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All American Girl, Episode 1: The Good, The Bad, The Bubblyby Bruce Barker -- 03/14/2003
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When the call went out that RealityNewsOnline needed a volunteer to handle the recaps of ABC’s new reality show, All American Girl, I eagerly stuck up my hand. How hard could this be? A weekly dose of young and attractive ladies parading across the television isn’t exactly a torture session. I assumed that my most difficult task would be hunting in the thesaurus to find enough different alternates for the word “built.” Little did I know that I would soon be facing my worst math exam since Miss Crutnuncher’s Algebra final in high school!
There is a new trend in reality shows. Once, the rules of the show would be nicely explained over the opening credits so that everyone knew what was going to happen. Increasingly more common now, though, is the habit of sprinkling information about the rules throughout the show. There are pluses and minuses to this trend. On the one hand we are spared a boring speech at the beginning of each episode. On the other, we never quite know what’s about to happen and we start off with more questions than answers. It also gives a show a sort of “we’re making this up as we go along” feel. This is particularly noticeable with All American Girl.
The show begins with us being told that the nationwide search took place in Miami, New York City, Austin, and Los Angeles. Thousands of young women came to the auditions. Rather than dwell on the selection process ala American Idol, AAG chooses to spend just a few brief minutes showing us parade of 5-10 second clips of bad auditions. These go by so quickly that the names of the performers are not even flashed on the screen. This hurried pace sets the stage for a sometimes-frenzied rush through the process of whittling down the number of girls to a manageable number.
We are promised that this is not merely a beauty contest, nor is it a singing competition. The young ladies have to display well-rounded skills, including passing an intelligence test. As a precursor to this, the women take a test on America just to qualify. We see some of the more ridiculous answers:
How many states are there in the United States?
A couple of women answer 51, while one even manages to confidently reply that there are 52.
Which two countries border the United States?
One hopeful responds with Spain and Europe.
What is the capital city of the United States?
(I realize that you weren’t warned there would be a pop quiz hidden in this article, so your grade on the above questions won’t count toward your final average.)
The mass of women is cut down to 45 and the competition moves to the next phase. We are introduced to the three judges who will be making the choices as to which girls will move on and which will be eliminated. During the show the judges are also frequently referred to as “coaches” for reasons that are explained a bit later on in the show. They are:
Former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell – She was apparently picked to be this show’s version of Simon Cowell. I can think of no other reason that qualifies this British woman to know what constitutes an All American Girl.
Former NBA player and sometime announcer John Salley.
Suzanne dePasse – A Motown records executive with a self-proclaimed sharp eye for talent.
On day 1 of the competition the 45 girls will each perform two times for the judges/coaches. At the end of the day the coaches will trim the list of hopefuls by half. This is where my admittedly limited mathematical skills began to become challenged. I began to wonder how you get half of 45 without bringing in a magician to saw one of the women in two. The ladies can do whatever they want for their performances, and they offer us so much variety that it quickly begins to resemble the talent section of the Miss Backwater County Fair beauty contest. I will confess that some of these performances went by in a hurry and apologize in advance if I missed a name here or there, or mangle the spelling of a name here and there.
The first performer we see is Tarah Paige. She performs a vintage sock-hop dance from the 1950s, complete with ballet steps that I don’t recall seeing in any of the old Elvis movies. She is enthusiastic and appears to be having quite a bit of fun performing in her skirt and sweater. I would like to be able to include all of the judges’ comments for each contender, but for some unknown reason the producers only show us what one or two of the judges had to say. I will include those that were in the actual telecast:
Suzanne – Graceful!
Natalie White is next and performs a modern interpretive dance. The host of the show, Mitch Mullany, informs us via narration that each performer has up to two minutes time to do their thing on stage. Mitch doesn’t actually appear on camera very much and seems content to spend quite a lot of time speaking over the action to tell us what to expect, much like a sports announcer. Natalie dances well but commits a small faux pas by only performing for about 30 seconds.
Suzanne – That was competent.
The third performer is named Venice Monagan. We are shown a brief video interview with her where she tells us that her life changed on 9/11 because she was working right across the street from the World Trade Center. In a bizarre train-wreck of a performance, she tries to squeeze the entire career of Michael Jackson into a two-minute long piece of performance art. What begins with some rather poor moonwalking and crotch grabbing rapidly deteriorates until the finale where she uses a teddy bear to pretend to dangle a baby out of a window. (I swear I’m not making this up!)1 2 3 4 Next-->
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