Conspiracy Theorists Unite!

dancing-with-the-starsI have been a fan of Dancing with the Stars since the beginning and as far as I am concerned it just gets better each season.  More stars, more extremes, less training time and more injuries, all make the show more and more compelling to watch!

The elimination of two of the show’s stars before the curtain even went up was certain to make for an eventful season premiere.  This season the stars only had four weeks of rehearsal time, which seems little enough time already, but then when disaster struck for two of the contestants and producers announced that they would recast those two couples, it seemed sure that the replacements would be among the first to go.  nancy-odellWhen the show began and the thick plotened, it was announced that Nancy O’Dell had dropped out of the competition on Friday, giving her replacement only 48 hours to prepare for the premiere episode on Monday night.

jewel1Poet and singer Jewel, it was announced, had fractured tibias in both legs and was unable to continue in the competition.  Producers replaced her with former “Girl Next Door” Holly Madison (not to be confused with Dolly Madison, something the “star” is clearly not particularly familiar with).  Holly MadisonHolly’s bio on the DWTS web page states her profession to be “Reality Star”. (Hmmm…  Reality… star… By definition that doesn’t seem possible, but I digress.)

My hopes were not high for this former Hugh Hefner honey, but I was pleasantly surprised to see her do a passable job on the dance floor.  After scoring a mere 18 points things look less than certain for this insane brave young woman, but given that she’d had only one week to learn the dance there’s a chance that she’ll improve in the ranks and make a decent showing.

The real surprise came when it was announced that Nancy O’Dell had a torn Meniscus, a piece of cartilage in the knee intended to evenly distribute your body weight in your knee, which left unrepaired could result in arthritis in the knee.  O’Dell dropped out of the competition on Friday and was immediately replaced by recently jilted Bachelor “star”, Melissa Rycroft, who is beginning to come across as a little bit of a media whore.  With only two day to learn and “perfect” her routine it seemed unlikely that Rycroft could possibly make a good showing so it was quite a surprise when she tied for second place with Olympic Gymnast Shawn Johnson (who, by the way, slipped just walking down the stairs in the shows opening).

Actually, Melissa Rycroft’s performance was quite impressive and she absolutely deserved the 23 points she got.  Head Judge Len Goodman, however, outed Rycroft as being a trained dancer, pointing out that she clearly had some dance training and he believed it to be ballet.  (Correct you are, sir!  Plus when not plastering her face all over your reality TV shows, she works as a Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleader.)

Can you say “Ringer!”?  It has got me thinking…

Now, I should probably be wearing a tinfoil hat, as I’m turning into a bit of a conspiracy theorist, but here’s what I think is going on here.  Ms. Rycroft wants to be famous (and really, who can blame her.)  This is why she studied ballet to begin with.  This is why she became a Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleader.  This is why she auditioned to go on The Bachelor.  And things were looking really good for a while there.  I never have, and never will, watch an episode of the Bachelor so I can’t speak to how things went for Rycroft while she was there, but I know that she made it to the end and received the marriage proposal.  I also know that in the “after the final rose” special that immediately followed The Bachelor Season Finale, this past Monday, she was unceremoniously, and from what I’ve read (thanks bloggers) rather cruelly dumped.  What a bitter end to an otherwise decent run.  What to do?  What to do!?

And then it became abundantly clear!  Dancing with the Stars was just about to start and she had a background in dance!  She may not win the entire competition but at least she can make a nice showing for herself.  But, damn!  The show has already been cast.  No problem!  Tonya Harding has nothing going on and she needs to eat… A lot!  Seriously, have you sent his?

tonya-harding1

So she hired Tonya Harding who conspired to attack Nancy O’Dell and injure her knee, put her out of the competition and then Melissa can step in at the 11th hour and save the day.  A brilliant plan!

On the other hand, I suppose it’s possible that Nancy suffered her injury legitimately and Melissa was the first person they could get to take on the challenge with such short notice and she only did it because she already has some dance experience and won’t look a total fool.  I suppose it could be that.  Maybe.

Two Is Better Than One

My latest foray into sobriety was pretty short lived.  Not that it was very whole-hearted.  Or even particularly necessary really.  But I had decided to take a little break from the drinkin’ for a bit.  Certainly only for a little bit anyway, as the holidays are coming up and between celebrating and trying to forget there was bound to be some inbibation taking place.

Anyway, I was down to my last couple bottles of wine in the rack and I just decided to not buy more when that was gone and take a little break from things.  The final bottle was finished off on Saturday and that was to be the end of that for a while.  I thought maybe, I’d only drink a single drink when I was out for dinner, or at a friends (Read: Green M&M‘s since I don’t have any other friends that I socialize with.)  Otherwise I’d just not drink.  For some reason, voicing this decision to another living soul is a little too intimidating for my taste.  So when it was decided that Green M&M was going to come over for our weekly/bi-weekly Dancing With The Stars viewing party I mentioned to her that I didn’t have any wine.  She was going to bring a bottle from home but it wasn’t going to be cold because this conversation took place after she’d already left for work.  Upon further discussion however, it was suggested that she should bring dinner with her from our favorite Tacqueria, Tacqueria Cancun in Berkeley, CA.  They make really excellent Mexican food and sell it out of a restaurant in a really terrible location.

See, I hate Berkeley to begin with.  It’s crouded and poorly laid out.  Getting anywhere in Berkeley, in my opinion, is far more difficult than is worth whatever you may be going there for.  Because of this, I do not go to Berkeley any more than I absolutely have to (which is actually ever Tuesday night since that’s where Insightful Therapist‘s office is.  Fortunately she’s just on the edge of town and getting there and back isn’t too much of a nightmare.)  Green on the other hand grew up in Berkeley, and thinks nothing of the chaos that surounds the burg.

Since Green would be going through Berkeley to get dinner, she’d be that much later getting to my house, which was understood and perfectly ok with me, but then she suggested, “While I’m doing that, you could go to the store and buy a cold bottle of wine.”  I don’t think she really appreciated the humor in that statement.  “…buy A bottle of wine”?  Just one?  Really?  Funny, funny girl!  Why buy one, when you can buy eight?  The wine in question is comparable in price and quality to Two Buck Chuck so it wasn’t a tremendous expenditure.

I went to the local grocery, (real name Lucky, but I insist upon continuing to call it Albertson’s, because Albertson’s has always been the superior brand and I do not like that they reverted all Northern California stores back to the Lucky brand) to purchase the aforementioned vino and then headed home, with just about an hour to chill the wine and clean house enough to make things presentable for the delicate sensibilities of the fairer sex.  When I arrived home I immediately put one bottle in the freezer, and two bottles in the fridge, ostensibly so that it would be cold the next time I wanted wine.

The bottle in the freezer was split down the middle with dinner and we each had our share.  A while back I took to adding diet lemon-lime soda to my wine – a spritzer if, you will.  It was entended to cut the wine and have it go farther but instead it has just made it easier to drink faster.  Anyway, I opened the second bottle after I finished eating my burrito (Carne Asada, if you must know.)  By the time I turned off the TV to go to bed a little before midnight, I had finished off the second bottle.

This doesn’t actually, really concern me all that much.  I mean, it’s not like I “tried” not to drink it and couldn’t help myself.  I just didn’t give it much thought.  And I wasn’t drunk when I finished it.  It takes a lot more than a bottle and a half of wine to get me drunk.  And I didn’t have a hang over when I got up this morning.  Yes, I over slept, and yes I was late for work but that’s because I was up until after mindnight, and because I slept so badly over the week-end.  (I oversleep and am late for work on an almost daily basis, so today is nothing special.)

Maybe I’ll take another break from “the bottle” after these remaining six are gone.  Or maybe I’ll just throw in the towel until January and then give it another shot after the torture of the holidays has blown over…

I Have-a the Hate-a for Heba

OK, so I don’t watch a lot of “Reality TV”.  I think it’s lame and contrived and the people on them usually suck.  All the “game play” that’s involved and the manipulation just pushes all the wrong buttons with me and makes me angry and hate the people involved.

There are a handful of these “Reality TV” shows I do like though.  Most of them are shows that do not involve this type of manipulation.  For instance:

DANCING WITH THE STARS

I love Dancing with the Stars!  I admit that when the show first started 4 years ago I thought it was going to be a ridiculous, lame show.  Really, who wants to watch a bunch of B-list celebrities and has-beens make idiots of themselves and dance (badly) for however many weeks.  I was so not going to watch it.  And then I found out that Kelly Monaco was going to be one of the contestants.  I used to like General Hospital.  I used to like her character on General Hospital.  I wanted to see how she would do and maybe support her.  She was terrible!  At first.  I was really disappointed to see that she wasn’t any better than she was.  But the show was more interesting than I anticipated, and the musical selections, while not always particularly fitting to the dance style, were interesting, and on more than a few occasions I have been reminded of old music that I liked and wanted to have on my iPod.  And then Kelly impressed me.

She was genuinely terrible in the first episode.  Looking back, I can’t remember if she really was worse than Trista Sutter or not, but somehow she survived the first elimination.  She also showed that she would take the show more seriously.  She actually listened to the judges critiques.  She worked on the things they asked her to work on and she showed she could put in the work and improve.  She won the first perfect score of the series and ultimately, she was the first Dancing with the Stars champion, and in my opinion, well deservedly.  John O’Hurley, however was a perfect example of what I hate about so many reality shows.  He was a sore loser.  Plain and simple.

Over the years the celebrities that have been on Dancing with the Starts have covered the gamut.  There are definitely a plethora of B-list celebrities and has-beens, but there are also some contestants who really are quite talented.  I’ll never forget Stacey Keibler and her unexpected natural talent.  I’ll also never forget how she threw the competition away in the finals because of an injured ankle.  Not that I don’t think Drew Lachey deserved to win but it was a real competition up until that point.

THE MOLE

The Mole was another example of an excellent “Reality TV” show.  I was late to that party, as it was one of the first round of these shows and I was staunchly opposed to jumping on the “Reality TV” band wagon.  But some way through the first season it got my attention and I decided that I was interested in checking it out for the second season.  (The fact that Anderson Cooper was the host didn’t hurt any either!)  Then of course it ended, until this past year when it was brought back and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Missed Mr. C. quite a bit though.

I like The Mole, because it’s interactive, in that the viewers get to try and guess who the Mole is, along with the players.  But I also like that the contestants can’t directly sabotage each other in the game.  Players are eliminated based on their scores on a test each week, which is based on things they may or may not have observed over the course of the competition.  If they guess correctly who the mole is, they stay in the game.  The one person who gets the lowest score on the test goes home, and it’s not because someone betrayed them or because they were less conniving than others, it’s because they made the wrong guess about who they thought the mole was.

THE BIGGEST LOSER

I only started watching this show recently, and only because I like Alison Sweeney.  I wanted to see how she did as a host.  The idea of watching a “Reality TV” show about a bunch of fat people who feel sorry for themselves and lose a bunch of weight in an unnatural amount of time and only because they have nothing to do with their time but work out for hours a day everyday with supervision for four months, was of no interest to me.  I never imagined a show like that would work and I wasn’t about to throw away hours of my time watching it.

The show, once I did start to watch it really grabbed my attention, which was unexpected.  It’s a really emotional experience for me in a number of ways.  As an overweight man, it’s emotional for me to see these unhappy people get this once in a lifetime opportunity to change their lives for the better.  To see the nearly miraculous transformations that they undergo, is, I’ll be honest, a little jealousy inducing.  Especially when you consider the fact that while I probably wouldn’t really ever go on such a show, they wouldn’t have me if I wanted to.  I’m not fat enough!

My first season to watch this show was the season when Jillian Michaels came back.  I thought she was horrible.  I thought she was harsh and unkind and way too hard on her players.  By the same token, I was absolutely in love with Bob Harper.  He’s beautiful.  I love his ink.  He’s got that sexy slightly southern accent.  And the shot in the show’s opening of him on the balance beam with all his weight on his hands with his feet out to the side always starts a little party in my pants.

Now, however, many seasons later, my opinions have changed.  I still think Bob is sexy and I wouldn’t kick him outta my bed, but I also think he’s too into the game play aspect of the show and not enough focused on the players.  Jillian, on the other hand has shown several times over, that she wants her team members to succeed.  She doesn’t care about the game.  She wants every one of her team members to do the best they can, to make a change for the better and to be the happiest people each of them can be.  Jillian’s Mother is a therapist and it’s clear that Jillian has either been through therapy herself, or she’s paid attention to her mother’s wisdom.

This season is only 6 weeks in and already she’s helped Michelle and Renee (mostly Michelle) to mend their relationship.  Renee is Michelle’s mother, and for reasons that have not been revealed, Renee walked out on Michelle’s father and took two of the three daughters with her, while Michelle was away in college.  Michelle felt abandoned and betrayed, and she hadn’t interacted with her mother for several years before coming on the show.  Michelle was ready to pack her bags and leave because she felt she was betraying her father by being there and by working on her relationship with Renee.  Jillian helped her work through that.

This season is only 6 weeks in and already she’s helped Colleen begin to overcome her self doubt and her fear of heights.  This week she took her team to a ropes course and she helped Colleen to overcome her fears and climb the 20 foot pole to the platform at the top and jump off.

I don’t mean to over inflate Jillian’s saintliness (in this same episode she said, “In this weeks ‘last chance workout’ I want to make someone throw up.” with a wicked smile on her face.) But she’s demonstrated that she genuinely cares about her contestants.  She wants the best for them.  She wants them each to accomplish as much as they can while on The Biggest Loser Campus.  I was right.  Jillian is harsh and mean and hard on her players…  and they usually love her for it.  I could use a little Jillian in my own life from time to time.

I like The Biggest Loser because the elimination is only partially based on popularity or game play (usually).  The elimination starts with the weigh-in (which needs to be revamped but that’s another subject entirely) by finding out which team (first and then two individuals later) has the lesser percentage of weight loss for the week.  Then the members of that team must decide whom to eliminate.  Ideally the decision is based on a thoughtful consideration between “who is my biggest threat” and “who can help keep us from coming back to elimination next week.”  Usually, that’s how it seems to go down…

Not this week.

This leads me back to the title of this post.  There is a player on this season of The Biggest Loser named Heba.  Heba is evil and despicable and must be destroyed.  I pray that her comeuppance is coming!

It started last week or the week before when the shows challenge was a “temptation” challenge.  The challenge was simple.  The players were lead into a room that was piled high with all the things they should not be eating.  Brownies and Reese’s and Krispy Kremes.  They brought them into the room, showed them the food, explained the game to them and then turned the lights off.  Ali (Alison Sweeney) donned a pair of night vision goggles so that she could see what was happening and the rest of them were in complete darkness.  The deal was that the player who ate the most calories in this challenge would get to choose which players would go on which team and be with which trainer.  (This season was “Biggest Loser Families” and two of the families had already had one member sent home.  They started out as teams of two and they were now going to be restructured to the traditional Blue team and Black team.)

Almost as soon as the lights were turned out, Heba piped up and suggested that she was “willing to take the hit” and she’d eat A doughnut and then she’d keep the teams as is, with the trainers they’d already been working with.  She felt like she had to stay with Bob Harper and she was willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.  The challenge was for 10 minutes and there was quite a bit of decent in the group about whether or not they were willing to put their trust in Heba and let it go down that way.  I won’t bore you with the details.  If you care, you probably saw it.  But the point is, Heba won the challenge and got to determine the teams, but not before being pissed off at one of the other players, Phil.

She was given one hour to decide how she wanted to align the teams and in the end she kept herself on Bob’s team, along with a married couple, Vicky and Brady who she had befriended.  She essentially aligned the teams the way the were before, with the exception of Phil.  She put him on Jillian’s team while keeping his wife, Amy P.,  on Bob’s team.  She presented it, in the room, almost believably – but not quite, that she felt it was the only fair thing to do, because their were only two men left in the game and she had put one on each team.  The problem is, every one saw through it, and in her “confessional” interview, she made comments along the lines of “if you mess with me…”  She made it clear that she was going to split Phil and Amy P. up just to hurt the guy and she made it clear that she was going to put him on the other team so she wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore.

This week, Heba’s team was the lesser team and had to eliminate someone.  Unfortunately, Amy P. fell short and the team eliminated her.  Vicky and Brady both said that they were eliminating her because they believed her absence from the campus would weaken Phil, and strengthen their chances.  I hated them in that moment for being so petty and childish, but at least they were honest about their reasons.  Heba was the last to reveal her vote and she claimed that she “struggled” with her decision between two players, but in the end she voted for Amy P. because Amy P. posed a bigger threat to her.  REALLY!?!  Amy P. posed a bigger threat than Brady, the 280 pound man?  Yeah, uh huh!  I’m buying it.  Got any swamp land you want to sell me with that?

You may be wondering why I have some much vitriol about this, and to be honest, I wonder too.  The only thing I can figure is this.  Phil and Amy P. are good people.  They have a difficult life having three relatively young kids, one of whom is autistic.  They recognized that they needed help to make this goal happen and when they got to the Biggest Loser Campus they worked hard.  They have shown caring and concern for their fellow contestants and have shown that they deserve to be there.

Heba has been evil and vindictive since arriving and has shown that she revels in those characteristics.  She’s proud of herself and her behavior and thinks she deserves to be rewarded for it.  I find myself hating her, and I just hope and pray that in the very near future, something will happen in the game to make it possible for her to be eliminated and that when she is, it is with just as much ceremony and piousness as she has shown.

I recognize that this situation draws a parallel with my own real life circumstances and that’s why it hits me so hard, but I have real difficulty with people who manipulate and belittle other’s to get there way and I hate it with the red hot passion of a thousand firey suns when evil triumphs over good.  It happens way too much in this world and I wish I could make it stop!