Media Staples

Friday, October 07, 2005

Toral, Son of Duras?

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Reaching out to others was the theme of last night's installment of The Apprentice. Like Mats Sundin after her, Rebecca (Capitol Edge) was put on the IR after her first hockey game. Broken ankle aside she decided to push on and show her capability by leading Capitol Edge in the next task. New friend Toral ...

I must pause here to demonstrate the extreme level of geekness to which I aspire. Wasn't Toral the illegitimate son of Duras on ST:TNG (if you don't know this acronym, just skip to the next paragraph)? And wasn't Duras a traitor??

... in accompanying Rebecca to the doctor made her best business decision yet. This weeks task was to hold a Technology Expo at a Senior Citizen's home. Success would be determined by average score on a questionnaire filled out by the Seniors after their Expo experience. Randal took the helm for the boys at Excel as he had some experience working with his grandmother and a digital camera. The girls decided to focus on looking hot and charming the elderly men to "push up" their questionnaire scores. This strategy was questionable from the outset as anyone who has ever been to a Seniors home knows that the women outnumber the men in the range of about 10 to 1.

Toral struggled horribly with working an HDTV (as Pops will attest, trying tech the night before the demo saves many a sale). Jen W., in charge of event planning both in the task and in real life, forgot to make any kind of theme or sign to let the Seniors know what was going on and handed them big slabs of a cake with "tethno expo" written on it.

The boys on the other hand had slick posters, easy to find tech areas and great food. Much maligned Markus even came through as charming and approachable as he taught Seniors how to use Tivo. Hotness, however, must have some value as the girls lost by only 0.2 (8.1 to 7.9 average score).

The winning boys team set off for a local children's hospital with arms full of Xboxs and portable DVD players while the girls were back to the boardroom.

Once again, Donald Trump and his lieutenants outlined exactly who Rebecca should bring back with her: Toral and Jen W. Rebecca, deciding that everyone on her team sucked intellectual rocks compared to Toral, decided to let Toral return to the suite. Apparently one trip to the doctor saved Toral her spot. Luckily Rebecca did bring in one other person (besides Jen M. who did great and didn't deserve to be there) who was actually responsible for the loss. It is obvious that Jen W. would not be capable of organizing a large event (like the final tasks in The Apprentice) if she could not even pull off a little Tech Expo at a Senior's home. Jen M. was absolved of any wrongdoing, Rebecca was chastised for being inflexible and Jen W. was fired.

Looking forward to a few fireworks next week!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
The Apprentice: Martha Stewart kicked off its third week with a bundle of joy and a deceptively simple task. Show plant Jim, after wishing his wife luck with her "task", became the father of a brand new baby girl! As Jim's chances of being Martha Stewart's apprentice hover near those of the Blue Jays winning the world series again, it would have probably been safe to attend the birth. Congratulations Jim!

This week's task: design and bake a wedding cake (professional baker supplied) and sell it to some eager brides-to-be at a wedding show. Matchstick (whom I will soon be renaming Ulong if they continue to lose members), desperately needing a victory, selected least experienced candidate David as their project manager. Primarious selected child-friendly Howie.

Armed with piles of Martha Stewart Wedding magazines and well placed Apple computers, teams struggled to come up with the perfect cake. To determine market trends, Howie (Primarious) sends troops to the New York Wedding Centre. Shawn (Matchstick) phones THE super-expensive-niche-wedding-cake guru in New York city and gleans information so spectacular that she turns to Stewart lieutenant Charles Koppleman and guarantees victory. She then adds her "fire me, I suck" line: if we lose, you can personally fire me!

Striking out at the Chinese dominated wedding centre, Primarious decides on a basic multilayer, multishaped "nuts and bolts" style cake that they will sell at a lower price point (at $6 a slice this is questionable). Matchstick goes with a bizarre multilayer slanted oval cake with pink ribbons around each layer.

Primarious sells 5 cakes for over $3000 in revenue. Ulong sells ... none. For Primarious, it's out to dinner with newlyweds Donald and Melania Trump. For Ulong, their third conference room in a row.

Who's to blame for not selling any cakes? Hmm...the baker? the accountant? the weddingly challenged PM? The SALES people? It seems that candidates have failed to learn the ultimate boardroom/conference room lesson. PMs: LISTEN and Ms. Stewart or Mr. Trump will tell you exactly who is responsible and exactly who to bring back with you (unfortunately if it's you who sucked you're out of luck). Candidates seem to get so caught up in the Survivor part of the game that they can't figure out how to save their own necks.

This is where Martha Stewart takes back the reins of her show: David makes his play and elects to bring back Dawn and Marcela. Disgusted, Ms. Stewart has her secretary haul back Sales team members Shawn, Jim and Bethenny. After dressing down the sales team, Shawn is fired for her cockiness in guaranteeing victory and her misplaced comment "fake it till you make it" (probably not a good idea to say this to a perfectionist, particularly the one whom you would like to hire you).

This has never happened on the Donald Trump Apprentice and it is what makes Martha Stewart's version so intriguing. You just never know when or how she'll change the show. She seems to treat it less like a game and more like an interview. Now .. what happened to "you just don't fit in"??

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The American Race?

It appears there has been a major change in the Amazing Race to make it more family friendly - they are not leaving the United States. This removes a couple of vital elements of the show - air travel and lack of sleep. I guess with kids around these elements were deemed to be too risky. However, the show is not the same without them.

The show has now become a cross between a Scavenger Hunt and Cannonball Run with kids screaming along for the ride.

So far the show is a quick run through American History. Last week it was the Revoluntionary War. This week, the Civil War. Which is actually pretty cool. It would have been quite a experience to get in the middle of a Civil War reenactment and some teams get full value from it.
The best part of this episode was when Daddy Rogers told his son to east instead of west and then tried to blame the whole thing on his son. And then, at the end of the episode, was so magnanimous to say if there was so blame to be laid he would take. All the while saying he has tried to teach his to not cast stones of blame. Sorry dude. This loss was on you and you had no problem trying to blame your boy when you thought you could. Sounds like the teacher needs to become the student.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Green with envy.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

The Apprentice 4 kicked off its second episode of the season with a highly anticipated foray into the lap of luxury. Lamborghini provided the task for this week: create a 30s promotional video and print campaign for a new Lamborghini.

The boys had this task in the bag from the beginning. Why? Guys love cars. Guys live cars. Guys get cars. Project manager Chris (obviously a Sith lord) fully guaranteed victory especially once the boys came up with the cool idea to rent an old Lamborghini and morph it into the new Lamborghini for the video. Markus provided an interesting sideshow, providing comic relief as he suggested silly campaign slogans directly to the executives and showed a complete lack of ability to tell a car to "go" or operate a walkie-talkie. Chris put him in the brig for the remainder of the task.

Meanwhile, back in Care-a-Lot, the girls decided Marshawn would be their PM and she immediately tasked Alla with creating a tough and intimidating video. Alla immediately transformed into a seasoned director, directing cameramen like Peter Jackson at the gates of Gondor. Marshawn hovered gracefully over the print team as they came up with slogans like "Are you in control?" "Are you intimidated?". The girls targeted the ad at the heartbeat of the automobile consumer: How does the car make me feel?

The boys had slogans such as Mark's: "Green with envy", which was pictured along with a green lamborghini (or should it be Lamborghini). Markus correctly asked if there should be a "?" as it really looked liked the car was envious. As he was in the brig; no one heard him. Or maybe it was the task winning champagne corks popping. Mark also decided that in "Lamborghini. The return of Italian intimidation" Italian should be all in lower case.

At the end of the day, the boys were destroyed by the girls and the girls went off to skate with a poupouri of old and new Islanders at the Nassau coliseum. Even the producers of the show seemed to be guaranteeing the boys a win with a reward that would interest few girls (well, I'd like it actually).

In the boardroom the boys rallied to accused Markus of destroying team unity and focus. Markus deftly points out the he was the only one who disagreed with the marketing strategy and the only one banished to the corner for the entire task. Donald Trump asked who was responsible for the creative mistakes of the "green with envy" add and the removal of the capital "I" from italian. Mark took responsibility. Mr. Trump then asked who Chris would like to bring to the boardroom. Completely ignoring the advice of Mr. Trump, who actually named who should be brought back to the boardroom and who should stay, Chris decided to bring back only Markus.

Donald Trump, now in a corner, tried to decide whether to fire Chris, who is the only person left who was involved in the task or Markus. Chris' departure was as "smooth as silk". In the words of Luke Skywalker to the Emperor "Your overconfidence is your weakness". Sith lord indeed. Now .. when do we get the Stormtroopers on this show !?!?!

Deja vu all over again

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

The number 1 question in this season of Survivor is regarding Stephanie - is she on yet another loosing streak? With a heavy dose of physical challenges and a team not equipped to compete it looks like that may indeed be the case.

Sure, the girls may not have know what a pick was, but maybe Stephanie should have tried to explain it a little more than 5 seconds before their round of "Maya Ball". Couple this with a swollen ankle for Amy and Yaxha really never stood a chance.

You seriously have to question how these teams were put together because physically there is no comparison. But Jeff Probst did bring up an interesting point in tribal council. Is it a good strategy to try to make Yaxha more physical when challenges could easily become more mental in nature? Are they trying to compensate at exactly the wrong time?

Some compensation is required in the show though. If we have a repeat of Dead Tribe Walking then the show will get boring in a hurry. Unless the show has turned into let's see what happens when Stephanie snaps. Hey, at least Yaxha is unified! We will see how long the unanimity lasts as they get picked off one-by-one.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tip Toe Through the Tulips

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
The Apprentice: Martha Stewart was back last night with it's second installment of creative mayhem. Jim, whom this blog will point to as a possible plant within the Matchstick team, has turned the program into the home-ec survivor. Arrogantly pointing out his conspiracy to eliminate Jeff, he sent a warning to all of his team members: annoy me and you may be next.

Teams this week were contacted (by Martha's secretary as she was "too busy" to call personally) and assigned the task of setting up a flower shop in an empty store front. Teams would be judged on the revenue accumulated in selling flowers. As 90% of the camera time was spent with the often bickering Matchstick team, it was obvious that Primarious was going to win the task from the start. Chuck, a man with previous flower shop experience, was chosen to lead the Matchstick team. Carrie took the reins for the Primarious team (irrelevant information really as this team has less than 5 min of camera time).

Chuck (one letter and one computer key away from Chick) decided that Matchstick should sell one spring flower at a low price point. The local florist was due to receive a shipment of tulips "straight from Holland" the next day so a decision was made to sell tulips. Bickering then commences as show plant Jim attempts to railroad the idea sending Matchstick into a royal rumble over flower selection and marketing strategy. Chuck finally implodes and declares his resignation as project manager and his retirement from the loft. Suddenly transforming into modern day Rudy Wells', the rest of Matchstick "rebuilds" Chuck through hugs and pats and words of encouragement. Invigorated he then seizes the reins of Matchstick and decides that it will be tulips, there will be chicks in Dutch attire and there won't be any marketing.

Meanwhile back at the batcave, Primarious smoothly hires a professional florist to set up their whole store. Quickly sending customers into sticker shock at the high prices, Primarious deftly removes the tags and begins selling expensive flowers like beer at a hockey game.

Primarious destroys Matchstick with more that twice the revenue. Show plant Jim begins scheming as to who he will manipulate Martha Stewart into firing. Primarious gets a "reward" helping make a garden for kids. "It was great. Really. Helping out is such a reward."

Martha Stewart is flabbergasted that anyone working for her company would hire "tacky" girls in Dutch attire to push product. Bethenny rushed to explain that Holland really has nothing else to offer, further infuriating Ms. Stewart. After exhaustingly hounding team members to "vote out" Dawn, show plant Jim stokes the fire. Chuck calmly admits that as a creative person he does not have any leadership potential. As the job is an executive position he follows Donald Trump's Apprentice candidate Melissa's example in admitting: "fire me, I suck".

Ms. Stewart firmly dressed down the Matchstick team calling for focus, discipline and team work. Jim and Dawn were ordered to put up, shut up and make it work. Chuck was ... chucked. Martha Stewart was so engaged in disciplining the team that she forgot to use her trademark line "you just don't fit in" when firing Chuck.

Hopefully viewers will not have to endure show plant Jim much longer. Are creativity and leadership mutually exclusive? Find out next week on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hair-razing Race

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

The Amazing Race: Family Edition left the starting gate last night looking more like the start of the Boston Marathon. 40 contestants (10 teams of four) started out with a race around New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It is nice to see them actually use the States a little more as contestants usually immediately fly to another country and end with a brief race in the USA.

This show has twice the octane of the regular Amazing Race with twice the amount of yelling, cheering, screaming and bickering. It is however, far too reminiscent of my family on our yearly summer trip to somewhere like Ottawa; i.e. Mom stopping in the middle of the road because she missed a turn. Dad nearly killing the whole family by wrenching the steering wheel in frustration at being lost. The Italian family was particularly entertaining (my Dad's family is Italian too so these people I understand) as the yelling quotient was particularly high as was the lack of directional ability. And typically, the Dad ignored everyone and did whatever he wanted.

The challenges are watered down (even then some families had difficulty crossing the Delaware in a rowboat) and thus less interesting to watch. The detour involved pulling family members in a Mennonite coach or building a mini-house. It was well designed in that it was an advantage to have small kids to pull in the coach as opposed to two strapping brothers. Unfortunately the losing family (The Black Family) did not take advantage of this. It is also somewhat amusing to be racing through Mennonite country - there are few places where things move slower than here!

I understand that you can't have as much travel or crazy stunts as there are children involved but it is these things that make the show interesting for me. I don't thrive on the bickering (that's Pops' area) and this show has way too much of it. Maybe once the families get paired down a bit, the show will become easier to watch until then ... break out the anxiety pills.

Commanding Chief?

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Being in Canada I was able watch both Commander-in-Chief and The Amazing Race last night as CTV has time shifted C-I-C to 8:00PM.

The premise, an Independent Vice-President becomes Commander-in-Chief, to the dismay of a dying President, is completely flawed, but I have watched programs with larger flaws. This flaw was compounded when Geena Davis' character asked "what happens now?" when the President was incapacitated. Am I to believe that VP isn't well versed in their most vital role to the US Governmental system? And then to consult the decision with her kids and ask them to keep it secret - yeah, that what happen!

However, the pacing was crisp and the production value was high so I was willing to ignore some of that. Especially since the flawed premise reveals the central tension of the program. Should "Mack" finish the mandate of President - a mandate that he was democratically elected to fulfill? Or should she follow her own vision for the Presidency?

Another central in the program is what does an Independent mean to the writers of the show? Does it mean Democrat in Independents clothing or a true Independent. In the final speech of the program President Allen spoke of how "Freedom is our gift to the world". This used to be the talk of a JFK-Democrat but of late is more often a President Bush line. The other key foreign policy revelation in the program is that President Allen was willing to unilaterally invade a country to extract a women sentenced to death for adultery in Sharia-law dominated Nigeria (well Nigeria-ish). The background on this story is not well defined, so you do not know if Madoula (sp?) was an American or Nigerian citizen.

In reality it was just a plot device to allow "Mack" to take the Presidency instead of the mouth-breathing Speaker-of-the-House. Good thing because if a Government truly extracted such a person it would have been possibly the worst foreign policy decision in American history (suspension of disbelief, suspension of disbelief). Casting this aside, and the fact that the left side of Geena Davis' mouth appears to be deformed because of botox there was enough in the program to keep me watching another week or two.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Amazing Race: All in the Family style

I have to say that I am intrigued by the upcoming season of the Amazing Race. Considering the Staple Family Bloggers are a family of four the format is especially appealing. Our daughters, let's call them Cleotha and Yvonne to extend the metaphor, are still a little young to be chasing around the world though.

If you look at the teams there are some at a distinct disadvantage. I am curious to see how the teams with per-teenage kids manage to compete. I doubt they can and they will be eliminated pretty early leaving this a contest of adult groups of four.

I can't wait for Tuesday to find out.