

America's Most Smartest ModelThe actual center of attention this week on AMSM was Daniel Schuman. Episode seven begins with Daniel finding a note that acknowledged that his birthday was that day and that the models would be taken to a place that evening for dinner and dancing. The note was delivered and written in the same manner as all the previous notes that announced competitions. Incredibly, after six episodes worth of events, not one of the models at that time realized that it was the announcement for what would be the next Edge Challenge. They believed that VH1 was in the habit of buying everyone dinner at an expensive restaurant, sending a full video crew, and suspending the play of a reality competition show for which they are paying a lot of people to create, just to celebrate one of the contestant's birthday. This, despite the fact that the note does not state they have "the night off" (pause Tivo and read it yourself).

The Edge Challenges test the intelligence of the models and the failure to realize that a test was even occurring should have given all of them a failing grade. It could have fooled Rachel Myers, but the remaining models should have known better.

Brett Novek and Jeff PickelThe models go the club, eat dinner and drink liberally, but as Dean Wormer might have said, thin, drunk and stupid is no way go through a reality show. They are invited to a party with an open bar upstairs where Mary Alice Stephenson has planted people from the entertainment industry to test the models' networking skills. The models with the most experience, who should have been the best in detecting opportunity, failed miserably. Angela Hart said one of the men "grabbed my arm", which to her was "a red flag", as in a sign that she was being hit on. Since the guy in this case was one of the people there to interview her and indisputably not trying to hit on her, she needs to know that her red flag system has a major malfunction. Andre thought that the same guy was hitting on him too. It sounds like they both have the "Blanche Devereaux" syndrome, believing that every man in the world wants to sleep with them.

Pickel, on the other hand, probably couldn't care less, as he got a little grabby with one of the females. As his friend, Brett needs to pull out the good touch/bad touch doll and explain to Pickel the adult version of the rules.

VJ LoganVJ claimed afterward that he had grown suspicious after noticing how many entertainment industry people there were at the party and decided that it must all be part of the game. He used the opportunity to network with a vengeance and collect business cards the way Andre collects arrest warrants.

The actual purpose of the test was to test their "social intelligence". This is the part of intelligence that has to do with the ability to recognize what is happening in the world around you and to respond to it in a socially effective manner. It is a noticeably deficient characteristic in autistic persons, who cannot accurately interpret other people's intentions, emotions, etc., from the auditory and visual cues that people give off. Clearly, it was necessary not to explicitly reveal that a socializing test was occurring in order to get good results. It would be a good way to tell whether the models could accurately determine who at a party was beneficial to their careers and who were merely there for a good time.

Jeff PickelOne by one, the models are pulled aside to face Mary Alice and the industry insiders to be told that they had been tested and to find out how well they had done. Those drunk and/or sexually obsessed did poorly while the game player and the friendly one (i.e VJ and Brett) did well. VJ reached into his pants and said, "Can I just pull all of 'em out?" I thought, finally, we are going to see the previously mentioned "Big Daddy VJ" and the boys, but he just pulled out a stack of business cards instead.

The ones most intoxicated, Daniel and Aussie Rachel, were very upset about what had happened. Daniel went on a tirade, which didn't bother me because I don't blame anyone for anything they do under the influence. However, I am very disappointed in him for subsequently not admitting that he was rightly outsmarted, that these models' ability to discern advances from opportunities really sucks, and that it is possible to learn something new, even from Mary Alice. When egotistical Andre comments that "I don't even say that shit", about Daniel's remarks about being too good to chase after Steven Spielberg, Daniel should realize he has room for improvement. On the other hand, Aussie Rachel totally gets a pass for her whining because of an entertaining monkey dance that she did, although I think seeing Curious George on TMZ shuffling outside the Viper Room would have been funnier.

The winner of the challenge was a vaklempt VJ who got a really big edge for the Callback Challenge.

Van Jameson Logan
The rest of the episode will be covered in part 2.

In depth coverage and photos of -> America's Most Smartest Model.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Strike Striking Writers

The advent of the writers strike gave me some apprehension about its potential affect on my television viewing habits, but I was mainly indifferent about the quarrel between entertainment companies and the Writers Guild of America over the vagaries of demands for compensation for streaming media. My feeling changed when I read the negative comments that the union had made about Ellen DegGeneres' decision to honor her contractural obligations to produce and host her show. It was really vicious, unfair stuff about her personally. From those comments and other things I have read from writers, I am disgusted with them and I hope they gain nothing.

I know I will reflect about this and realize that the hotheads in the union that are spewing their vitriol over the internet don't represent everyone and I shouldn't hold all of them accountable for the actions of a few, but for now I am seeing the ones who aren't putting their pencils down when it comes to demagoguery as being horrible, despicable people.

If the writers have a beef with the production companies they shouldn't drag other people into it. They have the right to stop working, but to insist that Ellen put her 135 staff members out of work during the holidays is unconscionable. If the writers demand were to give everyone a 5% across the board increase it would be different, but their demands are only for their own benefit.

The writers aren't striking over working conditions, healthcare, pensions, job security, cost of living adjustments, or even base pay. They want to keep getting paid on work they have already been paid for. It is the anachronistic concept of residuals. Instead of being paid upfront for a complete assignment of copyright, they, along with actors and others, keep getting paid every time the material is used to generate income. How many other lines of work get this scheme? Do the road workers building toll roads get a future cut of every toll that is paid? Do teachers get a percentage of all of their students' future incomes? How about parents? If it weren't for their work, you wouldn't exist at all. Do you give them a cut of all your potential wages?

From my perspective, the media companies want to make more money and the writers want to make more money, but neither seem necessarily better than the other. As Orwell wrote, "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Shape of Fashion

Watching America's Most Smartest Model, it looks like the co-host Mary Alice Stephenson was expecting a more serious show like ANTM or Project Runway. She not only gives tough critiques, but she also encourages the contestants to be more cutthroat, as modeling is in real life. On the other hand, the producers clearly intended the show to be as light-hearted as it actually is. From the title of the show to the casting of likable, humorous personalities, they created a well differentiated show that provides some light entertainment for a Sunday afternoon. I hope as they cast for the second season that they don't move away from the formula to create another in a line of high drama, bitch-fest shows. AMSM has just enough of that to keep it interesting but so not so much to take it away from its focus on its comedic elements.

Brett NovekEpisode six of the show led off with an Edge Challenge that required the remaining models to pair up into teams and to have each member of the team cut three specified shapes out of paper. The team that accurately cut out all six shapes the fastest would be the winner. An easy task for elementary school students, but not necessarily easy for the masterful models.

As would be expected, AMSMBFFs Brett Novek and Jeff Pickel joined together again to be a team of convivial cocks of the walk. VJ Logan had to pair with Aussie Rachel since his regular squeeze box decided it was in her best interests to team up with the sagacious Daniel Schuman. (She thought Daniel's wits could save her from being, like the Second Defenestration of Prague, thrown out.) Left over, Angela Hart and Andre Birleanu formed the fourth team.

The challenge was devised and supervised by Project Runway's Santino Rice, who missed an opportunity to do a revision of his "Where's Andre?" imitation of Tim Gunn. The Brett/Pickel and VJ/Aussie Rachel teams had no problem with the task. Unfortunately for Daniel and Angela, their teammates blonde Rachel and Andre had trouble. Andre because of his unfamiliarity with the English system of measurement and Rachel because, well if you have seen the show you know why. Santino noted that it was painful to watch them work.

Brett Novek and Jeff PickelThe winners of the Edge Challenge were Brett and Pickel. For the Callback Challenge, which was to use the shapes to design a garment, BP received assistance from Santino as their edge in creating their apparel. The first hurdle they faced was the fact that they were both men and mens' clothing is difficult to create for the inexperienced. They settled on creating basically a fighter's robe with some sexy underpinnings for Brett to model.

Brett and Pickel showed that they were starting to "get it" - understanding the competition as VJ had already done. As the winners of the first challenge, they also got to give one other team only a single shape to work with. They decided to hose VJ by giving him just a circle, (which surprisingly he didn't just use to make a poncho.)

Brett NovekBP realized the clothes challenge was really about the presentation, not the design and workmanship of the clothes. In the end, Brett's sinewy body, Pickel's runway description, and their overheated raging red robe won them the automatic callback.

Blonde Rachel said that Mary Alice and the female guest judge were just two girls who like hot boys. Well, who doesn't like hot boys? With Brett and Pickel, even straight boys got to shout ... baby got pack(-age)! Rachel's dress was criticized but it was just an excuse. It was time for her to go and she ended up getting tossed rather bluntly.

Some extra thoughts:
  • I'll will miss the sound effects that occurred when Rachel thought about things.
  • Did you notice VJ dabbing his eyes after Rachel was let go? Maybe his tough guy image is hiding some deep inner sensitivity.
  • I'm still wondering exactly what VJ said in episode five that got so bleeped.
Considering "most smartest", Angela and Daniel are the smartest contestants and they should have found ways to always be on the same team. They would have killed on all the intelligence tasks. Daniel would be a worthy winner as he follows the rules in general and the Golden Rule in particular. He expects everyone else to do the same and, unfortunately, he gets very frustrated when they don't.

Brett Novek and Jeff Pickel
Brett and Pickel rehearsing Cinderella?

In depth coverage and photos of -> America's Most Smartest Model.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Getting Piggy With It

The most important thing in reality tv is the casting. It is essential to cast interesting people whom viewers can get to know quickly and want to see more of from week to week. A good example of good casting is the show America's Most Smartest Model. It would have been easy to have cast basically cardboard cutouts that looked good but had no other worthwhile traits to speak of. Instead, the people responsible for the selection did an excellent job of picking people with both hot bodies and anything but stereotypical model personalities.

Compare the men of AMSM with the guys from Manhunt or Average Joe. Manhunt men were interesting enough for a roll in the sack but that's it. The well-built men from Average Joe were unbearable every time they opened their mouths. AMSM went a different direction and someone deserves a bonus for it.

VJ LoganEpisode five of the search for the most erudite yet pulchritudinous specimen started with another unsettling display of the situation between VJ Logan and Rachel. He wakes up to find the female in the bed. With the camera on him he covers his face (from embarrassment?) and wraps himself with the comforter like a body size condom to protect himself from her.

The most troubling element for me is Rachel's appearance. Her lack of sufficient body fat means there is not enough subcutaneous adipose tissue to support her face and this causes pronounced nasolabial folds. It makes her look a lot older than she is - even older than co-host Mary Alice. With that in mind, Rachel starts to look old enough to be VJ's mom and that's creepy.

Brett NovekSpeaking of fetal pigs, the Edge challenge involved carving up little piglets to show that the models could find and extract specific organs. I was eating lunch at the time I was watching the show and that wasn't easy to do. VJ, relying on some previous experience with butchering, got an "A". Jeff Pickel also got an "A" and Brett Novek an "A-". The grading was done by a high school biology teacher, who wisely noted that Pickel had "great, great organs, complete organs, clean organs." Brett was lauded for having "cleaned up your organs very nicely." From what I have seen of the show. their personal hygiene, and they way they fill out their shorts, I would have assumed this to be true.

The winner of the competition was Daniel Schuman, who then was the only person given an advance copy of the script for a 30 second commercial that each of the models would have do as the second contest in the episode. The commercial was for a bodywash product and would take place in a shower. Only Daniel would get to do the scene with hot water. Everyone else would be subjected to cold.

VJ LoganThe preparation for the commercial shoot was fraught with controversy. Part of the parameters of the contest was that each model would receive their script only twenty minutes before their shoot so that that was all the time they would have to learn it. VJ eavesdropped on models ahead of him doing their rehearsals so that he could gain an advantage in the vocalization. Some of the other models were disturbed by this behavior and called him on it. VJ became angry at the accusation that he had engaged in cheating.

Let's see if we can figure this out and achieve a win-win situation.

Brett appears to be highly ethical person with his concern about adherence to the spirit of the rules. That's a good thing and I really appreciate it. It makes you believe you could always trust him and that if you were his mate, you wouldn't have to worry about him cheating on you.

VJ LoganOn the other hand, it appears that VJ is sharp enough to see that the game doesn't start and stop with the beginning and end of each of the challenges. As he remarked, he is the only one that understands the competition - that the game is going on 24/7 and things like grabbing an anatomy book or eavesdropping on others is all an expected part of it. He may be getting the flack for outsmarting the others, but Mary Alice made it quite clear that it is not only legal, but an indicator of who she thinks are the better players.

Unfortunately, the first players in a reality show don't all know how the game should be played and this can cause bad blood between them (remember season one of Survivor). It remains to be seen if any future episodes contain any dirty dealing that would justify definite condemnation of the behavior of any of the models. Still, it would be better if VJ would not be so blistering in his retorts. It's not good to make enemies so easily.

VJ LoganThe bad part is that the points of contention didn't seem to alter the outcome of VJ's performance. He didn't need the anatomy book and he had an innate advantage in doing a shower scene. VJ is a get dirty and stroke yourself with lather kind of guy. He won the automatic callback for his wet performance and said, "Big Daddy VJ took this one home." Personally I would rather have heard him talk about whether any shower "shrinkage" occurred, but maybe his use of the term "Big Daddy" let us know that none had.

Jeff Pickel
In depth coverage and photos of -> America's Most Smartest Model.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Reap Me, Bret

The CW network's new show Reaper stars Bret Harrison so I really wanted to like it. I thought Bret's previous show, The Loop, was hilarious and him adorable so I was interested in checking out anything else that put him in front of the camera. If I had my choice about it, I would have been happier with just a continuous Loop, but I tried to approach the new show with an open mind.

On Reaper, Bret's character Sam finds out that as of his 21st birthday, his soul belongs to Satan because his parents had sold it before he was born. (Note: The 25 year old Bret's believability playing below age may have passed.) The Devil forces Sam to be a hunter of escaped souls that must be returned to Hell. It was intriguing concept but the first episode I saw (#4) didn't keep my interest for long. Maybe it was the swarm of bugs that were killing people that turned me away.

Well, for Bret's sake I decided to give the show a second chance and I'm glad I did. The show has a lot going for it. It really is very funny. The humor has a lot of witty one-liners like the kind that made me first like the show Chuck, which by the way I think has gone down hill. Maybe in some sci-fi/supernatural way the writers' Muse hightailed it from the Chuck set over to Reaper. Bottom line is that Reaper is an entertaining hour that doesn't overtax the mind but provides a lot of guilt-free chuckles.

Like Chuck's Zachary Levi, Bret is a cute guy is a funny way. Not necessarily leading man material but rather the kind of guy you would want to straddle you while playing Twister or to pantomime "Snakes on a Plane" as your partner in naked charades. After I first saw him in The Loop I started tivoing Brett's earlier show Grounded For Life. The episode where Bret's character strutted his dancing moves to his favorite song Bust A Move was a precious keepsaver.