27 March 2015

The Bachelor NZ Eps 3 and 4

Four episodes down and it's fair to say that I am obsessed with the show. I'm not even sorry.

It's also fair to say that TV3 are keen to drag this thing out for as long as possible, with just one girl per episode leaving the mansion over the last two nights. While there is definitely enough material from each show for separate blog posts, I've decided to condense them into one because ain't nobody got time fo' dat.

Seven girls have now left the mansion. So far, I still have confidence that Matilda, Kristie and Poppy will make it to the end but the longer the show goes on and we get to know the remaining girls a little better, I'll reserve the right to change my mind about who should make the final two. My blog, 'mkay?

No matter what you may think of Art, and how vanilla his personality is, there's no denying that he's a true gentleman. Here he is at the most recent cocktail party gallantly offering to help one of the contestants find the rest of her dress.
I think it's over here somewhere

Matilda goes on the second one-on-one date and the cryptic clue on the date card reads "The higher you go, the bigger the fall". Whilst they all sit around the grounds of the mansion like limpets firing out suggestions for what the date might entail, she perceptively exclaims "I feel like it's something high". Full marks, Matilda.

This is New Zealand and Kiwi girls are generally pretty low-maintenance but nowhere does it become more obvious that this is a budget Kiwi production when a contestant drives herself to her one-on-one date. Matilda doesn't need a chauffeur or GPS to find the bachelor because her Arthur radar works just fine. She arrives at the meeting point and waves at Art through the windscreen like she's doing the school pick-up. He tells her they are going to scale the Auckland Harbour Bridge and she can barely hide her lack of enthusiasm but she's a trouper and dons her hardhat and overalls like a boss. Not only do they climb to the top of the bridge, they go bungee jumping from it too. That must have been when the funds for this date ran out because they then enjoy a picnic on a teeny-tiny metal landing under the bridge and stand awkwardly around a handkerchief-sized hamper making small talk about future babies and marveling at the view that they've only been looking at for the last two hours. I really like Matilda, but this date leaves me wondering if she is going to be left in the friend-zone.
The fact that I had to add a shark to this shot serves to highlight how unexciting this date was.

Up to this point, the group dates have included a harbour cruise and rally car racing with a pervy uncle instructor. Two of the girls cannot drive manuals so that was fun for them. Because everyone likes looking like a numpty in front of a national audience. The dates seem to be getting progressively worse; the latest one involved mucking out the alligator enclosure at Auckland Zoo. One of the girls jokingly asks if it is designed to see how clean they'd keep house to which Vanilla replies "Possibly". Kill me now. The one-on-one dates are marginally better. Art has taken Poppy sea kayaking and exploring rock pools like the 5 year olds they are. He's romanced Matilda on a corner of the Auckland Harbour bridge with the world's smallest picnic hamper. He's also managed to whisk Kristie away to a gazebo at the top of a windswept hill for some alone time, where she not so subtly tells him that it wouldn't take much for her "walls" to be brought down. This show is way more fun when I insert innuendo where there is none.

Permasmile (Amanda), the mother of twins heads off with Art on the third one-on-one date. They drive into a golf course and past the large wooden Muriwai Golf Club sign where she asks "Are we playing golf?" and I lose all hope. If she were to compile the top three worst ideas for any date let alone her first date, playing golf should be at the very top of her list. She is terrible at it (as would I be) and because Arthur is so good at everything, he comes to her rescue and shows her how to swing the club ("with his arms" Amanda helpfully adds in her on-camera piece) and I die at the sheer predictability of the scene.

One thing that has been made abundantly clear is that Art is not overly into public displays of affection and the fact that he isn't eager to lob the gob at every opportunity must come as a relief to the contestants, because ew, infectious mononucleosis. They must all be wondering who is going to be the first one to properly pash him though and thus claim bragging rights. There have been very limited opportunities to be able to break into someone else's personal space so far and I have seen more high fives going on on these dates than I have at a game of basketball.
Nice move, playa.
Back at the mansion, Dani is wondering whether there will be any kissing on the first date of the show that spans the evening, because lord knows, sunsets = passion and Amanda must be a horn bag since she already has children. It looks like they've recycled the gazebo from the previous group date and given it a wee makeover. This is an inspired move since I like a bit of upcycling and it means they can afford the three-piece orchestra standing on the sand dunes. Props to you TV3 and thinking laterally around your tiny budget constraints. You must have got a good deal on the Warehouse fairy lights 'cos those things are everywhere.
We don't get to see much at all of some of the girls, in particular Shivani or Natalie, which makes it difficult for me to lampoon them, so please try harder TV3. There are shots of the girls lounging about in bikinis, playing cards or engaging in idle chitchat and perfecting their needlework and looking longingly into the distance patiently waiting for the return of the menfolk (not really).

Poppy, the girl who unbelieveably cut the cheese on the first date with the Bachelor, seems to be a front runner for Art's affections as not only did she sweep sludge out of the alligator enclosure like a champ, she managed to snaffle some more alone time with him feeding lemurs at the zoo where after loosely observing some of their traits they promptly name them after some of the contestants. Funnily enough, one of the girls, Hayley, barely has had any time with Arthur and next to no screen time so when Poppy names one of the quieter lemurs after her, Arthur responds "Which one is Hayley?" and I laugh loudly at this life imitating lemur moment. Determined not to remain invisible, Hayley ensures that he, and the nation, won't ever forget who she is and during that evening's happy hour, she raps to him. Badly. But it earns her a rose, so good for you, Slim Hayley.

Poppy drops a bomb(shell) and tells Art she cannot continue because the process is throwing her into complete turmoil, which is either a stark moment of honesty or a brilliant masterstroke in manipulation. There's a lot of intense gazing and hand holding and he seems genuinely upset by her wavering about whether to remain on the show. Even though he is contractually obligated to not reveal how deeply he feels about one particular girl until the very end, the veeerrry long hug he gives her after offering her a rose reassures her and would send a message even to the blind that he really fancies her. Well played, Poppy. I hope she sticks around because she is the Queen of the oneliners.
Apart from Poppy's witticisms, the only one who may provide me with some blogging mileage is Chrystal. She is being painted as the villainess and she has some very cutting remarks which seems very un-Kiwi so I half-expect her to pull off her face midway through a rose ceremony and reveal herself to be Gordon Ramsay. We've already had two contestants opt to not accept a rose from the Bachelor in other surprise twists so anything is possible.

Some highly important statistical information that may persuade you to rot your brain alongside me next week:
Naked torso: 2
High five: 3
Awkward pause: 4
Furtive glance: 82
Girl crying: 2
Bachelor crying: 0
Peck on the cheek: 26
Kiss on lips: 0

Tune in next week when someone pushes the lip-kissing panic button and one girl seems to have secured a Sunglass Hut deal on aviators.

18 March 2015

The Bachelor New Zealand

Couldn't resist. I love some reality television, especially The Amazing Race. Even so, when last night's first episode of The Bachelor New Zealand aired, I sat down not expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable it was to watch.
I went out for dinner with a group of friends last week and when I asked if any of them would be watching this show, all conversation stopped dead and I swore I could hear crickets. So, for their benefit and for those of my overseas readers, put down your Tolstoys and read my recap, because I know you are all just as shallow as me underneath it all.

We all know the premise, a Man-Mountain with everything going for him is seemingly unable to find the right person through conventional means so opts to go through a selection process of group and individual dates with 21 women in contrived settings on national television, with all of their highs and lows giving us fodder for our water cooler and school cloakroom discussions.

At first appearance, the Bachelor, Arthur Green, seems like a really down-to-earth guy. He hasn't had the perfect life though, we're told. Cue sad music. His parents divorced when he was 8. He's got six sisters, so we know he'll be able to handle himself with a group of women. We're introduced to the contestants as they roll up in pairs to the mansion in their Suzukis. It always amazes me that people want to go on this type of show and be willing to risk potential embarrassment and humiliation to themselves and their families but to me, Matilda seems like she's there to find out if she really does have a connection with the Bachelor. She seems genuine and likeable and my money is on her to go right to the end. If skeptics talk about how scripted these shows are, let me point out the moment when Art trips near the pergola just seconds after advising Matilda to be careful. Their reactions are so endearing and real. This is the moment I realize am possibly too involved in this show.

I can't remember many of the other contestants' names except for the token mean girl. I can't help but think that Chrystal has ulterior motives for being on the show. There's obviously chemistry between her and the Bachelor though, even if she does play the aloof game with him and all of the other girls have identified her as a Threat. Then we have lovely, shy Natalie. She's so tall, she couldn't hide herself away even if she wanted to. She wonders if her shyness will cost her a rose. It doesn't, she's through.

There's also Rosie, who gives the Bachelor a white rose during their introduction. I'm dying under the weight of the symbolism. She worries that he's missed the joke so she repeats herself turning a cheesy moment into an awkward one. The Bachelor was probably relieved her name wasn't Rocket launcher, but this guy is so smooth, he would have one-hand clapped it away before it could be fired into the mansion.
Danielle L. is someone who the Bachelor says stood out on the red carpet. They spend a few minutes on the bench seat under some fairy lights where she plays a fun game with him and makes him guess her age. Only girls who are younger than they look do that, so even though she is 7 years older than him, now in his mental catalogue of making future babies, the Bachelor senses there may be good genetic compatibility. She also reveals that she has two boys, but does this make him recoil in horror? No. He's all about family. She wants to be honest with him, which is noble yet she fails to mention her previous white-collar convictions that saw her earning some time in the clink. Maybe she didn't want to play all her joker cards in the one round. Someone give that girl-fraudster a rose.

So the Bachelor is clearly not ageist, mumsist, heightist or racist. We know this because he gives Shivani, the girl with a conservative Indian family, a rose too.

Poppy, with the amazing blue eyes and refined British accent, is my outside contender to make the final two, alongside #teammatilda and Kristie with a K. She's a yoga instructor, y'all. Guys like flexibility. She gets a rose. She seems like she'd be fun to hang out with and I would invite her to one of our girly curry nights*.

In the only controversial moment of the night, three girls are sent home after the rose ceremony instead of four after Rosie rules herself out of contention. She waits until nearly all the roses are handed out before making her announcement though. That might have been scripted. I can't tell. In spite of assuring him her decision was not to do with him, it really was to do with him; he's not adventurous enough for this seeker of dangerous hotspots. There's a metaphor in there somewhere. Probably.
Have I made you half-curious to watch tonight's episode? Go on, because even if the burgeoning relationships, anticipated cat fights and inevitable heartbreak don't interest you, our spectacular New Zealand scenery just might.

* Having since watched episode two, curry for Poppy may be a bad idea. I retract my invitation.

07 March 2015

Book snobbery

It's true. I am very careful with books and try to keep new ones in pristine condition. I am sorry, books, that I cannot save you all from the plight of having your spines cruelly split or suffering the ignominy of dog-eared pages, but just know that I love you and if you come to live with me you will be read once or twice and then live out the rest of your lives on my shelf with just yellowing pages and a layer of dust revealing your ages. I know I have a problem but I quietly mourn for those poor books with their ripped covers and cellotaped pages. It probably stems from being one of six children growing up in a house with very few new items to call our own so when we were given something as special as a new book, it was greater than any treasure.

It got me thinking about the books I have in my possession and what they say about me. I know you know that I have a little bit of a thing for Sweet Valley High books and light literature, but I have enough self-respect to never put those books out on my shelves for visitors to see. That is my (and now your) dirty little secret. Most of the books on the shelf are literary powerhouses and mainly there for display purposes only. Some of those books are planted there just to make me look smarter than I actually am.

Buying brand new books remains a rarity. They are so expensive in stores here so borrowing from friends and purchasing secondhand books at garage sales and on Trade Me tend to keep me in good supply. You may have noticed the absence of any mention of going to the library. I have public library issues. It stems from when I was in my early 20's and blissfully ignorant of how truly filthy some people are. I had borrowed this one book from the local library and was lying on my bed reading it, when I turned a page and a bogey fell out and landed on my top. I tried hard not to think about it as I flicked it off and briefly wondered whether I could have been mistaken and it was in fact someone's fingernail clipping (because I'd have been totally down with that), but that moment of complete foulness has stayed with me. Since then, I have borrowed books with pages held fast by bits of food, with entire sections ripped out and once I read a book with what looked like dried blood smeared across its pages. I just despaired of it all and wondered whether I just had bad luck with borrowing books from public libraries and why was I being punished by all the piggy people?! It's like a special gift, only it's a curse.

I had delved into The Pact by Jodi Picoult while on our long weekend holiday last month. It had me gripped from the start with the lives of two families intertwined and torn apart by an apparent suicide pact. As fast as I tried to read it, I could only manage to get two thirds of the way through and had to leave it behind since it belonged to the bach owner. Unperturbed, I felt sure one of my friends would be a J Pi lover, but sadly, not one person owned a copy of this book which instantly made me question my friendship with these people. I contemplated ensconcing myself in the aisle of a book shop to read the remainder in installments such was my commitment to doing anything that would keep me from having to borrow it from the library.

It became pretty clear I'd have to pull up my princess pants and trot down to the public library because no-one really is brazen enough to read entire books in a shop (unless you're the guy who would come every lunch hour into the bookstore I used to work at to read a book from cover to cover, which makes you exactly the kind of person who deserves to have someone's dried bodily fluids fall out onto you) and I could not justify buying a brand new book when two thirds of it had already been read. This was no mean feat in itself. I dutifully checked the online library database to determine its availability, and in the space of the half hour that it took for me to drive downtown and circle the library fifteen times for a parking space to become available, someone had brazenly checked out the book.

Yes, I could have spared myself the pain of it all and paid the princely sum of $2 to reserve it, but I am tightfisted, stupid and like to suffer, plus there would be no blog post lamenting both my predicament and the sheer dearth of Jodi Picoult titles in the Wellington Public Library system.

So, nearly a whole month has gone by in my agonizing wait to find out what really happened the night Emily was killed. I know this because I continually monitored the library database for updates on whether the mystery Jodi Picoult pilferer had returned the book. Yesterday was that day. And it was kismet. I drove down there, the traffic lights were all green, I found a free parking spot almost outside the library and the book was resting on the shelf arranged in alphabetical order just like all good library books should be.

So Jodster, this book had better have a good ending, because it was a Herculean effort on my part to get a copy in my hot little hands.