Monday, July 6, 2009

Charm School 3 Episode 8: Thou Shalt Not Show Too Much Progress

A couple of weeks back, VH1 gave its viewers a great gift, by unexpectedly pre-empting the new episode of “Charm School.” My conspiracy theory- still unproven but that doesn’t matter with a conspiracy theory- is that they pulled the episode because of “Jon & Kate’s” “big announcement.” Whatever the reason, when I fired up the TiVo and found no new CS, I got that same giddy feeling that I used to get when I was a child, and I would awaken to learn that a foot of snow had fallen and school was cancelled.

The air outside smelled cleaner. I walked around with a disconcerting smile that worried my friends. When I went to the doctor for my regular yearly checkup, he remarked, “I have never seen you look so happy and healthy.”

I replied, “Well, this is going to sound stupid to you, but the reason I’m so happy is because ‘Charm School’ wasn’t on this week.”

“Oh, really?” he said. “And I set my TiVo for that, too. Say, who do you think is going to win? Risky?”

Naturally, I walked out. Ever since that day, I’ve been searching for a new doctor. I do not want the person who is giving me physical examinations to have an active interest in such a rotten show as “Charm School.” S/he should be reading the latest on prostate health, not rooting for Risky, for crying out loud.

That said, my former doctor is probably correct- I expect Risky does have the best chance of “winning,” for whatever that is worth (and it’s worth $100K, but nothing else). She’s shown a lot of “progress,” at least since Kiki and So Hood left, and she seems the most practical. Of the remaining contestants, only Marcia has a real chance against her (Brittanya has been trying too hard to keep her nose clean the entire season, out of fear of her impending jail term, and as a result hasn’t got enough of an arc). As long as she’s able to not be too obvious when smacking down Ricki, as she did last week, she should coast to a win.

Anyway, this week there was no new episode of “Daisy of Love,” and my conspiracy theory for that is, since very few people are watching the show, VH1 thought no one would notice.

But back to “Charm School”:

“Sometimes, you have to send home the girl who’s shown the most change and keep the girl who’s less charming and has further to go. That’s the hard part of Charm School and that’s the part that seems unfair. But in the end, it’s best for everyone.”

That is the powerful rationalization offered by the worst television host in history, Ricki Lake, after sending home this week’s expelled student. What can you say about a show in which Ashley, Brittanya, Bubbles, Marcia, and Risky are sympathetic, and the host is completely loathsome and arbitrary?

These “girls” are trapped in some terrible Franz Kafka story, in which the rules of the game are completely arbitrary, based on the unknowable caprices of some inscrutable force with the power to send them home, or keep them around, with the tantalizing possibility of a prize of $100K.

At the beginning of the episode, Marcia, shaking from alcoholic thirst, calls up her good friend and former Rock of Love Bus co-conspirator Maria for a "pep" talk. Can you believe that I have already forgotten who this woman was?

Show too much “progress,” and you’re sent home. Show not enough “progress,” and you’re sent home. Call someone “retarded,” over and over again, and…

The episode begins with Bubbles cleaning the toilets, to take her mind off last week’s debacle, in which Baybaybay’s transformation from “strong” to “completely destroyed by the felicities of Ricki Lake” was complete. Bubbles might be dumb, but she’s smart enough to understand, if only on a subliminal level, that this show is not “helping” these “girls” at all. It is hurting them. But she’s not quitting, so she is resorting to cleaning toilets to take her mind off it. Poor Bubbles.

Today’s commandment, which is totally meaningless, is “Thou Shalt Give it Thy All.” Because you’ve got to have determination to reach your goals. The worthy goals, such as those approved by Ricki Lake and Charm School. The guest is April Holmes, a “gold medalist,” “scholar,” “consultant,” and “motivational coach.”

Stryker informs the students that her gold medal was in the 100 meters, and that she is considered the fastest woman in the world.

Someone who is crass might comment that the women of “Charm School” are pretty “fast,” but I’ll refrain, because I am not crass. Although later in the episode, when the “girls” go to the Saddle Ranch, a couple of them can’t help themselves, and make some crass comments about “riding” the mechanical bull.

See- I am showing too much progress, by refraining from making my snarky comment. I would get sent home, if I were a contestant.

April Holmes tells the “girls” that everyone falls. She asks them what has motivated them to get back up when they’ve fallen. They all answer, selflessly, that it was their child, or a family member. April says that’s great.

And then she removes her wooden leg.

April Holmes woke from a train accident short one leg. That is a shocking twist I did not see coming. I half expected one of the “girls” to pull a Manly Pointer and steal the thing. But, alas, it was not to be.

April Holmes' achievements in overcoming adversity were inspiring. Then, she ruined everything by appearing on "Charm School." Now she's not much better than Mark Edgar Stevens.

The problem is that they need to rely on “themselves” to “get back up” after they fall. Not some child, or other family member.

To that end, April passes out mirrors and instructs the students to look in the mirror and praise themselves. Again, if I were crass, I might point out that these womens’ problems probably stem more from narcissism than low self-esteem, but I don’t care if Ricki expels me, so I’m going to continue trying to be nice. So I won’t mention that getting these women to praise themselves could possibly be the worst thing you could do for them.

Risky: “I do see a strong person. I see a person that wants to help others…. You are a caring person, but you need to open up.”

Remember that. Risky herself says, “You are a caring person, but you need to open up.” Her fellow students remember it, later. Risky is taking the most minor of criticisms she’s heard about herself, and making sure to plant it in the minds of her fellow contestants. She is setting her own agenda, like a politician. “I am so caring, I guess my only fault is that I keep everything bottled up inside. Except when I’m talking about how caring I am.”

Later she interviews: “It’s really hard for me to look at myself on the inside.” That is what x-rays are for, Risky.

Brittanya: “I look like crap today…Am I supposed to describe myself?…I see someone that wears makeup…”

Bubbles jumps in. “You have a lot of potential.”

Bubbles thinks that Brittanya has a lot of potential.

Ashley, looking in the mirror, says: “I see a bitch.” For this true moment of insight, she is rewarded with an interruption by Bubbles: I see a person that has to lover herself more.”

Ashley shows remarkable restraint by not pointing out that Bubbles is being deliberately annoying and intrusive. This exercise is meant to allow each of the “girls” to praise themselves- it’s not so that the “girls” can praise one another.

Bubbles looks in the mirror and says, “Bianca, I love you!…You can rise above this!” I will admit for a moment I didn’t realize that Bubbles was talking to herself, and addressing herself by her REAL name. She is “Bubbles.” “Bianca” is the name of a supermodel, or a villainous female from a spy novel. Bianca, you’re Bubbles.

Marcia struggles: “I do love myself… You make me shake… You’re working on your faults…” She then raises her head and says that she’s shaking because she’s gone nine days without alcohol. She should be proud of herself, that’s quite an accomplishment.

And this exercise they’ve been told to engage in is meant to make these women feel better by having them compliment themselves.

So, Ricki, if Marcia mentions every couple of minutes that she has gone X days without a drink, you had better celebrate along with her- because you are encouraging her not to accomplish something, but to aggrandize herself.

Remember that, Ricki, when you become annoyed with Marcia for constantly mentioning her days without a drink.

Speaking of that great accomplishment, the producers think it would be a great idea to send the “girls” to the Saddle Ranch, the famous bar on the Sunset strip (and site of a couple of my own occasional drunken missteps) to help raise money for “PLAY,” which is some kind of charity for underprivileged kids. (I guess PLAY didn’t want to send a representative to the show to talk about themselves.) The girls have to mingle with patrons, to raise pledges based on the amount of time they can spend riding the mechanical bull. Cue the “girls’” cute double entendres about riding.

Bubbles: “She [Marcia] rode that bull like she was making love to it.”

Ashley: “I can ride anything better than Marcia can.”

Risky: “Well, I’ve never ridden an ANIMAL before…”

The Saddle Ranch is a famous bar with a mechanical bull on the Sunset strip. Can you think of a more charming place to take someone who might be an alcoholic?

Marcia is the winner, earning a total of $1,800. She is now safe from expulsion. After the “riding,” the “girls” gather to eat cheeseburgers and annoy one another. Bubbles talks some nonsense, and Ashley can take no more, telling her “I feel bad for you as a person out in society who doesn’t know how to function with adults.”

Bubbles says something about not liking Ashley’s “constructive criticism.” (Bubbles, by the way, does not even know the definition of “constructive criticism”- as we’ll see, she uses the term to mean any kind of criticism at all.) She says that Ashley needs a lot of constructive criticism.

Ashley says that Bubbles needs a lot of mental help.

Risky tries to change the subject. She mentions something about seeing Brittanya’s butt crack while she was riding the bull.

This might have worked on me, but Bubbles is undeterred. “I still think you’re a mean girl,” she says to Ashley.

Ashley: “Well, thank you, I still think you’re retarded.”

Silence falls over the table. This is the second time that Ashley has used THAT word, and the “girls” are worried that Ashley isn’t progressing.

Bubbles: “I’m gonna tell Ricki!” Bubbles doesn’t seem to be making much progress, either.

Ashley interviews that she feels bad for Bubbles, but, “she just kept talking back and saying the stupidest sh*t.”

This sets up the next assignment, in which each “girl” is to paint portraits of their classmates, painting them the way you see them on the inside, then pointing out one of their faults that they need to work on improving.

Ricki: “I’m hoping these paintings will give me some insight as to who should go home tonight.”

If that’s the case, Ricki, then I renew my call for you to eliminate YOURSELF. You are in no position to judge anyone, over anything.

Bubbles does herself no favors, by explaining that she has the upper hand in this assignment, since she probably knows more about art therapy than anyone else there. Why should Bubbles have such experience with art therapy? A crueler person than I might point out that art therapy is often employed when dealing with mentally challenged individuals. However, I will not point this out because I want Ricki to eliminate me from Charm School.

Ashley paints Risky as an angel who needs to open up more.

Brittanya paints Risky as a giant heart that needs to open up more.

Risky needs to open up more. Everyone knows this because she has told them so.

Ricki is impressed that everyone seems to think that Risky needs to open up more. Of course, the “girls” are merely parroting what Risky has already said about herself. And Risky was parroting YOU, Ricki.

You see how much they’re learning in “Charm School?”

Risky paints Brittanya as a mother who needs to be a better mother.

Brittanya says that Marcia needs to be less rude.

Ashley paints Marcia as a butterfly, because she needs to change, and needs to work on more than just her drinking. “I didn’t want to list all of Marcia’s faults, because it would run seven pages,” she says, helpfully.

Ricki: “Ashley makes a great point about Marcia. Her commitment to sobriety is commendable. But has she begun to get to the source of her drinking?”

Ricki, are you serious? You just had them engage in an exercise in which they were to look in a mirror and praise themselves. You just took them to a BAR, to ride a mechanical bull. Ricki, you are the terrible host of the most superficial, irritating, and utterly USELESS show on all of VH1, for crying out loud, and you’re afraid that Marcia, after NINE DAYS WITHOUT A DRINK hasn’t begun to get “to the source of her drinking?”

Are you trying to sound clueless? Are you trying to sound insensitive? Are you trying to make us hate you, Ricki?

I am serious about this. I want to know the answers to those questions. And here’s another: Was your goal to make this season of Charm School VH1’s worst show ever, even worse than the show with the venal and despicable family of the reprehensible Hulk Hogan?

Ashley paints Bubbles as bubbly, but inappropriately loquacious. As if to prove her right, Bubbles interrupts Ashley’s description by pointing out to Ricki that Ashley again said she was “retarded.” Naturally, Ricki is scandalized.

Bubbles’ painting of Ashley attempts to depict the obvious inner turmoil she must feel, then says something about how her “constructive criticism” is very mean and meant to break her and blah blah blah.

Bubbles, if the criticism is mean and meant to break you, then it is not, by definition, CONSTRUCTIVE. Please google “constructive criticism” and see what you get.

Ricki: “Some of these girls could really learn a lot from her [Bubbles], if they weren’t making fun… Bubbles has learned all the lessons there are at Charm School.”

The lesson is, Ricki, that you are trying to make us hate you.

Ashley meets privately with Ricki. As she interviews, if Ricki had to spend half as much time with Bubbles as she does, she would understand why she has such problems with her. Bubbles is irritating and won’t shut up. Ashley is okay with everyone else, but Bubbles pushes her buttons. Bubbles was supposedly in Charm School to learn to stand up for herself, but all Bubbles ever does is “stand up for herself.”

Ricki tells Ashley she’s proud of her progress. Blah blah blah.

Bottom two are Ashley and Bubbles. Can you guess who gets sent home?

Oh, La La, why couldn't you have been the head of Charm School?

“Sometimes, you have to send home the girl who’s shown the most change and keep the girl who’s less charming and has further to go. That’s the hard part of Charm School and that’s the part that seems unfair. But in the end, it’s best for everyone.”

Yep, the “girl” who keeps calling the other one “retarded” gets to stay.

To Bubbles, she says: “You already know the drill…I really believe, deep down, you are a really good person.” She has show too much progress.

To Ashley: “You have further to go here.” But, if that’s the case, shouldn’t they keep Bubbles, so that she can keep “pushing Ashley’s buttons”? With Bubbles gone, Ashley gets along with everyone else in the school. So where is the test?

Or, is it that Ashley is the most popular character from VH1’s successful Rock of Love Bus, while Bubbles was some drip from Real Chance of Love?

Next week, the remaining “girls” will be helping Katrina victims in New Orleans. If I were trying to remain in Charm School, I might point out that the people of New Orleans have suffered enough without having to suffer through the filming of this particular VH1 reality show.

Question: What should I bring with me?
Answer: A good book.

Maria pic source.
April Holmes pic source.
Brittanya pic source.
Bubbles and Beverly flyer pic source.
Saddle Ranch pic source.
Risky pic source.
La La pic source.


shampoo said...

Good grief. I watched this with the volume off because I was on the phone and Ricki Lake still got on my nerves. I.Hate.Her. I was glad to see my RoL girls all stay. I'm not saying they necessarily deserve it though Marcia is definitely trying really hard with this not drinking thing so props to her. ESPECIALLY maintaining in a bar. Someone needs to introduce Ricki Lake to Andy Dick stat. I dunno if he's still on the wagon and I'm not sure which one would be best to educate her: sober Andy or drinking (and such) Andy.

shampoo said...

Oh, I forgot to mention. I totally agree about the Bollea clan a.k.a. "the Hogans". None of them "knows best." I'm tired of each and every one of them.

Ricky Sprague said...

From what I've read about Andy Dick on some of the gossip sites, he was the only one who actually stayed "sober" on "Sober House."

I think it would have been disastrous for their ratings to eliminate too many ROLBus contestants before the finale.

shampoo said...

Ricky Sprague, I saw that! :) I followed his Sober Andy blog for a while. I wouldn't be surprised if he was still doing well.

Ricki needs someone who's surpassed anything Marcia has ever done to get her in reality about the underlying issues of someone who drinks a lot. I don't think Marcia is anywhere close to being in the same league as Andy, but I think they may have started drinking for similar reasons. I don't know if Marcia is even an alcoholic, but for nine days she's done a lot.

I noticed in the mirror exercise they all had trouble looking at themselves. I don't know if they exactly got the point of the exercise. But maybe it's something that takes repeat applications.

I took it that it wasn't to build self esteem like the "I'm pretty! I'm great!" kind. It seemed they were supposed to look for the good points they had so they could use those to help overcome their bad points and/or circumstances. I think I channeled Bubbles just then.

I saw this episode with the sound on... how sad is it that they rode a bull to determine the deans list? What's next? Jello wrestling?

I think everyone except Marcia has learned to play Ricki. Marcia probably would have figured it out if she still was knocking back the tequila.

Ricki lives in fantasy realm where she's an empress and a saint. You have done a good job explaining her delusions.

She needs to just stop giving out excuses for keeping Ashley. Just keep her... don't even call her on the carpet.

Also, her pompously talking about Bubbles "playing the victim." Does Ricki not have eyes? Can she not see that of the people left Bubbles was the easiest to pick on?

As for Bubbles, I don't think she got that Ashley considers herself the HBIC and if Ash wants a subject dropped, you'd best stop talking.

Ricky Sprague said...

You did not channel Bubbles.

Interestingly, Ashley didn't become HBIC until So Hood and Kiki left the show. She needed help from Ricki to get to a position where she could be "herself."

shampoo said...

Ricky Sprague, thank you! I'm glad. hehe

I thought the "art" project was counterproductive. What path to self improvement passes through At Least I'm Better Than Her valley?

Good point about Ashley, So Hood, and Kiki. haha

Did you notice that after Bubbles "cleaned" the toilet she used the same rag on the rest of the bathroom? Gross!
Maybe she felt a combination of the flu, herpes and e. coli would compel her competitors to drop out of "school."

A.Jaye said...

When April Holmes took off her leg:

A-Bomb: "Nice shoes."

Re Marcia's 9 day sobriety - In my country welfare recipients recieve their cheque every 14 days. That's a full 13 days without booze for a lot of people.

The best thing about Charm School 3 is your blog. And Brooke Knows Best sounds so awgul I might start watching it.