Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 1/6/09

GOSSIP GIRL came back for the new year and pruned back a few storylines. The biggest shock was that Jenny is now actually interested in school again. Eric asked her about this, and she basically just said she had a change of heart. Whatever. Little J immediately threw herself into battling Penelope and her mean girls, who were treating Nelly like a virtual slave. Are girls really like that in high school or was this just heightened reality? But when it turned out to be a good deed, and not about the collegiate party, it was all for naught.

Serena conveniently dumped Aaron over the hiatus and made up with Dan again, for like, the third (or was it 3,000th) time. But, of course, it was doomed by outside forces again. This time, it’s the revelation that Rufus and Lily had a secret baby, which means Serena and Dan each share a half-sibling (but still aren’t related themselves). Still, Rufus didn’t want them together, because…well, this isn’t BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL. “I wanna know where my child is,” Rufus spat, then pointed out that he gave up his dreams of being a rock star to be a father, so he wants the chance to play daddy to his “new” kid. And then he convinced Lily to go search for the kid. In a limousine. Can I just say how much I hate the secret-child cliché? Because I really, really do! Chuck’s sudden Uncle Jack doesn’t thrill me, either, but it’s not such a stretch, ya know? Besides, this Uncle Jack seems to have had an influence on Chuck’s hedonistic proclivities – he knew to look for his nephew in Bangkok, and actually handed Eric (who looks 10 years old) a drink.

Chuck was smoking hash on school grounds and almost walked (B. tried her best to help, but her efforts went up in…more smoke). Chuck was so disinterested that he bought back the Victrola to drown his sorrows in booze and dancing girls. When Blair confronted him and asked why he bothered to come back, she forgot that he didn’t — Uncle Jack dragged him back. Unable to cope with Chuck, Blair angled for membership in a society group called the Colony Club, only to discover that the old biddies are really just gossipy mean girls in sweater sets. She rushed to the burlesque club in time to literally talk Chuck off a ledge. She somehow managed to make his suicide bid seem to be about her, and him not killing himself seemed altruistic. Oh, Chuck!

Oh, ONE TREE HILL! Where did you go wrong? While I was off dallying with HEROES, you jumped the shark! From Peyton’s tearful announcement that she’s pregnant to Millie’s impulsive one-night stand to Brooke’s induction into the Power Rangers, nothing worked for me. Where once your directly-on-the-nose scripting seemed quaint and endearing, now it just feels lame and labored. I don’t care about Brooke playing foster mother to Sam, and Lucas’ plotline crossed the line into ludicrousness long ago.

The most realistic moment was when Andre took two extra cookies for his trip with Jamie to the cemetery to visit his slain brother Quentin. Then he left Q the cookies. What wasn’t realistic? Let’s start with Nate landing a job with the minor-league Charleston Chiefs. Okay, that could happen — however, professional players get to choose their own numbers, so Nate would have known going in that No. 23 was not available. And (anvil alert!) Devon Fox not only has Nate’s number, he has Nate’s job: point guard. And if either one of them wants to make it to the NBA, they need to learn that the point guard runs the offense and looks to pass the rock instead of trying to take it to the hole on every possession. The fake that Devon was a cocky carbon copy of the dead Quentin was…well, boring. Elsewhere, Mia was suffering writer’s block, but luckily Haley was available with sage advice — and Mia’s magic hoodie. Owen, the alcoholic bartender, started drinking again after getting hooked on painkillers following the slamball finals. Gregory Harrison guested as a Hollywood studio suit who was (are you sitting down?) interested in the opinion of a tyro screenwriter! (Where do they get this stuff?) Finally, Brooke tracked Sam to the guy who kidnapped her. Who turned out to be the guy who robbed her store and beat her up. And killed Quentin. And was on the grassy knoll in Dallas back in 1963. Good thing she totally kick-boxed him senseless. And this show has finally beaten me into submission; I’m done.

I had to admit I was curious about the new “reality” series TRUE BEAUTY, but only because I was astonished at how coldly calculated it seemed, and I had to see if it was as manipulative as is appeared to be. Yup. Every minute of it. This unscripted series was obviously designed to appeal to us “common folks” who want an excuse to openly mock the “beautiful people” we hate. The 10 hand-picked contestants were supremely self-centered and led to believe they were participating in a beauty contest, which they were — but they were not told that it’s actually an “inner beauty” contest. And the two-faced nature of the contestants is the appeal. As Chelsea crowed, “I’m conceited, and I admit it.” The show is judged/hosted by Vanessa Minnillo, whom soap fans may recall from a brief stint as Amanda on BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL. Vanessa herself would appear to know a little about…uh, showing different facets of one’s personality: She went out of her way to diss soap operas during an appearance on THE LATE SHOW WITH CONAN O’BRIEN, and she doesn’t even list B&B among her TV credits on her official Web site.

Anyway, the contestants were vying for $100,000 in cash and to get a photo in People’s Most Beautiful People issue. The initial episode concentrated on everyone as preening peacocks who dismissed everyone else as…well, preening peacocks. The “challenges” consisted of giving the players opportunities to not be cruel to clumsy waiters and production assistants toting coffee. The two lowest-scoring players were Chelsea and Hadiyyah-lah, who suggested she just may be the most attractive person on the planet (yes, she said, “planet”). She was particularly funny as she completely freaked out over getting the low score in a “scientific” beauty assessment — all the while insisting that she wasn’t concerned about the score. Yeah, right! Judge Nole Marin got it exactly right when he suggested Chelsea use less eye makeup. After Hadiyyah-lah was eliminated, two janitor characters dumped her portrait in the trash. Which is exactly where this supremely trashy show belongs. Obviously, it’s going to be a hit.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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