By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
|Photo by J. Viles/FOX|
Panned by the critics, ignored by the public, the contestants on Paradise Hotel(Fox, Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 p.m.) soldier bravely on. The program, if you’re one of the millions of people who haven’t been watching it, is a reality show about 11 “sexy singles” who’ve been dispatched to a luxury resort in order to indulge “their wildest fantasies.” (These, on the evidence of the first 200 episodes or so, include kissing, getting back rubs and jumping into a swimming pool in a way designed to create a really, really big splash.) There are no prizes to be won, the only point being to remain in “paradise” as long as possible, or until whoever’s fallen asleep at Fox wakes up and pulls the plug. Find somebody willing to share your bed and you’re safe; but with 11 contestants there’s always an odd one out, and each week svelte hostess Amanda Byram climbs down off her perch and orders someone to leave this latter-day Eden “forever.”
“Forever” being the operative word. At the rate things are going, this show will still be on a year from now. But will anything interesting have happened? So far, it’s been like a version of Temptation Islandin which nobody is seriously tempted by anything. Sure, people backstab and fight and shed tears and slide in and out of bed with each other. But for the most part, what’s really striking about these red-hot singles is just how lukewarm they are. Most of the time, they look as if they’d rather read a book than make out. Except, of course, that they don’t read books. It’s a problem.
The show’s one innovation — and it’s actually a pretty good one — is that each week a viewer can join the show, replacing whoever’s dropped out. The first member of the public to be chosen was Dave, a guy who would just be averagely unattractive if you saw him on the street. But among the tan, buff bods at the hotel, he looks like a monster: skinny, hideously pale, and sporting a paranoid, reptilian grin. His roommate, doe-eyed Charla, made her revulsion plain: “I don’t like him touching my bare skin,” she announced as Dave squirmed. Dave is learning the hard way that the Beautiful would sooner endure 40 years of enforced celibacy than make love to the Ugly just once. Since then, more people have been recruited from the tiny pool of viewers, but they have been Beautiful too, leaving Dave more Ugly than ever.
The most representative character is probably Scott, a man who appears to have no interests, no feelings, no desires and no conversation. (Other than that, he’s a barrel of laughs.) He’s been rooming with Toni, a bug-eyed personal trainer with large breasts and almost equally large biceps, but they do not have sex together. Although she is not Ugly, Toni is not Beautiful either (she is only Buff, Bisexual and Bonkers), and has thus been confined to the role of bipolar den mother, advice counselor and ally, while twitchy pretty boy Zack, laid-back pretty boy Alex and nondescript pretty boy Beau duke it out over Amy, Amanda, Kristin and Charla. The show is so supernaturally tedious that one wonders if Fox is playing the wrong tape. Perhaps there are bearded terrorists lurking in the bushes and, God willing, or Inshallahas the Arabs say, Paradise Hotel is due to turn into Hotel Inferno, blown to smithereens while we watch, or don’t watch, from the safety of our living rooms. Only time will tell.
I think it was in Nick Hornby’s How To Be Good that one of the female characters said women don’t go for guys who put too much effort into their appearance, since excessive personal grooming is likely to suggest . . . Well, that book was written at least three years ago, and times are changing fast. The notion that women are likely to be snared by charm and intellect alone, and never mind that potbelly seeping out of a stained T-shirt, is as dated as fedoras and furry pectorals.
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the new make-over show on Bravo (Tuesdays, 10 p.m.), has arrived just in time to confirm the new male status quo: Eyebrow grooming is in! And in Los Angeles and New York, the pressure is on for men to pay as much attention to their image as women. (The pressure eases considerably in places where it’s still legal to smoke a cigarette while drinking a beer.) So five gay men, including the hilarious Carson Kressley, a “fashion savant,” and Ted Allen, a “food and wine connoisseur,” have decided to help out their non-queer brethren by giving them a crash course in the aesthetics of self-presentation. Each week the team picks one straight, hopelessly unstylish male mired in sloth, facial hair and bad T-shirts, and puts him through a high-speed transformation. It’s like Trading Spaces, Faking It and What Not To Wearrolled into one whirlwind package.
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