A flag waves as the camera pans over Los Angeles, a serious announcer voice telling us that "Change is about to come to America. It's time for us to usher in a new era of hope. Our country is in dire straits..." Just when you think you're watching another 20/20 special about the economy or an Obama biopic, the announcer says, "Because of these people" and the camera cuts to a shot of a bus full of VH1's finest.
It’s another semester of “Charm School,” one of the many VH1 reality shows that can make a person watch in open-mouthed horror, while asking an empty room, "Where do they find these people?!” The idea behind Charm School is making ladies out of the network’s unruly reality stars. Previous season featured contestants from Flavor of Love and Rock of Love, two Bachelor spoofs starring Flavor Flav from '80s rap group Public Enemy and Bret Michaels from ‘80s hair metal group Poison, respectively. The third installment, which premiered last night, stars 14 contestants from the most recent season of Rock of Love and Real Chance of Love including Brittanya, who would put the show’s $100,000 prize toward her legal trouble; KiKi, who would cuss you out in a heartbeat; and Ashley, who is my favorite because of that time she was falling-down drunk and throwing frozen dinners around, scream-slurring that “people who eat basil are lame!”
These shows are hilarious because… seriously, where do they find these people? But last night’s episode actually surprised me. Not because someone got sent home for physical violence on the first night — that kind of thing is par for the course on VH1. I really can’t believe I’m saying this, but I was surprised because compared to its predecessors, this Charm School actually seemed kind of authentic. New host/“headmistress” Ricki Lake — much more believable in this role than former host Sharon Osbourne, who is trashier than/assaulted one of the girls she was allegedly helping to reform — actually seems invested in helping these girls better themselves. She’s also changed the show’s format to focus on volunteer work (including a relief trip to New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, as seen in the season trailer) which is much more likely to genuinely affect a person than etiquette lessons in the form of having dinner with an actress pretending to be a member of the British royal family.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s still reality TV, so there’s always going to be that sensationalist “Look at these fools” element, like Farrah donating her most lucrative pair of stripper shoes at Ricki’s impromptu charity clothing drive.
Charm School is produced by 51 Minds, which pretty much guarantees that I will watch it, as will many of my equally low-brow friends. But for once, I am genuinely curious about the outcome. These girls are amusing to no end, but who knows? Maybe Ricki Lake really did teach them to be amusing to no end, while simultaneously being personable, sober and clothed.
Danielle Panabaker's Top Pop Picks
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