Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Low Brow Effect

Lately, I just can't get enough of rich blond bimbos who flaunt their lack of breeding. Maybe it's because it's more lighthearted to hear than the sordid details of an over-exposed (yes, it's a bad pun) 40-something pedophile. Or maybe it's that inescapable need to experience schadenfreude once again. You see, when I'm feeling raggedy and unappealing, I want to know there's someone out there less fortunate than me. And who isn't less fortunate than the well-known exhibitionists starring in "The Simple Life: Interns" (Fox).

What brought this on, you ask? Paris Hilton just announced that she and Nicole Richie are no longer pals, buds, chums or even peeps. Not that I care a rat's bum about pampered tramps and their pissy catfights. Hilton's future casting plans for the not-so-reality show (um...is Hilton a producer?) include ousting Richie in favor of another equally shallow tart named Kimberly Stewart, daughter of singer Rod Stewart. Can you say co-star trend?

Okay. I'll retract some of that last statement. In March, when Nicole Richie appeared on "The View" (ABC), she handled herself quite well. She was dressed professionally, poised and articulate. She even appeared humble after taking to the piano to play one of Dad Lionel Richie's songs. She didn't say one bad word, that I remember. So she's not always an ill-mannered twit -- she justs plays one on TV.

Wait! I feel a song coming on.

VELMA:
Whatever happened to fair dealing?
And pure ethics
And nice manners?
Why is it everyone now
Is a pain in the ass?
Whatever happened to class?


MATRON:
Class.
Whatever happened to, "Please, may I?"
And, "Yes, thank you"?
And, "How charming"?
Now every son of a b**ch
Is a snake in the grass?
Whatever happened to class?

-- "Class," Chicago the Musical, sung by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah in the movie

Whoops! I'm getting off track. Back to Kimberly Stewart, who might replace Richie on the show (Fox denies the news, for now). Since I didn't know the new PYT (Pretty Young Thing) by reputation, I searched for Kimberly Stewart on Yahoo! Images. No, I wasn't interested in facts. I wanted to put a face with a name.

I have to admit I'm a big fad prude. I wasn't impressed when I saw a scantily-clad Stewart posing on the catwalk with both middle fingers extended and a cigarette dangling from her lips. My teenager -- who gleefully pleaded with me to show her the photo -- refers to this common hand gesture as "the cactus," presumably because of a poorly painted picture I once created in a watercolor class. Meanwhile, I can't help but think this rebellious display is the least of Stewart's flaws. By the time she gets into her 40s 30s, the disadvantages of smoking will far outweigh the mindless fashion statement, especially when her face resembles a dried-up apple. Oh, joy!

Apparently, I'm a big fat two-faced prude with no self-control, too. I had to look at the photo -- a couple of times at least -- like I was rubber-necking at a car wreck during rush hour. I'm a bit amazed at my lack of self-control. It's not like Americans are brainwashed into accepting garbage as entertainment, is it? Nah, can't be.

Last year, I became more self-conscious in my efforts to avoid tacky programming and related news briefs. The reason? At the very least, I was trying to model appropriate behavior for my daughter. (I've since found out I'm too late.)

I'm getting really good at channel-fleeing whenever I "accidentally" surf to shows like NBC's "Fear Factor" (known as "Gag Factor" in our house), ABC's "The Bachelor" (a sorry commentary on the state of dating in the 21st Century), and UPN's seemingly-rigged beauty competition "America's Next Top Model." For reality TV, I prefer inspirational stories like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (ABC), which demonstrates there's still good in the world, even when it results in huge endorsement deals for the host (a hottie by some standards) Ty Pennington.

Finally, I do recognize there's a real market for Peeping Tom entertainment, which is why these awful shows and news reports still dog us, season after season after draining season. The public can't get enough of obscene behavior, beautiful young people with bad attitudes, and the hosts and producers who manipulate them. Oh, the humanity! I guess that's why semi-scripted reality TV is here to stay. Or at least some trumped-up version of it.

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