The TV landscape is filled with what seems like a never-ending stream of fresh programming. But whereas few shows are popular enough to be celebrated by critics, most float around for several seasons in obscurity maintaining a small but devoted following. Here's our pick of five shows – some popular, most not – you need to be watching this week.
The Biggest LoserTens of thousands of pounds have already been lost on NBC's long-running weight loss reality show, yet for 15 seasons (and counting) contestants on The Biggest Loser continue to shed insane amounts of weight. Okay, maybe some of them do gain it all back, point is it's inspiring TV. Episode three follows the contestants as they explore their creative side, when they're asked to work out using equipment won at auctions. Hmm...I wonder how much a Tony Little Gazelle (circa 2002) is going for these days? The Biggest Loser airs this Tuesday, October 29, at 8 PM ET on NBC.
Impractical JokersThe problem with every hidden-camera show of the last 10 years is that most of them starred Ashton Kutcher (zing!). Well, I'm happy to say that Impractical Jokers, truTV's hilarious prank show featuring four Staten Island-bred funnymen doing what they do best, not only takes over the mantle from Candid Camera, it flat-out bulldozes anything even remotely similar (i.e. Punk'd). Now if only one of these dudes even slightly resembled Steve Jobs, the Kutcher-starring biopic would have been worlds funnier. Oh wait – that was supposed to be a drama wasn't it? Double zing! Impractical Jokers airs Sunday nights on truTV.
Cutthroat KitchenEver find yourself skimming the tube some weekday afternoons and thinking to yourself, "Boy, there sure could be more cooking shows"? Well, thankfully, Cutthroat Kitchen is one of the few food-oriented reality programs that actually has a unique premise (the other 90 seem to always have some version of Gordon Ramsay verbally berating contestants). Basically, four chefs are given $25,000 in cold, hard American coin, which can be used to destroy each other in the kitchen. And if you thought only athletes like Mike Tyson became depraved when big money was on the line, wait until you see a couple of cooks go at it! Cutthroat Kitchen airs Sundays at 10 PM ET on the Food Network.
Alaskan Women Looking for LoveTired of the Fake Housewives of New Beverly County? Then catch up with some real woman who just happen to be in need of a man. And get this, they all just happen to reside in Alaska. That's right, that ice-covered oasis to the north (formerly known as Palinville) is littered with enough attractive young women for TLC to base a show on. That said, looks like there just might be hope for the hard-working young ladies of North Dakota! A man can dream...Alaskan Women Looking for Love airs Sundays at 7 PM ET on TLC.
Making MonstersEver wonder how all your favorite haunted house "scareacters" are made? Then you'll want to check out this week's Halloween-themed episode of Making Monsters on the Travel Channel. Put it this way, one of the creatures they construct from start to finish is described as a human eating zombie from hell. And no, his name is not Ted Cruz. Making Monsters airs this Sunday at 6 PM ET on the Travel Channel.
“My dick is going to get so wet tonight ” declares Costa the foul-mouthed ringleader of a trio of sex-starved teens in the opening moments of Project X the new “found-footage” comedy from director Nima Nourizadeh and producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover). Believe it or not this qualifies as one of his more charming moments in the film. All of 17 but blessed with an obnoxiousness lesser men would take decades to cultivate Costa (Oliver Cooper) is the perfect mascot for a film that makes no bones of its mostly prurient intentions proffering what is essentially a succession of debaucherous montages intermingled with uneven attempts at comedy and held together by the slimmest pretense of a plot.
Caustic as he is Costa at least exhibits something of a recognizable personality; the same cannot be said of his two cohorts the tubby dweeb J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and the earnest blank Thomas (Thomas Mann). None of them seem to enjoy much in the way of popularity at their high school located in the fictional suburb of North Pasadena but Costa has a plan to fix that. On the occasion of his 17th birthday Thomas whose parents have conveniently departed for the weekend reluctantly agrees to host a party that Costa promises will be a “game-changer” for their lowly social status.
Hardly a game-changer is Project X’s script co-written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall which mostly treads a predictable teen-comedy path. At its outset the party appears to be a bust. Soon however hordes of eager revelers descend upon Thomas’ house and the event swiftly devolves into a festival of wanton hedonism that would impress Charlie Sheen. The orgy of booze drugs and sex is captured by Nourizadeh in one impressively slick sequence after another set to a vibrant soundtrack.
To maintain the guise of an actual movie – and to occupy us between shots of topless beauties downing tequila and frolicking in the pool – Project X tosses in a few familiar tropes to push its story along: an unstable drug-dealer bent on revenge a buzzkilling neighbor seeking to end the night’s festivities prematurely a budding but hesitant attraction between Thomas and his childhood friend Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). But the scenes are so hollow and contrived that you get the sense even the filmmakers don’t buy them and only added them to the film in a transparent ploy to forestall allegations of complete and utter vapidity. The efforts serve only to add a dash of the banal to the proceedings.
Project X’s natural forebears – R-rated teen comedies Superbad and American Pie – tempered their crudity and outrageousness with a surprising degree of depth and sincerity. Moreover they were actually funny. Project X is a shallow affair to be sure but a dearth of laughs is what ultimately dooms it. A belligerent little person who goes on a crotch-kicking spree after being tossed in an oven amounts to the film’s most sophisticated attempt at humor. More often it relies on recycled gags from previous films (including Phillips’ own library from Road Trip to The Hangover Part II) and Jackass-inspired mishaps.
The found-footage approach has proven to be a potent (if overused) tool in horror films but its utility in the service of comedy at least in the hands of Nourizadeh is limited. It mostly comes across as a needless gimmick good for marketing purposes but little else. Perhaps acknowledging as much Project X’s backup plan calls for an incessant raising of the stakes. As the once-innocuous gathering metastasizes into a fully-fledged riot one so dangerous that even the police dare not intervene the specter of parental disapproval gives way to the threat of incarceration and finally to the potential incineration of the entire neighborhood. The scale of the destruction is impressive – especially for such a (presumably) low-budget film – but like much of what precedes it almost entirely pointless.
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