Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Beefcake on Parade


I had to do it. It’s like rubber-necking at a car accident, but I had to tune into Oxygen Network’s new reality show Mr. Romance. And I can honestly say that I haven’t laughed so hard since…oh, I don’t even know when I’ve laughed that hard. In fact, this show has so much potential for pure, 14 karat gold snark that I think I’ll devote every Tuesday blog entry for the next six weeks to offering a recap. If you hate long, loooonng blog entries, don’t read on.

For those of you who haven’t heard about this show or who have enough sense to ignore crap-TV or who just have a modicum of taste, I’ll give you a brief set up. Twelve guys hole up together in some old Spanish-style mansion where over the course of five one-hour episodes they will be coached in the skills necessary to become a romance novel cover dude. First big laugh – I didn’t realize there were more skills required than a buff body and the ability to hold still for the camera. Apparently, I was wrong. Anyway, during this “Romance Academy” experience, the guys will be graded on various skills and two of the twelve eliminated. The sixth and final episode is a grand finale Mr. Romance Pageant which looks to be a fully-clothed version of a Chippendales Review, complete with an audience full of screaming, hair-rending women who will vote for Mr. Romance out of the remaining ten contestants.

These shenanigans are overseen by Mr. Romance God himself, the esteemed and aging-not-so-nicely Fabio. He drops in on occasion to offer pearls of wisdom to the wannabes and wink at the camera in what I guess is supposed to be some sexy way that should turn my knees into I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter but really just looks stupid. I never realized how skinny his lips are. Next time you see a picture, take a really good look. I’m telling you, the man has no lips. But I digress…

The first ten minutes of the show were excruciating. I mean, squirming in embarrassment, can’t watch another minute, gouge my eyes out agony. I almost gave up, deciding that there actually is a line which I can’t cross even in the name of guilty entertainment.

But then something started to happen. I started to laugh. Because the makers of this show actually know what they’ve got – a show so campy that Elvira would look conservative in comparison. Instead of trying to act all serious, the show’s editors and directors use things like sound effects to draw attention to the utter ridiculousness of these twelve guys’ antics. Cat sounds for behind-the-back snarking. Crickets chirping when one of the guys obviously has no clue. It’s better than any Scooby Doo laugh-track, believe me.

Another clever thing the creators have done to demonstrate how clearly they understand what a farce this whole thing is is to offer “Romantic Tips”. For example, Romantic Tip #64 – How to Be A Romance Cover Model, advises the following steps: A – Assume pre-coital face, B – Part moistened lips, and C – Clench jaw to accentuate high cheek bones. Romantic Tip #72 – How to Perform the Almost Kiss, advises model wannabes to A – Approach female target, B – Stop! Do not breach quarter-inch proximity, and C – If you are kissing, you are not almost kissing. The tips are delivered by the Phone System Voice Lady and demonstrated with line-art drawings that are worth the price of watching the show alone.

But what really makes this show are the guys who have been chosen to be on it. Viewers are not offered any explanation on how they were picked out of the no-doubt thousands who applied, but we are told every time one of them appears on screen what his profession is. We’ve got everything from models and actors to graphic artists and fishermen. The only similarity between the twelve men are identical amounts of upper chest muscles and egos roughly the size of Manhattan.

Mark, who said “I’ve been a model for twelve years” seventy-six times if he said it once in the course of a single hour, quickly jumped to the front of the pack to distinguish himself as the Class Arrogant Asshole. I mean, the guy keeps his headshot on the mantel piece of the fireplace, for god’s sake. Who’s he hoping to impress? He’s the living, breathing inspiration for Zoolander. In fact, that’s what I’m gonna call him. Marklander. Funniest thing about him is that he really believes his version of “Blue Steel” is the epitome of sexy (because he tells us all many times that “As far as sex appeal, that’s my number one trait”) when in fact it looks like he’s auditioning for some kind of chapstick commercial, his lips extended so far in front of his face they enter the next room a full two minutes before he does. I’m thinking “gorilla lips” more so than “sex appeal.”

Marklander easily earned the scorn of his fellow contestants, and listening to them snark was worth putting up with his strutting and posing. Watching him fall flat on his model-for-twelve-years face is going to be pure bliss.

The second runner up for Class Bastard is TJ. TJ decided right off the bat that Professor Deb, a Harlequin Creative Director in charge of cover design, there to teach the guys posing and to act as a judge of one of their many competitions, didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. When TJ was trying to pull off “sexy” as Prof. Deb directed but ended up looking more like “duh”, he didn’t take too kindly to her suggestions for improvement. From that moment on, TJ openly admitted that pretty much any advice Prof. Deb offered would be summarily ignored by him, proving that not only can’t TJ look even remotely “sexy” but he’s clearly “stupid” as well to treat a judge that way when he’s one of the people being judged.

Not a total jerk but working on it diligently is Tony, a professional dancer (read: Chippendale) from NYC. Tony has that lovely habit of pretty much not listening to anything that anyone tells him, a habit that comes back to bite him on the ass in a most satisfying way, I must tell you. He’s almost as convinced as Marklander that he’s the hottest thing to be put on this earth since fire. He’s not. Trust me.

The pull-out favorite at the moment, IMO, seems to be Alaskan fisherman Andrew. Not only is he the only “normal” guy on the show, but he’s actually the anomaly in romance land in having blond hair and blue eyes. He’s got a boy-next-door charm and a modesty that is a rare commodity on a show populated by hard bodies. Actually, Andrew’s body may be his downfall as the guy is sporting a bit of a gut, and when you’re up against a bunch of six packs, a two-liter just isn’t going to cut it. Double those crunches, Andrew. Don’t let me down!

The rest of the guys kind of blend together with a couple of noticeable standouts. Poor Hakan is sprouting so much wild hair out of the top of his head that I think some of it must be pushing inwardly to tickle his brain. When given direction for his first photo shoot, the guy really had a tough time understanding the concept of “body that way, face this way” which is just kind of basic. Bruce needs to shave his Don Johnson scruff off since it screams beard-burn, hardly a romantic-mood-inspiring look. And sweet Charles needs a bolster of confidence because he’s my second favorite and has a great chance of leading the pack if he can just keep his chin up and follow some camera direction.

I won’t do a blow-by-blow of the entire show, suffice it to say the guys attended classes on Posing (laughable because they all managed “constipated” very well but not a one ever hit “sexy”), the Almost Kiss, in which Marklander was macking so badly all over his partner’s neck they had to wipe the slobber off her, and Pageant Education, where they each came up with something called a Pose Down, which seems to be a glorified swirl-and-dip.

The last half hour of the show was devoted to a photo shoot in which the guys all duded up like bare-chested cowboys and posed with a top romance novel cover girl. The resultant photos were judge by Prof. Deb, and watching her present her thoughts was way more than satisfying.

Tony, in not paying any attention to the guys who had gone before him, didn’t realize he was supposed to pose for five shots in three different positions and therefore obtained some great photos of his crotch as he walked toward the camera while it was clicking away. To his credit, he admitted to the other guys after the judging was all over that it was his fault for the poor showing. Maybe he’s redeemable.

Marklander, convinced he could carry off a cowboy hat that not even Howdy Doody would be caught dead wearing pretty much looked ridiculous despite his best efforts at Blue Steel. Not only that, but behind the scenes when it was all done he pretty much dissed the opinion of Prof. Deb, since, you know, he’s been a model for twelve years. Clearly the woman is blind and has no idea what she’s talking about because she failed a guy who's been a model. For twelve whole years. And clearly knows everything there is to know about modeling, including the fact that he's perfect. He showed us all his head-shot. In case we didn’t understand. The thing about his being a model. For twelve years.

And TJ actually had the balls to argue with Prof. Deb in front of the whole group when she gave him her opinion of his photos, telling her that it was “her opinion” that they pretty much sucked. Um, hello, TJ? This is Get A Clue calling? She’s a creative director at the company that you want to pay you money to be on covers that she chooses. So pissing her off is…um…really stupid. Best line ever of the whole show was when Prof. Deb said she’d never put him on a cover. Slam. Dunk.

Best of all, my two favs kicked some beefcake butt. Andrew the Alaskan Fisherman ranked number one, and Charles the sweet beta-guy with a shy smile ranked number two. Hang in there boys. We’re heading for the big time.

I hate reality TV. Honest, I do. I don’t even watch American Idol (please don't send me hate e-mail for admitting that). But these modeling competitions just crack me up. For people to go on television and act as arrogant as they do, preening in front of cameras like they are too sexy for this world, has got to be the epitome of human self-absorption. And because this show doesn’t take itself seriously – it actually invites you, encourages even, to laugh at these guys – watching them is kind of like being let in on the biggest joke ever.

Biggest problem is a show like this is going to set the image of romance novels back to the stone-age. And considering the reputation of the genre only resides somewhere in the Jurassic age right now, we can’t afford to lose any ground. Good thing us fans are such an easy going group that can have a good laugh at our own expense. And I guess The Romantic Times figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.


Sela Carsen said...

OMG Lynn!! I nearly PMP laughing at this blog! I recorded it so I could watch later. I'm soooo looking forward to it now. No popcorn, though, so I don't choke myself laughing.

Suzanne said...

Wow, I've GOT to look for this show, LOL!!!

Ash said...

You hit the nail on the head with "Marklander."

Absolutely great enty. I watched the show last night and rolled around on the couch like an idiot laughing so hard.

Wendy said...

You watched it! OMG Lynn, you actually watched it. I must say, I'm intrigued by a mind that can seek out a book from Mr. Darcy's POV and watch this show. :D

Anonymous said...

My. God.

Never seen the programme, never want to. But I just went to the RT website and saw the photos of those guys. And YUCK! If a single one of those were on a book cover, I'd never buy the book. Attractive? No way. Smarmy, full of themselves, most of them looking annoyingly juvenile, reminding me of the kind of boy student I'd have to take down several pegs.

And, as you said in an earlier blog, Lynn, who the hell actually likes those posed covers anyway?

Lynn M said...

Know what's really odd to me? These guys on TV really don't look that appealing. I also watched the Bravo show "Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model" and through the entire show I kept thinking that none of these guys looked anything like a model. But then, after the various photoshoots were taken, I couldn't believe how attractive the photos were. Kind of like the lighting and the camera angles do some magic that turns these blah guys into not-so-bad.

Same thing here - not a one of them would I cross the street to take a second look. But surprisingly, some of them put out pretty good photos. I have no explanation. Maybe it's that their personalities don't show up on film.

Candy said...

Wow. I wish I had cable. I rarely watch reality TV, but when I do, I want it to be a complete friggin' train wreck. How bad? Temptation Island bad. Joe Millionaire bad. Oh yes. I love me some baaaaaad TV. And this show sounds like it's right up my alley.

And I haven't figured out what makes somebody photogenic and somebody else not. I have a gorgeous friend who's 5'7", 120 lbs. (on a bad day), the perfect figure, a really pretty face... and she takes bad pictures. In real life she's HOT and has men falling all over themselves trying to get her phone number, but you look at her pictures and it's like "Eh." And then there's this guy I know who's pretty cute in real life, but HOLY FREAKING HELL REALLY GODDAMN HOT on film. It's weird.

julia said...

This show is absolutely hilarious.Believe it or not--I think Marklander makes the show fun.The other guys don't seem to have much of a personality.
I watch it for entertainment,and fun though.I could care less about guys posing for a romance novel.They are all coloured in anyway.
The best looking ones are Charles,Justin,Marklander,and Andrew.I expect to come down down to Marklander and Andrew--with Andrew winning.

Marie said...

Don't be such a Marklander hater-that guy makes the show. He is not only UNDENIABLY gorgeous, but he is hysterical and makes the show. This show would be boring without him. This is probably not the last we've seen of this guy-who else is there that's A) as hot as him and B) FUNNY - he made you laugh, didn't he? It's all about entertainment-he's no fool!