Sunday, December 6, 2009


I'm sure I've mentioned it here once or twice, but The Amazing Race is one of my absolute favorite programs. There have been good times, like Season 5 when Colin had his awe-inspiring "My ox is BROKEN!" meltdown while the ultra-religious models were literally toiling in the mud (oh, how the editors had fun with them). There have been some not so good times, such as the ill-conceived Family Edition and the introduction of the Black Family (who were the only team of color that season). Regardless of the quality of the season the show is able to make me feel all misty-eyed at the finish line. Tonight's finale was no exception.

This season was rather bland across the board. I didn't think the itinerary was all that interesting -- I've found that I haven't really been wowed by the westbound seasons. This season's itinerary in particular featured a number of locations that had been visited before and, aside from the Dubai legs, the environments didn't really seem to test the teams' resolve. Call me old fashioned, but I am intrigued by how ugly Americans can get when they are in the final five and need to cram themselves into an over-crowded train in Mumbai.

The casting was also surprisingly dull. My instant loathing team was eliminated at the start line (we'll get back to that) and just about all the other teams were perfectly pleasant. Most of the teams were eliminated at about the point that they became annoying, so it was difficult to find someone to root against. Type A Lance was the only one who got under my skin rather quickly, but even he and his partner were eliminated before they became unbearable. Instead, this season's "villains" were gay brothers Sam and Dan (Team BroYay). Yes, they pulled a couple of dick moves (that weren't curiously blurred out) during the race, the biggest offense being stealing another team's taxi. Sorry, but unless you incur a penalty (ref. last season's brothers) or create a potential international incident (ref. first season's Team Guido at the airport), you don't even deserve to be called a bad guy, much less a villain.

In terms of race construction, there were some issues this time around. I'm not a fan of the "The World is Waiting for You, except for that team." twist at the beginning because it just seemed so unnecessary. I like the idea of a task to separate the teams before they get to the airport (much more interesting than airport drama) but knocking out a team seems unnecessary. Also, the premiere featured two legs, so the drama was undercut with the early elimination. The show was not going to get rid of 25% of their cast on the first night, so the audience knew that there would be a Non-Elimination Leg somewhere in the mix. In terms of tasks, the bag was mixed as usual. However, the speed bumps were really half-assed. Go sit in a sauna for five minutes. Drink a shot of absinthe. I know the task isn't intended to derail teams but the purpose of a speed bump is to penalize a team for being spared by a NEL.

The final leg actually did a pretty good job of encapsulating the blandness of the season. The final three teams, Meghan/Cheyne, Team BroYay, and Brian/Ericka received their first clue: Go to the Final Destination of Las Vegas. Another downside of the westbound flightpath is that you don't get an intermediate stop on the final leg, such as Alaska or Hawaii. Anyway, the leg primarily featured casino hopping along the strip. Brian/Ericka had an early lead until a Cirque Du Soleil challenge caused them to fall to last place. Then the teams had to count out $1 million in casino chips for their final challenge. Most of the time the final challenge is a road block completed by one person based around the theme of "I hope you were paying attention." After teams counted their chips correctly, they received a clue that led them to Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton. Really, show? The finish line was at Newton's Shenandoah Ranch. The race was won by blonde and objectively alright looking Meghan/Cheyne. More satisfying than Team BroYay winning, but I would have preferred a Brian/Ericka win.

However, I had the same physical response as I did when Team Boston won season two, the loathsome Freddie and Kendra won season six, or when genuine hippies TK and Rachel won season twelve: I started to tear up a bit. Despite all the flaws this season had, particularly with the blandness streak the show has been riding since TAR13 (this is TAR15), the program still manages to poke that sweet spot that I am usually able to heavily guard. Even with the teams that I despise, it is not enough to golf clap for them when they reach the finish line. What they have accomplished is incredible.

The moment that did it for me tonight was when Brian and Ericka finally arrived at the finish line in a distant third place. Phil tells them that they are officially team number 3 and Brian fakes shock as he looks at the other two teams standing there. It was an incredibly charming moment for him, one of many on his race. Phil asks what this means for their relationship and Ericka starts speaking about how she hopes that this will prove to her family that Brian is a stand-up guy even though they are of different skin colors. As she speaks, Brian sniffs as he starts to well up. Ericka tells him to shush, most likely because she if he starts she would soon follow. It was one of the best moments on this race and one that I would quickly point to to show why this is one of the best programs on television.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I have a really complicated relationship with The Biggest Loser. On its face, the premise of the show is somewhat noble -- helping the morbidly obese regain control of their lives. There is also the added benefit that viewers are inspired to take control of their own weight issues.

However, this nobility encounters conflict since this is an elimination based reality show. This has been highlighted in this past week's episode...

Despite its title, The Biggest Loser is not a meritocracy. It is on finale night, but until the final weigh-in there is strategery afoot throughout the process. As someone who has struggled with weight issues, I have come to learn that extrinsic rewards are not the way to achieve long-term success. You need to have an intrinsic desire to succeed and keep the weight off. I love watching the contestants flip out with excitement when they lose double digits in a single weigh-in, but then when it gets to voting off a contestant the discussion turns into who is perceived as a "threat". What does that even mean in this context? The only definition that seems to apply is "this person has a greater intrinsic drive than me and therefore does not require the extrinsic reward that is my motivation."

I didn't start watching this season until my friend KDT tweeted: "I hate to feel this emotionally involved in The Biggest Loser... but I am." We then proceeded to have the following conversation about the contestant Tracey:

K: are you watching? I can't believe Trac(y/i/ie/ee) would do this to Coach Mo!
M: I just started, as soon as I read your tweet. There is nothing competing against it on Tuesdays. Help me.....
K: also, she totally shot herself in the foot. Ugh.
M: She does have crazy eyes...awesome. [...] She meaning Traceeee and Jillian.
K: indeed, sir. indeed.

From what I gathered from the repetitive nature of the two-hour episode (aside: really, NBC?) the theme for this week was "choices". Tracey chose to give up access to trainers for both her and her partner Mo to get a two-pound advantage at the weigh-in. Later, there was a temptation challenge involving cupcakes. Whichever contestant ate the most cupcakes in ten minutes would get to choose one person on each team to be that teams sole representative at the weigh-in. At this point meritocracy only applied to the green team who won this week's immunity challenge.

At the weigh-in, Tracey selected the contestants who were generally less successful during workouts for the week, including people that she assured she would not select. Frankly, the type of gameplay exhibited here is a rare occurrence on reality TV. The only other example that jumps to mind is Wendy Pepper from the first season of Project Runway -- utilizing whatever advantage or foothold becomes available because there is no talent or ability to hang their hat on. It is fascinating from a reality television drama perspective, but the consequences in this case go beyond winning a talent show. The people who are successful at achieving the aims of the show lose the game while those who lose are the ones who prosper.

That doesn't seem right.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hank-y Panky

You saw the movie Memento, right? Fantastic film: I highly recommend it. For those who haven't seen it, the premise is that the main character is trying to solve the mystery of his wife's murder but he suffers from short-term memory loss.

Now, did you see the new Kelsey Grammer sitcom Hank on Wednesday? It is horrible. How bad? This afternoon I watched the pilot before my screenwriting class. In class today we watched Deliverance. There were more genuine laughs during that movie than during the 23 minutes I suffered through Hank.

What does Memento have to do with this?

Well, from what I could gather from the bad acting and clunky story (it is a pilot episode after all), Kelsey Grammer's character is perpetually a fish out of water. But not in the sense that the Beverly Hillbillies were fish out water -- they eventually adapted to their environment in certain ways. I mean that each scene revolved around Hank being discombobulated by the conditions of the scene. I think that could be an interesting concept, but that is not the premise of the show.

The premise is that Hank was ousted from the board of directors of some downsized New York company. For whatever reason he did not get a golden parachute, did not liquidate any of his assets, and for some reason is not able to get another job in the city. As a result he has to move his family down to Virginia near his brother. Sure, why not?

The thing is, Hank is only able to function in a corporate board room setting. For example, he instructs his wife to keep minutes at a family meeting. You know, The Simpsons stopped doing family meetings because none of the writers' families ever did family meetings and it seemed contrived. The family on this show felt the meeting was contrived and the (insane) laugh track makes the entire scene feel contrived.

The problems don't stop there. Due to their king size bed not fitting in the stairwell, Hank and his wife are stuck in a fire engine bed for the time being (yeah, I know). There were so many things that were just unsettling in this scene. First, there is zero chemistry between Hank and his wife. His complaint in the close quarters: "You're breathing on me." Unless halitosis or fire is involved, I don't think that is generally considered a bad thing, particularly if it is your spouse. Hank's wife (sorry, I don't remember her name and I am not watching it again) is also wearing earrings and what looks like a day-to-evening ensemble from Project Runway. As I tried to puzzle my way through the weird wardrobe selection, the couple spontaneously engages in a fit of passion. No organic catalyst whatsoever.

One of my friends in my program is doing a TV research project related to laugh tracks. I mentioned this show and he asked me how many episodes I think it will last. My answer: already at least half an episode longer than it should have. If only this could be erased from my short term memory.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


The Fall Season has finally arrived. Hooray! There are quite a few programs I am looking forward to, both new and returning, and I would like to share my instant opinions after the first episodes debut.

First up: Glee!

Alright, so this is technically the second episode that aired tonight. I thought Fox did a brilliant job of creating buzz for this program by airing the pilot after part one of the American Idol finale. There have also been preview videos available on iTunes. Normally I don't go out of my way to check out promo stuff on iTunes, but I recently got a new computer that doesn't grind to a halt when playing videos so I decided to check them out. I think this may have been a mistake.

The video I saw was the "Gold Digger" rehearsal sequence. I like how the show worked the song into the story -- juxtaposing it after the house tour sequence and using it as a foil to "Le Freak". However, I found the sound quality in the sequence incredibly distracting. Part of the problem is that the audio does not match the environment, which makes it quite apparent that the cast is lip synching. I think this is where the single-camera format is actually hurting the show -- if the music sequences were shot in multicam, then the audio quality would match and create the feeling of a live performance. However, switching formats could greatly alter the overall aesthetic of the show, so I'm not sure if this is a viable solution.

There are other audio issues that can be more easily addressed. The audio for the "Say a Little Prayer" sequence did not match up at all. The acoustics were wrong and it sounded like more than three people were singing. There is no reason for such a mismatch and I worry that this will be a recurring issue on the show. Case in point: "Take a Bow". There are a number of noticeable breaths in this version of the song -- breaths that the character Rachel is not demonstrating. Again, the audio makes it sound like someone just hit "play" on a CD and told the cast to lip synch as best they can. It is not as bad as Viva Laughlin, but I am still concerned.

In terms of story, I thought this was a good second pilot for the show. Characters are still being developed and conflicts are starting to get a little fleshed out. I'm still not 100% sold that there is enough meat for a long-running series, but there is certainly potential. My hope is that the show will avoid the trap of ending each episode with a relevant pop song ("Don't Stop Believin'" and "Take a Bow") to wrap up everything in a bow. It smacks of Dawson's Creek and other late 90's teen drama and it seems somewhat cliche at this point.

What I do hope sticks around is the "mailman in the windshield" metaphor. It would be great if that just pops up in episode nine and the audience is expected to remember what that means.

Overall, I'm giving this episode a solid B and will keep this on the TiVo for now.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Idol Rules: October Surprise

Tamyra Gray. LaToya London. Chris Daughtry. Tonight's elimination is going to add someone to that infamous list of 4th place finishers. What makes this year's fourth place different is that it is going to be epic no matter who ends up getting bounced. Seriously, set your DVR's, VCR's or watch tonight's elimination live, because it will be the most amazing elimination ever...

Part of my premise is based on the fact that I don't believe we are going to get the inevitable Adam Lambert-Danny Gokey finale that people have been predicting since February. Allison and Kris have proven to be quite capable and deserving of reaching this stage of the competition, and the complacency of the voters is going to shake things up.

I think the only person truly safe is Adam, since there was the wake-up call provided by his appearance in the bottom three (though not necessarily bottom two) last week. Although I didn't care for either of his performances last night, they were the most universally well-received so he has quite a big safety net. BUT if he does get eliminated, most likely because of complacency, we may see an entire auditorium shit themselves on live TV.

Eliminating Allison Iraheta will create an interesting scenario. As the last female and contestant-of-color, it's going to annoy quite a large group of viewers. However, based on this week alone, I think her elimination would be the most surprising. Adam and Kris were on the bubble last week. While the individual performances of Allison and Kris were not well received, her duet with Adam did earn her bonus points. I think the consensus would be along the lines of "she didn't deserve to go this week".

The awesomeness of a Kris Allen elimination will have a delayed effect. Besides being saddled with Gokey and a terrible song choice (Styx, seriously?), he then had to immediately follow up that performance. The cards are not in his favor, although his performance was my favorite of the night. What is interesting is that both Kris and Gokey have been attracting the "cougar" vote, a term that makes my poli-sci heart turn ice cold. I have no idea how valid that particular political cleavage is, but there must be some reason that some went with Danny and some with Kris and I don't see them jumping sides. In other words, if Kris is eliminated this week, I can see there being quite a bit of backlash against Danny next week.

And then there's Danny. Everything about the performance, from song choice to execution, just blared "Bad Idea". I haven't had an Idol WTF moment like that since that girl crying for Sanjaya during British Invasion week back in Season 6. Based on this week alone, Danny deserves to go home. However, can you imagine the reaction if one of the presumptive finalists is eliminated this early? Best of all, if Danny does get the boot, he has to do "Dream On" as his sing-out. How awesome is THAT going to be?

What do I think will happen? Kris and Danny will end up on the Seal, but beyond that I'm just not sure. I want Kris to stay (and perhaps win) but I think I may be clinging to a hope that just isn't there.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Idol Rules: Top 7 Redux

Let me share with you a couple of tweets that one of my friends posted during last night's results show:

way to go america, your entire bottom three is the brown people. i hate you. if allison goes, so do i.

just because you already voted for one person of color recently doesn't mean you used up your quota!

I find this response to be somewhat baffling. The underlying assumption here seems to be that the voting public should be considering the demographic balance of the remaining contestants when making their selection. For a show that is a popularity contest disguised as a singing competition I fail to see how last night's results are based exclusively on racism.

Lil Rounds needed to go home last night. It has been obvious the last few weeks that her passion for this competition has been extinguished and she was just trying to skate by. There are two issues at play here. First, she was put in the (arguably racist) Whitney/Mariah/Mary J. box where she had to be this season's "diva" (an incredibly loaded term). However, I think Lil's ultimate problem was that she is not a pop singer. That is not to say she is not a singer, she just lacks the bravado of a pop star. For example, let's take Josh Groban and ABBA. Josh Groban is a singer, but he isn't really a pop singer -- if he tried to do a cover of "Dancing Queen" it would be a hot mess. Conversely, if ABBA were to phonetically learn "You Raise Me Up" it would probably cause a rash of some sort in your earhole. Both Groban and ABBA have enjoyed success at their ends of the singing spectrum, but Idol is at one end while Lil is at the other.

Then there is Anoop. His race has nothing to do with why he was eliminated. His odious personality was the cause of his elimination. Performance-wise, he has shown improvement the last couple of weeks yet he kept finding himself in the bottom three. Obnoxiousness outweighs a good performance -- it is a popularity contest, after all. Frankly, I'm a little surprised he lasted this long.

Allison's appearance in the bottom three was disappointing but not all that surprising. You have five contestants left: Adam, who is probably still the frontrunner; Danny, who is a weakening contender; Kris who is the dark horse of this competition; Matt, whose fanbase was probably working overtime trying to keep him alive due to the save; and Allison who has been middling in the eyes of the electorate. The third person in the B3 last night was going to be Allison or Matt and it will be one of those two who go home next week, so I don't believe her skin color is playing a role in her appearance last night.

I'm guessing if Matt was in the B3, this post would not be happening. It is unsettling to see the contestants of color on the danger side of the stage, but the reasons they were there had very little to do with their skin tone.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Boyle-ing Point

This Susan Boyle thing is really starting to creep me out. For those of you who don't know who I am talking about, let me give you a rundown.

Susan Boyle appeared on the program Britain's Got Talent last week. She sang the song "I Dreamed a Dream" from the show Les Miz. After her performance, the audience was cheering and the judges all gave reviews that led to three "Yes" votes for moving her on to the next phase of the competition. Pretty typical reality show sequence of events, but that doesn't explain why Boyle is being described as an internet sensation. Some other facts to color the scene: Boyle is 47, unemployed, and, in her own words, lives with a cat and has never been kissed.

And then she broke the interwebs.

The consensus is that Boyle gave a good performance on the show. Many would say excellent and I have yet to see a review that called it anything less than good, so let's go with the less extreme opinion. However, that's where the joy ends. Many of the blogs that I subscribe to have shared their positive opinions on the Susan Boyle Experience and have since been inundated with flame wars about the varying degrees of opinions and the application of semantics.

People have taken offense at Boyle being referred to as "older". 47 is older than me, so I would describe her as older. But those in their 50's, who do not consider themselves "older", have expressed contempt for that term being applied to someone younger than them. There's "older" used as an adjective of comparison, which seems to be the more common usage in this case, and "older" used as a pejorative adjective which I don't think has been the intention of any use of the term.

The other issue that has come up is physical nature of Ms. Boyle. She is not ugly, she is not glamorously beautiful, she is just...average. I don't have any of her measurements, but she appears to be average in just about every dimension. If anything, she is the human manifestation of beige. This has created intense debate about lookism, particularly in the realm of talent based reality television. It is an interesting conversation topic, but the vitriol is getting a bit much.

There's nothing that bothers me about Susan Boyle personally. Her performance is a joy to behold, which also seems to be part of the general consensus. If anything, the presentation is a bit overwrought, but that is a fault of production and outside of her control. However, all this joy is eradicated as soon as people have shared their reactions on the web. Civility is beginning to go to the wayside because one person's joy does not necessarily synch up with another.

What I'm taking from the clip is that extraordinary talent should be celebrated, regardless of the source. Why does that celebration need to be shouted down by other celebrators?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Idol Rules: Top 7

I've been skipping out on the last couple of weeks of this section of the blog mainly because there wasn't too much to write about. Megan Joy and Scott MacIntyre were on borrowed time and the themes weren't that interesting either (songs that are available on iTunes and songs from the year you were born).

This week, however, SUCKED so there should be plenty to write about. Spoilers abound, so if you are still unaware of tonight's results read at your own risk.

Top 7 week revolves around the theme of fatigue. For the contestants, this is their 7th competitive week. That's seven weeks of rehearsals, 6 Ford commercials, countless interviews and public appearances, as well as being sequestered with the same dozen people the entire time. On the flipside, the audience is getting pretty fatigued as well. The show has been on twice a week since mid-January with over 48 hours of programming so far. That's 2 days worth of Coca-Cola product placement, off-key auditions, and Tatiana. It has taken 6 weeks to get rid of all the dead weight on the show and it is now reaching the point where a quadruple elimination sounds like a good idea.

The show tends to compound the fatigue by having the top 7 theme be something incredibly tedious. In the past it has been Billy Joel (season 2), Barry Manilow (season 3), the Great American Songbook (season 5) and this week's theme of movie soundtracks. Granted, this week's theme is pretty vague yet we end up with 6 ballads, two of which are attributed to Bryan Adams. The group sing this week was "Maniac", which would have been awesome if someone, anyone, had performed that on Tuesday. Instead, it was one snoozer after another with Adam Lambert being the only high energy performance. Then, because the show refuses to invest in a stopwatch, only two judges would critique each performance. This could have worked if Simon critiqued all the performances and they rotated who the second judge was. Instead, Paula and Simon critiqued the odd number performances while Kara and Randy flapped their gums for the even number performances. And the show still ran over. Way to go.

There is one thing to look forward to with the Top 7 elimination: Solomon. Two groups of three would be formed on stage. The last ungrouped contestant would then be asked to join which group s/he thought was safe. Yes, it's manufactured drama, but depending on who the show made Solomon could make things interesting. I could see Danny or Anoop being totally assy about the whole thing while Matt or Kris would likely be devastated. The last couple of seasons Melinda Doolittle and David Archuleta were the Solomons and they refused to make a choice. Maybe that's what the show was trying to avoid by not doing Solomon this year. Thanks, show.

This week's bottom three were Anoop, Matt and Lil. It should be noted that the two guys were evaluated by Randy and Kara. It was then revealed that Matt was on the block this week. He might be next week also because the judges decided to save him. In other words, this tedious week was pointless. Not cool show. Also, we're going to be stuck with a Top 5 situation which always makes the show awkward.

But that's a couple weeks away. Next week is disco which could go really well or really badly.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Idol Rules: Top 9

This installment is a bit late this week because I had to think off what sort of political lesson could be gleaned from this week's episode. Well, it's almost 72 hours later, which leads me to think that there really isn't anything all that surprising about the how's and why's that caused Megan, Anoop and Allison to be in the bottom three. The three of them gave performances that ranged from bad to tepid and they were in the front half of the broadcast which doesn't help them in the memorability department.

However, I did find myself surprised that Megan was eliminated this week. If you followed my Idol Tweets on Tuesday, I predicted that Anoop and Allison would be joined in the bottom three by Matt and that Anoop would be going home. I also stipulated that VFTW, Vote for the Worst, would be able to keep Megan in the competition one more week. I think if this was any other season, that prediction would have held up with a larger pool of mediocre performers to sloosh through.

In short, I'm kind of phoning it in this week since there really isn't much analysis on how to best navigate the theme of "pick a song that was downloaded by somebody that one time". At least, there's nothing that hasn't already been covered in the previous weeks. Hopefully "Songs from the Year You Were Born" (AKA De Facto 80's Night) will offer some more insight.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Idol Rules: Top 10

Week three of American Idol is what I like to call “The Audit”. The music theme is usually broad enough that no contestant should fall outside of their comfort zone. In the past the themes have included “Songs from the Year You Were Born”, “Songs on Gwen Stefani’s iPod”, and this week’s theme of Motown is making its second appearance for the Top 10. Now that we know who is boring or entertaining and have a vague notion of each contestant’s Idol identity (for the most part), the audience can now offer the following evaluation: who do we still want around?

I realize that this sounds obvious, as it is the basic concept of the show. However, the voting in the third week doesn’t reflect who America likes – it reflects who America really doesn’t want around anymore. This week also allows viewers to figure out where the fanbases are located and how they have dispersed now that three contestants have been eliminated. Lastly, the contestants now must use their performing abilities and their identities to create memorable performances. Let’s look at the results.

Notably absent from the bottom three was Megan Joy (Corkrey). Her identity as the candidate of the website Vote for the Worst has helped her, as well as the fact that she has given memorable performances. These performances are not good, but they are still memorable (“caw caw” begat “influenza B” begat “For Once in My Life” making Stevie Wonder wish he was deaf also). However, one thing that I noticed during the results show occurred right before Ryan announced that she was safe. There were some girls sitting behind Simon who were yelling “no!” when Ryan asked the audience if they thought that Megan was in the bottom three. You can tell these girls were not of the snarking/VFTW mentality because they are sitting behind the judge’s table. Also, if you consider who supported Alexis, who was ousted last week, the most likely contestants they would rally behind would be Megan and Allison. Megan is not going to win, but she may be around longer than people will expect...or like.

In eighth place this week was Scott MacIntyre. The best synopsis of his performance came from Idolator:

“You know who I think of when I think of dudes singing "You Can't Hurry Love"? Phil Collins. You know who wore paisley shirts in his videos, and was very likely to pair them with things like pinstriped blazers? Phil Collins. You know who is not a contemporary artist in any way, shape, or form in 2009? Phi... oh, you know. I blame the wardrobe department for this a little bit, I admit.”

Aside from being a total Phil Collins performance, this was the third Phil Collins type performance in a row for Scott. I actually had Scott picked to be in the bottom three since yesterday afternoon, before the show, because I knew he would retread the same boring, unmemorable path. His identity saved him this week, but I can’t imagine his fanbase growing.

The surprise of this week’s bottom three was Matt Giraud. He went first, which is a less than enviable position on a two hour show, and gave a somewhat tepid performance of “Let’s Get it On”. My initial reaction was that it sounded like it could be the background music for a Country Crock commercial. Matt’s challenge right now is that he has to share his piano guy identity with Scott. Although he is getting praise from the judges for his vocals, most of the guys this season are strong on vocals so it falls back to performance and identity. The good news is that if Scott is knocked out, Matt will get a large chunk of his fanbase. The bad news: Scott had more votes this week.

Michael Sarver got the boot this week, which was not too much of a shocker. His performance of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” wasn’t good, but it wasn’t memorably bad the way that Megan’s was. He was also plunked down right in the middle of the show before favorites like Adam, Lil, Danny and Allison performed. He failed to develop any sort of identity, instead relying on a “taking it to church” type performance which he described as “off the cuff” and “fun”, which makes me wonder what type of church he goes to on Sundays.

I am curious to see how Sarver’s fanbase will disperse, as there is no obvious analogue. I suspect some will move to Megan (the last remaining country style contestant) and Kris (because of objective cuteness), which is bad news for Matt and Scott.

So here are the rules for week 3:

*The rules from previous weeks carry over. If you fall behind and don’t make up your missed rules, you will be in trouble.

*The fanbases are starting to solidify at this point. Wooing voters will require performances that deserve being rewarded.

*If the home audience can not differentiate your week 3 performance from any of your previous performances, you will be in trouble.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Idol Rules: Top 11

So this week's Idol theme was a Salute to the Grand Ole Opry. Sort of. Two songs were attributed to Garth Brooks, two for Carrie Underwood, and two for Martina McBride. Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless and Willie Nelson rounded out the representation. I can't criticize the depth of the representation because country music is an area I am not all that familiar with so I don't want to overstate my expectations. Fortunately, for our purposes, this week isn't about song choices. This week is about Identity.

Last week, success relied on avoiding being boring while on the stage. This week that theme is extrapolated as the contestants should begin to establish an identity that the public can latch onto. Some contestants already have pretty firmly established identities. Kris Allen is The Cute One; Lil Rounds is the R&B one (racist? A little bit); David Gokey is the one with the dead wife -- he has been able to drop that part of the image and latch on to the faith leader role; Scott McIntyre is the blind one; Anoop is the overachiever. Yes, some of these identities are on the cynical side, but when has American Idol ever been about nuance?

Matt Giraud, Megan Joy Corkrey, and Adam Lambert all are in a cultivation phase. Matt's original identity was that of a dueling pianist with an R&B twist. However, Scott is leeching away at the piano identity marker which could hurt Matt in the long run if Scott sticks around too long. Megan has yet to settle on an identity of any sort on the show but is the selected one for Vote For The Worst. She has dropped "Corkrey" from her name which may not hurt her as it doesn't seem diva-like in her intentions. Right now she is moving in the direction of becoming the Bad Luck Kid which could keep her on beyond her expiration date.

Then there is Adam Lambert. I actually liked his "Ring of Fire" performance, though I can see why it would infuriate others. It immediately reminded me of Blake Lewis and his rendition of "You Give Love a Bad Name" and Daughtry's version of "Walk the Line". The major difference between those performances and Adam's is that the other performances were later in the season. I think if this was week four or later, Adam probably would not have gotten dinged so hard by the judges and the public. Adam does not fit nicely into any of the Idol boxes which makes risk-taking far more dangerous. Adam needs to define his own box before he gets too experimental.

That leaves this week's bottom three: Allison Iraheta, Michael Sarver, and Alexis Grace. Allison has almost the opposite of Adam's problem. Idol is going to try to stuff her into the "She's Only 16 and a Rocker Grrl" box. I don't think she wants either of those identities and even if she did they are not going to help her win. Age is irrelevant and rocker grrl's have had a terrible track record on this show. Not only that, but she has already played the "Alone" by Heart trump card. I'm a huge Allison fan but I fear she is not going to be around much longer.

Michael Sarver is also in big trouble. His identity has been the Oil Rig Roughneck, which I don't really expect to resonate with the Hannah Montana crowd (aka the majority of voters). Also, I think there was an expectation that Grand Ole Opry night should be in his wheelhouse and Sarver only gave a so-so performance. In other words, he should not have landed in the bottom three on his gimme week and he did. However, during tonight's result show he talked about his daughter and how much he misses her, so if he is able to cultivate that into his narrative he might be able to regain some traction.

And then there's Alexis Grace. I liked Alexis but she was in big trouble this week. "Jolene" is an awesome song but did not seem to mesh with who the real Alexis is. During her send off video they showed the clip of Alexis at her audition and Kara advising her to dirty up her image. In retrospect, this was poorly delivered advice. I think what Kara was going for was grit, which Alexis did need, but trying to get Alexis to move toward Christina Aguilera during the "Dirrty" years was not the right move. Also, this version of "Jolene" seemed almost antithetical to Alexis' previous performance of "Dirty Diana". Sadly, I think this was the right call.

So, week one is about establishing yourself as a performer. Technical precision is not as big a deal so long as you are not boring. DO NOT BE BORING. If you survive to sing in week two, you need to establish your identity. If people can't remember your name, they should be able to describe you with a phrase like "the cute one" or "the blind guy". If you can't be described in fewer than six words, you could find yourself on the seal.

What are your thoughts on this week? What songs are you hoping for during Motown Week?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Idol Rules: Top 13

Tonight I actually rushed home so I could see the American Idol results show. I know, I know, that's probably something I shouldn't be admitting in public. But did you see last night's show? It wasn't the best show ever, but it was the first episode since Bon Jovi night in Season Six (we're in Season Eight now, folks) where I wasn't bored. This week's theme was Michael Jackson, which I think people, myself included, didn't realize the type of challenge such a theme would present until three or four songs in.

Michael Jackson isn't a singer -- he's a pop star who performs pop songs. Pop songs are usually not "singer songs", meaning that there usually isn't a range of notes and the melodies are catchy and uncomplicated. This became evident last night as the contestants tried to put their own spin on each song. Ultimately, performance counts more than technical skill, or to paraphrase one commenter I read this morning: Boring goes before bad. As a result, the contestants who were universally regarded as safe from elimination this week were ones who had more engaging performance. Those who were considered on the bubble were the contestants who tried to finagle the song but not necessarily have a good performance. Scott MacIntyre's performance fell into this trap, which led to one of the most awesome quotes from Simon: "You can be artistic, just not on this show." Because of this weird dichotomy of performance vs. talent, there was a lot of disagreement across the blogs about who would be in the bottom group and ultimately sent home. My predictions were dead wrong because I didn't consider which performances were objectively boring.

There were only two objectively bad songs last night: Megan Joy Corkrey's rendition of "Rockin' Robin" (which ended with a "caw caw" that I must have missed as I was twittering about the performance and not paying attention) and Anoop Desai's "Beat It". The latter song choice suggests another rule that contestant's should consider: If a song has served as source material for Weird Al Yankovic, it probably isn't a "singer's song" and should be avoided. However, both contestants were performing last night even though their song choices were questionable. They both hit the seal tonight, but survived.

The two who didn't survive were Jasmine Murray and Jorge Nunez. Both sang their songs adequately, though I only found one other reviewer who agreed with me that Jorge's song wasn't that bad. There was nothing particularly remarkable about either of their performances -- they just sort of sang their songs and moved on. No rocking out, no instruments to play, just standing there for the most part singing. Both were talented, but both were boring. The major problem I have with this particular elimination is that two of the four people of color in the finals this season have been eliminated and a third was on the cut line.

The results show was also intriguing, as this is the first time I think in the show's 8 year history where a results show contained more than 5 minutes of actual content. First, they introduced the Judges' Pass, where an eliminated contestant has the chance to get a reprieve if the entire judging panel thinks America got it wrong. It can only be used once and is available up until the Top 5. For starters, it creates the illusion that the departing contestant's singout is now a "Lip Synch for Your Life" type situation. I have a feeling the pass will likely be a non-factor, though I could see the judges using it at the Top 6 elimination just because five singers has always been an awkward number for the show to work with. Also, it doesn't completely eliminate the October Surprise shocker (i.e. Tamyra Gray, which still breaks my heart). There is a legitimate concern that Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert essentially have a free pass in their back pocket, but again I think that danger will happen after the pass expires.

Oh, and tonight's group sing (a mish-mash of "I Want You Back" and "ABC 123") was one of the best ever. This group sounds really good together. However, the less Danny-centric the choreography can be, the better. So much thrusting. Gross.

So what rules did we learn this week:

*At this stage of the competition, boring will lose out to bad.

*Weird Al's source material should be avoided.

*Your singout will not save you, so don't depend on it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Viva Glam

At Brandon’s suggestion I’ve decided to try my hand at recapping my favorite new reality show: RuPaul’s Drag Race. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that it has taken almost 9 years since the birth of the competitive reality TV genre for a show of this level of fabulousness to come around. Anyway, to watch the show instead of reading about it, it is on Logo Mondays at 10pm, posted on Logo’s website on Tuesdays, and rerun on VH1 at some point within the week (next week’s episode will be rerun Tuesday at 9pm). This recap is for episode four.

Previously on Drag Race, the queens were asked to channel their inner Oprah by reading a teleprompter story about Britney Spears hooking up with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. You know, our foreign policy already has enough challenges and something tells me that the Iranians aren’t going to find this challenge as amusing as I did. Bebe totally rocked the challenge and the runway show and won immunity for this week. Shannel and Akashia (who I think I’ve seen live once or twice) were in the bottom two and had to lip-synch for their lives to “The Greatest Love of All”. During the duel, Shannel’s headdress fell off and she persevered to survive. Of course, this was Akashia’s third duel in three shows so it was about time to kick her to the curb.

Six queens remain. Who will sashay away tonight?

The contestants enter the workroom and Ongina notices that all the mirrors have been covered or removed. Speculation and panic abounds as the she-mail arrives. A lot of reality television, for better or worse, relies on puns for establishing the show’s branding. Project Runway has the “In/Out” dichotomy, Big Brother “evicts” their “houseguests”, contestants on The Apprentice are “fired”, so on so forth. “She-mail” transcends all of those. Anyway, RuPaul pops up on the screen to deliver four readings of “who do you think you are,” placing the stress on a different word each time. No one really gets the message and after watching this episode three times I still don’t fully understand how it applies. I think Ru may have been working on her audition for Barefoot in the Park.

Male RuPaul enters the workroom and greets the contestants. He recaps that all of them have received criticism, some even constructive, from the judging panel but that the contestants have yet to critique each other. Oh, this should be good. Ongina is asked to critique Shannel. Ongina focuses her critique on Shannel not really listening to criticism. In a talking head segment, Shannel gets all defensive and it seems to be a case of hearing without listening, which is profoundly irritating for everyone involved.

Bebe suggests that Rebecca shows more Rebecca and, in a talking head interview, wonders if it is a question of identity or if Rebecca is just being strategic. I’m not really sure how effective it is to hold back when you are in a drag queen competition, given that exuberance is kind of part of the job description. There is not a lot of Marion the Librarians hitting the clubs is what I’m saying. Rebecca says in an interview that she hasn’t had a chance to show her personality because the other girls won’t shut up.

Nina thinks that Jade is too shy and should trust her instincts. Shannel also jumps in with similar advice and you can sort of tell from the editing that the room may have ganged up on Jade while trying to be helpful. RuPaul asks Jade why she has been so guarded and she talks about being hurt a lot and not wanting to be vulnerable.
RuPaul thanks everyone for their honesty and goes on to explain the challenge. He says that they will get the chance to do one another, but not in a Ki Ki type way. I don’t think basic cable is ready for that just yet. Instead, they will be doing one another’s make-up. The pairs are the same as the advice pairs from earlier, so there’s bound to be dramarama. Rebecca notices that Bebe is less than thrilled about who her partner is and calls her out. Ongina is rather excited that she is paired with Shannel and Nina and Jade seem okay with their partnership. The twist: each person gets only thirty minutes. Wow. I think Nina said back in the first episode that it takes about two to three hours to do her own makeup, so a half hour is pretty useless.

We see some frantic application and get a few soundbites here and there. Shannel thinks she has this in the bag while Bebe is concerned about having no clue what she looks like. After the second group is done, Ru walks back in flanked by the two shirtless Pit Crew guys. I guess now would be a good time to remind all the straight male readers who the target demo is for this show (read: not you). RuPaul goes down the line and holds up a mirror so all the contestants can see how they look. It’s a little tough to judge this competition given that the rest of the look (hair, outfit, etc.) is not a factor. It’s sort of like judging the makeovers at the JC Penney cosmetics counter. Regardless, Ru determines that the winner of this challenge is Jade. Shannel doesn’t take the news well since she prides herself on her makeup technique. Whatever.

With the winner announced, RuPaul gives the details for the main challenge. He starts by telling the contestants that he was the first spokesmodel for MAC Cosmetics’ “Viva Glam” campaign. The contestants will star in their own 10 minute screen test for an “I am a MAC Viva Glam Woman Because…” ad. Jade gets 15 minutes for winning the challenge. RuPaul then introduces a MAC VP who goes on to explain that they will be talking about the product in relation to the MAC AIDS Fund. As a final reminder, the contestants will be judged on their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. Almost as awesome as “she-mail”. “Gentleman, start your engines. And may the best woman win.”

After the Pit Crew and company leave, Jade asks if they can take off their faces. Nina is a little offended since Jade supposedly liked the makeover. Jade says she doesn’t want to do a photo shoot in that particular makeup. For some reason Rebecca interjects that Jade shouldn’t do the shoot with her nose looking the way it does. Bebe is shocked by this and Nina quietly says “Don’t put words in my mouth girl.” You see, if this were Top Model, the term “bitch” would have been used at least a dozen times by now. This exchange shows that, even with the cattiness, there is still classiness.

Back from commercial, Nina rehashes the challenge and all the queens share what their approach is going to be for the task at hand. Ongina is particularly excited. “I grew up in the Philippines so I’d never thought I’d get a chance to do this in my life.” I had no idea that Manila and MAC were mutually exclusive. Rebecca gets philosophical about the challenge since the HIV/AIDS angle really hits home for a lot of people. Bebe tells us that it hits home, as in her home in Cameroon. I really like this juxtaposition of a serious topic on what could, at first glance, be seen as a really goofy reality show.

We see more footage of the contestants getting ready, including Jade who decided to go with a Janet Jackson “Nasty Boys” inspired outfit that is showing her midriff. You know that can be so risky depending on your body type. There’s this one performer in Cleveland who is heavily inspired by Brittney/Christina, but she has a very lean body type so she can get away with halters and the like. Although Jade has incredible abs, they are man abs and are somewhat distracting from the illusion she is trying to create.

Nina is first up for the screen test and she is concerned that her presentation will be challenged by the fact that she thinks in Spanish but she will have to speak in English and that time will be lost during the translation process. Come to think of it, speaking isn’t really a necessary component of a drag performance. I hope this doesn’t hinder Nina Flowers because I like her. She walks onto the soundstage where there are a bunch of props, including the Pit Crew guys. Nina asks for the couch to be moved and one of the guys moves it to center stage. “Thank you, Kenyon,” Ru calls out. I’m hoping that’s his name (Kenyon) and not a description (Kenyan). Ru doesn’t scream “Puerto Rican, start your screen test,” so I think it is the former. Filming begins and Nina starts to improvise her speech which comes off, well, improvised. Her speaking pace is rather slow, but there is almost a Katherine Hepburn meets Sophia Loren quality about it. We see a couple more takes and eventually Ru shouts out a two minute warning. “Oh my God” Nina says all pseudo-panicky. There’s supposed to be some modeling going along with the speaking, so Nina uses her remaining time to work it out on the stage. It looks like Nina had fun which I think will result in a lot of usable footage.

As the other contestants wait their turns, you can see that Jade, Shannel, and Rebecca are getting anxious. “The more time I had on my hands,” starts Rebecca, “the more time I had to just think. Thinking is,” she sighs, “I think my worst enemy.” That’s really sad, and I’m not being sympathetic towards Rebecca when I say that. Thinking is my worst enemy? Grrrrrrrrrrrl, fo rizzles.

Rebecca goes on stage and is in a Leona Lewis mime costume. Her plan of attack is to approach this as a PSA. This is your brain on lipstick? I don’t know, that kind of takes the “Viva” out of “Viva Glam”, but let’s see how this goes. Rebecca shares with us that one of her close friends has AIDS and that is taking an emotional toll on her screen test. Eventually she is overwhelmed and walks off the set after prying a water bottle out of RuPaul’s hand. She goes into the women’s restroom and we can hear sobbing.

“One of my best friends,” Rebecca sobs, “he has AIDS and he’s…dying.” In a separate interview, Rebecca reflects on how this may have really screwed up her chances on this challenge. Meanwhile, Bebe questions whether Rebecca is putting up a front or playing the game. I’m wondering if that interview is being taken slightly out of context, but that might just be me not tempting karma by questioning someone’s grief.

Jade walks on set for her fifteen minute screen test. She has patter and choreography going on with her screen test and it reminds me of my all time favorite episode of America’s Next Top Model where they have to film improvised Cover Girl commercials. They were so awesomely bad but Jade’s (a different Jade) was abysmal. The dialogue that this Jade is improvising is really awkward. “So I make sure that I make time to spread awareness on different epidemics and stigmas that are affecting our community.” Stigma awareness? Really? Jade then goes into a dance sequence that incorporates a whip. Oh dear.

Next up is Bebe wearing a gorgeous ultramarine dress with gold detailing and a gold headdress. She says her outfit is reminiscent of what women would wear back home to celebrate. Awesome. Her screen test is also treading PSA, but there is a bit more optimism than Rebecca had.

Ongina bounces onto the set wearing a low cut candy striper’s New Year’s Eve ensemble. Her style for the ad is focusing more on the theme of celebration, including the tagline “Educate. Donate. Celebrate.” Ooo, that’s good.

Last up is Shannel. Hmm, you know that thing I said earlier about Marion the Librarian? Well that appears to be the look that Shannel is going for in her ad. We then get a series of quick cuts that suggest that the ad has turned into a ten minute speech about the history of MAC and AIDS. Even the Pit Crew is bored, which is really bad news since it is their job to just stand around and look pretty. RuPaul actually has to stop the clock to remind Shannel that this screen test is for a thirty second ad. Shannel interviews that she completely misinterpreted the task at hand. You have to listen, girl.

The next day the queens return to the dressing room to prepare for the runway show. Shannel expects to end up in the bottom two as does Rebecca since they both totally dropped the ball on this challenge. I agree. Also, I don’t really like either of them so it makes no difference to me which of them leaves.

Time for the Main Stage Show! Tonight, RuPaul is wearing a purple, heavily-tasseled gown. At least I think it’s purple, but the lighting and soft focus is so overwhelming that the dress is probably fuchsia or perhaps beige. Ru introduces the judges who are Merle Ginsberg, Santino Rice, the MAC VP guy, and Jenny Shimizu. The show begins.

First up is Jade who describes his look as dominatrix but looks more like a demure version of the outfits from the “Free Your Mind” video. The actual outfit is fine but Jade looks so mannish in it. Next up is Bebe in a black and white pattern bodysuit topped off with a Joan Collins Dynasty hat. The whole look actually screams “Joan Collins”, but Bebe makes it work. Rebecca looks like she is going for Rihanna-overly-sampling-Halle-Berry. She painted a large black star on her right eye which actually helps to complement the black and white striped halter dress. Ru makes a bunch of KISS and jail break comments, all of which are fair.

Ongina struts down the runway with all sorts of fierceness. She’s wearing a black dress with a poofy skirt and a small white jacket. She has a lot of makeup on which is slightly obscured by a tiny black lace veil. Ongina has on some gold heels which don’t really help the look but aren’t too much of a distraction. Nina Flowers takes the stage and is wearing a black pantsuit accessorized with feather covered gauntlets. Hmm, I’m not sure how I feel about this look. I like the idea behind it and I can see how it works with Nina’s aesthetic, but it doesn’t really work with Nina. She has looked much better in previous challenges. As she turns to head back down the runway, she loses her balance on one of her heels. Oh no! She recovers but looks pissed. Last up is Shannel and, oh geez. She’s going the showgirl route again, this time juggling pins as she walks down the runway. The judges are impressed and even more so when she turns around to reveal that the entire outfit is backless. “The juggling never ends,” RuPaul quips.

RuPaul reintroduces the challenge and tells the girls that the contestant who wins the challenge will become a Viva Glam spokesperson. That’s a great prize. Judging begins with Jade and as she walks down the runway we see Ru tilting her head in curiosity. “I did notice back there that you were adjusting your junk,” she says. We’ll have to take Ru’s word on that one because they didn’t show it happening. Jade says she wanted to be presentable and opens her jacket to show the final result. RuPaul takes a moment before clarifying that perhaps a full tuck isn’t possible for Jade, if you know what I mean. Jade sheepishly nods in agreement. Jenny is the first to offer a critique on the outfit. She thought that Jade came off as timid and I can sort of see where she is coming from with that observation. We go to the video of the screen test and it isn’t great. Jade comes off a little robotic, like Small Wonder robotic, and they kept that stigma awareness line. The judges are lukewarm about the video as well. Santino tells her he is seeing less of a star and that she needs to “step up or check out.”

Rebecca is up next for critique. Santino doesn’t like the outfit and says the makeup makes Rebecca look like a raccoon. Harsh, but kind of fair, actually. The video is okay, though it is a little heavy on the PSA tone. Ru also mentions the whole walking off the set thing which Rebecca tries to excuse with the whole “hitting close to home” argument. Honestly, that’s a really obnoxious argument to make. I’m sure every one of the contestants knows someone that is directly affected with HIV/AIDS, so it is almost a given that the topic is going to “hit close to home” for everyone. RuPaul advises Rebecca to seize every moment as she could have given the editors way more to work with if she used the remainder of her screen test time.

Ongina’s first critique comes from Jenny, who loves the name and compares her stage presence to Naomi Campbell’s. The MAC guy mentions that there’s too much makeup before they look at the video. Most of the video was in black and white, but all the reds were colored in creating a really nice visual. The whole panel loves Ongina’s presentation. Yay!

Shannel is next and Santino questions whether she is trying to be the next great drag performer or circus ringmaster. Ouch. Also, right on! The video is really wordy and Shannel also fell into the trap of sounding improvised and awkward. Santino rips into Shannel some more, saying that there was no glamour and the aesthetic was church lady/Sally Jessy Raphael. Again, right on!

Nina Flowers comes down the runway for judging. The panel thinks Nina looks too mannish in this outfit, though the MAC VP guy likes the gauntlets. “Can you fly with them?” he asks, leading to Nina flapping her arms and cawing. Love her! Her video starts with shots of her modeling and voicing over “I am…a MAC…Viva…Glamorous…Diva.” Then there is a shot of Nina on the couch frantically asking Kenyon “Papi…turn the fan on!” Fabulous! The panel loves it and so do I.

Bebe steps forward for her critique. Jenny tells her flat out “I would be completely doing coke with you if this were the 90’s.” This cracks up the panel so I guess that is high praise. The video is a little weird. It has the voiced over PSA vibe and a lot of shots of Bebe modeling. RuPaul calls the presentation powerful, which I agree with, but it is not necessarily engaging. It wasn’t a bad video, but Nina’s and Ongina’s were much better.

RuPaul dismisses the queens so the judges can deliberate. They start with Rebecca, highlighting that she can’t get caught up in her emotions and that the whole screen test was low energy. Ongina gets praise across the board. The MAC VP guy says that Ongina is quick with her answers, but that she always has the right answer. Santino appreciates Shannel’s showmanship but calls her “circusy”. RuPaul also reiterates the point of Shannel not listening. No one liked Nina’s outfit, but they loved the video. RuPaul’s comment for Jade: “There’s still a lot of snakes on this muthafuckin’ plane.” Santino calls her mediocre and Merle thinks Jade can’t own the room. Jenny loves Bebe’s presence and how she is capable of mixing fashions in an artistic way. MAC VP guy liked her screen test, but he didn’t seem overly enthused about it. RuPaul acknowledges that it is going to be a tough pick this week.

Nina is safe. Bebe had immunity, but that doesn’t matter because she is safe. Rebecca is in the bottom two. Ongina is complimented on her style and screen test. Ongina wins! Yay! She starts sobbing and crouches down to the floor. Wow, that’s…kind of a strong reaction. Everyone kind of looks at her not sure what to do. Ongina eventually stands up and tells the panel that she has been living with HIV for the last two years and that the win means a lot to her. Put another way, shut up, Rebecca. “I didn’t want to say it on national TV because my parents doesn’t [sic] know.” Whoa. This is raw. “You have to celebrate life,” she sobs. RuPaul calls Ongina an inspiration and congratulates her on still being in the Race. Nina interviews that “Ongina has balls to admit to the world her situation.” Absolutely. Ru reminds everyone that “You all are sisters. We are all family. And if one of us is in pain, we are all in pain, we are all in trouble. So let’s be joyous so we can all be joyous.”

RuPaul moves onto Shannel. She advises her to stay open to criticism before declaring her safe from elimination. That means Jade joins Rebecca in the bottom two. RuPaul tells Jade that she has plateaued and that Rebecca needs to move forward despite obstacles. The next obstacle: They have to Lip-Synch for their Life. This week’s song: “Would I Lie to You?” by Eurythmics. Hmmm, neither performance is all that interesting, though Rebecca has a more dominating presence on the stage. This is a close one.

RuPaul takes a moment before telling Rebecca “Chantez, you stay.” That means Jade will have to sashay away. She doesn’t like losing to Rebecca. “Rebecca is the fakest bitch I ever met in my life.” The girls dance off the stage, though Shannel lingers a bit to flirt with the judges. Boo.