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December 06, 2001 - Image 15

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-12-06

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10B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend, etc. Magazine - Thursday, December 6, 2001

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'Survivor' has started its downfall into reality TV hell'

The Michigan Daily - Weekend, etc. Magazine -
Christmas albums bring holiday cheer to rec

After a two-week hiatus, your stool
pigeon has returned to quench your
voyeuristic thirsts for reality TV
Amazing how quickly the world can
change; since the last column the world
lost a Beatle, Harry Potter broke box
office records (even if the spell only
lasted two weeks) and CBS won the
coveted November sweeps. The one
invariable was "Survivor: Africa" and
its abiding downfall, not just in the rat-
ings, but also in the program's repeti-
tious events.
Two weeks ago, while all of us were
feasting on turkey and stuffing, the
tribes finally merged into one fiber
tribe, dubbed "Moto Maji." The transi-
tion was relatively painless, with little
conflict between the old Boran and
Samburu rivals.
The Immunity Challenge had them

standing on a log for several hours in
the extreme heat. The difficulty wasn't
so much standing rather than avoiding
any kind of movement. Contestants
were attached to a rope connected to a
bucket of water - move and the water
spills on the eliminated contestant. It
came down to Clarence and Teresa,
with the flight attendant winning an all
too important game of paper-rock-scis-
sors for immunity. The two agreed
while on the logs to not vote for one
another. The promise did little to avoid
Clarence's demise as he was voted out
8-2. Lex received the other two votes at
Tribal Council, fueling the lanky punk
rocker to "smoke out" those who had
voted for him.
The lone Michigan resident may
have been ousted but you could be
seeing more of him, a lot more of him.
"Playgirl or underwear modeling or
anything like that ... I would definite-
ly consider it," the Hillsdale grad said
of his future. Please keep your clothes
on big guy.
CBS decided once again to air an
episode of rehashed clips with a
promise of "new" footage. Viewers

were treated to nothing more than a
mind-numbing halftime show with lit-
tle insight or ingenuity. Last year,
CBS whipped up the recap episode to
push the finale back to the .first week
of May sweeps, understandable. Why
this time? Delaying the inevitable less
than stellar conclusion to the lacklus-
ter third installment of the dying real-
ity show I suppose.
Tonight the show will get back to
work. I'm predicting contestants will
fight, someone will win a reward
challenge taking them to an African
village, someone will win immunity
and finally someone will be voted off.
This week the process of elimina-
tion and psychic abilities suggest a
Samburu member will be asked to
leave. At this juncture the old Boran
tribe has five remaining competitors
(Ethan, Tom, Lex, Kelly and Kim J)
compared to old Samburu's four-per-
son roster (Frank, Teresa, Brandon
and Kim P). It's getting time where
people will boot the most threatening
person. That person is indisputably
Frank.
Due to the impending holiday
break, this column and its respective
writer will miss out on the four
episodes that will air during the allot-
ted time frame. When we have all
returned from our indulgent vaca-
tions, "Survivor" will be back for its

Members of the newly formed Moto Maji smile as Jeff Probst looks on.

finale.
It's not March but it's never too
early to pick the final four. Ethan
seems the obvious choice to make it
to the last episode. He has kept rather
quiet, yet can be an assertive leader
when need be. Big Tom, goat farmer
extraordinaire, might wobble to the
closing stages simply because he
poses the least threat physically of the
nine remaining survivors. The
strongest female at this point in the
game is indubitably Kelly. The Duke
grad is in an advantageous position
with her Boran roots, plus she has
been more than forthcoming to her

fellow castaways the first 21 days. My
shocker pick to reach the final four is
Kim Powers. If one of the old
Samburu members has a chance at the
$1 million prize it's her. Keeping a
low profile and physical prowess
make her more likely than Frank,
Teresa or Brandon to reach the last
episode.
"Survivor: Africa" is at the halfway
point, but it isn't too late to turn the
show around. Executive producer
Mark Burnett may have changes in
the game to spice it up, but the reality
program is in need of more human
drama, not melodrama. Time will tell.

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By Keith N. Dusenberry
Daily Arts Writer
Somewhere around the time that
Christmas became commercialized,
musicians got branded. Not branded in
a cattle sense word (although with
today's rampant desire to sub-genre-ize
everything, music critics might as well
carry hot pokers), but branded in the
Levi's/Marlboro/Disney sense - as a
line of similar, reliable goods coming
from a single source. The problem is
that the idea of branding transferred to
the music world, but the parts involv-
ing "reliable" and "good" unfortunate-
ly did not. Nowhere is this more appar-
ent than in the annual debacle known
as the Holiday Shopping Music
Release Rush (HSMRR).
The HSMRR usually renders itself
on the shelves in the form of two high-
profit packages: The Christmas CD
and the box set. The Christmas CD cat-
egory can then be further divided into
three types: An artist doing old
favorites, an artist performing a mix of
old favorites and their own new
Christmas songs, or a various artists
collection. The album of old favorites
covered by a single artist is usually the
safest way to go for a singer looking to
crack the bag it, tag it, throw it under
the tree market. Everyone gets in on
this racket, even Jewish girls from
Brooklyn like Barbara Streisand. She
released one Christmas CD in 1967,
and now she's at it again this year!
Someone tell her Rabbi!
Then there are the old favorite/new
song hybrid albums. These are general-
ly produced by the popular groups of
the day and rely upon branding as
much as the old-favorite-only CDs do.
This is, of course, because the new
Christmas "originals" finding their
debuts on these CDs rarely get any
notice. Remember the New Kids on the
Block's "Funky, Funky, X-Mas?" I
didn't think so. It's because these songs
are almost always hideous, taking a
given band's usual sound and adding
some sleigh bells and lyrical references
to snow or Santa Claus. The results
almost invariably border on the unlis-
tenable.
Both of these above mentioned
Christmas CD approaches bank on the
selling power of musical brand names,
with record companies figuring that
since (Christmas celebrating) people
like Christmas songs and they like pop-
ular music (otherwise, it wouldn't be
popular) - why not combine the two?
In the process, record labels get to
avoid royalty and publishing fees by
choosing Christmas "favorites" now in
the public domain, pay little to the stu-
dio musicians who provide the back-
ground music because everybody
knows these songs and can knock them
out inone or two takes; and then let the
"star" waltz in, lay down the vocals in
a couple of cost-effective hours in the
studio, pose wearing a Santa hat for the
album cover and wait for the checks to
come in.
While record companies can rest
assured that an artist's fans will buy a
Christmas CD done by that particular
artist, there exists little chance that
non-fans or casual listeners of that
musician will give their Christmas CD

a second look. This, of course, has to
do with the branding - everyone has a
favorite brand and since people don't
need very many Christmas CDs, they
will invariably stick with their top two
or three brands. Good luck getting a
Colegate person to try Mentadent's
special "holiday peppermint" flavor
toothpaste, or a Marlboro man to check
out Lucky Strike's "full flavored fruit
cake" 100s.
But maybe, just maybe, consumers
will allow those other brands into
their homes in a trial size as part of a
compilation. Enter the third option:
The various artists Christmas collec-
tion. They are all over the holiday
releases this, and every, year. VH1
has an '80s Christmas collection out,
MTV's TRL Christmas is lining
shelves and catching pine needles,
and Playboy magazine's new Latin
Jazz Christmas promises a "Not So
Silent Night." Sure, consumers might
only know and trust three or four of
the brands (or rather, bands) on any
one of these collections, but wouldn't
it be fun to hear that hip-hop take on

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"Silent Night" or a death metal flare
applied to "White Christmas?" Sure
it would. And while they're at it,
shoppers figure they might as well
listen to the other artists on the col-
lection that they hadn't heard of
before, like the ones who do the oh
so hilarious ska version of "0 Holy
Night" or the rap-core cover of
"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."
Advertising costs increase around the
holiday season, and what better way
for record labels to cover that cost
than to make you pay to hear the
advertisements? If customers like
what they hear from the bands on the
compilation, they might even go out
and buy the artists' regular albums!
Hopefully, in the eyes of the busi-
ness, the secular albums that the hol-
iday shoppers will gravitate toward
are the newly released box sets on
shelved just in time for the holidays.
With box sets, costs are low and price
tags are high. (Hey, there are never
before seen photos of Elvis exercis-
ing in that box set! Definitely worth
the $70.) Here's the secret formula

for these high-priced holiday gim-
micks: Take the old stock of CDs by
some "classic" band, dig up a couple
"rare" (read: Not good enough the
first time around) tracks, have some-
one write ridiculously long and
hyperbolically praise-filled liner
notes, repackage everything in a
"deluxe" cardboard box and sell it for
no less than $50.
Mark my words: The future holds a
Britney Spears Christmas CD (likely
of the old favorites/new would-be-
holiday-hits variety) and a Guns N'
Roses box set (Axl has to eat some-
how).
Personally, I'm holding out for
James Brown's Funky Kwanzaa and
Bob Dylan's Hanukkah Hits.
"Registers ring, are you listenin'?
At the labels, money's glistenin'..."

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