Friday, April 25, 2008



If you’ve ever wondered what ingredients go into creating a Lindsay Lohan or a Britney Spears, check out VH1’s “I Know My Kid’s A Star,” a weekly debacle that’s part talent search, part reality show and full-fledged televised child abuse.

Hosted by ex-“Partridge Family” kid Danny Bonaduce, the series gives 10 pre-teens and their parents the chance to see if they’ve got the right stuff to make it as a child star without becoming regular guests at Hotel Rehab. Each week, a parent-child team is deemed unready for Hollywood and sent home.

To many familiar with his sordid history, Bonaduce mentoring child stars might seem as incongruous as Paris Hilton performing brain surgery, but he actually offers valuable critiques and his own experiences give credence to the cautionary tales he shares.

The show operates under the guise of discovering America’s next “It” boy or girl, but clearly, it’s all about which stage mom can be the biggest, er, witch – a noun I’m tactfully employing in lieu of a more apropos rhyming word that starts with “b.”

Several of the mothers are already savvy at the showbiz game. There’s the B-movie actress who looks like a Whitesnake groupie capable of snorting a pint of Jack Daniels then eating the bottle. Everyone knows someone like her: brash, funny, occasionally crude – a blast at parties, but after 15 minutes, you’re gasping for the air she’s sucked out of the room. Though she means well, her big personality and bigger need for attention eclipses her kid’s limelight. It’s very telling that her daughter, a gorgeous Eliza Dushku in miniature, performs well only when Mom exits stage left.

There’s the ex-Broadway dancer who’d put any pimp to shame as she tries to sell Bonaduce and talent agent Marki Costello on her daughter’s talent – of which we rarely see a glimmer because the child’s always petrified after Mom’s cringe-worthy browbeatings. This poor kid makes Pavlov’s dogs look like free thinkers.

There’s the acting teacher mom, levelheaded and likeable, whose kid is not only a charmer, but hands-down the most talented of the bunch. Naturally, most of the other moms hate her; when they say, “Break a leg,” they mean it literally.

Some of the parents are newbies to the vicious shredding machine that is Hollywood, like the recently eliminated sweetheart of a mom – one of the few “normal” (translation: sane) ones – who agreed with Bonaduce that her meek, polite demeanor would probably hinder her daughter’s career.

Putting this volatile mix of personalities in one big house is clearly a ratings ploy; there’s far more high drama among the moms than onstage where the kids are auditioning. Watching some of these women interact with their kids is more excruciating than slowly peeling off a week-old scab:

“If we get sent home, you’d better not cry!”

“It’s not ‘Romper Room.’ We’re not here to friggin’ play.”

"I’m a single mom. You have to get rich and famous so you can buy me that dream house!”

Blecch … perhaps a better name for the show would be “I Know My Kid’s A Future Tabloid Cover.”

Friday, April 11, 2008


Photo: [Pioneer] Studios
Illustrations: Captain Planet Foundation, Inc. (


A recent game of rock-paper-scissors left me on the losing end of a debate with a friend about what movie to watch. My pick was “Little Miss Sunshine,” but rock crushed scissors, so I was forced to sit through “X-Men,” the first installment of the big-screen trilogy based on the Marvel comic series about a team of superheroes with special powers.

Fortunately, I’m blessed with a special power of my own: The ability to superimpose a movie I really want to watch over the one I’m currently viewing with great disinterest. Magneto as a foul-mouthed grandpa who dies en route to his granddaughter Rogue’s participation in the Little Miss Mutant beauty pageant? Now that’s entertainment!

Though I zoned out during much of the flick, I did learn one thing from “X-Men”: A lot of superheroes have really, really lame powers. Take Jubilee, for instance. She can shoot fireworks from her hands. That’s a mighty neat party trick to unveil at the Fourth of July company picnic, but being full of sparkly goodness won’t make any self-respecting villain quake with fear: “I will now mesmerize you with pretty colors long enough for someone with real powers to show up, MWAHAHAHA!”

Still, Jubilee can thank her lucky, twinkling stars that she’s a walking Roman candle instead of a fountain of touchy-feely emotions like Ma-Ti of the ‘90s cartoon “Captain Planet and the Planeteers.” The youngest of the environment-conscious quintet kept company with Gi, who could control any water source, as well as Kwame, Linka and Wheeler, who boasted the powers of Earth, Wind and Fire (though their costumes weren’t nearly as cool as the R&B band’s).

With the aforementioned elements already spoken for, all that was left for Ma-Ti was the power of Heart. In other words, he’s very, very caring. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about peace, love and understanding, but empathy ain’t never stopped a speeding bullet. If I were a superhuman fighter of evil, I’d punch my creator’s head down his neck-hole for arming me with “Heart” as a battle weapon. But at least I’d care enough to ask if he was OK afterward.

If this trend toward watered-down superpowers continues, cartoon crusaders could one day be reduced to such dubious “talents” as:

* The power to make dust bunnies multiply.

* The strength to withstand the "curiously strong" tingle of Altoids.

* The ability to steal candy from a baby.

* The endurance to chuck more wood than a woodchuck would if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

* The fortitude to eat just one Lay's potato chip.

* The ability to explode at will … but only once.

* The power to eat ice cream quickly without getting brain freeze.

* The ability to interpret interpretive dance.

* The skill to cut sandwiches into perfectly symmetrical halves.

* The power to get annoying songs stuck in enemies' heads.

When this new breed of hero arrives, I’ll be the first to sign up, since this column has revealed I possess a lethal superpower: The ability to kill time.