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Previously on I Promise To Wash My Hands Between Stirring Shit And Scooping Ice Cream: Ozzy found the idol, and he replaced it with an obviously fake one, which was found by Jason, Non-Master Of The Obvious. His little Nookie Foursome was sitting pretty until the tribes were scrambled, at which point Ozzy and Amanda’s pathetic Malakal half started losing repeatedly to James and Parvati’s Airai half, led by surprising challenge demon…Eliza? Parvati decided to make an alliance with Alexis and Natalie, who are these two women who are on the Airai tribe who didn’t really talk in the first eight episodes of the show, making them shoo-ins to walk away as co-winners of the coveted Most Forgettable Person To Ever Be On This Show award, except that no one will remember them when it’s time to vote. Irony! For the first time, a “Favorite” went instead of a “Fan” when a weirdly weepy Ami was booted at Ozzy’s insistence over the Ozzy-infatuated Erik.

At Malakal post-tribal-council, Ozzy insists that he would have toootally never voted Ami out if she’d been honest. Honest how? “You can’t try to get me out unless you tell me in advance you’re going to try to vote me out”? “You have to tell me after the fact that you tried to vote me out, and then I won’t try to vote you out”? This is so dumb. What he said last week about how he goes after anyone he finds out was trying to get him out? That’s not unreasonable. Not sophisticated strategic thinking, necessarily, but it’s defensible. Of course, rather than sticking with that, he’s decided to make it all about honesty, like he threw Ami out of the Babysitters’ Club for hurting his feelings.

“If she’d just stuck with me, she’d still be in this game!” he says. Yes, if Ami had just been loyal to Ozzy, he would have kept her in the game slightly longer before voting her out. Why didn’t she see the obvious wisdom in this course of action? He might have allowed her to finish as high as sixth! Stupid Ami. What did she want, to win?

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So apparently, the reason you may like 30 Rock and The Office and not like Two And A Half Men is that you are a snob. So says Tim Goodman at the San Francisco Chronicle, who pronounces non-fans of laugh-tracky, shticky sitcoms to be snobs of the first order. In fact, he informs you that your reason for skipping CBS Monday nights is that you think you are “too cool for the room.”

What’s most baffling to me about the piece is that it lumps How I Met Your Mother in with Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. Apparently, this is because they’re all on Monday nights. While they’re technically a group in this sense, the inclusion of How I Met Your Mother actually argues against Goodman’s entire thesis, which is that these shows are all “underappreciated” because snobs who miss Arrested Development refuse to acknowledge the appeal of traditional laugh-tracked sitcoms.

What’s wrong with this argument is that almost everyone I know who is in this group — who loves The Office and 30 Rock and misses Arrested Development — loves How I Met Your Mother. Despite the laugh track, despite the fact that it’s on CBS, despite the fact that it’s on Monday nights, despite the fact that it has setup-punchline moments more often than The Office, people like it anyway, for exactly the reason Goodman discusses: it’s funny. How I Met Your Mother underachieves in terms of ratings, but so does 30 Rock. There’s huge audience overlap there.

I don’t dislike Two And A Half Men because it has a laugh track, though I generally disfavor laugh tracks. I dislike it because I think it’s stupid. Not silly; there’s nothing wrong with silly. 30 Rock is intensely silly. But when I watch a set of punch lines from Two And A Half Men all in a row, as in this CBS promo, it makes me want to set my own hair on fire. None of it makes me laugh, it all sounds like variations on jokes I’ve heard four hundred times, and I simply don’t find any of it even a little bit amusing. I do, however, find How I Met Your Mother amusing, and when it was on, I found The King Of Queens amusing, although it would have been better without the laugh track.

I watch Judge Judy. I watch Trading Spaces. I watch America’s Next Top Model and World’s Wildest Police Videos. You know what I watch on Monday nights when I’m not watching CBS comedies? Dancing With The Stars. I mean, get serious. There’s not a room on earth I’m too cool for, and certainly not one defined by the fact that it contains unsophisticated humor. I watched The Big Bang Theory, and the reason I never watched it again wasn’t that it wasn’t hip enough. The reason I never watched it again was that it was agonizingly unfunny with the exception of perhaps two brief moments in a half-hour show, which simply is not adequate. Goodman seems absolutely convinced that no honest person could claim to have not laughed at Two And A Half Men, no matter how much he or she may have “stifled” it. Seriously, I promise you: that show does not make me laugh. It does not tempt me to laugh. I do not experience cognitive dissonance.

As for Rules Of Engagement, the premiere of which is the ostensible reason for the piece’s appearance at this particular moment, I haven’t really watched it. But that’s not because I’m too cool for it. It’s because it contains David Spade. I have seen David Spade do his thing in a number of different venues, and it’s always basically the same deal, and I thought it was funny for about three months back when he was on SNL, but I haven’t found it funny since. Am I not allowed to think David Spade isn’t funny? Does thinking David Spade isn’t funny make me a snob?

Oddly, Goodman’s praise is enormously faint for these shows. He suggests that The Big Bang Theory should be watched because it makes so many jokes that one occasionally works, and that you should appreciate the fact that the leads are working so hard. You know what I don’t enjoy in comedy? Sitting there thinking, “That guy is working really hard to make that joke work.” Two And A Half Men gets the rousing defense that it “hits the periodic punch line.”

You know what? There’s a lot on television. If you like Two And A Half Men, good on you. If you like The Big Bang Theory, that’s great. But I find an accusation of snobbery being leveled at people simply for choosing to skip something about which even a defender can only say it “hits the periodic punchline” to be a little unfair. The very people Goodman is talking about are the ones who forwarded the Robin Sparkles video to all their friends and who still watch “Slap Bet.” This is the kind of piece about TV that always frustrates me, because there’s so much to say about shows that are interesting, and this seems like the only thing anybody could think of to say about Rules Of Engagement: “Premiering tonight, and not quite as entirely devoid of merit as you may have heard, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re a snob!”

I am a lot of things about TV, but I’m no snob, and I don’t have to make amends with the on-air comedy stylings of Charlie Sheen to prove it.

10:05 PM: Thank God, finally. I’m so glad that we were able to survive it together. I don’t want my contempt for this show to detract from the fact that I truly, honestly believe in giving to charities (real ones) that you trust. Donors Choose is a great one, but so are lots of others. Pick something; give something. But that doesn’t change how unbelievably nitwitty this closing number featuring the idols dressed like ice-cream men singing about how they all sing for the Lord, despite the fact that we know nothing about the religious backgrounds of any of them, and I seriously doubt they were polled before this was planned, meaning that they are singing their love for the Lord because they were told to, and isn’t that what gives it all meaning? Good night, everybody.

10:01 PM: HOW IS IT NOT OVER? IT’S NOT OVER! Oh, man. Mariah Carey. Figures. With such a weak-ass show, though, what could possibly have gone long by this much? Did Robin Williams just storm the stage with that Russian thing without being invited? This completely confuses me.

9:56 PM: Daughtry is still as boring to me as he was when he was on the show. Boo!

9:55 PM: DAUGHTRY! This is the closer. The closer is Chris fucking Daughtry. In a show that also included Annie Lennox. Way to go, jerks.

9:50 PM: They have saved Brad Pitt for last! I really, really wish he weren’t wearing that stupid cap. Projects to build housing are pretty cool, though. “He wants to be the first baseball player and lawyer in space” — aw! I think they’re all just really happy about seeing Brad Pitt. Aaaand here he is!

9:49 PM: So: Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade. They hit the trifecta of bug.

9:42 PM: I was listening to Robin Williams do this SAME THING in about 1986. Not one new trick since then.

9:40 PM: Oh my God, I would so rather be watching the actual Russian Idol.

9:38 PM: Dear Miley Cyrus: Pardon me if I find your sympathy for the poor somewhat hollow when you could lift them out of poverty by giving them a set of tickets they could scalp.

9:34 PM: Miley Cyrus AGAIN? Do we really need to see the same celebrity twice? Does she have some purposeful stomping she didn’t get done last time? …Apparently so. And really, when you yell “2, 3, 4!” during the only moments when the band isn’t playing, it kind of defeats the purpose.

9:32 PM: Ashley Tisdale is donating her old nose to poor people who don’t have noses.

9:25 PM: Dane Cook barf barf barf barf barf.

9:23 PM: The lesson here is that singing in a stage ensemble like the Rent cast does is harder than it looks, and coming up with that really true, impressive choral sound, even in a pop-style show, is not for sissies. It’s amazing how this song falls apart when nobody can get out of his or her own head long enough to sing in unison. There’s a lot of unison in this song, and it means having humility and learning to blend, which none of these goobers are trained in.

9:21 PM: Reese Witherspoon promotes the Children’s Defense Fund. That’s a good choice of charity, and AT LEAST IT’S SPECIFIC. Unfortunately, Reese does not have the natural touch of an Annie Lennox. She seems very nice, but the thing where you’re comfortable anywhere? She does not have that. I guess because I was raised by teachers, I’m always particularly impressed with programs focused on schools, which is why I commonly give money to Donors Choose. (Love the letter packets! Got one once that said, “Dear Donor: We learned with our computer that you could give a hamster a bath!”)

9:13 PM: Britain donates millions of mosquito nets! Now that needs a “One Shining Moment” video.

9:10 PM: I think they maybe could have chosen someone to introduce a malaria film who would have a slightly easier time conveying seriousness. (Stephen: “Does anyone on Earth have less gravitas than Sarah Silverman?”)

9:07 PM: Sheila E. Wow. And a whole chorus of show choir kids!

9:05 PM: Oh, Gloria Estefan. It’s nice to know somebody still thinks she’s relevant.

8:56 PM: Carrie Underwood. So very much the heart and soul of this show, because she’s so unobjectionable and so brutally generic. And can she walk in that skirt? Is she on top of a cake? God bless her, there’s nothing but melisma from fifteen seconds into the song. I love the way this show equates depth of feeling with number of stringed instruments, incidentally. It makes it much easier to figure out how I’m supposed to be feeling at any given time.

8:52 PM: I always really, really like Simon Cowell when he goes out and does normal stuff. I don’t know if I’m an apologist or what, but I generally think that’s a good guy, and an honest guy, who does what he does well and doesn’t have pretensions about what he does. And indeed, you get him with poor people, and he’s weirdly able to relate especially because he doesn’t pretend this is natural to him; he acts like a visitor, which he is.

8:50 PM: Is Jimmy Kimmel going to sing “I’m Fucking Simon Cowell”? Because that would be awesome.

8:49 AM: Every thought I have about what Celine Dion looks like standing next to underfed children makes me seem like I am made of evil with a dollop of whipped psychosis, so I’m going to keep them to myself.

8:41 PM: Hey, I got my wish! She’s singing!

8:37 PM: Hey, Annie Lennox! Now she’s kind of cool. She is way cooler than Bono. I wish she were singing. I also really love how easy she is with the kids in this segment, picking them up just like a mom — any mom. There’s something about her manner that seems much more genuine and real than most celebrities who go and have their pictures taken standing next to children in Africa. You can totally tell that at some moment, she thought about whether she could adopt those boys. For an instant, anyway, she thought about it; you can tell.

8:34 PM: The Beckhams ask that you donate money for people who “have no world.” Victoria is shocked to know that some people don’t even have ridiculous fur hats.

8:30 PM: Oh, of course it’s “Fix You.” Of course it is. That poor, poor song.

8:28 PM: Damn, it’s the Katrina stuff that always kills me. Damn you, Fox.

8:25 PM: Oh my God, Adam Sandler, stop acting like you’re better than this. You’re not better than ANYTHING.


8:19 PM: I swear to God, there is nothing in the last fifteen years that has done as much for Heart as American Idol. There’s this small collection of people — Heart, Diane Warren, Martina McBride — who are, like, eight times as famous because of American Idol. Heart was famous anyway, but where do you mostly hear actual Heart songs now in the context of existing popular culture? American Idol. And did Fergie really need to butt in? I just listened to her. Heart needs her help, is the theory?

8:16 PM: I feel so bad about the fact that I’m one of those people who can’t forget the pictures of Fergie after she wet her pants onstage. I really admire the way that later, she was like, “I didn’t get to go before I went on; what’s the big deal?” But it is still the first thing I think of every time I see her. I apologize, Betsy Wetsy.

8:08 PM: Wow, they got Bono for their charity project? That must have been tough.

8:07 PM: I kind of like the way Miley Cyrus performs by stomping over to one part of the stage and then turning on her heel and stomping over to another part of the stage. Like, “I will sing some lyrics over HERE! And then over THERE! Have you noticed that my hair is BOUNCY? Because it IS!”

8:04 PM: This bit where Billy Crystal and Miley Cyrus have never heard of each other could not be stupider if they both did it with their tongues hanging out.

8:01 PM: Wow, Billy Crystal looks OLD. And puffy. (Stephen: “Is Billy Crystal morphing into Christopher Walken before our very eyes?”)

7:54 PM: Okay, I’m kind of interested in this Band From TV performance. I’ve heard of it, and I can’t remember who’s in it. I hope they explain it better. GREG GRUNBERG! Oh, Teri Hatcher. I liked you better as Lois Lane. I’m not too excited about the — OH MY GOD, BACHELOR BOB. Is that Dr. Chase on fiddle? How hot! It would be nice if they’d explain who all these people are.

7:50 PM: Paula and Randy! Like it’s the Academy Awards! Hey, at least she’s standing up. And they are visiting poor children. No swimming pools, and lots of gang activity. I like how the carefully stay with the woman who works at the school until she bursts into tears. Don’t miss that part! Hey, at least they all hugged Paula. But this whole thing underscores my fundamental problem with Idol Gives Back: what charity are we giving to?

7:45 PM: Snoop Dogg! Surrounded by small children! I wonder if those children qualify as “bling” for tax purposes. That would make quite an itemized list. “Grill, giant microphone cover, moppets.” Poor Snoop is telling the audience how to clap. Sadly, they need it. I also would think they could have afforded kids who can put their hands in the air and wave them like they just don’t care without hitting each other in the face.

7:43 PM: The only thing I can think of while watching this high-concept “yellow jug” ad is how the ad agency must have been so impressed when they thought of it. It’s a yellow jug!

7:41 PM: I would buy Stiller Whips Whitney’s Ass For Charity.

7:40 PM: Maria Shriver! Mrs. Governor Of California! And Seacrest made it through her intro without doing his Schwarzenegger. But the band did not get through it without playing “Maria” from West Side Story. I guess that pegs the number of songs with “Maria” in their names at one. Maria wants me to be a volunteer. I’m sorry, but does her forehead and brow look kind of…Klingon to anyone else? Forehead too shiny; brow too pronounced. Seriously, her eyes look mean. “We can all be American Idols in someone’s life.” Barf-o-meter: 1.

7:38 PM: I think George Lopez just declared for the presidency.

7:34 PM: There’s a Jimmy Johnson other than the one with fancy plans and pants to match? Oh, wait, that’s Jimmy James. That guy still looks like he might have fancy plans and pants to match. Flame-retardant NASCAR pants. I think I just figured out what I want for Christmas!

7:32 PM: I never thought I’d find anything with less street cred than Step Up 2 The Streets, but I’d say this opening number is right up there. Is there a reason for Idol to be hosting a review of various dance styles? Isn’t this a singing show? It’s like this is an obituary for Dance: 1986-1998. Dear poor and needy people: At least you do not have to watch this. Oh, it’s the So You Think You Can Dance people! That makes sense, and yet it makes no sense.

7:30 PM: The time has come, bitches. And by “bitches,” this time I mean “Ryan Seacrest.”

Starting at 7:30 ET (that’s in half an hour!), watch this space for live and ongoing coverage of Idol Gives Back. I’m not going to lie to you — the reason I’m doing this is that I want to watch it and I will for entertainment value, but I am fairly sure I will be crushingly bored, and struggling to entertain you will keep me awake. I will be following it live, and also probably stealing the best of the annoyed text messages I am likely to receive, because nothing pleases me more than lifting brilliance from my friends.

Previously on No Time (Like The Present) For Losers: Kathy couldn’t face the world without Jonathan and his Leg Hole Of Nobility, and she shuffled right off the island before she started setting her surroundings on fire. Hey, I know just how she feels. Ozzy found the hidden idol and put a stick in the hiding place, hoping that maybe, if he got very lucky, someone would actually be enough of a buffoon to think that maybe the idol was just a stick this year. Meanwhile, back at camp, two rocks clunked together in Jason’s head and made a noise that sounded like, “Maybe the idol is just a stick this year,” and when he found the stick, he put two and two together and got a boiled potato for a brain, so he’s now walking around with a stick shoved down his pants that he thinks will protect him from harm. I think I saw that on House. Write “hallucinations” down on the white board next to “shelter-hoarding”! We carefully followed The Secret Love Of Erik And Ozzy, also known as The Love That Probably Could Not Spell Its Name. Ami tried to get something going with the fans to get out Ozzy, but it fell apart for reasons that were not shared with the stupid, nosy audience, and Tracy was sent home. Erik is the only Malakal fan person! Do you suppose it means anything that nowhere in the credits did anyone explain anything about the dynamics over at the other tribe? Nah.

And now: this week.

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I was fortunate enough last night to land a special sub spot doing’s Dancing With The Stars coverage. Watch my freelance career relaunch!

At The Goot Gets The Boot.

(Note: MSNBC is showing the byline of the writer who usually does that chart, but I guarantee you, that’s me. I’ve asked them to fix it.)

In other news, one of my projects I always forget to mention is that I write a couple of questions every week for the online version of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! news quiz. Today’s question — regarding the Minnesota congresswoman — is mine. They do the quiz questions in Flash, so there’s no permalinking to specific questions, but if you go back about three or four days, you’ll find one about the U.S. losing a case to a formidable opponent, which was maybe my favorite question I’ve ever done for them. I love legal humor!

At Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

I am one of the many people who believe Dolly Parton to be a national treasure who should be worshiped at every opportunity, no matter what she does to her face — which, at this point, is kind of depressingly too much. I have loved her even more ever since I read about the interview where somebody asked her about Bill Clinton and she just laughed and said, “He’s a horny little toad, isn’t he?” It was so laid-back and so obviously possessed of both honesty and perspective that it made me her fan for life.

Anyway, I think Dolly Parton is infinitely more deserving of a theme night than lots of past buffoons, including Gloria Estefan. I looked forward to seeing her interact with the contestants, and I was not disappointed. Well, I was disappointed in a lot of the singing, but not in Dolly herself.

Ryan Seacrest’s April Fool’s Day Gag: Boo.

Brooke White: I love Brooke; I really do. But unfortunately, her appeal is narrow. (By the way, people who say “gal,” as she did about Dolly — and as I KEEP SEEING all over the place, it seems like — are generally my natural enemies, but I make an exception for Brooke, because..I still like her.) I liked her performance of “Jolene,” but you kind of have to be an angry person for this song, and I’m not sure Brooke is comfortable being angry. Or…maybe “raw” is what I’m looking for. One of the guys in the band looked exactly like Dr. Phil, is the other thing, and that totally freaked me right out. Who gave Dr. Phil a drum? The other thing with Brooke is that she doesn’t grin inappropriately all through the song the way, say, Diana Degarmo used to, but she can’t not grin at the sheer joy of performing, which sometimes takes her right out of the performance, ironically. As Dwight once said of Michael Scott’s breath, “Good not great.”

David Cook: He’s a rocker! A rocker! They tried to help him out by giving him a chance to thank the people who are actually responsible for his wildly original arrangements, so you know the producers are following stupid internet controversies, which…actually isn’t that comforting. I couldn’t help noticing Dolly’s comment that he “seems certain.” That is not the highest musical compliment I’ve ever heard, particularly since it’s also something you might say right before someone goes over Niagara Falls in a laundry basket. This was okay, and his hair was less idiotic than usual, but I’m just over this whole thing. When what he does isn’t kind of freaky, I find it boring. I guess it’s positive, strictly speaking, that I feel like I could hear this on MTV tomorrow, but it would be by a band that’s already been invented, so the question becomes: Is David Cook Necessary?

Ramiele Malubay: Perfectly okay. Fine. Dolly is using way too many words that mean “small,” though, for this to be good. I’ve never seen anybody start off so hot and turn so quickly into the most boring person in the competition BY FAR. I’m surprised she stays awake through her own performances. It’s not even cruise ship — a cruise ship would be like, “Maybe you should try a singing diner first.” A friend has convinced me that she is benefiting from the Jasmine Trias effect on a few fronts, and if she doesn’t get bounced this week — when she clearly deserves it and hasn’t yet even been in the bottom three — I’ll be 100 percent convinced that she is indeed. I liked how Randy said he wasn’t “mad at” her. How could you be mad at Ramiele? It would be like being mad at your middle cat. Not your old, smelly cat, and not your young, adorable cat. Your regular middle cat who never scratches anyone, but whom you might forget to pick up at the vet for a few days after you get home from a trip.

Jason Castro: What’s tough about this one is that I like the song, and I really wanted to hear Dolly sing it instead. When it’s a really Dolly-ish song, I don’t want to hear anybody else sing it. It was noteworthy that she sang along with him; I did take that as a sign that she was really enjoying it, because that’s what musical types do — they can’t not jump in if it sounds good. I still think the “busking” comment from last week stands, and I totally wouldn’t be shocked to see him in the subway. But I’d give him money, for what that’s worth. Oh, and: you are not a “weary pilgrim,” dick. I don’t hate you, but you are barely post-pubescent, so be careful of the “I have been beaten and battered by life” songs. Because seriously? You’re not selling it, at least to me.

Carly Smithson: I really enjoyed this. I cannot understand what’s up with her high notes, though, because all the punch goes out of them. I thought the arrangement was lovely and brought something new to the song, and she sounded great — except on those higher notes, which sounded like she was squeezing them through a straw. Not just the glory note at the end (which was more like a nice-try note), but some that came earlier. I just feel absolutely certain that she cannot possibly win, but I also think she’s one of the most talented women, and when she stays low, I just love her voice. I don’t know if she needs a coach or needs to drink some tea or what, but there is something up there.

David Archuleta: Yeah, I know. The technique is there. But I have never seen a contestant on this show go so deep into the competition and be so committed to doing exactly the same thing every single week, to the point where you couldn’t tell the difference between the performances with the sound off. He makes the same faces, he makes the same gestures, he begs you with his fist to understand the importance of what he’s saying, and he bores me to death. Talent is a rare thing, and he’s absolutely packed with it, but there’s no artistry to me at all. There’s never any momentum or build to his performances at all; they start off earnest and fully committed and go nowhere. He also hits at least one big bum note every week, as he did this week as soon as he went for the big high melismatic crapola, and he never, ever gets called on it, which is irritating. I know he’s probably going to win — although I no longer believe it’s as entirely inevitable as I once did — but it just does nothing for me. It’s elevator music. Pleasant, but meaningless.

Kristy Lee Cook: She has been rehearsing for this moment since she was three. It looked it. I’m just relieved to know that in addition to America, she also loves her mom.

Syesha Mercado: You knew it was coming, and you knew that she wouldn’t — as she claimed — do a simpler, more Dolly-like version. You knew she would do Whitney, because she couldn’t help herself. If you’re going to turn into a diva cliche, girl, do not actually sit on the piano, as this takes you into the territory of becoming a caricature of yourself. Lots of inappropriate breaths in the middle of phrases, too, and that’s not helped by trying to do a gigantic belting thing while seated on a piano. As one of my pals texted, you could also tell that she totally believed that the judges were going to utterly freak out and that everyone would call it the performance of the decade. You could really, really tell she didn’t like it when that didn’t happen. “Pedestrian” wasn’t what she was expecting, and that’s exactly what it was to me, too.

Michael Johns: THERE you go. I picked this kid at the beginning of the season, and part of my reason was that he’s sexy like an adult instead of sexy like a high-school student, which is the typical Idol kind of sexy, if by “sexy” you mean “cute.” Which Idol almost always does. A show that can make Clay Aiken into a sex symbol could really use a guy who seems like he could actually impregnate someone. Er, not to be indelicate. But most of all, I picked him because I thought he was a good singer, and this was the first night in weeks and weeks that I felt really vindicated. This performance was awesome. Bluesy and restrained; confident and creative. He seems like a natural, like a real musician who’s already a musician, instead of someone who’s trying to convince people he’s a musician. He’s not going to win, and he’s been horribly inconsistent, but I was so glad to see him perform once in the way I was anticipating when I PICKED HIM IN THE POOL.

This weekend has been kind of a low-key one for me (and, er, it’s ending on Monday night, so…you kind of see how tricky this self-employment business is, because all of a sudden, my weekend was three days long). I did manage, however, to get an enormous amount of much-needed rest by having one very specific thing happen.


I had bought Season Two of House a while ago, and I honestly don’t remember why I bought Season Two instead of Season One, but…there you go. And I owned it for a long time and never got around to watching it, and then on Saturday morning, I picked it up and started watching it.

Aaaand then it was all day Saturday and all day Sunday and much of today, and I have seen more people have seizures than you can possibly imagine.

This is what I’ve been doing instead of anything productive. I’m totally serious. But it’s one of those things where sometimes, three consecutive days of rest means you needed three consecutive days of rest, and since I was in a position to give it to myself, I figured I would.

What did I learn? Not only is it never lupus, but it’s never sarcoidosis, either. It’s never what they think it is at minute 23. It’s almost never an allergic reaction, because that’s boring. It’s frequently an infection, somewhat more frequently an autoimmune disease (BUT NOT LUPUS), and even more frequently something wackadoo that the patient ran into in his or her daily life that never seemed capable of result in harm. Never eat dirt, sand, or South American lettuce. Animals are very, very bad for you, unless they die in a way that provides a clue about your own serious illness. (R.I.P., Jenny O’Hara’s cat.) Babies and little kids almost always live. The answer to the question “Are you okay?” is always, always “No.”  Try not to break your skin any more than necessary, because it’s amazing how stuff gets in there.

Montages are very comforting.

I don’t have kids. I don’t have any particular reason to care about parenting advice, I don’t like Mary Poppins that much, and watching little kids throw tantrums, when I see it in person, is not on my list of experiences that entertain me most.

But I love watching Supernanny. If you’re not familiar with the show, you can roughly classify it in your head as an instructional reality show, where normal people who are terrible at something get advice on how to be less terrible at it. How Not To Parent, sort of. It used to be that there were a couple of shows like this — specifically, this competed with the very inferior Nanny 911, which had this insane construct where there were these British nannies in uniform who lived in some sort of compound where their Reverend Mother Of Nannying would choose one of them to send off to a needy family, like she was going to rescue the Von Trapps. Except those nannies were mean and sour and chilly, and nobody ever liked them. I mean, you had to pretend to like them, because they were so mean, and it seemed like they’d whomp you with an umbrella if you didn’t. But they weren’t likable.

Jo Frost, however, who’s the one and only Supernanny, is immensely likable. She’s just as British, but her approach is very different. Rather than a starched uniform, Jo just wears regular-person clothes, though she does always show up on the first day with her hair in a tight, authoritarian bun. The show always opens with her in the back seat of her Brit cab, watching a DVD of the family she’s going to see. The parents are always begging for help, showing footage of their children biting, screaming, swearing, hitting each other, hitting their parents, breaking expensive stuff…and then Jo looks at the camera and says something like, “They really do need my help!” And then there’s some more DVD footage, and then some kid yells “That’s bullshit!” at his mom or something like that, and Jo looks right at the camera with her best Jim Halpert face, and then she says, “I’m on my way,” and she’s on her way.

Jo always starts by observing the parents and the way they handle their kids, which usually means that some kid throws a fit, and the mom says “You quit that!” about forty times. Sometimes, the parents have clearly studied parenting techniques on their own, and they know enough to try to give time-outs. But the kids don’t stay in time-out, and they just wander out of the time-out spot and ask for a hamburger, and Mom says, “Okay, well, one hamburger, and then go play with your brother.” “I WANT FRIES!” “Okay, a hamburger and fries, but that is it.” And Jo looks at the camera again, and her eyes are all boggly, and it’s hilarious.

I always love it when they have to learn bedtime, as they did this week. Jo has a very specific way she does bedtime. You put the kid to bed, and the first time she gets out of bed, you say, “It’s bedtime, darling” (she always adds the “darling”) and take her back and put her in bed. And the second time, you just say it’s bedtime, and you put them in bed. And after that, they get nothing. No talking, no arguing, you just put them back in bed. Watch the technique at work!

So that’s bedtime, and it almost always goes the same way. The first night is, like, the worst night of the parents’ lives. They put the kid back in bed fifteen, twenty times. And at the end, when the kid finally wears herself out and falls asleep, Jo congratulates them like they’ve just survived a military campaign. And they do that one night, or maybe two, and then the kids start going to bed on their own. I realize this is not how kids operate in real life, but it’s remarkable, the consistency with which the parents say, “This will never work! They will never go to sleep!” Often, these parents have resorted to some completely insane routine like sleeping next to their kids on the floor, letting their kids sleep on a blanket in the hallway…I mean, if these things work, that’s fine, but if the reason is that you believe your kid will never go to bed except in the hallway, that’s bazoo.

One of the things that’s so interesting about the bedtime thing is how much time Jo spends teaching parents — especially moms — how to cope with the kid standing there screeching like his hair is being pulled out without feeling like ogres. I’ve heard this from people I know who’ve had to do bedtime with their own kids, but you can tell what a powerful biological imperative she’s up against. People feel like they’re the devil.

But anyway. So in addition to bedtime, Jo is famous for the Naughty Spot. Sometimes it’s the naughty chair, naughty corner, naughty step…depends on what you’ve got in the house. It’s like time-out, and the kid gets plunked onto the spot for the same number of minutes as she is years old. Observe:

You give the warning, they do it anyway, you put them on the spot and tell them why, you put them back on the spot as many times as it takes (this is like bedtime — I’ve literally seen kids get off the naughty spot over and over for two hours to avoid sitting there for four minutes), and then when it’s over, they have to apologize. And then you give them a hug and a kiss and they’re done. That’s my favorite part! I love the fact that you can get in trouble, serve your time, repent, and be instantly forgiven. If only real life were like that. Maybe we should let Supernanny run our penal system.

I can’t really explain why I love this particular show; I’m entirely outside the target demographic, and I don’t really require parenting advice. I think it’s partly just the same fascination with behavior that I like about other reality shows — no one technique works for all kids, but it’s amazing how often she turns out to be right that a kid whose parents announce, “He’ll never sit in time-out for five minutes” can indeed be made to do so, provided you’re willing to put him back, like, three times. You can see how people give up — they try it, it doesn’t work, and they think, “This is making it worse.” Which it almost always does. But then it gets better! Hooray for Supernanny!

Tara and I had a discussion once, jumping off a conversation she once had with her sister, about whether it would be worse to have Tim Gunn upset with you, or Supernanny. My conclusion has been that having Tim unhappy with me would be more devastating, but having Supernanny unhappy with me would whip my behavior into shape faster. They need to make an automated Supernanny who tells you to floss and stuff. That would make my sorry behind a little more compliant, I’m betting.

In the order in which I remember them:

Kristy Lee Cook: When Simon Cowell called the choice of “God Bless The U.S.A.” a “clever” one, what he meant was this: “The only people who would ever vote for you are unsophisticated buffoons with spiritual wall hangings in their bathrooms who haven’t like anything in popular music since Elvis’s gospel phase, and those people will absolutely love this, because they love saying they love America almost as much as they love saying they hate sin.” Whether this is true or not is a different question, but that’s what he meant. Every time I hear this song, it makes me want to burn my passport and move to France, but I admit that her singing was not as painful as anything she did to The Beatles.

David Cook: I can’t really decide what position to take about this kid. I don’t enjoy listening to him at all, just as a leisure activity, but I like the fact that he does such wackadoodle things with songs sometimes. I wasn’t wild about the “Billie Jean” arrangement, but I hadn’t heard it before. I found his reference to his giant head sort of endearing also, but then…I still don’t like listening to him sing.

David Archuleta: Oh my God, seriously? He’s now traveling to foreign lands to find inspirational songs that fit the theme of the week? Nothing from his own birth year about controlling the pet population or recycling aluminum cans? This performance was flat-out wretched. Off-key in places, dull throughout, and just artistically vacuous. I’ve often agreed with Simon, but when he said the words “animated creatures,” I thought to myself, “Oh my God, that is IT EXACTLY.” He is exactly singing in a kids’ show about making the world a better place. As I texted during the show, I felt like I was at the finale of Dora The Explorer On Ice.

Chikezie: I understand that he wants to sing ballads, and also that he has this soul-singer vibe that it really means a lot to him to follow. I don’t want to be all, “Sing happy songs and dance around every week!” But…I really liked him the last two weeks, and I agreed with Simon and Randy that this was just completely boring. I’ve forgotten it already, except that I didn’t like it.

Ramiele Malubay: She started out so strong the first couple of weeks, you know? She looked like a really smart pick by the people I knew who picked her in the pool I’m in. But she’s been on a slide, and I’m afraid this is going to be it for her. Fairly or unfairly, legend has it that Carrie Underwood killed this song, and you have to be careful. You also have to 100 percent have those top notes, and she really only about 75 percent had them. Whether that was because of illness or because of her voice, it didn’t work for me at all. She’s exactly the kind of singer who slips through the cracks really, really easily, and I think Simon was jumping to conclusions (and not counting on Kristy’s appeal to your love of America, YOU PINKO) when he predicted she’d get through this week.

Carly Smithson: This was…fine? I…guess? It…wasn’t bad? I barely noticed it going by on the TV. That can’t be good.

Brooke White: I love Brooke. I love singers like Brooke, and I picked her for the same reason I picked Blake Lewis last year — when all else fails, I sometimes pick a kid who seems to be an actual musician. But she doesn’t get “Every Breath You Take.” That song is creepy, and it’s creepy on purpose, and making it into a breathy, plinky piano song really doesn’t make any creative sense. I totally disagreed with Simon and Randy that she should have continued with the style she used at the beginning — she sounded like she was playing it on a toy piano. This, to me, was a performance that once again proved that she’s a good singer and a good technical musician, but it made me concerned about her musicality, because who doesn’t understand “Every Breath You Take,” other than wedding singers?

Syesha Mercado: I didn’t care about this, and I didn’t understand why they were making such a big deal out of it. I feel like I’ve seen this performance a hundred times from a hundred girls, and it’s always fine, but it’s never really my cup of tea. She’s a little screamy for me, and I never get a lot of subtlety out of her. There’s nothing wrong with this, and she’s more musical than Kristy Lee Cook, but the overexcited talk felt to me like they were trying to get a woman in the race.

Michael Johns: For the second week in a row, he tried to cram way too much song into the 90-second (or whatever) slot they have available. Trying to do “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions” made it almost impossible to create any momentum in either segment. There has to be a build, and I think as a bar-band singer (or whatever), he kind of knows that, but he’s ignoring it, because he wants to get to these great Moments, like if he puts together enough Moments, he’ll get somewhere. And he winds up looking like a clip show, is all that happens.

Jason Castro: Man, I had to go look him up this week, so thoroughly did I forget him. The problem with “Fragile” is that it sounded hopelessly pretentious and self-important even when Sting sang it, and he had a history with Amnesty International by then. So when this kid does it, it seems even more ridiculous. But I freely admit that it’s possible that the reason I blocked out this performance was that I was thinking, “OH MY GOD HE WAS BORN THE YEAR THIS SONG CAME OUT.” I mean, there’s good stuff on this record. He was born before Sting became ridiculous. That’s amazing.

While we’re discussing television, and while I’m up too early on a Saturday because quitting my job has predictably led to a nasty cold (I completely believe the stress-hormone explanation, based on…every experience I’ve ever had like this), I have to say something about Addie.

Addie is the first person they’ve ever made over on What Not To Wear where I don’t like anything they did with her. Did not like any of the clothes — any! Did not like the hair. Did not like the makeup. The first outfit had her in skinny jeans, and because she’s not six feet tall and willowy, they looked horrible on her. The second outfit featured a sweater with a pattern that distorted as it stretched over her chest, which even I know is a no-no, and the length of the top was wrong and made her stomach look poochy. The third outfit was a dress that was just…an ugly dress, I thought.

I often don’t like what Nick does to curly hair — it winds up looking very poodle-y. Very much a topiary, and then it doesn’t move. It also tends to be un-feminine, in my opinion, which is fine if that’s what you’re going for, but it often isn’t. The makeup was okay, but as much as I love Carmindy and her “five-minute face” philosophy, if you’re just putting on a midtone eyeshadow, you’re really pushing it to call that a quick version of a “smoky eye.” Do the damn smoky eye or don’t, but don’t get all mock-apple-pie-made-of-crackers about it.

At her party, while her dress was a nice color, it was much too old for her, I thought. She started out with the advantages of seeming natural and approachable, and she wound up looking starched and uncomfortable. I usually like the makeovers pretty well, but not this one.

June 2018
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