Watching UPN on a good night is a disconcerting experience. On a bad night, the effects are positively emetic. And we're not talking about the Hot Pocket ads.
We don't want to give anything away, but let's just say that we were well advised to have our airsickness bags ready, so be prepared.
One last Garden-Weasel ad and then:
Live, from skank central: It's "Chains of Love" -- the game show in which all the players are losers!
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This week, our center chainee is a woman, Jenny, billed as a "college student," though we never learn what she studies. She's said to be 21, but has the intent look of an insecure 19-year-old. Like Tomas, the uptight chucklehead from last week, Jenny tells us that she's "Latin."
She needs her men to be "manly, a little, you know?"
No, we don't know.
The guys are a grim bunch:
Hulking Kristian, fleshy and simian, is billed as "the tough guy." He's a catch, girls!: "An ideal night for me is to kick back next to the keg or somethin'. If a confrontation arises, I'm the first person to get in someone's face and let them know the way it's gonna be."
Kristian is just the man you want by your side, in other words, in any number of situations, from when someone is bogarting the joint to when someone is fronting your crew.
Adam is dorky-looking but affable: He's a "hopeless romantic." He says, "There's nothing I wouldn't do for my girlfriend."
Then we meet Slim, who has biceps the size of sequoias. It's not like he's just a dumb muscle boy -- he has a lot of tattoos, too. Just the sort of guy you'd want to bring home to meet Mom. "I'm a goofball, a cheeseball," he announces. We see a lot of scenes -- too many, perhaps -- of Slim getting jiggy.
Chris is a mangy-looking red-haired guy with a, um, creative approach to facial hair. It looks like he didn't shave for three weeks and then fell onto a running Weedwhacker. He tells us that he used to cheat a lot on his girlfriend but then had an epiphany and has matured.
We reflect that "epiphany" is probably the biggest word that has appeared on UPN this season. But our hopes that Chris might provide us with some more polysyllabic words are dashed. Chris is apparently fighting a secret battle with autism.
The members of this gang meet one another. Courtly Adam hands Jenny some flowers.
Madison Michele, the model and very glamorous reality TV show host, appears. Madison was born with the name Michele Madison, we're pretty sure, but got it all mixed up when her cosmetology-school teacher put her last name first. She has been confusing herself and others ever since.
She gives the group the drill: chains, sleep together, $10,000, blah blah blah.
She reminds the group that the Locksmith, aka the Samoan dream date, will appear periodically and make Jenny jettison one of the guys. She can give each ejectee some of the 10 grand.
The group hangs out on the balcony and makes toasts. Slim raises a glass with one of his enormous tattooed arms and says, "Here's to the next four days."
"May the best man win," says Kristian. This mot inexplicably provides much merriment.
The show had set up a ruse under which a friend of Jenny's, Helen, met the four men before the show. The five of them have to watch a tape in which Helen rags on the four guys.
"Slim seems to have a really big heart, but he's a little too concerned with his looks," she says.
Kristian: "He's really cute and funny, but I'm not sure I was laughing with him or at him. Let's face it, he may not be that bright."
Chris: "He seems like a nice guy who wants to be bad, but I'm not sure about the nice part."
Adam: "I would say Adam was the perfect guy for you, but he was rude and impatient. He treated me like a jerk."
Kristian and Slim immediately clash: They get along like, well, two overmuscled cheeseballs chained to each other for four days.
Slim embarks on a conversational gambit, expatiating about how fat girls are actually really sweet.
From this low point, Kristian takes it even lower: "What part of them is sweet? Oh, you mean their personality," he says.
"You're a gerbil," Slim says.
It goes on like that for a while, until we're sure that we've accidentally switched the channel from UPN to the BBC feed of the debates from the British Parliament.
"I don't know how to act when men act like that," Jenny says.
Jenny tells the guys to write down their impressions about her and one of the other guys.
For viewers across the county, a minute or two of precious existence ticks by.
They're in a truck. Kristian's still dogging Slim. "You come off like some big strong macho dude. Do you have anything to back it up?"
"I don't like confrontations," Slim says.
Kristian then shares with the group that he's ready to "throw down" with someone.
Back in the kitchen, Jenny goads the two boneheads she's chained to into an arm-wrestling contest. It seems an odd match, because Slim's arms are so big. But Kristian gets himself all worked up and beats Slim with his left arm.
He puffs about the kitchen in victory. But Slim insists Kristian arm-wrestle with his right arm, and then beats Kristian handily.
The escutcheon of his manhood thus scarred, Kristian makes Slim play a game called "mercy," the competition of choice in some of this land's finer watering establishments, in which you basically try to break your opponent's fingers. In this sport of kings Slim finds himself at a loss, and is quickly curled up against the refrigerator in pain.
Kristian doesn't let up. Adam points out to Slim that he's supposed to say "mercy." He finally does.
"I shouldn't have to say 'mercy,'" Slim tells the camera later. "I said, 'Ow.' That should be enough."
It was just such pugilistic misunderstandings, we're sure, that led the Marquis of Queensbury to lay down the law lo those many years ago.
Over dinner Jenny reads reports she's been given by a handwriting analyst. Last week, UPN utilized a psychic. This is all part of a corporate commitment to employing charlatans, apparently.
Jenny reads a few sentences of innocuous blather about Slim. He's reduced nearly to sobs. "It's bringing out everything I try to keep hidden," Slim expostulates, tearing up. "I'm shaking," he tells the group.
He looks like a mountain of muscle, but inside he's aching and vulnerable and prone to hot flashes.
Time for the hot tub. Slim overcompensates for his emotional Midway by trying to give everyone a lap dance. Adam and Chris, who still isn't speaking, try to sink beneath the water. Kristian dances too, making fun of Slim.
Then Jenny reads aloud what Kristian wrote about Slim: "What a deadbeat. He'd rather be chained to four guys."
Slim finds this hurtful. Jenny finds it vastly amusing.
Time for bed. Kristian snuggles with Jenny.
The badinage continues around the kitchen counter early the next morning. Slim, it turns out, had kept everyone up during the night.
"Slim, I was like this close from shaking that snore right out of you," Kristian says.
"Seriously," Jenny says.
Kristian pours a glass of tequila. He opens his mouth wide, pours the drink down his throat and then stomps and shakes his head like an angry bull.
"I just want to wake up," he says.
They go bowling. Kristian asks Jenny how many guys she has slept with. She refuses to answer.
"How many guys you slept with, Slim?" he asks.
"There was one crazy night with your dad," Slim shoots back. A touch! A definite touch!
Then they bowl and play truth or dare. Slim has to French-kiss a bowling ball, and then bowl bottomless!
Oh, the fun.
Then the Locksmith "suddenly" appears at the end of the lane. Everyone looks surprised, but we think they would have noticed him waddling out there.
We'd like to think that any woman chained to a psycho like Kristian would do anything to detach herself as quickly as possible.
But this is UPN.
Jenny boots Slim, and scorches him:
"Here's $200, which is more than you deserve," she says.
Slim drives off with the Locksmith. "I opened up this weekend!" he protests to him.
"Two hundred dollars seems pretty fair for the day -- and the night he put us through," says Jenny later.
The reduced group hangs out on a balcony back at the house. We're forced to watch Kristian put the moves on Jenny. It's a little like watching Cary Grant in his prime, only minus the looks and the intelligence and the charm and the charisma and the sexiness. And the vocabulary.
Chris is still playing the silent card.
Then the three guys get a chance to have a slow dance, one at a time, with Jenny. The result is something less than lyrical. We've seen "Riverdance" numbers that were sexier.
After some developments too dumb to go into here, the boys get to watch more of the tape from Jenny's friend, but Jenny doesn't. Kristian is a total liar, Helen says again. Well, duh. Adam comes off well, though: "He totally apologized to me for being a jerk, and he's just the sort of guy you'd like," she says.
Adam says he wishes Jenny had actually seen the tape, but suddenly the Locksmith shows up again.
"It's really difficult," Jenny says. "I really like this person." Again she has a psychopath to toss off, but she goes for Chris, who hasn't done much more than grunt.
"He barely wanted to slow-dance with me!" she says. Chris was apparently wearing his skank detector.
She gives him $800 of her $9,800 store.
Chris doesn't say anything on the ride home.
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We see Kristian putting the moves on Jenny that night.
Kristian thinks he has the game sewed up. We think he's on crack.
"I believe in my heart that nice guys finish last," he says, referring to Adam.
It's date day. Jenny and Adam go to a botanical garden and eat a picnic lunch. He tells her he really likes her and doesn't care about the money.
"This is one of the most romantic dates I've ever been on," Jenny gushes.
The date with Kristian is weirder; he gets to paint her back in what's billed as a "sensual massage." This is sometimes known in the vernacular as "finger painting for skanks."
The two then have champagne and we have to watch again as Kristian tries more of his keg-party moves.
"Kristian is going next," Adam says.
Oops -- here's the Locksmith!
"You've earned my trust," Kristian says to Jenny. He gives her a bracelet.
Adam says: "I enjoy being with you."
Jenny says she likes Adam a lot. "But this is 'Chains of Love,' not 'Chains of Friendship,'" she says. It's Adam. She reminds him that he said he wasn't in it for the money, and doesn't give him any.
As he leaves, Jenny and Kristian crack up laughing in common contempt for the shocked schlemiel.
"I can't believe she picked Captain Leatherpants over me," Adam says in the car as he leaves. "The drinking, partying, vulgar guy wins the girl."
Boy, this will be the last time he volunteers to go on a skanky UPN reality TV show to get a date!
And at this point, after 45 minutes of watching Jenny, we think the whole "getting the girl" thing is a bit overrated.
Jenny and her chosen prince end up in a big bathtub together. We see Kristian rampant. He sucks on a cigar, talks like a big fat bloated drunk and pours liquor all over his face. Then he stubs out a cigarette -- on his tongue.
We have seen courtship in zoo compounds conducted with more finesse. But we have to admit: It has gotten him this far.
Jenny looks a bit appalled, but we're sure it's an act. We're reminded of the old joke whose punch line goes, "We've already established that -- now we're just dickering on price."
Kristian puts more moves on her at night, but it doesn't look as if she's buying what he's selling.
In the morning, the pair faces the music in the form of ditzy Madison Michele. Kristian's hair is all spiky; he looks like Billy Idol gave him a drive-by makeover. In a risky fashion statement, he is wearing his sunglasses on the back of his head. It's not clear that Kristian knows on which side of his head they belong.
"You're an emotional roller-coaster ride that intrigued me," Jenny says, "but in the end I didn't like what I saw."
Under the "rules" of the "game," she announces that she doesn't want to "pursue a relationship" with Kristian. She sends him on his way with $500.
She's keeping $8,500 for herself. We're pretty clear at this point that Jenny's the type of girl who gets asked to sign prenups.
What follows is something right out of "My Dinner With Andre," if "My Dinner With Andre" had been about two human skanks spending three days chained to each other.
Kristian stalks off. "She's a greedy bitch," he tells the Locksmith as they drive off.
"I'm going to be laughing all the way to the bank," Jenny ripostes.
-- Bill Wyman