8A - Monday, February 11, 2008
From Page 5A
However, the past, especially
when it involves family, always
catches up to the fragile present.
Nine years after leaving for Tin-
seltown, Roscoe receives a sweet,
guilt-tripping phone call from his
mother reminding him of his par-
ents' 50th wedding anniversary.
Before he knows it, Roscoe is head-
ing back to rural Georgia along with
his "celebrity" fiancee Bianca (Joy
Bryant), accurately described in the
film as "the black Paris Hilton."
The rest of the film goes largely as
expected: Roscoe's parents are upset
at how ashamed he is of his roots,
his siblings are country people that
don't understand his newfound glitz
and his hopelessly prissy fiancveirks
everyone with her noxiously preten-
tious existence. As formulaic and
dull as all this sounds, it could still
make fora passable film. But "Ros-
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
coe Jenkins" doesn't even rise to
mediocrity because it stoops so low
for laughs and so cluelessly hawks
"morals" about family values.
About the third time Roscoe gets
in an all-out food fight with one of
his cousins (only a half hour or so
into the film), it becomes painfully
obvious this film is so entirely void
of identity that it is willingto do and
say anything for a laugh. Unfortu-
nately, it's impossible to be funny
when you're that desperate. Not
only does the film dash any hopes of
coherence its tired plot might have
had with incessant asides about fat
people and funny accents, it doesn't
even get any laughs to show for it.
The purpose of "Roscoe Jenkins"
appears to have been to stress the
importance of family while provid-
ing plenty of laughs. By presenting
crass, sophomoric antics in even
supposedly serious scenes and cre-
ating a despicable character for just
about every role, the film proves to
be a complete failure.
By MARK SCHULTZ
Daily TV/New Media Editor
Now that the writers strike is
drawing to a close, many devoted
television viewers are probably
happy that the popularity of real-
ity shows may be undermined by
scripted television. Notme, though.
That's because shows like "Ameri-
can Gladiators" and "Real World/
Road Rules Challenge: The Gaunt-
let" represent two importantcamps
in television: characters we root for
and characters we root against.
Take last Monday's episode of
"American Gladiators," which fea-
tured Alex Rai, a diminutive histo-
ry teacher who had recently lost his
mother to cancer. Because of his sta-
tus as an undersized, grieving man
in an underappreciated profession,
Alex was easy to root for, especially
as a counterpoint to terrifyingly
muscular gladiator Hammer. I
"Gauntlet" features twenty-
somethings from past "Real World"
and "Road Rules" seasons com-
peting in games just as childish
as those in "Gladiators." While
Gladiators and average Joes shoot
Nerf balls at each other, "Gauntlet"
contestants participate in football-
retrieval contestants that usually
escalate into all-out brawls. But
what's fascinating about "Gaunt-
let" is that, unlike "Gladiators," the
show wants the viewer to dislike
Like Rai, "Gauntlet" contestant
C.T. Tamburello ("Real World:
Paris") has a developed back story
that gives his character depth, as
well as a context for the viewer
to relate to. The difference is that
everything we learn about C.T.'s
character paints him as an obnox-
ious jerk. The first night the con-
testants move into their lavish
Mexican beach house, C.T. gets
hammered, starts an argument
with his own teammate and shirks
his girlfriend in a way that would
make Jason Wahler proud.
"Gauntlet" 's characters - at this
point, I stop calling them "contes- and delusional members of society
tants" - are unlikable in a variety down a peg.
of different ways. Yet, waiting to Much of today's scripted televi-
see which "Gauntlet" member gets sion also relies on this basic dichot-
kicked out of the mansion and left omy of rooting for the underdog
and against cocky and obnoxious
characters. But for most shows,
W1ho needs using the terms "like" and "dis-
like" is an oversimplification. I
writers? might like Homer Simpson - in
fact, I love him - but I didn't root
for him when he invented his own
religion any more than I rooted for
with only an MP3 player is some- G.O.B. Bluth to become a success-
how as compelling as rooting for sad ful magician. Characters like these
sacks like Alex Rai. Why is this? are mainly entertaining because
It's because the point of "Gaunt- - unlike the "Gauntlet" members
let" isn't who wins - it's who fails. - it is assumed they will fail in
The show is worth watching to see their selfish endeavors. Similarly,
cocky Coral covered in mud, or self- you know Jack Bauer will always
ish Brooke fall to pieces after she's find his terrorist, because his show
kicked off. "American Idol," and operates according to a formula as
many other reality shows, operate old as Horatio Alger.
on this same principle: the earlier Reality shows, though, never fol-
shows are more fun to watch than low typical story lines. Watching
the later ones, because they're ter- scripted shows, you have a vested
rific venues to see the untalented interest but, whether you admit
and unlikable get what they have it or not, you typically know what
coming. Inlater episodes of" aunt- will happen. On "Gladiators" and
let" and similar shows, when it "Gauntlet," though, all you can do
becomes painfully clear that one is hope that Alex Rai will win the
of these assholes has to win, the $100,000 and that, maybe, just
show has lost the comic effect that maybe, C.T. will get the comeup-
comes with taking the most spoiled pance he deserves.
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