I Like to Watch

Who's sexier, a runaway bride or a moody young doctor in training? What's more alluring, a sweaty ham sandwich or Tyra Banks?

Published May 9, 2005 8:00PM (EDT)

Flee circus
Welcome back, chicken livers, to another Monday filled with demeaning culinary nicknames and cursory glances at all your favorite shows, especially the ones you don't actually watch. First, I feel I should address those tenderest of nuggets who suggested that last week's column was just an excuse to use language that's vulgar and inappropriate. Naturally, this observation is completely accurate. In fact, it took all my strength not to address you all as cocksuckers just now. If I could call you all cocksuckers every single Monday morning ... well, that's just too dreamy to contemplate.

But let's move on to a much more pressing and important matter: Why are runaway brides so sexy? There's just something inexplicably appealing about a woman who dreads her own wedding, a woman who is willing to buy a bus ticket to Albuquerque, N.M., and fake her own abduction just to escape her upcoming nuptials. But was it the glad-handing with Aunt Mabel or the lifetime of warming up TV dinners for her honey pie that made her cringe and flee? There's no telling, and the mystery only adds to the allure. So mysterious, and yet so naughty she was, her eyes as big as dinner plates, her quivering fiancé still waiting in the wings, undaunted, vowing his undying love and devotion!

[A word of caution for the super-nice guys out there: You'll note that jilted grooms who quiver devotedly in the wings are not so mysterious or alluring, and go far in explaining the original hasty escape.]

You know what's even more alluring than runaway brides? Runaway Brad Pitts. Don't you agree that Brad Pitts look particularly adorable and forlorn when they're on some beach 10,000 miles away from home with their new lady, and they still can't escape the camera's eye? Sadly, though, a Runaway Brad Pitt would have to fly to Mars to romance his new woman in peace, because no matter where he goes on this great big globe of ours, sad little men with big cameras follow him. The best part of being found out, of course, is the faux-sympathy the magazine that publishes the pictures has for you, despite the fact that they were willing to pay the sad little man with the big camera top dollar for stalking you. The ever-classy In Touch magazine laments that Pitt and Angelina Jolie "have gone to extremes to avoid being photographed together" yet "even Kenya wasn't far away enough"! (Thanks to cocksuckers like us, it wasn't!)

See, you start using that word and it's almost impossible to stop. Damn you, David Milch!

Dr. Foxy to the O.R.!
I think moody young doctors in training are almost as alluring as Runaway Brad Pitts. Something about their white coats and their big brains, straining to keep so many procedures and treatments and complications onboard at once. They have to think so hard, it makes them very angry!

My sister was a moody young doctor in training once. I'll never forget the day we went to the mall and I asked this woman behind a makeup counter about some lip gloss I liked, and she replied, "Oh, the Clinique girl is out today -- I don't really know anything about this line. It's hard enough just learning one line of cosmetics!"

I knew immediately that this comment would unnerve my sister, and it did. As we walked away, she became incredulous. "It's hard enough learning one line? One line of cosmetics?" she gasped. "Try learning all of the bones and articulations and ligaments in the lower extremities, not to mention the whole body! Try learning the entire nervous system or the respiratory system! Try learning ..." The rest is a blur, because when a moody young doctor in training gets angry, you learn to keep your mouth shut and think about other things, like how thankful you are that you don't even have to learn one line of cosmetics, and whether or not the Sweet Factory has sour watermelon chews.

"Grey's Anatomy" (Sundays at 10 p.m. EDT on ABC) captures the subtle charms of the moody doctor in training perfectly. I've always loved Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith -- she has that likable sort of face that Renée Zellweger used to have before she started squinting and pursing her lips every time some sad little man pulled out his big camera. And Patrick Dempsey plays the sort of deliciously wise, unrealistically smoldering young doctor that will have you loitering around your local hospital in ass pants. Together, they make the hottest couple since Deputy Leo and Veronica started smooching on "Veronica Mars."

And that's not to mention Sandra Oh, who's perfect as the too-tough badass, and the mildly Hobbit-like T.R. Knight, who's likably pathetic as Meredith's quivering-in-the-wings roommate. Great cast, snappy talk, good stories? This show had me at "Hello" -- you know, the way Renée Zellweger did before she started doing too much Pilates and dying her hair brown.

Splendor in the mud
But no one has tumbled out of favor faster than Tyra Banks, whose unsavory self-centered outburst has completely transformed her from slightly silly diva/den mother to bumbling goon. In the old days when Tyra would bust into the girls' apartment and jump up and down on their beds, I thought it spontaneous and fun-loving. Now, such antics ring hollow, and Tyra seems chafingly false. In the old days, Tyra's orange hair looked daring and cutting-edge. Now, she looks like Krusty the Clown.

Indeed, every word out of Tyra's mouth these days makes me cringe. Her pouty mouth, her big, over-painted eyes, those absurd glamour shots they flash before each judging session, just so she can show the girls how a real top model flaunts it -- now all of it makes me sigh loudly and roll my eyes.

I'm also growing incredibly tired of the word "fierce." Tyra and her cronies use the word "fierce" at every turn, and it's getting stale faster than a three-day-old ham sandwich. In fact, and I hate to say this, but lately, lots of scenes in "America's Next Top Model" sort of remind me of that moment of truth, when you're trapped in the back seat with your evil siblings on a long car trip, and instead of stopping at Stuckey's like you specifically requested, your mom pulls out a bag of sweaty ham sandwiches and passes them around. The scene at that pathetic little zoo in L.A. when it was raining and everyone was wearing ponchos? You know, where Jay called out the names of wild animals, and the girls had to crouch, in their ponchos, in the mud, and pose like the animal whose name he called? That was like something out of "The Starlet."

And then, when Tyra showed up in a poncho and told the girls they were going to South Africa, and everyone jumped around in the mud in their ponchos? That was like choking down lukewarm mayo and ham, and then stopping at the petrified forest, only to find it's just a big dirty patch of ground covered in rocks, and your parents won't even buy you a snow globe at the gift store on your way out.

Plus, this season, there are all these moments where everyone's standing around in a semicircle staring at each other like it's the last scene of a "Scooby-Doo" episode. Did they fire someone crucial? And why are all the girls this season such morons? Not one of them knew what the word "aloof" meant? No one could pronounce "magenta"? Last season, I marveled at how smart and funny many of the girls were. Now, suddenly, they're all bland dummies?

Chaos for dummies
Speaking of which, how psyched are you for "Britney and Kevin: Chaotic"? I am so pumped to watch Britney Spears and her skanky husband frolic and babble aimlessly while filming themselves on hand-held video cameras that I literally can't calm down! In fact, my psychiatrist had to phone in a prescription for Ambien last week, as I had begun pacing and whining, "Britneeeeey," and grinding my teeth and making an army of little Britney clones out of mud, which I had dumped in the center of my living room. I don't have Teri Garr around to tell me to snap out of it, either.

Wait. You haven't seen the promos for Britney's new reality show (premiering May 17 at 9 p.m. EDT on UPN)? Boy, are you in for a treat! Now, as I'm sure you know already, Britney Spears is an incredibly insightful woman, chock-full of startling observations and words of wisdom and witty rejoinders. Imagine the delightful banter that must fly when this charming pair are alone together!

"Yer sexy!" Britney tells Kevin in one tantalizing scene in UPN's omnipresent promo. In another, Britney asks an imaginary audience, "Can you handle my truth?" Oh my! I'm quite sure we can't!

It's sort of sad, really, how our favorite little innocent, deliciously oversexed teenager turned into a trampy pregnant lady with a nasty tool of a husband overnight. Remember back when Britney was ultra-classy? Seems like just yesterday she'd pull on a sequined bikini and grind her hips onstage, moaning the words, "I'm a slave for you!" Those sophisticated salad days are long gone now.

I wonder if anyone will ever think to give hand-held digital cameras to really, really smart, really entertaining people instead of imbecilic celebrities? I mean, naturally they'd have to be alluring and youngish and have butts the size and shape of basketballs. But maybe they could be sharp and witty and a little bit morose, too, like little Dorothy Parkers, except with their asses hanging out. In fact -- and I'm going to give this idea away for free, out of the kindness of my heart -- they should do a nationwide search for the young people who are the most fun to watch just hanging out around the house. Surely there are some beautiful young geniuses out there who are fond of drinking too much, insulting each other ruthlessly, and quoting great works of literature while licking cream cheese off each other's tight young bodies.

Unlocking the mysteries of Mars
I guess "Veronica Mars" will have to do in the meantime. Man oh man has my love for this show (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EDT on UPN) grown lately. Having a whole episode focus on the night Veronica was roofie'd and raped was fantastic! The only thing more daring than a runaway bride is a teenage girl willing to confront the jerks who fed her drinks and messed with her at a party.

As much as I enjoyed "Veronica Mars" in the past, I always thought the central mystery of Lilly Kane's murder was the least interesting part of the picture. Not so! In the last few episodes, the clues have been coming fast and furious, and each one prompts a guessing game. Could Duncan, with his fits of rage, have killed Lilly? No, too obvious. Lilly's parents? They're bad news, but they don't seem murderous.

Of course, we've always suspected that Logan would end up being about as genuine and sincere as a celebrity with a camcorder. The signs are clear: With parents that deranged, how could the kid be anything but a bad seed? Plus, Veronica didn't exactly fall in love with Logan; they just started making out. Of course, in high school, falling in love and making out are pretty much the same thing. But still.

You have to hand it to the writers, though. Even though Logan now seems like the main suspect, he only started to look really shady toward the end of last week's episode. It's really a nice touch that Veronica's probably fooling around with Lilly's murderer. That dirty feeling inside should make her depressed and surly enough to fuel her through an angst-ridden senior year. And as we've learned many times before on these pages, angst-ridden teenagers are the most alluring creatures in the world, more alluring than runaway brides and moody doctors in training put together.

Let's review!
Runaway brides are sexy; trampy pregnant pop stars are not. The old René Zellweger was sexy; the new Tyra Banks is not. Runaway Brad Pitts are sexy until they put on the bad beret that Angelina Jolie seems to make all her quivering bad-boys wear. Little men with big cameras are not sexy, and they're the kinds of guys who slip their girlfriends a roofie, or stuff half of the petrified forest in their pockets even though there are signs everywhere telling them not to. Angst-ridden teenagers are sexy; angst-ridden teenage murderers are not. (OK, sometimes they are, just a little bit.)

Next week: Finales and the like! Will Dolphin Boy Ian ruin everything by teaming up with whiny Katie on "Survivor"? Will Uchenna and Joyce edge out Rob and Amba and the flinchy POW and his snippy beauty queen? Doctor, I need more Ambien, stat!

By Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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