Last week, I had absolutely no interest in watching the presidential candidates debate. I'm not one of those mythical "undecided voters" that you hear so much about. (Seriously, who are these people who haven't made up their minds yet? I've never met one. They're like the millions who actually watch Two and a Half Men.) Rather, I know the issues I care about and how each candidate stands on them, so I don't need to listen to them blather on for hours. It seems so boring and I have already made up my mind.
But you know what's not boring? Reality TV! And the election is sort of like a great reality show, where there are contestants, the audience voting for an eventual winner, and all of those judges in the press. Like one of the lamer seasons of The Real World, the casting got all messed up (Sarah Palin, I never thought I'd miss you so!) and the election has been especially boring. Why don't we steal some tricks from the reality TV handbook to jazz things up a little?
Challenges: Everything from Survivor to RuPaul's Drag Race has challenges where the winner gets some sort of advantage. Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are pretty physically active, maybe we can have them run an obstacle course, like American Ninja Warrior or solve some sort of crazy puzzle. Why not both? Give the winner all the electoral votes from a state like New Hampshire or Iowa. That's what they get for holding their primaries first, they get their election decided like this.
Bring Back Old Cast Members: This is a trick that Big Brother relies on year after year, letting old contestants back in the game for another shot at winning the big prize. We already had Bill Clinton giving a rousing speech at the convention, but what if he was actually in the race? Where has Ross Perot been? Or Ralph Nader? Don't you think they deserve a slot just to keep things interesting? We like seeing people we recognize other than the guy who's already in office.
Celebrity Mentors: What would The Voice be without all those celebrities teaching people how to sing? It would just be a bunch of spinning Barcaloungers, that's what. Let's get some celebrities to tell these guys what to do. Obama can get his good friend Oprah Winfrey and Romney can get, I don't know, a famous Mormon like Marie Osmond. I bet Kelsey Grammer would be there for him. Or maybe we can get the actors who played fictional presidents like Martin Sheen from The West Wing and Cherry Jones from 24. I don't know what they would say, but famous people make everything better.
Have Them Work with Other Contestants: The best part about every season of The Apprentice (either celebrity flavored or original recipe) was the final challenge where the two competing for the big prize had to use all the people they had defeated to get there as lieutenants. Half the time the losers would be all lazy or try to sabotage things and it would be awesome. So Romney would be saddled with Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and all the other wonderful Republican nominees. Obama would joust with Hillary Clinton and that rapscallion John Edwards. Now that would be a show no one could stop watching.
Change the Judges: All we talk about these days is who is going to be on the judging panel for American Idol or The X Factor. Maybe we should get some squabbling political judges to host these here debates. Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly got tons of press for their recent debate, why not let them duke it out on national television? Same thing goes with Bill Maher and Ann Coulter, who debated publicly several years ago. Why get one person who is impartial when you can get two really partial people to balance each other out and squabble the whole time? It's working for Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.
Bring Out the VPs: The best part of The Amazing Race is that everyone is saddled with someone who can improve their standing, bring them down a notch, horrendously embarrass them, or ruin the race altogether. In politics, this person is known as the Vice Presidential candidate. Look at what Sarah Palin did for John McCain. It was genius. I think that Joe Biden and that guy who looks like Nathan Scott should be a lot more involved. Let's really get them front and center so that the pairs' destinies are really linked. I think that is just good TV.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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Everything appears to be status quo between humans and mutants. There’s a president who is sympathetic towards mutants Prof. Charles Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) school is thriving and Magneto (Ian McKellen) is quiet--for the moment. But when a “cure” for mutancy is discovered which would give those with the mutant gene the choice to give up their powers and become human Magneto sees red. Cure mutants? Dem’s fightin’ words. With a few more allies on his side--including the resurrected Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who now calls herself the Phoenix and has unlimited powers--Magneto prepares to trigger the war to end all wars while the X-Men--lead by the stalwart Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and milquetoasty Storm (Halle Berry)--try to stop him. I seriously doubt this is really their Last Stand. All the usual suspects are back. Stewart is once again sufficiently wise as Xavier while McKellen’s Magneto continues to be one of the cooler comic-book villains. It’s amusing to watch him calmly mangle cars or dislodge the Golden Gate bridge with a gleam in his eye. Janssen also seems to relish playing dual roles--the tormented Grey and her evil alter ego Phoenix who is one scary broad. Unfortunately Jackman doesn’t have as much to chew on in Last Stand as he did in X2 and Berry is once again only good for drumming up fog. But the new mutants are kind of fun: Ellen Page (so deadly in Hard Candy) plays sweet this time as Kitty Pryde who can “phase” through solid material; Vinnie Jones (Snatch) is boisterous as the aptly named Juggernaut; Kelsey Grammer is diplomatic as the highly intelligent--and very blue--Dr. Hank McCoy aka Beast; and Dania Ramirez (Fat Albert) as the blink-of-an-eye quick Callisto gets to kick Storm’s ass. Cool cat fight. How dare director Bryan Singer leave his X-Men to go direct another superhero movie even if it is Superman Returns. If Wolverine had anything to say about he might have ripped Singer a new one. You really do feel Singer’s absence in The Last Stand. All of the director’s tormented pathos towards his mutant comrades and their struggles to live in the human world are not as prevalent in this third installment. Instead we’ve got happy-go-lucky director Brett Ratner of Rush Hour fame who turns The Last Stand into one giant id--big explosive and campy. Of course to his credit Ratner is pretty good at delivering a rousing albeit superficial action movie. It’s just not as gripping as X2. But listen the spirit of the comic is already built in from the previous installments so in essence we already know these characters pretty well. Do we really need more angst?
For a few years in the '60s and '70s producer Gerry Anderson made "supermarionation" all the rage in the world of British children's television. His stop-motion puppets starred in a number of sci-fi adventure series most memorably Thunderbirds which followed the exploits of International Rescue -- a team comprised of ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons. Based out of their secret fortress on Treasure Island the Tracys (aided by lovely secret agent Lady Penelope) used their amazing rocket-powered vehicles to prevent disasters and save lives around the world. Now 40 years after Thunderbirds' TV debut Star Trek vet Jonathan Frakes has brought Anderson's characters to life on the big screen. Front and center is youngest son Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) who dreams of the day he too can pilot one of his family's fab ships and lead missions. But first he has to prove himself to his father Jeff (Bill Paxton). That opportunity comes sooner than either expects when mysterious villain The Hood (Ben Kingsley) strands Jeff and the older Tracy boys in space and attacks Treasure Island. With only his friends Tintin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and Fermat (Soren Fulton) to help him Alan has to grow up quickly if he wants to save his family ... and the world!
It would be easy to mock several of the performances in Thunderbirds-- to chide Paxton for his earnest seriousness as Tracy patriarch Jeff to dismiss Corbet's angst-tinged eagerness as Alan to roll your eyes at Kingsley's over-the-top mystical fierceness as The Hood and to wince at Fulton and Anthony Edwards' nerdy stuttering as science whizzes Fermat and his dad Brains. But actors are only as good as their script and the one Frakes has given his cast (courtesy of screenwriters William Osborne and Michael McCullers) is weak and clichéd at best filled with after-school-special-worthy lessons for Alan to learn. "You can't save everyone " Jeff tells his son somberly and even Tintin has a moral for her crush when he's feeling selfish and indulging in self-pity: "This is hard on all of us Alan." Talk about insight! What makes it even more frustrating is knowing that the actors are capable of much more even the kids: Both Corbet and Hudgens did well with supporting roles in Thirteen. Thunderbirds' only real bright spot is Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope. A cross between Reese Witherspoon's Elle in Legally Blonde and Jennifer Garner's Sydney on Alias Myles' Lady P doesn't let her pink couture wardrobe prevent her from coolly kicking ass when the situation demands it. Attended by her droll driver/man-of-all-trades Parker (Ron Cook) Lady Penelope is a fresh feisty heroine with all of the film's best lines -- and the coolest car to boot.
Frakes cut his directorial teeth on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and his first feature film was Star Trek: First Contact so he would seem like a natural choice to bring a cult sci-fi TV show to the big screen. Unfortunately while he does an admirable job re-creating (and improving on) the original Thunderbirds' mod sets cool ships and special effects (which are fine if a bit more TV-sized than summer blockbustery) Frakes can't seem to decide who his audience is. If he was aiming at grown-ups who remember the show fondly from their own childhood he should have embraced the source material's campiness (à la Starsky and Hutch) rather than restricting it to the Tracys' plastic Barbie-like furniture and Lady P's bouffant hairdo. If on the other hand Frakes was hoping to entertain today's kids he should have really reinvented the show for a 21st-century world (à la Stephen Hopkins'1998 Lost in Space) rather than clinging to the '60s references As it is he's stuck somewhere in the middle leaving adults bored during the kids-on-an-adventure bits and children mystified by the handful of jokes aimed at their parents.