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The Televisionist, April 22

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SIMPSON: Too dumb to offend on ‘The Price of Beauty.’
  • SIMPSON: Too dumb to offend on ‘The Price of Beauty.’

THE PRICE OF BEAUTY
9 p.m. Mondays
VH1


Notorious dingbat Jessica Simpson — who famously once thought the label on the Chicken of the Sea brand tuna can meant she was eating chicken — might be the last person in the world you'd want to take advice from about … well, anything. That said, in a sea of soulless reality TV programming, Simpson's travel show, "The Price of Beauty," is a real breath of fresh air, mostly because I genuinely believe that Simpson and her two globe-hopping compatriots are all too dumb to be egotistical, calculating or working their emotions for effect. The shtick of the show is that Simpson, her hairdresser-to-the-stars Ken Paves and her friend and personal assistant CaCee Cobb jet all over the world, looking into what is considered beautiful in other cultures. Yeah, there are some horrendous Ugly American moments, as when Simpson traveled to Morocco wearing her Daisy Duke shorts and set her hosts clucking over her shameless leg-flaunting. At the same time, however (see my previous comment about Simpson and Co. being too dumb to be conniving), their trespasses are mostly in the form of being too overeager to learn, which is never a sin. While it might not be everybody's cup of tea, especially if your patience with blonde goofiness runs thin, “The Price of Beauty” can be a good time with the tube.


TRUE LIFE
9 p.m. Mondays
MTV


Meanwhile, over on the OTHER channel that used to show a dead art form called the "Music Video," reality programming regularly takes a much darker tone with the always interesting show “True Life.” The concept is pretty simple, and is much more the child of classic documentary than most reality television: Every week, the show follows the fortunes and misfortunes of people caught in controversial, life-changing, dangerous or adventurous circumstances. Recent episodes, for instance, have focused on men and women working in the sex industry, wives of soldiers deployed to Iraq, immigrants (both illegal and legal), compulsive shoppers, people living "off the grid," tattooistas looking to lose their ink, folks addicted to shopping (and pills, and plastic surgery), male-to-female transsexuals, women who are desperate to rid themselves of ridiculously large breasts and women desperate to enhance their breasts to ridiculous proportions. While all that might sound like par for the freakshow course reality TV has become, it's actually quite moving, with people in genuinely odd or heartbreaking situations explaining what it's like to be trapped on the hamster wheel of remorse, doubt and guilt. This week, the show follows a young gay man struggling to make it in the Promised Land, with "True Life: Hustling in the Hamptons."


Triggerstreet.com

In recent months, I've been pleased to become a part of Little Rock's burgeoning community of filmmakers. Yes, there is one — folks out there in the dark, with credit-bought cameras and borrowed lights, making art. It's never been easier to make a movie these days — even an incredible looking movie — thanks to the digital revolution. Where just a few years ago you were talking compact-car prices just to get your foot in the filmmaking door at the lowest level, these days you can walk into Best Buy, plunk down a credit card, and $1,500 later you can be shooting deep focus on a camera that's better than the ones used in Hollywood only five years ago. My initiation into the filmmaking world has been accompanied by my becoming absolutely addicted to short films. If you want to check out what the world of low budget film offers these days, there are a few places to go online, but one of the best is triggerstreet.com. A clearinghouse for short films that run the gamut, its cup runneth over with the fruits of the DIY filmmaking revolution. You have to sign up (for free), but once you do the films just keep on coming. Definitely recommended if you're interested in seeing how the next Welles, Spielberg or Kubrick gets his or her wings.

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