Raise Your Goblet of Rock to THE AMAZING RACE 14

The fourteenth running of The Amazing Race kicks off tonight, and I’d started to prepare for our “annual” pre-season picks for favorites and most hate-worthy (it’s always fun to look back on those and see where we went wrong. It’s usually not on the “annoying couples trying to test their relationships”).

I quickly realized, however, that there may be only one team for me this year: actor/writer/director Mike White is running the race with his father, a gay rights activist. Sure, sure, there are cheerleaders and flight attendants, and we can debate whether the relatively large number of family connections will bring more (or more interesting) drama than the relatively small number of couples-testing-their-relationships will, but Mike White is running The Amazing Race! If you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch School of Rock as a warmup.

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Get Lost with THE AMAZING RACE 13

Susannah and I often speculate about how we would run The Amazing Race. We feel pretty good about our chances as long as we don’t hit a task that requires running or eating four pounds of eyeballs. Perhaps you join us in having an even better time watching from the couch and debating which Detour option is best, since a new season starts tonight on CBS (8pm Eastern). As we wrote last year, it’s time for the I Am Almost Always Wrong About This Amazing Racers Preconceived Notions Hate/Love-A-Thon. Last year we were pretty good about guessing who was reprehensible (one of the dating couples was delightful, but other than that…) and somewhat less successful in picking the lovable teams (grandfather and grandson were crudely adorable; the Goths couldn’t have been more fun). This year’s tally:

Couples Testing Their Relationships–Again. Still.: TAR‘s most enduring–and most annoying–category. Almost certainly cast for their ability to call each babe seconds before accusing each other of never really caring, these teams work on their couples’ therapy while taking up spots that could have gone to interesting people. One will almost invariably make it to the final three, which at least means there will be someone to root against.

Couples Testing Their Relationships, Your Cheating Heart Division: Creatively labeled “ex-NFL star” (well, he played) hopes to use the race to reconnect with the wife he cheated on. I’m hoping she dumps his cheating behind in the Outback somewhere and runs away with Phil. Yuck.

People Lookng to Jump-Start Their “Acting” or “Pretty Face” Careers by Appearing on TV: In the unfortunate tradition of Seacrest’s ex, we have an aspiring broadcaster, an aspiring actress (testing her relationship, no less!), the off-Broadway hoofer (The Fantasticks. Oof.)/Dallas Cowboys cheerleader team, and yet another cheerleader. Who is more annoying–the pairs working through their relationship issues, or the ones batting their eyelashes at the camera while they fail at milking a moose?

Isn’t there anyone with potential?

The Comic Book Geeks: Thaaaaaaaank you. While they may not be the most athletic team, one of these competitors helps run Comic-Con, and what task are they going to come up against that is more complicated or difficult than getting all the *&@!! Heroes fans out of a *&@!! room so the rest of us can see the *&@!! Battlestar Galactica panel?

Team Superbad: Like the pink Goths last year, this team is hard to pin down. Their dry geekitude could be a delight–if it’s real. Can you actually be Team Superbad if you’re so self-aware that you call yourself Team Superbad? The jury is out.

Hippie Beekeepers: No, seriously. Since we have to make room for more dating couples and famewhores, this team also serves as the token mature pair of the season.

Team Apron Strings: A single mom and her (apparently) only child look to the race as an opportunity to bond since college has come between them. Here’s hoping there’s lots of Mom getting in the way of flirting with the multiple cheerleaders.

Handy Dandy Guide to Returning Fall Television 2008

Suffering from Olympics withdrawal? Burned out on election coverage? Not to fear, my friend, because the new fall television season is upon us. That’s right, all (well, some) of our beloved TV shows are coming back to us. Below is a list of premiere dates for all our favorite (and some not-so-favorite) returning series. And stayed tuned, because coming soon, look for our guide to all the new fall series.

Tuesday, Aug. 26
Greek (ABC Family) 9 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 1
Prison Break (Fox) 8 p.m.
Gossip Girl (CW) 8 p.m.
One Tree Hill (CW) 9 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 2
The Shield (FX) 10 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 3
Bones (Fox) 8 p.m
America’s Next Top Model (CW) 8 p.m.
Top Design (Bravo) 10 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 4
Kitchen Nightmares (FOX) 9 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 5
Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? (Fox) 8 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 7
Entourage (HBO) 10 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 8
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox) 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 10
‘Til Death (Fox) 9 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 12
Don’t Forget The Lyrics (Fox) 9 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 13
MadTV (Fox) 11 p.m.
Saturday Night Live (NBC) 11:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 16
House (Fox) 8 p.m.
The Biggest Loser (NBC) 8 p.m.
Lincoln Heights (ABC Family) 8 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 18
Survivor (CBS) 8 p.m.
Smallville (CW) 8 p.m.
Supernatural (CW) 9 p.m.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX) 10 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 22
Dancing With The Stars (ABC) 8 p.m.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) 8 p.m.
How I Met Your Mother (CBS) 8:30 p.m.
Two and a Half Men (CBS) 9 p.m.
Heroes (NBC) 9 p.m.
Boston Legal (ABC) 10 p.m.
CSI: Miami (CBS) 10 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 23
NCIS (CBS) 8 p.m.
Law & Order: SVU (NBC) 10 p.m.
Without a Trace (CBS) 10 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 24
The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS) 8 p.m.
Criminal Minds (CBS) 9 p.m.
CSI: NY (CBS) 10 p.m.
Lipstick Jungle (NBC) 10 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 25
Ugly Betty (ABC) 8 p.m.
Survivor (CBS) 8 p.m.
My Name is Earl (NBC) 8 p.m.
The Office (NBC) 9 p.m.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) 9 p.m.
E.R. (NBC) 10 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 28
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC) 7 p.m.
The Amazing Race (CBS) 8 p.m.
The Simpsons (Fox) 8 p.m.
King of the Hill (Fox) 8:30 p.m.
Desperate Housewives (ABC) 9 p.m.
Cold Case (CBS) 9 p.m.
Dexter (Showtime) 9 p.m.
Family Guy (Fox) 9 p.m.
American Dad (Fox) 9:30 p.m.
Brothers & Sisters (ABC) 10 p.m.
The Unit (CBS) 10 p.m.
Californication (Showtime), 10 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 29
Chuck (NBC) 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 1
Private Practice (ABC) 8 p.m.
Pushing Daisies (ABC) 9 p.m.
Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) 10 p.m.
Friday Night Lights (DirecTV 101) 9 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 2
Tim Gunn’s Guide To Style (Bravo) 10 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 3
Wife Swap (ABC) 8 p.m.
Ghost Whisperer (CBS) 8 p.m.
Everybody Hates Chris (CW) 8 p.m.
The Game (The CW) 8:30 p.m.
Supernanny (ABC) 9 p.m.
Life (NBC) 10 p.m.
Numb3rs (CBS) 10 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 5
America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC) 7 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 6
Samantha Who?
(ABC) 9:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 9
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS) 9 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 10
The Starter Wife (USA) 9 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 14
Eli Stone (ABC) 10 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 30
30 Rock (NBC) 8:30 p.m.

Maybe Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni Can Help the TOP GEAR Crew

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Because they’re headed to Botswana tonight, and you know they’re going to need a mechanic.

Teasers show the boys racing across the Makgadikgadi Pans (previously the site of the most exciting Amazing Race climax ever) and trying to ford rivers (“Thunderbird One to the rescue!”). They will apparently also be joined by African Stig. It’s hard to imagine that they could top their last international trip (through the American South) for laughs, but you have to believe a Top Gear safari will be nothing if not memorable.

PUSHING DAISIES, MAD MEN Take DGA Honors

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Mad Men director Alan Taylor beat out double nominees from The Sopranos and Lost, winning the DGA award for outstanding directorial achievement in a dramatic series. The guild prizes were handed out at non-televised ceremony Saturday night.

Variety reports that the guild’s swift contract resolution with the AMPTP was a running theme throughout the evening, which included a standing ovation for chief negotiator Jay D. Roth when he was awarded an honorary lifetime membership to the guild.

A complete list of television winners is behind the cut… Continue reading

2007 PGA Television Nominees

The Producers Guild of America unveiled its television production award nominations on Tuesday. The winners will be announced on Saturday, Feb. 2, at–you guessed it–the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

A complete list of television nominees is behind the cut… Continue reading

2008: The Year of Casual Sexism?

New Year’s Eve always depresses me, as I feel compelled to look back over the lost year that was and contemplate everything I didn’t accomplish (it probably doesn’t help that I’m doing this while slouching on the sofa in my pajamas instead of partying with the glitterati). On the other hand, the next day cheers me up, as I can consider the fresh new year and all the ways I won’t screw it up (January 4: have already screwed up fresh new year).

It’s been quite disappointing, then, to be confronted in the fresh new year with multiple blithe instances of casual sexism in my TV viewing:

The Amazing Race: while struggling through a task that requires stringing a wedding garland, Big Strong Boyfriend chastises his partner for not being better at handling the flowers, what with her being a girl and all. This was very educational, as I had been unaware that possessing a vagina imbued one with magical abilities to make flower garlands. (I’d be more impressed that Snotty Girlfriend was able to come back with asking why Big Strong Boyfriend couldn’t row a boat better on a previous leg, what with being a boy and all, but her habit of calling other female racers bitches means she doesn’t have much wiggle room here.)

–ABC promos during college bowl games: I’d feel sorry for the announcers–I’m dismissive of Dance Wars: Hoohah versus Whatsit, too, and it can’t be fun to try to dredge up fake enthusiasm for such blatantly contrived garbage–if they hadn’t decided to solidify their manly, football-based credentials by linking their disdain so closely to the idea that only stupid chicks–and Other Persons of More Effeminate Natures, If You Get My Drift–were the target audience for the dance show. One can only hope they accomplished their goal of protecting the bowl audiences from getting their testosterone covered in sequins.

–MSNBC’s bizarre insistence on calling Senator Clinton by her first name. This may well be happening on the other 24-hour news channels, too, but the repeated use of “Hillary” to describe a major presidential candidate while still calling the candidates with dangly genitalia by their last names is dismissive, infantilizing, and insulting, and it just plain needs to stop. The woman has a last name–in fact, she has two. Pick one and use it, but stop calling her by her first name unless you intend to start talking about how Mike and Mitt are duking it out. Studies have shown that the tendency to refer to female athletes by their first names while persisting in using surnames for male athletes reinforces the privilege accorded to the “dominant” group–it’s hard not to think of that being an even more appalling state when dealing with reporting on American democracy. At least Keith Olbermann had the grace to notice this discrepancy on a graphic in his own show and seem upset by it.

Here’s hoping the year improves–and that the premieres of Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle don’t make matters worse. I can’t say I’m optimistic.

THE AMAZING RACE: Counting 1, Casual Bigotry 0

The Amazing Race

Some recent seasons of The Amazing Race have been criticized for silly tasks, spoonfed directions, and general lack of good race planning (and justifiably, too–Hong Kong=kung fu stunts? Really? That’s all you can come up with?). This season, however, has seen interesting and culturally appropriate tasks, twisty navigation, and the kind of course that rewards paying attention, for which I can only say thank you. Flying from Ouagadougou to make deliveries in Vilnius (go ahead–say it in Sean Connery’s voice. You know you want to.), topping it all off with having to walk on stilts or count fence posts at a Lithuanian festival? More, please!

Or maybe this season just seems like it’s a high point because of the reemergence of perceived in-race justice. While the pink-haired Dating Goths continue to find delight or compassion in everything around them and finish well, the CW rejects are shown the door. No, the CW rejects didn’t run out of luck because they used a game-sanctioned delaying tactic on other racers last week–they ran out of luck because they’d waltzed around the world holding their noses and regretting their missed manicures. Carrying all of that casual bigotry around in your heads (along with memories of dating The Seacrest) will make it hard to do draining intellectual tasks like reading a map and counting, ladies. We won’t miss you.

Tune in next week to see if Perssimistic Dad can hold his own intestines in and Toxic Dating Couple continue to weigh themselves down with superlatives (“You’ve become the worst person ever! This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done! I can’t imagine anything worse! Not even gay minotaurs!”).

THE AMAZING RACE: The Cat’s in the (Muddy) Cradle

The Amazing Race
Horrors! The lesbian ministers, despite exhibiting the terribly reasonable position that God probably doesn’t care if they win a million dollars on a reality show, have gone the way of all flesh. The way of all slow flesh. They were not quick.

Perhaps more awful yet is the pair that gets to stay. My beloved father/daughter team, pushed to the limit by race-induced stress on the second leg, spiral downward. Ronald, you can’t make a big deal about how this race will allow you to make up for all the parts of your daughter’s childhood you missed and at the same time berate her for what a disappointment she is. You have to choose a task or you can’t move on in the race–don’t hold your daughter accountable for that. There had best be a major redemption arc in the making, or I’ll be the one giving lectures about how disappointed I am.

In other news, heavily painted Goths, CW rejects, and mostly-nude grandpas trying and failing to pole vault over mud will never, ever get old. Next week: leaving climes where English is widely spoken? A girl can dream…

THE AMAZING RACE: An Ass for an Ass

The Amazing Race

The season premiere of The Amazing Race 12 included a daughter expressing gratitude for being able to spend what little remaining time she has left with her 59-year-old father, a couple claiming that dealing with a reluctant pack animal was the worst experience they’d ever had (what? They’ve never dealt with gay minotaurs?), a Jenny being unable to lead a jenny, and the CW rejects hoping to win a million dollars so they can go on a shopping spree.

And it was still one of the most satisfying episodes ever, if only because angry donkeys put nasty people in their place. Free clues for TAR contestants: if you are screeching at your partner and a donkey starts braying and you and will not stop, the donkey is trying to tell you you’re too loud. In addition, any donkey worth his salt will, upon being threatened with being cut up and eaten, refuse to move, daring you to get out the cleaver and the seasonings. It just doesn’t get better than a dating couple testing their relationship (which needs testing because he cheated on her) and the guy who described himself as catty, mean, and rude in a race for last place because their asses won’t get their asses in gear. The only thing missing was someone screaming, “My ass is broken!” Couple that with delightful teams (daddy/daughter, brother/sister, lesbian ministers, hard-racing Goths, non-annoying non-hippies) and the gorgeous Irish coastline, and TAR is off to a quick start.