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Tales From The Barstool By: Clint Lien

“She’s A Witch – Burn Her!"
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The Way I See It
By: Joseph C. Phillips

A Fox in Hot Water

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In My Opinion
By L.N.P.

"Reality and Me "

So, for the last two months I've been incredibly busy. Busier than I've ever been, I think. I've been researching and writing for a museum project again–unbelievably time consuming but such a treat, preparing for a huge event at our church, and trying to at least tread water in my “real” job so my husband doesn't kick me out of the company. No leisure time to speak of-not even weekends. In fact, the only leisure time is when I crash, totally exhausted on the bed, and turn on the TV.

Here comes my annual confession–reality shows have provided the only completely enjoyable down time I've had. In fact, if it weren't for “American Idol,” “The Apprentice,” and “The Contender,” I don't know how I would have made it. All you elitists out there might as well stop reading now, because I'm about to wax poetic about each of them.

I'll take on the newcomer first. I dislike boxing and have never really been a big Sly Stallone fan, so my enjoyment of “The Contender” came as a surprise even to me. It should have been an awful show, but it isn't. It's heartwarming, engaging, and downright exhilarating. Mostly that's due to the genius of producer Mark Burnett, who put the emphasis on the contenders themselves, and chose a bunch of the nicest, most compassionate, most interesting guys imaginable to vie for the million dollar prize. (well actually, the casting director probably did that, so kudos to him or her too.) We get to know their families, their struggles, their innermost thoughts, their amazingly strong faith. We watch as they grow closer to each other, even as they have to get into the ring and fight each other. In fact, that is the one twist I'm not sure the producers could have foreseen-these guys really love each other, which makes it harder to punch your good friend in the face. It also makes it hard on the viewer, because there aren't any “bad guys.” Still, the boxing matches are amazing; absolutely gripping television every single week. Having Sugar Ray Leonard as co-host lends the show credibility and charm; the trainers are all “been around the block hard-nosed trainer” types (as opposed to Hollywood types) and the “on mic” stuff is often fascinating. Not for the faint of heart (it can get a little bloody) but great entertainment.

Another Mark Burnett gem, “The Apprentice,” became an instant favorite not just with me but with the 30 million or so others who watch it every week. It's the most intellectual of the shows (if one dares use that word in conjunction with reality TV) in that the contestants really have to use their intelligence, talent, ability, and experience under scrutiny, under less than ideal circumstances, and always under intense pressure. Because I've been a project manager myself and know what it's like to try to lead a team one minute–in a seemingly impossible task–and be a team player the next, I can relate to the struggles of the contestants as they strive to make quick, smart decisions that won't get them laughed at, despised, or worst of all, fired by “the Donald.” I get a kick out of watching someone come up with a brilliant marketing strategy that actually works, or a design concept that soars above the rest. I wasn't particularly fond of this year's crop of contestants; no true leader rose to the top as in the two previous years. But, it was still a lot of fun, after struggling with my own problems all day, to lie back and watch the money-hungry struggle with theirs. Yes, it's a show based on greed, so the premise is somewhat distasteful, but I do my best to forget the premise and just lie back and enjoy.

Finally, of course, there's “American Idol.” (I've skipped “Survivor,” the original Mark Burnett show, because I missed it so often this year. It's still great entertainment, and with a different mix of personalities and locales each time, it never gets boring.) But back to “Idol,” as we aficionados call it. This was a stellar year–any of the final three could have easily been the winner any other year. Yes, they were that good. But there were two things about “Idol” this year that made it a must see for me, and the first was Bo Bice. They finally got a guy who can rock; in fact, he not only rocks, but he can sing with the best of them and look fabulous doing it. With Bo (and Constantine before he was eliminated) “Idol” entered another dimension–it transcended the teeny bopper pop charts and reached out to those of us old enough to remember rock and roll. Bo Bice is a star, and it's been great fun (a little too much fun) watching him. The second thing is my daughter. Between her crazy schedule and mine, we haven't been able to spend as much time together as either of us might like, so Tuesday nights became our let's have dinner and watch “American Idol” together night. We had a blast; “Idol” gave us bonding time and time with Bo; what more could a mother and daughter ask for?

Now for the kicker. This week we (my partner and I) fly to Texas for a presentation to the museum, the culmination of all these weeks of hard work. The meetings last all day, and are followed by dinner with our clients. The dinners don't last too late, but the part of Texas where we're going is on Central Time. That means that everything is on an hour earlier than it is here. And that means that the grand finale of “American Idol,” and the grand finale of “The Contender” will both be on too early for me to see. Figures, right. Everything culminates at the same moment, and all I'll see are the results of our work. Then again, that's really all that counts. That's reality; the rest is just TV.

Send me your opinions at LParis@netlistings.com

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