Archive for the 'TV' Category


Dress You Up

This week the girls get to play with some real live dolls. These fierce fairy queens have to drag five tomboy bruisers out of the fight and into the light — and down the runway. How hard can it be? Women wear drag all the time: Dolly … Cher … Edina and Patsy.

After last week, Rebecca is clearly public enemy Number One. Shannel, for one, can’t wait to see her go. It sets up another nice rivalry. Shannel wimps out at first, when the lady fighters lead the queens in a boxing ring workout. But then she rallies and comes back swinging, ultimately putting up the best fight against Rebecca.

But Rebecca pulls out ahead. Her reward for winning the mini-challenge is decide which boy gets paired with which girl. But all of those women look like a challenge to me. How much can she really stack the deck?

Since episode two, when Rebecca said she’d eliminate Shannel, she has shown herself to be a fiercely smart competitor. Of course, the assumption is that Rebecca is sabotaging the others. But behind the curtain, and “under the hood,” she says she tried to split them up fairly.

It’s touching to see the boys coaching the women. You get the impression that they’re giving the lady fighters real life advice, not just runway pep talk. And to their credit, the fighters are game for this challenge. They do their best, but it’s not like they’d normally be seeking this kind of “help.” It’s as much work for them as the workout was for the queens. These women are not gonna go back home and put these new skills to use.

This episode plays with the meaning of drag. In the runway show, the real women look no different from men in drag. Is this show about men teaching women how to act like women? Or is it about men teaching women how to act like men acting like women? How many layers are there?

What’s real? It’s almost as if the women have to exaggerate more than the queens do to “act like women.”

What’s natural? RuPaul says Mia has a “natural beauty” — but only after Mia has been all dolled up by Nina.

The results are impressive, and this is a tough one to judge. Clearly it’s getting hard on RuPaul. He has said many times in the press that he was surprised by how close he got to the competitors. He excuses himself before he can give his verdict this week. I just want to know where he goes. To meditate? Is there a chapel in some corner of the studio where he prays? Does he call in a life line? Does he consult the Psychic Friends Network?

The lip-synch showdown was a disappointment with Bebe practically tearing herself to pieces. Is everyone going to flip their wigs from now on? Is this what it takes to win?

What made Shannel’s performance remarkable was how she ran with an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction and turned it around. I don’t think ripping off your hair shows passion; I think it’s just kind of ugly. But someone has to go. Au revoir, Ongina.


Ryan Ong Drops a Bomb

Ongina: Good things come in small packages.

What a shocker this week! Not the win, but the reaction. And the drama is kicking up a notch.

The “dolls” are competing to a be a spokesperson for M.A.C Cosmetics. It’s a pretty cool deal. She’ll be the public face of the M.A.C AIDS Fund. Each queen has to demonstrate in a screen test what makes her a Viva Glam girl.

We start with a round of constructive criticism. The self-analysis is a bit tedious, so thank goodness it doesn’t last long. The take-away is that Rebecca is feeling isolated, partly out of shyness, partly because she thinks the other girls are hogging the spotlight. Everyone wants to see more Rebecca. Quien es esta niña?

The focus on Rebecca and Jade is interesting, because it begins to bring out the conflict. I’ve always thought of them together as the dark horses, because they are always the safest: not bad enough to go home, not good enough to win. They are probably competing with each other more than with the other queens. And now that their group of rivals is shrinking, they are more and more exposed. Some shit is gonna hit.

The girls pair off to do each other’s makeup. You know Shannel thinks it’s in the bag, just because she does good makeup all the time. The importance here, however, is not the skills but the results. Jade wins the mini-challenge, but all it gets her is five more minutes for her screen test.

For the screen test, Nina pulls out another pants suit, but she works a sort of exotic, regal glamour. This looks a little to me like her audition video. When she gets the words down, she’s a real charmer.

Meanwhile, whatever Rebecca has done to her face is not working. Has she been out in the sun too long with her oversize D&G sunglasses? Even worse is her breakdown.

Apparently, like many of us, she has a friend with HIV. But in her case, it’s so emotionally overwhelming that she can’t even finish her screen test. I have a hard time believing it’s real. Look at how sensitive I am! Look how in-touch I am! Whatever. She’s taking someone else’s tragedy and making it about herself. So not “viva.” So not “glam.” So not winning.

Jade’s screen test is a worthy effort, but a little too “Welcome to my Home.” It’s well-prepared, but the words don’t match the whip.

Bebe’s grande dame Africana is gorgeous. I thought she might win this week. But even this could not match the effervescent Ongina, who I thought looked like a boy in mom’s makeup. But her tone and her optimism wins me over. She stages the shoot red balloons, an empty picture frame, a silver tea tray. Where’s the party? And, OMG, I want learn how to write backwards, too!

Shannel, once again, is all talk. Even the models are rolling their eyes. “You might want to try something that actually fits into 30 seconds,” RuPaul says. It’s like pouring your soul out in a phone conversation after the person on the other end has hung up. I’m so glad you understand me. No one else listens like you do. Hello? … Hello?

In the runway show, many are clearly safe. Bebe is glorious as Cameroonian Ascot Gavotte. Ongina looks to me like she did in the first episode. Nina, winging it literally this time, is an exotic bird in a punk-rock pants suit and feathered gauntlets. But she is not very womanly. Merl complains about the arms, but it’s the chest that kills it for me. And I wonder which intern’s head rolled over the slippage on the stage. (Maybe it was from Rebecca’s hysterics.)

I still think Jade looks manly, too. He’s going for dominatrix, but all I saw was permed lion-tamer. By the way, what is it with RuPaul’s obsession with his junk? “There’s still a lot of snakes on this motha-fuckin’ plane!” she shouts.

The runway’s more dramatic changes are born of desperation. Rebecca takes a risk as a glam-rock KISS roadie. And we see that her screen test didn’t go nearly as badly as we were led to believe, though it is rather artless.

Shannel moves on from last week’s huge jugs to juggling. The circus has come to town! She teeters between supreme overconfidence and abject failure every week. I wish she’d stop talking so damn much and just see what’s happening around her. Again, the screen test was not awful, but she is lucky to escape the bottom two.

Jade and Rebecca face off for the lip sync elimination. Jade is a little too precise, not enough Annie Lennox, but Rebecca is all rock ‘n’ roll. And she gets a little ruthless, pushing Jade down to her knees &#8212 a little too harshly. Jade walks out of the show full of piss and steam, and Rebecca stays on to feel the survivor’s guilt another day.

The most dramatic moment is the announcement of Ongina as the winner. He breaks down and confesses to the world (and his parents) that he is HIV positive. It immediately changes the tone. Ru’s shoulders drop, and she melts into an icon of compassion. Merl is crying. Santino is shaking his head. But Ru brings it back with a simple acknowledgement: Ongina is an inspiration, and these kids are all sisters.

Ongina’s screen test and personal philosophy seem all the more remarkable and meaningful in this light. And it makes Rebecca’s freak-out moment all the more bizarre and insincere. Rebecca says, “It’s not a challenge. It’s personal.” That may be true. But while others may witness the disease, Ongina is living it full of happiness and energy and strength.

This is why I love this show, these surprises. I am continually amazed that a competition ostensibly about surface and image is so revealing of inner beauty. When these girls bounce back, they are not just picking themselves off the floor. They are elevating themselves six inches higher — and further.


25 Songs To “Lip Synch For Your Life” To

In every episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the two contestants with the worst scores are made to compete against each other in what RuPaul likes to call “Lip Synch For Your Life.” Recently, these little contests have been fascinating microcosms of drag desperation.

I’ve always admired the queens who sing for themselves. It seems more honest to me. But lip lynching (done well) does require its own set of skills. It got me thinking: If I were made to lip synch for my life, what song would I wish for?

So, in the spirit of Facebook’s recent “25 Things” phenomenon, I present to you:

25 Songs to “Lip Synch For Your Life” To
1. “More Where That Came From,” Dolly Parton
2. “Love Is a Battlefield,” Pat Benatar
3. “Fist City,” Loretta Lynn
4. “Kiss Me Deadly,” Lita Ford
5. “Alone,” Heart
6. “Money Changes Everything,” Cyndi Lauper
7. “Sooner or Later,” Madonna
8. “I’m the Greatest Star,” Barbra Streisand
9. “It’s Today,” Angela Lansbury
10. “Anything Goes,” as sung by Patti Lupone
11. “Fancy,” Reba McEntire
12. “Chain of Fools,” Aretha Franklin
13. “Diamonds are Forever,” Shirley Bassey
14. “Twist of Fate,” Olivia Newton-John
15. “Karma Charmeleon,” Culture Club
16. “Is You Is or Is you Ain’t My Baby,” Dinah Washington
17. “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” Dusty Springfield
18. “Murder on the Dance Floor,” Sophie Ellis Bextor
19. “Love Letters,” as sung by Alison Moyet
20. “Vibeology,” Paula Abdul
21. “I’ll Be Your Shelter,” Taylor Dayne
22. “No One Is Watching You Now,” ‘Til Tuesday
23. “Steel Claw,” Tina Turner
24. “You’re Making Me High,” Toni Braxton
25. “So Emotional,” Whitney Houston

Some of these are obvious (e.g., “Fancy”); some of these I just think would be fun (“Steel Claw”), either because it’s very fast or very slow, or it’s a real rocker or it’s very quiet, or because it’s sexy or it’s just silly, or because the original performer has a signature style or because you could make it totally your own, or because there are a lot of words or because there’s a long time between verses (what are you gonna do with your hands and feet and face when you’re not singing?).

In my research, I came across this special treat. It’s not a lip synch, but it’ll do.

What would be your 25?


Drag Queen of the Damned

What, me work?

Poor Akashia just cannot catch a break! And for once, I feel sorry for her.

Her exit interview segment is incredible. She opens like a flower and spills out a shower of jaw-dropping humility: “Shannel deserved to win…” “I had so much fun, and I’m so happy to be here, and I’m so happy for the other girls…” It goes on and on.

“I have not cried in, like, four years,” she wails. Honey, maybe there’s something to that.

I think she’s relieved. All that pressure to out-bitch everyone else. They’re not crocodile tears. Now she can be a real girl.

We started out a little weak in this episode. Jade took the Oprah challenge way too literally, all but smearing a burned cork on her face and putting on a minstrel show.

And then Shannel proclaims herself expert of all things Winfrey. “There’s no challenge for me here,” she says. No challenge? Oh, you know that’s the first sign there’s a problem. The moment you get that comfy, you’re in deep enough to drown. I’m noticing that the ones who are convinced that they’ve won don’t typically do so well.

I’m still a little disgusted that not a single one of them could pronounce “Ahmadinejad.” OK, it’s a hard word at first sight. But it’s not very Oprah-like to blurt out in its place any old random combination of letters, is it? At least be a sport and sound it out. It’s the vocal equivalent of pounding out the middle row of keys: “sdjfjsdkafajkdsfjkasdfhkasdf”

Then it gets a little better. Nina Flowers with a blow dryer: priceless. And Ongina’s Connie Chung crack exposed enough white guilt in me to make me laugh out loud. (There’s a little bit more of her in the video extras online. Worth watching.)

Unfortunately, I have zero interest in seeing Tori Spelling and her hubby interviewed. I would rather have seen her as a judge. Instead, this insertion came off as poorly executed cross-promotion. Dean does get one point, though, for painting his toe nails and trying on a pair of heels.

Akashia was the predictable diva bitch on the floor. No grace at all. On the opposite end, was fur-festooned PETA nightmare, Nina Flowers. Her language barrier worked against her at first, but her playfulness won me over. Of all the contestants who screwed up her lines, she was the best at admitting it and moving on.

Shannel — what a talker, again. She was interviewing herself. She says she was being sincere and true. Yes, but sincerely and truly a self-indulgent bore.

It seemed poetic that she should be covered in snakes in her runway session. She is so slick and untouchable, poised and still, and very sharp and dangerous. Total Las Vegas surface. Meanwhile, pixie-like Ongina was a cutie pie in baby-doll chic. Some girls need the big hair, but I love how good this one looks bald.

Rebecca Glasscock is g-g-gorgeous, statuesque and classy, but I still feel like she is holding something back. She is so safe. She doesn’t fail the challenge enough to get cut, and she doesn’t succeed in the challenge enough to win. How long can she hold out?

Jade makes me feel the same way. In her swaying, flossy nightie, she was a little too Eva Longoria-meets-Joan Crawford accepting the Oscar at home. It was an odd shape for her body. And that enormous belly-button bauble — a huge distraction. I love the wink, though, when Ru says she can stay.

Bebe Zahara Benet pulled out some Lion King on us again. God help me, but I still love it. She deserved to win. I bless the rains down in Africa, because we are on fire up in here!

When Nina walked out, Ru totally nailed it: Madonna at 50. It’s the first thing I thought. (Are you there, Madonna? It’s me, Nina.) She has proven herself to be more versatile than I would have expected. In the “Under the Hood” segment, after the girls make fun of themselves for about 10 minutes, Nina walks in.

Loca! (my new favorite catch phrase of the show)

She rips off her wig, looking for all the world like Uncle Fester just stepped away from the M.A.C counter at Macy’s, and blows the roof off the place. I think her linguistic challenge has made her into an excellent improviser. She is always Nina — but show Nina is is constantly unfolding in ways that I think surprise her as well as us.

And then Akashia. I’m mad she fell, mainly because there were already enough reasons to cut her. To add that shame makes the whole thing sadder somehow; she’s almost less deserving of the hook.

The whole time during the runway show, I was wishing we had Tammie Brown back! That would have been her strength. And I can see her wackiness shining through in the interviews. What a loss we suffered in episode two! Shannel rightly gives Tammie props at the top of the episode. (Shannel may be a loquacious know-it-all, but she is also very graceful.)

So, it came down to now standard baseline-setting Akashia and a clearly shocked Shannel. And what an amazing Lipsynch For Your Life it was! First of all, how incongruous for that big-tittied medusa to be singing “I believe the children are our future.” Girl, she believes the children are our lunch. And I never thought I would see a white girl from Vegas — even with a headdress — out synch the Queen of the Damned with a Whitney Houston standard. But she was on it. And when it all fell apart, how inspired — to tear off that drag. Just keep going. Peel off the layers, dig down with those press-on nails, and find the greatest love — something human and vulnerable, inside of me.

Both girls fell and both girls dusted themselves off and got back up and gave us everything we needed — and made the final decision as tough as it should be.

“This is not then last you’ll see of me,” says Akashia, peeling off her bumps later in the green room. I desperately hope not.


New Eddie, New Patsy

Variety has announced that the American version of Absolutely Fabulous has cast its Eddie and Patsy.

Kathryn Hahn, from Revolutionary Road, will play Eddie, and 3rd Rock From the Sun‘s Kristen Johnston will play Patsy. (I was sort of hoping they’d get Jennifer Coolidge in there somewhere! Alas…)

I recognize Hahn, but I don’t know from where. I remember liking her, though. (Unless I’m thinking of Ana Gasteyer.) And I think Johnston could be a passable Patsy-esque character. But this show still worries me.

There is little in this world that delights me as much as watching the original three seasons, but it’s a classic. I love it now because I loved it then. I think AbFab’s time has come and gone. Even Jennifer Saunders should not keep it going in its original incarnation. Whatever gets produced here will have to be unrecognizably different from the original, and then what’s the point of doing it in the first place?

The characters of Patsy and Eddie relied on their memories of the free-wheeling ’60s and ’70s and the outdated vices and fashion sense they brought with them into the ’90s. New-Eddie is old enough to have a 15- or 16-year-old daughter, but only just. What will new-Eddie’s vice be? Too much Pac-Man? And Patsy’s? (Well, that could still be anything.)

Two things give me hope:

1. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are not playing the lead roles (though I don’t trust them not to make a cameo at some point).
2. Jennifer Saunders is staying on as a producer. I don’t know how involved she’ll be in writing, but maybe some of her wit and charm will rub off.

Fingers crossed…


I Heart Justin Long

I probably won’t see the movie He’s Just Not That Into You, whether or not it’s a chick flick, but I sure am into this cute little promo video for all the straight guys out there with girlfriends who do want to see it.

Ahh… How could I ever get a PC?


Sweet Low Down Tammie Brown

Episode 2 has convinced me that RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of the best shows on TV. It is not only fun and at times educational, but also surprisingly heartwarming, and ironically, very real. These guys are a few sequins and a couple of falsies away from being Barbie dolls, but they really are putting some realness back into reality TV.

OK, lame. I know that was a line from the show’s promotional campaign, but I’m seeing now why it’s also true.

Tammie Brown with an 'IE'    
“See you later, in the magazines. Wah wah wah wah.”

One of the benefits of watching the show online is all the extra revealing goodies to be found there. Among my favorites are the “Under the Hood,” segments shot in the green room, just the girls talking among themselves, revealing insecurities, critiquing themselves and each other — and also building each other up. (Maybe the best part of these clips is the intro and outro with the RuPaul Barbie doll, voiced by none other than Miss Ru herself!)

These guys reveal over and over what integrity they have as performers. Each one in his own way wants truly to elevate the art of drag and raise his own level of performance. (Well, all but one, so far. Akashia seems simply to want to show off and wow the judges, but doesn’t seem to think she has anything to learn.) These are not second-rate gender fuckers. These ladies are practitioners of an art form — and drag, when it’s done well, is really a nexis of several disciplines.

One of the best parts of Episode 2 was the way it allowed each of the guys to play to a strength, and it gave everyone an opportunity to learn something from one of his competitors — and, honey, every one of these guys has something to learn. It also demonstrated that the contestants who respect their peers are the ones who will succeed.

The eliminations are also very revealing. Rebecca Glasscock is one smart competitor, but by no means is she a cut-throat. Asked who she would eliminate if forced to choose, she pointed to the one she saw as her strongest competition, Shannel. In a back-handed way, it is the ultimate compliment. But she also clearly had a hard time throwing her teammate under the bus. And Shannel can certainly understand her sentiments.

Shannel, for her part, stepped beyond graciousness and called out Ongina as a brilliant team leader. These are the little gems, the little rewards, scattered throughout this show, like the size 20 rhinestones in Shannel’s make-up kit. It seriously makes me cry a little.

Shannel is smart and interesting and undeniably talented. Clearly she has put a lot of thought into her work and the philosophy of drag. But lord in heaven, she is like an earnest, wordy, overzealous honors college student at Drag U. Sometimes I just want her to shut up and apply some eye shadow or something.

Ongina, the talented captain, said she would have gone down with the ship. Nina admitted to being the weakest link and would have graciously stepped down if not for her immunity. There is real honesty here, real class and humility.

And then there is the other, uglier side of things.

I agree with 77% of the TV audience and said Akashia should have gone. This is strictly on the basis of her being such an awful team leader. Fierceness is more than an act; you have to back it up with talent, or you’re going to be found out. She was in charge of makeup in her group, but her own makeup was probably the worst on that stage. And even as the resident bitch, she is just a bore. In this week’s “Under the Hood,” Tammie is talking about positive energy, and raising up her hands with her fellow queens and swaying in unison. It;s a little Kum-Ba-Yah, a little hokey, but Akashia is sitting there insolently giving everyone the finger, and it is so not classy.

That said, I’m glad Akashia was able to redeem herself at the end, leaning pretty hard, in my opinion, on that time-honored fall-back, the lip synch.

No denying it: She brought it. Michelle Williams cried, feeling touched and rewarded by Akashia’s grasp of the lyrics. And in the end we see that, for all her theatrics and all her cuntiness, Akashia still cares about the judges’ opinions. She radiated after her life-saving lip synch and showed that she is not made of stone. We all want to succeed. And maybe now that she has come so close again to getting cut, she will wise up and play this game a little smarter and with a little more grace.

Meanwhile, for Tammie, there was nothing sadder than her half of the lip-synch showdown. “Break the Dawn” never sounded so melancholy. The girls stood downstage holding their breath. Jade held her hands to her face, seemingly on the verge of tears. Tammie did her best to move to the music, but she did not attempt a single word of that lip synch. At one point, she raised a hand up and waved, parade style, and it was clear that she was really waving good-bye to those judges. She knew it was over. Rather than exiting quietly, she was all but forced to lay down on the tracks.

I had such hopes for quirky ol’ 1940s pin-up girl fit model-cum-cracked-out glamourpuss housewife Tammie Brown. She was the clear underdog. She was from another planet. She was misunderstood and underestimated. And, again, with her departure, I think the show is missing some diversity. She stands out as a unique persona. What she does well, no one else on the show can do better. But she wanted out, and she made her exit with as much hammy dignity as she could muster.

With the specialty girls getting picked off first, I am finding that the ones who remain tend to be the most well-rounded. To win this thing, you need to bring the skills. Already we have seen that you must be able to sew, to play well with others, and to learn a song and choreography tout de suite — or at least fake it pretty damn well. Circumstances and fate led Akashia and Nina to survive this time. Poor Tammie’s weakness was exposed, and she was sent packing.

the untallied hours

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