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September 19, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-19

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September 19, 2006



Survival of the fittest

The executive decision
"Survivor's" producers
divide up its contestants
race in this, its 13th season, is
now well known. As misgui
(and ultimately ineffective) a pub
ity stunt as that is, the buildup to
premiere involved largely posi
dialogue. Debate centered on
we have come to a point
in our nation where a
show can legitimately
employ such a blatant
marketing ploy under
the guise of "building
greater diversity" and
even began to touch on
the basic underlying
inequalities that lead
to largely white par-
ticipants on shows like
And then the show
actually premiered and the tri
became painfully clear: This is
attempt at social commentary
relevance, it's just the same old "
vivor," where sweaty people ch
chickens in the woods and it's ab
six seasons since anyone cared.
But even if it's just a TV sho
has led much of America to have
the wrong conversations. Whet
having a black contestant dec
"black people don't like to be t
what to do" or the Asians figuring
the puzzle first (simple coinciden
surely) the show's premiere ignora
ly played up the same misinforr
stereotypes that first attracted me
attention. But why has "Surviv
which was America's most watc
show from 2000 to 2001, turned
such desperate measures?
"Survivor," as even its most
hard fanatics would have to admi
not what it once was. Burn as a re
tal to the sappy, largely superfi
television comedies and dramas
late 1990s had taken, the show t
off shortly into its first season, w
a finale that drew an astounding
million viewers. Audiences lo
its "real" portrayal of life becaus
served as a refreshing change of p
from the whiny urban themes t
overran other shows. It had ma
competitors but remained the g
standard. Two seasons were pump
out every year and even at that b
tering clip, and the show manag
to go several seasons still attract
20-million-plus viewers per sea
premiere and finale.
But nothing lasts forever,
"Survivor" saw a significant d
in viewership over the past sev
seasons. (Last year's finale o
drew about 17 million viewers -
least-watched "Survivor" finale ev

by As other genres began dominating
to (crime dramas like "CSI" and "24"
by and the unappeasable ratings hog
by "American Idol") and reality shows
ded became more parody than actual
blic- reality (what else can you expect
the when Hulk Hogan has a "reality"
tive show), "Survivor" fell far from its
why perch atop the ratings heap and
became respectable, but
largely insubstantial.
From that point of
view, you have to hand it
to the show's producers
for refusing to give up
and fighting toreturn the
show to prominence.But
for every Michael Jor-
dan emerging from his
first retirement, there's
IMRAN a Jordan emerging from
SYED his second retirement
- champions have to
uth know when to walk away.
no "Survivor" never could just walk
or away. It goes against the core of what
Sur- the show stands for. Whereas TV
ase enterprises like "Seinfeld" and "The
out West Wing" are artistic creations as
much as commercial ventures, they
v, it had to know when to end and had
all much to gain - for the actors and
:her producers - by walking away on
lare top. "Survivor" isn't creative; its sole
told purpose,atleastoverthelastfew sea-
out sons, has been to provide entertain-
nce, ment, swinging astronomic profits.
ant- And if no one's reputation is on the
ned line, it makes no sense to walk away
dia from an unfailing cash cow.
or;' Andso"Survivor"pulledthispub-
hed licity stunt to regain lost viewers and
Ito ad revenue, even at the expense of
generating all the wrong talk among
die- its viewers. While it's too early to
t, is tell if the ploy worked, early returns
but- are nothing to get excited about. The
cial premiere garnered 18 million view-
of ers, the smallest audience for a "Sur-
ook vivor" premiere since the very first
vith season and a far cry from its peak at
51.7 about 45 million viewers.
ved Clearly not the resembling the
:e it resurgent champion who has aged
ace gracefully and adapted to the chang-
hat ing game, this old, irrelevant shadow
any of the robust phenomenon we knew
old as "Survivor" should bring tears to
ped the eyes of its most faithful support-
'lis- ers. Like a pudgy Willie Mays stum-
ged bling around in the outfield for the
ing New York Mets or a sluggish Emmitt
son Smith plodding along in the Arizona
Cardinals's backfield, "Survivor" is a
and champion that has overstayed its era.
rop Now is as good a time as any to
eral simply walk away.
the - Syed can be reached
ver.) at galad@umich.edu.

Kanye + BAPE = Lupe Fiasco.

By Anthony Baber
Daily Arts Writer
Ever since his guest verse on Kanye West's
single "Touch The Sky," the public has been
craving more Lupe
Fiasco. The Westside
Chicago MC has been Lupe Fiasco
poised to release his Food & Liquor
first solo album, Food Atlantic
& Liquor, since the
beginning of the sum-
mer, but because of leaks and extensive boot-
legging of the unfinished album, he chose
to withhold the final product. After releas-
ing videos to both his singles "Kick Push"
and "I Gotcha" and an upcoming video for
"Daydreaming" with Jill Scott on the way,
the album finally sees daylight. But many
questioned if Food & Liquor could live up
to the hype, and after a few listens, it's obvi-
ous all of those nay-sayers should be kicking
themselves right about now.
This is one of best albums to surface

from the backpacker scene, even the con-
temporary hip-hop scene in general, and it
will almost surely sell on the level of lead-
ing light Kanye West. The explicit creativ-
ity and clear imagination of Lupe Fiasco
hasn't been seen in many MCs since the
golden days of the Biggie. The album is a
spectacular voyage through urban Chicago
neighborhoods, drug-infested street corners
and the intricate mind of its narrator.
It commences with a female voice recit-
ing a poem that begins "Food and liquor
stores rest on every corner," and continues
with a grim view of the ghetto. "The days of
Malcolm and Martin have ended / Our hope
has descended." But alas, "God has another
solution that has evolved from the hood."
You guessed it: Fiasco. It's a bit gran-
diose, but from the pen of a practicing
Muslim it carries a bit more weight than
coming from, say, 50.
Unfortunately for Fiasco, the media has
chosen to focus more on his religion and
his love of skateboarding than his lyricism.
Those are certainly important aspects of his
artistry; in fact, he said "I was born Mus-

lim, so Islam plays a part in my everything I
do, to a certain extent." And he does speak
a few lines of Arabic in the intro, but that's
not the most impressive, or even the most
interesting aspect, of Food & Liquor.
That would be the brilliant imagery Lupe
provides through his lyrics. The mental
agility of Lupe Fiasco inhabits the mind so
well that you can envision a music video for
each song on the album. In "Sunshine" you
can visualize the conversation of the two
characters from chatting inside the club, to
daydreaming in the car. On the track "Kick,
Push II" he follows a young man trying to
make money to feed his little sister, avoid-
ing the temptation of drug dealing for quick
money and eventually escaping by way of
the music industry.
The album's production is nothing short
of astounding, with every instrumental
just as breathtaking as the lyrics that fol-
low them. Except a few songs, including
"I Gotcha" produced by The Neptunes
and "The Instrumental" produced by
Linkin Park's MC Mike Shinoda, most
See FIASCO, page 9

Dead on arrival: Fox's

By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
Whose idea was this? No, not
this show about newlyweds mov-
ing in next door to a miserable older
couple, I mean
whose idea was
it to put Brad 'TII Death
Garrett ("Every- Thursdays
body Loves Ray- at 8 p.m.
mond") in such Fox
a demanding
lead role? Sure,
it's a good deal for Fox that stands
to steal fans of Garrett's three-time
Emmy-winning turn as Ray Roma-
no's lazily defensive brother, but,
should the show fail, Garrett stands
to lose that inexplicable air of come-
dic brilliance it took him a decade
to build. Try as he may to bring out
an original character, and though he

is at times funny, " 'Til Death" is
a failure, proving that there's more
to being a leading man than simply
telling your jokes.
The show, built in the dying "one-
laugh-track" mode, features Garrett
and Joely Fisher ("Desperate House-
wives") as the Stamms, a middle-
aged couple who seem entrenched
in the perpetual doldrums of 10 plus
years of marriage. When a younger
couple moves in next door, the
Stamms begin to envy their youthful
exuberance, though of course, they
pretend to be friends. What follows
is an uninspired, conventional satire
of family life. Though it has lines
that'll steal a smilethe pilot remains
insubstantial until about the last five
minutes, when its sudden leap into
sentimentality makes the previous
void seem almost preferable.
Garrett's no worse than he ever
was on "Raymond," and the dia-

latest flop
logue he's asked to read is far bet-
ter than expected. But he lacks that
comedic vigor, that one quality
every centerpiece of a good sitcom
needs to drive the show.
This star is rarely the funniest
character, but all other antics and
rants would be empty without his
central quality that unites all other
comedic elements. (Consider Jerry
Seinfeld in "Seinfeld," Jason Bate-
man in "Arrested Development" or
Steve Carell in "The Office.").
Garrett's humor leans too much
to individualist gripes and low-
key shtick for him to succeed in
getting others involved, and like-
wise " 'Til Death" lacks the focus
that it so dearly needs to unite its
marginally funny material. Even
in the off moments when the show
gets a laugh, it's not enough when
the characters are banalities and
the comedy is scattershot - espe-
cially on TV's biggest night.

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