Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Charm School 3 Episode 1: The Real Star is Jack Daniels

Can we be honest for a moment? My man JD is the real star of "Charm School." It's only too bad he can't host- but they could at least make him a dean.

"I Love Money" is far and away VH1's best reality franchise. I've joked that it's the greatest show of all time, but that sentiment is only the mildest hyperbole. I Love Money strips away all the artifice of reality shows by opening flaunting the characters' reasons for appearing. There are ultimately two reasons to appear on such programs: for fame, and money. It's not for "love" (although sex is apparently often a fringe benefit). And it's certainly not for "self improvement." We know this because the reality shows, especially those on VH1, are put together in such a way as to highlight the most boorish and disturbing behavior. We know this because the casts consist primarily of those in "entertainment" (usually strippers and/or pornographic film performers). What "I Love Money" does is supremely honest. Moreover, it has negated the need for reality show parodies. Once the artifice is stripped away, what's left to take the piss out of?

It makes me happy to watch it. It makes me feel good.

By contrast, the "Charm School" franchise is nothing but artifice. It's even more artificial than the programs in which our characters are supposedly looking for "love." The premise is that contestants from the "Of Love" shows are thrown together in a phony "finishing school" setting and taught how to be more "charming." The contestants selected are the worst, the most violent, the most trampy, the least considerate of others' feelings, because they need the most help. Supposedly. You and I, the viewers, know what's really going on.

We expect these women to behave in totally reprehensible ways. We expect to delight in this behavior. We do not expect them to learn anything. In fact, if they do, then they are frankly too dull to continue, and must be eliminated.

How serious are the producers about turning these contestants into "charming" young women? Well, the host and headmistress this season is Ricki Lake. Aside from her very charming first name and a delightful turn in John Waters' best movie "Hairspray," there's very little else that I find "charming" about her. Not that I have anything against her, either. She seems like an engaging enough person, but as she herself points out in the first episode, most of the viewers probably know her from her television talk show, which aired for 11 years.

Ricki Lake displayed real charm as Tracy Turnblad in John Waters' Hairspray. Hosting the third season of "Charm School" is now the second best thing she's ever done.

Think about that for a minute. Ricki Lake's show was on the air for 11 years. Do you remember anything about her show? It managed to be both deadly dull and trashy. No mean feat. Notwithstanding Marcia's touching admission that she learned to speak English by watching the show, I can't think of anything her show accomplished in 11 years.

And I use the word "accomplished" as loosely as this show uses the word "charm." Jerry Springer, for instance, accomplished the feat of creating one of the most fascinating and tragic television shows of all time.

Anyway, the one girl that Ricki deems has done the best to improve herself will win $100K. Really, who is Ricki Lake to decide that? She has a lot of power- one hopes she exercises it wisely. If I could remember anything about her talk show, I might be in a better position to judge this.

Brittanya tells us that she is "in freakin' in a lot of trouble with the law," and the $100K will help her pay for her lawyer, and save her life. Another quality of the VH1 reality contestant is that s/he seems to be often in trouble with the law. But this points up another problem with the show: How "sincere" are these characters in their desires to improve? To, in the words of So Hood, reach "the highest point of charmidity"?

Hard to believe that Brittanya, who spit on our beloved Heather from season 1 of Rock of Love, would be in trouble with the law.

One of the contestants, Ashley, said during the Rock of Love Bus reunion, that she and Farrah were trying to create drama to create an entertaining show. Can we trust anything she does on this show?

Then there's Beverly, mother to three children that must be traumatized, who wastes no time in getting drunk, and getting into a fight with Brittaney, the former pornographic film actress who stole socks and food during her tenure on Rock of Love Bus. Brittaney points out that Beverly might not be the best mother in the world, which causes no end of offense to Beverly.

"Brittaney Starr, the porn star, who does not have children, she's going to pass judgment on me as a parent...Wow. She. Needs to f*cking check herself at the door. Because I will light her up."

Spoken like a good mother. A good mother who goes on reality shows and gets drunk, shoves porn stars, and generally makes an ass of herself. I don't care what Beverly says, Brittany has had the sense to not procreate yet- she's already way ahead of you.

And now do you see the problem with this show? It's only a few minutes in and I'm already passing judgment on these women. These women who are willing to degrade and debase themselves for my own amusement. There is no greater sacrifice anyone can make.

Oh, except being a good parent to your children. That's probably better.

Bay Bay Bay points out that "the Rock of Love girls cannot control themselves and cannot control their anger." We certainly hope not. And we hope the Real Chance of Love girls can't, either.

Hopefully, Ashley and Farrah can parlay their "Charm School" success into personal appearances in bigger cities than Peoria Illinois (no offense, Peoria, but I've been there, and it ain't exactly Cleveland).

During the "pin ceremony," the girls are forced to show their charmingly giving sides by donating to Out of the Closet (which has some great thrift stores in LA). The hosts of Real Chance of Love (Lala) and Loveline (Stryker) are the deans. The Loveline host, Stryker, tells the women they're hot on the outside, but ugly on the inside, which seems an exceedingly uncharming thing to say to a woman to her face.

Ricki Lake tells the women that the first commandment is the vague "Thou Shalt Aspire to Be Charming." Well, yes, that's the point of the show, isn't it? It's called "Charm School," which implies aspiration ("school") to be charming ("charm").

When Ricki Lake asks them why they're there, and what they feel they need to work on, the reasons include excessive drinking, not giving a sh*t about anything, outspokenness, impatience, holding it all in, being hated, lack of class and manners and self-respect.

As Brittaney is making her donation, Stryker chastises her over her pornography past, and Brittaney mentions that she was not just a star, but a producer and director as well, who sought to empower her female employees. Ricki Lake interviews that "there are a lot of things that I would think would be empowering for women...directing porn; not one of them." Here's another problem with the show. One person's empowerment is another's tragic mistake, I suppose. Well, how about this:

"There are a lot of things that I would think would be empowering for women...hosting a daytime talk show for 11 years; not one of them."

Sting! How does that feel, Ricki Lake? Sucks to be you right now, right?

Which exposes the real reason for the exercise: The hosts get a chance to purse their lips and look askance at the women based on their stated reasons for being at the charm school, and their donated (stripper) clothes. Yes, they're strippers.

Further evidence of the lack of sincerity on the part of the producers: Immediately after the donations, the women are sent out on a "mixer," at which large quantities of alcohol are made available. On I Love Money this is all well and good. The stated aim of the show is not self-improvement. But making alcohol available to women who have just told you five minutes before that they have problems with self control and with the consumption of alcohol is, well, it's almost I hate to say it hypocritical.

Beverly picks a fight with Brittaney. "Brittaney needs to be smacked upside her big ass fake blond head." Beverly has been drinking. As she told Ricki Lake and the deans, "I have a problem with drinking." Beverly physically attacks Brittaney, bringing out the producers to pull her away, and causing Farrah and Ashley to titter.

As Ricki Lake says: "Physical violence will not be tolerated at 'Charm School.'" You see, they have standards. How can these women improve themselves if they're worried for their physical safety? She's expelled on the spot.

Beverly says: "I'm feeling a little bit bad because I don't want my kids at all to have to regret anything that I have done." She staggers out the door and off the show, losing out on the chance at $100K, learning absolutely nothing. Good riddance, you judgmental lout.

Bitter, angry, violent, judgmental, irrational, drunk. One would have thought that Beverly had what it took to go all the way in Charm School. Oh well- at least her children get to have their mother back again.

"Justice was served."

Later, the girls spend time with Ricki one-on-one.

Bubbles is my favorite: "I want to do cartoon voices." That is an awesome goal. There's nothing sexier than a woman who does cartoon voices.

Bubbles wants to do cartoon voices which means from now on I will never write anything even remotely derogatory about her. What a sweet angel!

"It's pretty shocking how a lot of these young girls are. And they're willing to kind of throw up on you in order to stay in this school," Ricki says during a one-on-one montage. Ricki: That is the point of the show. They're supposed to be honest about themselves, right?

Dean's List:


The other girls get sent to detention with Stryker, which is like being punished twice. They have to vote on which girls they think need to sent home. Brittaney, being the target of much irrational anger, gets three votes. Gia, too drunk even to write, also gets three votes. And then votes for Ashley.

After Ashley defended her, too. I suspect that Ashley, no stranger to drink, was victimized by Gia's excessive alcohol intake. Judgmental Ricki says Gia is clearly drunk and Brittaney's clearly a kook.

Well, Ricki, I think that any woman who hosted a daytime talk show for 11 years is clearly a kook, too? How do you like that?

Sting again!

I guess charm school headmistresses should be judgmental. That might be part of the job description.

Gia is expelled, and walks swayingly out the door, to throw a tantrum in the street, removing her shirt and throwing- beer bottles? "She needed more help than Charm School was able to give her."

Ricki, all these women do. Again, that's the point of the show.

Hot, drunk, removing her top, smoking, shouting vituperations, throwing shoes. Gia, call me.

Ricki Lake Hairspray pic source.
Beverly pic source.
Gia pic source.
Bubbles pic source.
JD pic source.
Blondourage pic source.
Brittanya pic source.


A.Jaye said...

Looks like the show's off to a good start.I'm relying on your recaps for this one Ricky.

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