Dec 22, 2004

There are some indications out there that "Amazing Race" contestant Jonathan Baker isn't quite as monstrous as the show's editing suggests. USA Today ran a story on Tuesday about his behavior and the intense hatred for him expressed by "Race" fans on the web. (The story features some quotations from Jonathan that were included on this site in an earlier post.) At the story's conclusion, "Race" executive producer Bertram Van Munster says that Jonathan "is actually a nice guy." This corroborates an earlier statement made by a former contestant, Don St. Claire, who also maintains that Jonathan isn't so bad.

As for Jonathan's claim that medication he takes for Sarcoidosis is responsible for some of his outbursts, a quick check of one source confirms that Prednisone, a common medication for the disease, can cause "depression, euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, personality changes, and even psychotic behavior." Wow! Perhaps the man knows what he's talking about.

So does this mean [gasp!] that television may not always tell the whole story?

[] Treatment of wife puts Jonathan in last place with viewers
[No True Bill] The Abusive Race
[Miami] Another Lesson Learned on 'Amazing Race'
[] Prednisone

Dec 20, 2004

The best show on TV, HBO's "The Wire," wrapped up it's third season tonight with a satisfying conclusion to the Barksdale/Bell storyline that has dominated the entire run of the series. HBO has yet to commit to a fourth season for the show, saying that it may be mid-January before a decision is made about its future. A promo that aired last Sunday advertised tonight's episode as the "Final Episode," but by late in the week it had been altered to replace that ominous phrase with a more comforting one: "Season Finale."

As it departs from the Sunday night schedule, whether for a year or forever, it leaves behind a huge hole. "Carnivale" returns in early January, and it's a fine show in it's own right. "Six Feet Under" and "Deadwood" also have new seasons coming in 2005. But as good as they are, none of these shows come close to meeting the standard set by "The Wire." The best comedy on television, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," won't even begin production on its new season until next month. With FX's slate of original programming all on hiatus and "The Sopranos" on hold until sometime in 2006, the only options left for a TV junkie like myself are the ones offered by network television. And of those, only "Lost" and "Veronica Mars" provide anything that resembles originality.

If I want good TV, maybe I'll just dig out my DVDs of "Homicide: Life on the Street."

Dec 18, 2004

Of the dwindling number of reality shows I still find worth watching, "The Amazing Race" stands out as the best. Despite finally resorting to the outrageous casting that plague so many other shows, "Race" succeeds through its always interesting race challenges. While there are usually some over-the-top personalities among the contestants, these personalities are always filtered through the game (unlike, say, "Survivor," which devotes nearly half of every episode to the contestants' down time).

This season, however, the personalities are getting a little too big. The biggest belongs to "entrepreneur" Jonathan. No matter how many times this man screams at his weepy wife, Victoria, each new tantrum makes my draw drop just a little bit further. At one point, while arguing in the back of a taxi, Jonathan even raised his hand as if to smack Victoria into submission. Her immediate flinch suggests that this wasn't the first time the threat of physical violence had been made. Things have gotten so bad that host Phil Keoghan even gave Jonathan a mild scolding at the end of last week's episode (which for the usually emotionless Keoghan was extremely irregular).

Well, it turns out that Victoria was already quasi-famous before competing on "Race." You see, she's a former Playboy Playmate. Her full name is Victoria Fuller, and she was the Playmate of the Month for January 1996. The last 9 years seem to have been a mixed bag for her. On one hand, she's incredibly rich. On the other, she's married to Jonathan. Plus, at the age of 34, she's already earned the nickname "Botox" from her "Race" opponents.

If you've been watching "Race" this season, you owe it to yourself to visit Jonathan and Victoria's official website. In a recent post, Jonathan blames his villainous behavior on, get this, medication. He says he's sorry for his actions, but then shifts the blame back to the producers by writing, "I am deeply saddened by the storyline that CBS went with."

If you're dying for even more Jonathan and Victoria hilarity, head on over to In a Flash-based video that appears in the bottom right corner of the site's home page, a mini-Victoria encourages visitors to join her fan club. What are the benefits of membership? Well, for one thing you can enter a contest to meet and hang out with her. She doesn't tell us whether or not Jonathan (and his medication) will be there.