Category: Amy Kaufman

'The Bachelorette' recap: Ryan's out in the cold, despite water heater expertise

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"The Bachelorette" is such a strange beast. I'll often loathe one contestant, making snide remarks about them for the entire season, and then the moment they're sent home I feel an odd sense of pity for them.

Take good ol' Ryan, for example, or as my friends and I had referred to him this season: "Solar Panels." I realized during Monday's episode, of course, that a more apt nickname would have been "Water Heaters," as on his first one-on-one date with Ashley he continued to ramble on about how water heaters are a waste of natural gas. She couldn't even feign interest in that scintillating piece of information, as her eyes already began to well up in anticipation of sending the environmentally-friendly businessman home.

Prior to the date, I -- like the rest of the remaining guys in the house -- could not tolerate Ryan. I'm not sure how it was possible, but he contained even more boundless energy than Ashley. His constant glass-half-full attitude wasn't endearing; instead, it tarnished even his Matthew Morrison-esque good looks.

"What a date," he said, before sitting down to a picnic with Ashley where he'd later be told to pack his bags. "I feel amazing. Like I'm cloud nine--cloud ten."

Stop.

Unfortunately, he did not.

"Water in the background. Fish all around. Look at that little guy," he said, smiling weirdly at a not-so-tiny bird.

Apparently his over-the-top enthusiasm for life -- and nature -- finally began to wane on Ashley, because when Ryan told her how eager he was to have her meet his family, she decided to tell him that just wasn't in the cards for them.

"You don't want to meet my family?" he said, cocking his head in confusion and staring back at Ashley like a lost puppy. Despite the fact that this dude oozes cheese, there I was, suddenly feeling sorry for him. He proceeded to wander off, confiding to a camera guy about how no one had any idea how badly he wanted to "find someone." The idea got him so choked up that he disappeared into the bushes momentarily, kicking the dirt, crying and swearing.

It was an emotional episode for lots of folks this week. J.P., still the obvious front-runner, got upset when he had to witness Ames and Lucas kiss Ashley on their group date. He was even more angry when Ben didn't come back until the following morning after his one-on-one date with Ashley -- even though Ben insisted the pair stayed in separate rooms.

As usual, Ashley also found something to get upset about, oddly breaking down into tears after sending Lucas home at the rose ceremony. Really? You're crying over this guy? Other than that vaguely cute moment when he taught you how to swing an imaginary golf club, you didn't even feel anything for the dude.

"Sometimes I want to say like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't even breathe,'" she sobbed. I just wished that sentiment even made sense.

It's especially frustrating to see Ashley get so distraught when it seems like she now has some viable options in front of her heading into the hometown dates. J.P. is clearly smitten with her, and her date with Ben went off without a hitch. Although, wasn't it kind of awkward when Ben poured his heart out to her after their moped ride, saying he was "teetering on the edge" of dropping the "l-bomb," and she just responded by staring blankly at him?

Ugh. Well, if she's not feeling good about her future in love at the moment, it appears she's quite confident with her body. How many tops that reveal her entire back does this chick own? We get it. You're not well-endowed, er, in the front region, and lots of guys made you feel insecure about that during the comedy club date earlier this season. That doesn't mean you have to walk around showing your entire naked back to compensate for it.

But Ashley's small tops weren't the only things that were cropped this week -- the entire episode was cut short to make room for Chris Harrison's dramatic interview with Emily, who of course was proposed to at the end of last season by then-"Bachelor" Brad Womack. In a shocking! turn! of! events!, Emily and Brad are already dunzo, only months after they proclaimed their undying love for one another.

I thought the interview with Emily was kind of lame, as she began weeping the moment she stepped out of the limo at the infamous "Bachelor" mansion.

"It's just sad being here," she choked. "The last time I came here, it felt a lot different."

For whatever reason, I had trouble feeling sorry for Emily. Those of you who watched the "After the Final Rose" episode after Brad's season will recall that Emily came across as totally controlling and seemed to have completely abandoned the sweet Southern girl persona she'd embodied prior. It appeared in an interview with the couple on that program that Brad would have done anything for Emily, who was not willing to uproot her life and move to Austin to give their relationship a chance.

On Monday, we didn't even really get any good details about why it didn't work out for the former lovebirds. She said she had been planning to move to Austin for the summer to see how things went, but "little red flags" kept coming up.

"I didn't doubt that we loved each other, I just doubted that he was still gonna wanna be with me," she said, insinuating he wasn't ready to abandon his single guy ways and become a husband and a father to Emily's daughter, Ricki.

"This was my worst nightmare," she insisted. I can only hope Ashley isn't back at the mansh in a few months, lamenting how her relationship went awry. But let's face it: The odds ain't in her favor.

--Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

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Photo: Ben and Ashley get intimate on their moped date. Credit: ABC.

Bear Grylls talks about manning up with Jake Gyllenhaal for 'Men vs. Wild'

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Bear Grylls, star of "Man vs. Wild," has done plenty of challenging things during the nearly five-year run of the worst-case-scenario survival show. He ate a sheep's eyeball. Drank his own urine. He even gave himself an enema in the middle of an ocean.

During the show's sixth season -- new episodes begin airing on Discovery on Monday night -- the 37-year-old will not only continue to push himself, but one very pretty, high-profile actor: Jake Gyllenhaal. In an installment titled "Men vs. Wild," Grylls takes Gyllenhaal to the Icelandic tundra. Unlike when he took Will Ferrell to the Arctic Circle, the weather is uncooperative: he and the "Love and Other Drugs" star brave 90 mph winds and individually pull themselves across a single rope suspended hundreds of feet over a deep ravine. (You can catch a glimpse of that scary stunt below.)

In next Sunday's paper, we talk to Grylls about what to expect from rest of the new season. (Hint: It includes him crying.) What follows is an excerpt of that conversation, in which the outdoorsman discusses the challenges of shepherding an A-list actor through the wild.

How did you decide to ask Jake to be on the show?
Shara, my wife, saw him on some chat show, and he was asked what it is like to be famous. He said, "It's great, and if the paparazzi get to me, I just ring up my buddy Bear Grylls." And I go, I don't even know him! So I emailed him and we started talking about going on a proper adventure. He was a fan of the show, and once we made the schedule work, we did it quite spontaneously.

Why did you choose to take him to Iceland? Were you looking for a location that might be easier for him to handle?
I thought Iceland would be good because there's lots to do. I was like, "The weather will be cool and it should be pretty mellow. We'll do a bit of climbing, and we'll just kind of jump into it." But he was thrown right in on the deep end. We did have some crazy conditions -- some of the worst weather I've seen for years. The wind was so strong that they literally had a jumbo jet blown sideways at the airport. And there we were, 5,000 feet up on a mountain trying to get our backsides out of there in one piece. Jake was saying, "Where's the relaxing chilling out in the wild?"

Is it more difficult for you when someone is tagging along for the journey?
I'm kind of a little bit more aware when I have someone else with me who's more of a wilderness rookie. I'm always kind of nervous because I'm aware that somebody else is trusting me with their life.

Continue reading »

'The Bachelorette' recap: With Bentley gone for good, J.P. becomes the front-runner

Ash

It's taken six weeks of sometimes excruciatingly painful episodes of "The Bachelorette," but I may finally be heading over to Team Ashley.

Last week, when our perky star begged Chris Harrison to get her in contact with bad boy Bentley, I'm pretty sure the collective "Bachelorette" fan base cringed. How could Ashley have such poor taste in men? And even worse, how could she possibly believe that seeing Bentley again would be anything but a terrible idea?

But when Bentley showed up in all of his Robert Pattinson-esque glory -- the hair? anyone? -- I was shocked to watch Ashley actually cut to the chase. I'd thought that if he indicated in any way that he still had feelings for her, she'd continue to be hung up on him. Not surprisingly, Bentley was still wishy-washy about his feelings. After greeting her with an incredibly awkward closed-mouth kiss, he said that after he'd left the show, he "couldn't believe" he "went home and missed this" -- likely referring more to traveling around the world all-expenses-paid than actually falling in love with Ashley.

To that point, he told Ashley it "didn't look good" for their budding relationship, despite his lame promise of a "dot-dot-dot" between them, which left her thinking she might move to Salt Lake City with him if it didn't work out with any of the other guys on the show.

"So this is our period," she said. And then girl got mad. For the first time all season she actually stood up for herself. With Bentley obviously not on board the Ashley train, she asked him why he hadn't just told her so over the phone instead of flying halfway around the world to sputter out the sentiment.

"Just wanted a vacay?" she said, sassing him. And that was that. Finally.

With the "closure" she'd requested behind her, Ashley launched into a series of dates in Hong Kong with a new attitude, a big smile and a really bad fake tan. Lucas, who showed he had some mild game last week when he taught Ashley how to swing an imaginary golf club, got the first one-on-one date. While Lucas seems like an honest, down-home kind of Texan guy who with a sweet, protective nature, it was evident that there wasn't much chemistry between him and Ashley. After giving Bentley the ax once and for all, though, it seemed she was interested in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, and left Lucas with a rose.

On the group date the guys were again forced to partake in some horrible-seeming physical activity -- dragon-boat racing. The entire event was pretty bland, with the only interesting moment coming later in the evening when uptight Ames got wasted and started wildly making out with Ashley in an elevator.

My favorite part of Monday night's episode was Ashley's one-on-one date with J.P., whom I absolutely now feel she will end up with in the end. Not only do I think J.P. is the best dude on the show -- emotionally supportive but not cloyingly so, honest about his feelings and still physically attractive -- but it's clear that Ashley feels more comfortable with him than anyone else.

Case in point: Though she hadn't told any of the guys about Bentley's little jaunt to Hong Kong, she decided to let J.P. in on the secret first. Because he's secure enough with himself not to be threatened by Bentley (yet another attractive quality), he didn't seem all that bothered by the news. As such, Ashley rewarded him with a rose, calling him by his full name, "Jordan Paul" and prompting me to hate myself for actually finding something on a cheesy reality show romantic.

Unfortunately for Ash, her little Bentley reveal didn't go over with the rest of the guys. Predictably, she worded the entire story horribly, telling the remaining suitors that in a "short period of time" she had fallen for Bentley. Yeah, that's just what a dude wants to hear. Understandably, some guys were a little peeved, feeling as if they were second fiddles. Some took it to the extreme, acting like total pouty, jealous drama queens. Blake the dentist -- who never got a one-on-one date with Ashley -- and Constantine were especially upset. And so was Mickey, who told Ashley that he felt she'd lied to them.

"I just don't see what the hell you saw in that guy," he said, inspiring a universal "true that" from viewers nationwide. "If your gut is saying that's what you're looking for, then please send me home."

Ashley refused, saying that she wouldn't cut him and he'd have to leave himself if that was the way he felt. Minutes later the guy was floating off on a boat back home. 

No big loss there. Still, the entire evening left Ashley rattled, as she whimpered to Harrison that she felt bad about "not knowing how to make" all the guys "feel special."

And it appears the waterworks will not cease in the coming weeks. Did you guys catch the teaser for the rest of the season? Duh-rah-ma.

Of course, some former contestant comes back. Of course, another worries about being ready to propose. And of course, it seems like something incredibly intense goes down during the final rose ceremony.

I'm sure the producers are just messing with us and Ashley probably gets so upset just about having to let one of her final two go. But what if both guys leave her at the coral-and-flower covered would-be altar? What if her chosen man isn't ready to tie the knot? What if she decides she really just wants to be with Bentley at his family fun center in Salt Lake City and help him raise little Cozy?

Whatever happens, all I know is that being forced to watch so much nonsense early on, we'd better get a stunner of a finale.

-- Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

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Photo: Ashley, in Hong Kong with Blake, left, and Ryan, was back to her perky self on Monday night's episode. Credit: ABC

'The Bachelorette' recap: Ames gets a concussion, but no one can knock any sense into Ashley

Boxing Another episode of "The Bachelorette"; another week of nearly clawing my eyes out due to frustration.

OK, Ashley. We're in Week 5 now. That means I've long ago grown tired of you still being hung up on Bentley. I can no longer listen to you lament about how those wondrous 60 minutes you spent together are still on your mind. Or whine about how that lame "dot dot dot" shtick has stuck with you as you've traveled halfway around the world. And yet, after going on some fun dates in a beautiful part of the world -- and even watching some poor guy suffer a concussion while literally fighting for you -- still, all you could talk about was Bentley.

Of course, we suckers were faked out by the teaser commercials this week, which showed Ashley sauntering up to a hotel room where Bentley was meant to be for their dramatic encounter. As it turns out, that nonsense goes down next week. AFTER ASHLEY PERSONALLY REQUESTS FOR BENTLEY TO FLY TO HONG KONG SO SHE CAN HAVE "CLOSURE" WITH HIM.

But hey, good on Chris Harrison, at least, for trying to impart to Ashely how absolutely ludicrous that idea is.

"You think this would really help you to move on?" he asked her skeptically.

Yes, she insisted, promising that if she could just hear Bentley say he left because he "didn't feel strongly enough" for her, then she would be "so respectful" of that. While that sentiment made my blood boil, I guess it is difficult to remember that Ashley isn't privy to seeing all of the crap Bentley talked behind her back. She must truly believe that this loser only left because he missed his kid. (Although even that logic is hard for me to comprehend, because if he was really that into Ashley, he would have stuck it out for like a month of production -- and she should realize that.) In any event, I can really only hope that she is watching these episodes and hanging her head in utter shame for being so naive.

Even though Bentley didn't show up in Asia this week, his reach still extended far into Ashley's psyche. His leaving early has made this girl so horribly insecure that as a result, she's making really poor choices about the remaining guys. Case in point? Kicking Ben C. off. I mean, whoa, did not see that one coming.

When it was announced that Ben and William were the two unlucky guys being sent on the dreaded two-on-one date, I immediately thought Ben had this thing in the bag. After William's awkward gaffe at the roast a few weeks back when he joked about wishing he was competing for Emily or Chantal's affections, I was sure he'd never be able to recover. (As it turned out, he wasn't -- the wannabe comedian thankfully got sent home later in the episode.)

But only a few minutes into their date -- after both of the guys were forced to row Ashley down a remote river on a raft like two slaves -- William pulled Ashley aside to tell her that he questioned Ben's intentions.

"From what I heard around the house, he's more looking forward to the dating websites when he gets home," William informed Ashley. "He's saying 'I'm gonna clean up after I get out of here. I can't wait to get back to town.'"

Ashley immediately freaked out and impulsively decided to send Ben home without even really getting his side of the story. Oh, wow -- the guy actually dares to speak about the possibility that he might not go home with the final rose? And alluded to how being on a reality show could affect his life? And why is it that when someone Ashley was actually friends with -- Michelle Money -- informed her early on about Bentley's evil intentions, she ignored that warning?

Ugh. Sure, I get that Ashley has been burned, and she's not taking any chances with guys who might even just quite possibly be on the show for the wrong reasons. And yes, that probably wasn't the smartest thing of Ben to say. But I think Ashley overreacted in this situation, and of the remaining dudes, Ben was certainly one of her best options.

Hey, I hope the guy does get on a dating site, because I'm sure there are plenty of girls out there who think he's prime boyfriend material. Ahem.

Now that the pack is starting to get whittled down -- and that Ben C. is a goner -- I'm really starting to feel good about Ben F. and J.P.'s chances. I thought Ben F. and Ashley's one-on-one date went pretty well this week, although he was so not forward with her that sometimes I couldn't tell if their lack of affection was due to awkwardness or intense sexual tension.

And weirdly, I feel like Ashley might end up having more intense feelings for Ames -- Ames, poor, poor Ames. Rough week for the Ivy League grad, who was nearly knocked out after taking one punch to the head in the Muay Thai match. (Again, producers, horrible date choice. First a roast that makes Ashley cry, now an all-out boxing match where both punching and kicking are allowed?) Ashley seemed to feel bad for the guy, but then when he finally returned from the hospital and even made it to the group date, she still gave the rose to Blake -- the lame dentist -- instead of giving him it to Ames out of sympathy. Weak.

I'd love to believe that after next week, Ashley will finally be able to focus on the other guys after she gets her little "closure" session with Bentley. Who, of course, immediately jumped at an offer to fly out to Hong Kong to see a girl he's admitted to openly being repulsed by. Class act.

-- Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

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Photo: Ashley puts the gloves on during her boxing date in Thailand. Credit: ABC.

Blake Griffin: I'd do reality television 'if it was a good enough show' [Video]

When you work the red carpet circuit in Hollywood, you quickly learn that anyone who shows up to do interviews that isn't in the movie premiering is typically desperate for attention. (Yes, former "Bachelor" Jake Pavelka, we're talkin' about you.)

Which is why we were surprised to see Clippers player and NBA rookie of the year Blake Griffin at the "Green Lantern" premiere in Hollywood on Wednesday.

"I'm here with Subway. They're a sponsor of the movie. And they have that whole, uh, green thing going on with avocado," he said, attempting to explain his connection to the Ryan Reynolds comic book film.

But while the basketball player may currently star in a commercial for the sandwich company, he's not interested in acting. And no, he said, he has no plans to turn into a Pavelka-esque reality show star either.

When asked if he'd consider starring in a reality show a la Lamar Odom and wife Khloe Kardashian, Griffin didn't appear to be enthusiastic about the idea.

"If it was a good enough show," he said. "It would have to be something fun that I wanted to do. It couldn't just be following me around with cameras 24 hours a day. I don't think anybody would watch that. I like to keep [my love life] under wraps and keep it to myself."

But might it hurt his basketball career, as critics claim "Khloe & Lamar" did Odom's?

"I don't know if [the show] was hurting his playing. I think he did alright," he said.

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-- Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

'The Bachelorette' recap: Bentley's dark shadow extends all the way to Thailand

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Bentley may have made his dramatic exit on the last episode of "The Bachelorette," but this week it became clear the dark shadow he's cast on the show isn't going to disappear quite as quickly.

Even though Ashley and her slew of remaining suitors flew halfway around the world to drop-dead-gorgeous Thailand during Monday night's episode, it seemed all our little lady could think about was the loser who broke her heart back in Los Angeles.

"I keep thinking about how it would be if Bentley was here with me," she sighed in an interview, only minutes into the episode. Hm, terrible? He'd treat you somewhat kindly to your face and then talk about how repulsed he was about kissing you behind your back?

"It's a women's intuition," she continued, musing to host Chris Harrison later on. "I feel like there's something more there. The 'dot dot dot.' The door is still open. There isn't that closure."

Yeah, please don't blame your poor judgment on some universal quality inherent to the female gender. I resent that.

Even on her first one-on-one date with Constantine -- a.k.a. Josh Groban lookalike No. 1 -- it was evident Ashley had lost some of her effervescence due to Bentley-gate. Maybe it was the jet lag, but she looked pretty worn out from days of crying, and could barely seem to muster any interest in poor Grobes. When their boat date got rained out, Ashley seemed a little too upset, while Constantine had a good attitude about exploring Phuket. We hadn't seen much of this guy earlier in the season, but I have to say, he impressed me. Despite being on a date with Debbie Downer, he came across as genuine and easygoing, in my book fully putting himself in the running with Josh Groban No. 2, Ben C.

Next up, the majority of remaining guys went on a group date to an orphanage filled with kids affected by the 2004 tsunami in the country.

"I'm not sure if you guys know about the 2004 tsunami," Ashley began, introducing the day's event. Um, I really hope any potential husband of yours would be knowledgeable about one of the biggest natural disasters in the last decade.

"It says a lot about Ashley that she would set something up like this," William told the camera later on. I hate when the contestants say things like this, as if the producers have no hand in coordinating the elaborate dates everyone goes on. Yes, William, Ashley scouted out an orphanage on her own and decided to set up a date there. And then she found a resort with a hot tub -- which she heated to the right temperature -- and even decorated the perimeter of the water with 100 candles that she lit herself. Just for you.

Ashley's constant need for reassurance really got under my skin this week. Sure, I understand that she's just been burned badly by Bentley, and certainly has legitimate reasons to question the remaining contestants' intentions. But her rampant insecurity is really unattractive. On her date with Constantine, she outright asked, "Do I look cute?" Sweetie, you should not have to ask this early on in the dating process. And then at the orphanage, even though she asked the guys to help out with charity work, she proceeded to get annoyed that they weren't taking time out to flirt with her? Literally, slow your roll. I'm sure some of these fools would be more complimentary if you stopped acting so needy.

And whoa: Can we talk about next week's preview? Again, I have underestimated the scumminess of humanity, as Bentley is returning to further trample all over Ashley's naive heart. If Harrison or the producers try to explain this move by saying they can't interfere with Ashley's wishes, I will bug out. Since last week's episode, I've read a number of interviews with Harrison in which he said the producers didn't want to tell Ashley about Bentley's attitude in interviews because they don't reveal what other guys say about her when she isn't there. OK, I guess that's a vaguely fair point. But paying for Bentley to take a flight to Thailand and putting this fool up in a hotel? Don't even pretend like you have Ashley's best interests at heart. I await the drama. And can only hope that his reappearance doesn't put a further damper on the remainder of the season.

--Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

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Photo: Ashley helps out at an orphanage in Thailand. Credit: ABC.

'The Bachelorette' recap: A bad joke and a bad boy break Ashley's heart

Bent

It's really unfortunate that Ashley had to have a nervous breakdown for "The Bachelorette" to get good this season.

Sadly, though, that was what happened during Monday night's episode, when our poor protagonist was absolutely ripped to shreds by some of her would-be husbands. First, one guy joked that he'd rather be competing for the affections of two other women from the last season of "The Bachelor." And then the one man who Ashley thought she was really falling for -- who, of course, was a complete jerk behind her back -- quit the show after only a few weeks. And it was bad. Very, very bad.

But perversely enjoyable to watch? I know how wrong that is to say. Especially because I truly did feel for Ashley during the episode. Even though it should be obvious to me by now that there are a slew of fame-hungry folks out there who will do anything for their 15 minutes, I'm still somehow shocked by some of the utter trash that shows up on reality television. Yes, there have been bad guys on "The Bachelorette" before: Wes, who only wanted to promote his musical career, and Justin, who was trying to further his reputation as a wrestler.

Continue reading »

'The Bachelorette' recap: Ashley makes some poor choices in Sin City

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Second week in, and I'm still not sold on Ashley.

During Monday night's episode, I tried looking past her annoyingly perky demeanor. But this woman is making insane choices that make it difficult for me to want to support her in any way.

Most obviously, I'm talking about Bentley. Listen, there have been plenty of women in seasons past who have gone for the bad boy. Namely, Jillian Harris, who had a penchant for the guitar-toting, fame-hungry Wes. But even Wes wasn't outwardly a bad guy. He was a womanizer who told Jillian everything she wanted to hear, treating her kindly (to her face) by writing her love songs and repeatedly telling her he was head over heels for her.

But it's clear Bentley does not even want to pretend to like Ashley -- whether he's doing an on-camera interview or sitting right next to her. (Of course, the stuff he says in interviews is pretty horrible. Sample: "She has a great body. Amazing butt. Rockin' legs. I want her to tickle my ..." That last word was bleeped out, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know where he was going.)

Sure, after he kissed her, he told producers he wasn't into the moment. But that was apparent just by watching their interaction. You could almost see the disgust on his face. How is Ashley reading all these signs so wrong? When Bentley manhandles her and carries her to the fireplace, she somehow interprets this is as him wanting to be her "Prince Charming." When he says he's not sure he can stay in the competition, she reads that as him being "insecure," like she was last season, and literally begs him to stick around.

Watching them together is brutal. Luckily, it seems Bentley comes clean about his lack of feelings for Ashley in next week's episode, leading her to have a complete emotional breakdown. Dra-ma.

 Another uncomfortable moment during last night's show? That bizarre date with William in Las Vegas. Who could possibly think it'd be a fun idea to trick a guy into almost marrying you in Sin City and then be like, 'Oh, just kidding!' Well, that's exactly what went down.

Poor little cellular-phone salesman/wannabe comedian William arrived in Vegas with Ashley on a swanky private jet, and then the two began engaging in traditional pre-wedding activities. Cake tasting, picking out rings, and then heading straight to some hokey chapel. But the thing is, Ashley wasn't playing up the joke enough. You could tell that she was creepily into picking out a huge diamond, and when she met William at the altar, she even let him say 'I do' before saying she wanted to wait to get to know him better. "What a funny joke!" she seemed to be thinking. "I made you say you'd be willing to marry me after only knowing me for a day, and then I totally rejected you! In. Yo'. Face."

The date got somewhat better when the pair had dinner on a table amid the waters of the Bellagio fountains. William talked about his job: "I bring communication to the people." I guess that's a nice to put it when you sell cellphones for a living. Then he shared a pretty horrible story about his father's alcoholism and how his dad died as a result of it. Ashley said she could relate because her father had struggled with alcohol his whole life, which made me flash back to her hometown date with Brad. Wasn't her dad there? And wasn't there the implication of having the perfect family?

Meanwhile, did anyone else find it bizarre how the producers included footage of Vegas tourists screaming, "I love you, Ashley!" and cheering when the couple kissed? For some reason, it seemed out of place to have the tabloid phenomenon surrounding the show actually included in it.

Other poor Ashley judgment calls on last night's episode: doing that gimmicky coin-toss thing with Mickey for her entire date with him. We get it: He won the date on a coin toss. You don't need to decide everything you do on the date by continuing to flip a coin. Especially deciding whether to give him a rose at the end of the night! I couldn't believe he wasn't more insulted when she suggested that was how she should decide whether to keep him around.

Also: giving yet another rose to Jeff, the masked man. I mean, really? I felt for the guys who were sent home instead of Zorro last night. That's a true blow to one's ego.

Meanwhile, I'm still feeling good about my early favorites. As of now, my top two are Ben from New Orleans, whom we sadly didn't get to see much of this week, and J.P. He and Ashley had a sweet moment toward the end of the night -- one that prompted former Bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky to tweet: "Calling it now-JP wins. It was SO clear to me in their rose ceremony interaction. #bachelorette #remindedmeofmytimewithRoberto." Wow, Ali. Bold. I like it.

I'm also still feeling for William, who seemed to have a solid date with Ashley, and I haven't discounted winemaker Ben altogether yet, either.

Who are you thinking has a shot at winning Ashley's heart at the end?

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-- Amy Kaufman
twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Ashley and William pretend to get married in Las Vegas on Monday night's episode of "The Bachelorette." Credit: ABC

Jeff Conaway: I would like to go to a 'nice place' when I die

Jeff2 In December, while reporting on a story about the reality show "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew," I put in an interview request to speak to Jeff Conaway.

The actor, known for playing Kenickie in the film "Grease" and as a star of the TV show "Taxi," died Friday after a long battle with health issues, most notably a serious and well-publicized drug addiction. In 2008, he signed up for the first season of the VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab," which features public figures struggling with issues such as drug and alcohol dependency while at Dr. Drew Pinsky's live-in facility.

Conaway spent two seasons on the show, trying to kick an addiction to cocaine and pain pills; he threw tantrums, shouted and blacked out. For my article, I wanted to talk to him about his experience of trying to get clean on-camera, so I called his publicist. Within hours, Conaway himself left me a voice-mail message, ending it by wishing me a merry Christmas, happy Hannukah or joyous Kwanzaa. It appeared he was eager to chat, no matter how personal the subject matter.

When we finally connected over the telephone, the actor quickly began telling me how he had become addicted to drugs.

One day a few years back, he recalled, he was moving into a new house in Tarzana. He said he was trying to hang a big old oak mirror on the wall, but that when he lifted it up, he had a back spasm that later required him to have surgery. The pain from the injury eventually became so intense that he started buying "black market pain pills" and doing cocaine to ease it, he said.

Conaway said that just when he had decided he needed to enter a rehabilitation program, he received a call from a television producer asking if he'd be interested in joining "Celebrity Rehab."

"I said, 'Are you kidding me? Somebody is going to pay me to do what I was about to pay grands for?' Boy, God was saying, 'Do I have a present for you,'" he said.

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Jeff Conaway, star of 'Grease' and 'Celebrity Rehab,' dead at 60

Jeff Jeff Conaway, the actor best known for his role in the film "Grease" and the sitcom "Taxi," died Friday due to complications from pneumonia, according to his family. He was 60.

The actor was found unconscious at his home earlier this month and had remained in a coma at an Encino hospital since then. Conaway had a long and highly publicized struggle with drug addiction and appeared on two seasons of the VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab."

On his Twitter account last week, Dr. Drew Pinsky, who treated the actor on the program, said Conaway's illness showed no relation to an intentional drug overdose and that he was sick with pneumonia and sepsis.

"[W]e all need to pray for him," Pinsky wrote on May 21. "Not doing well today suddenly"

In an interview in December, Conaway told The Times that despite his health issues, he continued to garner strength from those who related to his troubles.

"I got a lot of love from people, and when people stop me on the street and say, 'Man, your story touched me so much,' it just makes all this pain worthwhile, you know?" he said, beginning to weep. "Because I don't know where actors go after they die, but I know people who help other people have a nice place to go. And I would like to go there if I can."

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Jeff Conaway, actor in 'Grease' and 'Taxi,' dies at 60

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Jeff Conaway in critical condition

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Jeff Conaway at the Fox Reality Channel Reality Awards in 2009. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press.

'The Bachelorette' recap: Ashley fails to perk our interest

Ashley Just hours before the premiere of the new season of "The Bachelorette" on Monday, news broke that the couple who ended up together last season, Brad Womack and Emily Maynard, are officially done.

That's right. I know it's shocking, but yet another another twosome to come out of "The Bachelor" franchise have gone kaput. Maynard has reportedly returned the engagement ring she received from Womack back to ABC, apparently signaling her belief that there is no hope for the pair to make it to the altar.

Not an altogether positive note to start off Ashley Hebert's quest for love. We saw the 26-year-old -- rejected by Womack last season due to her constant insecurities -- get introduced to a slew of men at the infamous mansion on Monday's episode. There was the drunk guy: Tim, who got so wasted he passed out and had to be shown to the door. There was the weird guy: Jeff, who insisted on wearing a mask in an attempt to get Ashley to see beyond his looks. And there was the jerky guy: Bentley, who in interviews was open about the fact that he'd rather have been competing for the blonde Maynard's affection.

In true "Bachelorette" fashion, of course, the latter two of those guys didn't even get kicked off immediately -- after all, there's plenty of time left for them to stir up drama. Especially Bentley, who it seems plays a majorly evil role this season. Even before showing up, Ashley had heard bad things about the dude -- apparently, a former show participant called her to let her know that he was only coming on the show to promote his business -- which, oddly enough, is running a "family fun center?" He doesn't seem to talk much about his business, though he repeatedly says that he's "not attracted" to Ashley whatsoever, and he could "care less" about her feelings. Ashley is shown having a major emotional breakdown at the end of the season, which we're led to believe is incited by Bentley's callousness. But those "Bachelor" producers have been known to be tricky in the past, so I'm not so sure that he's the one causing her mascara tears.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. To be honest, I'm finding the prospect of even making it that far into the season troublesome. The moment it was announced that Ashley was going to be the star of the show this season, I cringed. While some might find her perky, outgoing shtick endearing, last season with Womack, I just found her grating. And she didn't do much to change my mind tonight. The opening scenes of her dancing on an empty stage and sporting her scrubs at dental school were fine. But the subsequent high-pitched cackle that followed -- an attempt to convey her endless effervescence -- was painful. She constantly spoke about her desire to go through the new season with "no regrets," beating us over the head with the repetitive mantra. She made an...interesting...initial fashion choice, assuming the guys wouldn't notice a bulky microphone pack showing through the back of her skintight sequined dress. And when the topic of cupcakes came up in conversation with one of the contestants, she actually said that she wants her husband to refer to her as a "cupcake" after they get married. What type of person wants their spouse to call them a pastry? I cannot.

But since I have been dealt Ashley this season, I must deal with the situation accordingly. So let's talk about the guys I don't hate. There's Ben F., a winemaker slash internet marketer who divides his time between Sonoma and San Diego. While not the most handsome of the bunch -- although he does have good hair -- Ben seemed the most authentic, offering up a casual toast with his own wine upon meeting Ashley. Then there's Ben C., who's from New Orleans and could recite some pretty sexy French because his dad was from the country. As far as gimmicks went, Ben C's wasn't bad -- while other guys were talking to Ashley during the cocktail hour, he held up signs through a window asking for a moment of her time. On a scale of horrible "Bachelorette" cheesiness, his move was tolerable, if not somewhat cute. There's also William, a "cellular phone salesman." Sure, it's a lame job, but his goofiness set him apart from the otherwise stiff group of guys. Throughout the night, he offered up decent impressions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery, proving he was one of the few good-looking dudes with a semblance of a personality. Finally, I wasn't opposed to J.P., a guy in construction management who shops at the farmer's market and is over the New York dating scene. He wasn't a huge stand-out, but he seemed more genuine than a lot of the other guys in the competition.

But the preview for the rest of the season shows a few guys sticking around who I was not an early fan of. What's up with Ames, the Brendan Fraser lookalike with impeccably ironed shirts and a preppy demeanor? His uptight nature doesn't seem to jibe with Ashley's loose energy. Lucas, a Texan "oilfield equipment distributor" whose back story we didn't even get to see on Monday, also seems to get far.

In any case, I'm sure his interest in Ashley will outlast mine.

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Forget flashcards! Watch reality TV and get into college

--Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Ashley Hebert is "The Bachelorette." Credit: ABC.

Demi Lovato quits 'Sonny With a Chance' to focus on music, health

Demi Demi Lovato will not be returning to her successful Disney Channel show "Sonny With a Chance."

After withdrawing from the show last fall to deal with personal issues, the channel confirmed Tuesday that the actress had decided not to reprise her role on the hit teen program.

Last October, Lovato made headlines after withdrawing from a concert tour with the Jonas Brothers to seek treatment for "emotional and physical issues." The actress has since revealed she was struggling with eating disorders and self-multilation issues and in January completed three months of in-patient treatment at an Illinois rehab program. 

In an interview with People, Lovato said she decided to part ways with the show in an effort to focus on her music career as well as her health.

"It's kind of sad for me that a chapter of my life has ended, but there couldn't be a better time for me to move on," she told the magazine. "I don't think going back to 'Sonny' would be healthy for my recovery. Being in front of a camera would make me nervous."

On "Sonny With a Chance," Lovato played an outgoing small-town girl who won a national talent contest to land a starring role on a popular variety show. In January, in the wake of her absence, Disney began production on "So Random," a version of the series that focused solely on the sketches and musical acts in the variety show. That show will now continue and will premiere in June with musical guest stars such as  Selena Gomez and Colbie Caillat.

“We respect Demi’s decision to focus full time on her music and not immediately return to her acting career,” the Disney Channel said in a statement. “She is a talented young woman, and our hearts are with her as she continues to take action to improve her health and bounce back from adversity.”

-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

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Demi Lovato's crisis shows the risks of teen stardom

Photo: Sterling Knight and Demi Lovato in "Sonny With a Chance." Credit: Disney Channel

t was announced on November 12, 2010 that the third season would begin production without Lovato, due to her recovering from her recent health issues. The series would now focus on the sketch/comedy/music-variety show So Random!, centering around guest stars, sketches, digital shorts, and musical performances, a similar format to Saturday Night Live.[8][9] Production of the third season began on January 30, 2011.[10][11]
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