The Fall ’07 TV season kicked off this week, unofficially.  There were a few premieres before, namely Curb Your Enthusiasm (review tomorrow) and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (maybe I’ll write a review after the next episode), but this week got into the meat of the schedule.  I’m writing this a bit early, I know, but there aren’t any new shows other than Survivor debuting this week, so I figured I’d give you an early present.

This is my first review of the new season (for the blog, at least) so I’ll give you all an idea on how I’m going to be writing these.  Each night that I watch one or more of my main shows, I’ll write a paragraph or so saying what I thought about it.  That could mean at least 5 new blog posts a week, not counting little featurettes that I do, so you readers are in for a treat.  This is why I take it so easy in the summer; because once the season starts, it doesn’t let up.

Tonight will be a bit more, 2 or 3 paragraphs on each, since I’ll be talking about the future of each series along with the specific episode.

Beauty and the Geek – 401

A little background, for those of you who don’t know me: I’m a geek.  I love geeks, I wear the title with a sense of pride, and I’d never watch anything that twisted the word into something nasty and insulting.  This is why I love Beauty and the Geek (B&G from now on) so very much.  The show avoids the pratfalls of so many other reality shows by rarely twisting situations to carry out producers’ agendas.  The result is an honest show where the value is put more on understanding the humanity of the contestants than winning the silly challenges.

This season the geeks are, overwhelmingly, true-to-life nerds and wonks and spazzes.  In the past there has always been one geek that I could pin as a fake by the first or second episode (Wes in season 2, Scooter in season 3) because their attire was too cliche and their geekiness felt tacked on.  This season, there is another!  Jesse “lives with his parents” and has a bad haircut.  When put side-by-side with the pinhead, mouth breathing, socially inept fellow geeks, he looks like a king.  Look for Josh to “come out of his shell” somewhere around midseason and start making out with his partner.  It always happens.

As far as the other guys go, the producers really made some great choices this season.  Joshua is a neurotic Jew with borderline Asperger syndrome, the worst (and best) contestant they’ve ever had.  David is Dwight Schrute come to life, a LARPer (look it up) who firmly believes he has a hold on the world around him even though he’s completely off.  Tony is an adorable Asian whose shyness could be debilitating later in the show.  Pretty much every geek, with the exception of Jesse, is a completely authentic and totally lovable loser, the figures who drive this show to greatness.

As for the beauties, it’s your run of the mill once again.  There’s a huge-boobed playboy prospect, an imposing muscular model, a surprisingly pretty white-haired hairdresser, and a supremely ditzy trust fund baby who lists her occupation as “babysitter” (is there anything wrong with that?) and prides herself on her inability to read.

The twist this season is that they’re introducing a geeky girl and a hot guy to make the 10th and final team.  She’ll compete with the geeks, and he will be going up against the ladies.  The twist is interesting, to a point, and I love that they evolve the show without changing too much of its winning formula.  One problem might be that according to Wikipedia, the hot guy is “actor Sam Horrigan of Disney’s Brink! fame. He has also played small roles in Veronica Mars, Desperate Housewives, and 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter.” The show is so good because it makes real people change their lives and outlooks on the world.  Will this actor be along for the ride, or will he fake his way through it?  Only time will tell, but I know I’ll be tuning in to find out, because this season’s collection of ladies and nerds is fantastic.  I’ve got high hopes for this one.

Kid Nation – I’m Trying To Be a Leader Here

CBS’s Kid Nation is the most controversial show of the new season (maybe, it’s close between this and the next one on my list) for a number of reasons.  They include, but are not limited to: children drinking bleach from unmarked bottles, two emergency room visits, facial burns from grease, and the producers lying on forms to get around child labor laws. You can read all about them here, because I’m not going to write about them.  I’m a mindless consumer, numb to the world outside of my 4:3 glowing square, and all I know is what I see on the screen.  So unless the issues come up in the episodes themselves or I decide to do a piece specific to it, don’t expect anymore discussion of the controversies.  I just want to talk about the show for now.

The premise is simple: kids are thrown into a fake old-western town and expected to create their own society.  Four children are introduced as the town council, and they are the leaders.  The ages range from 8-15, though those are outliers.  Most of the kids are around 10 and 11.  I’ll say this about the show: it got my attention.  I watched it, yelled at the TV when there was disarray, and felt good when the kids accomplished tasks.  Whether or not it’s a good show I’m not yet sure, as the phoniness factor hasn’t been totally revealed, but the enjoyability of the pilot certainly was high.

When the tough guy 15 year old Greg got on stage and started a fight with the council member 11 year old Mike, a smart but sensitive kid, I wanted to jump through my screen.  One day into the competition, and the obnoxious teenager was already pushing his weight around and sabotaging the entire society.  But with that instance not included, the show carries a tone of childhood throughout.  These are kids, no way around it, and even when they assume responsibility or have to act like men in a situation, their eyes well with tears and you really get a sense of their age.  Two older kids, Sophia and Michael, who are both 14, take control of the group even though they aren’t in real positions of power.  Their maturity levels are well beyond their years, and well beyond those of the obnoxious 15 year olds.  After one episodes, the kids really start to grow on you.  I’m just a sucker for kids, I know, but I find the show very watchable.  I can’t really speak for the quality yet, but I’m gonna keep watching for a bit and see where they take it.  Besides… watching kids drink bleach is gonna be hilarious.

Gossip Girl – Pilot

The contender for most controversial show is the CW’s Gossip Girl, an adaptation of the book series by Cecily von Ziegesar.  The series, created by The O.C.’s Josh Schwartz, follows a group of painfully well-off Manhattanites as they party their way through an uber-snobby prep school.  The Gossip Girl, narrated by the lovely Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), is a blogger who has informers stationed all over the city, constantly texting each other accounts of drama taking place within the inner circle.  Yeah, I know what most of you are thinking, but it really is better than I’m making it sound.

The kids drink, smoke pot, and have sex (sometimes against their will).  A lot.  And they also struggle to constantly outdo each other.  When Serena comes home from a mysterious year spent at “boarding school” without prior notice, the Gossip Girl’s scene blows up.  Her best friend Blaire is dating Nate, a love interest of both ladies.  Of course, tension rides high between them, and someone is always there with an open cell phone to tip off a friend.  We also get to follow the lives of Dan and Jenny Humphrey, two mostly unpopular kids who attend the elite school because their dad is an aging rockstar whose flame burnt out sometime in the 90s.  They are both tossed head-first into the inner circle during the first episode, and their adaptation to the scene is perhaps its best story arc, and one that will carry through all season.

The controversy around this show is one created by folks long-removed from their high school years, but this kind of stuff was surely going on when they were teens.  It’s silly to complain about it, because the producers are not stretching the truth here, as far as I know.  I’ve always assumed that the super-rich live like this, and now TV has told me that it’s true.  I’m sure the same old fogies are shocked by the rampant use of text messaging in the show, too, but even I can vouch for its authenticity on that subject.  With a strong set of books behind it, the show has a solid place to go.  And with an attractive cast, a beloved creator, a hip soundtrack and good word of mouth, expect this show to be one of the biggest hits of the season.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat cheese crackers in my underwear and dream about being rich and young and pretty.

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