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EW review: Wicked 'Starlet' entertains

Faye Dunaway reigns over competitive, shallow contestants

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly

Faye Dunaway
Faye Dunaway delivers career guidance in The WB's "The Starlet."
Faye Dunaway
Patrick Dempsey
Sandra Oh
Vivica A. Fox

(Entertainment Weekly) -- You know who's a real starlet? Mario from "American Idol."

You know who's not? Any of the 10 young women who have been competing over the past few weeks for the promised title in "The Starlet": an I-got-talent reality show addictively wicked enough to demand that its camera-ready contestants not only act like themselves (which is, natch, the real entertainment in all reality shows, whether set on islands, on catwalks or in boardrooms) but also, like, act.

And, while they're at it, act like competitive bitches in a cathouse, disciplined, "American Idol"-style, by a dish-the-sass black chick ("Kill Bill's" Vivica A. Fox), an acerbic gay guy (casting director Joseph Middleton, the Addison DeWitt of "Project Greenlight's" first season) and a cosmetically armored diva -- that would be Miss Faye Dunaway, introduced as ''one of the all-time great starlets.''

(Hold that thought, I'll be back to Miss Dunaway after this message from Garnier Fructis ...)

By the time the season concludes April 5, we will still have no clue about the actual, bankable thespian skills of babydoll Michelynne (if she doesn't catch the brass ring of fame, her impoverished family will lose its house!), sultry Mercedes (body issues about her ''huge'' size 4 butt made her weep!) or pugnacious, freckled Katie (who almost beat the crap out of her hated housemate Lauren during Anger class!).

But at least we'll have been entertained, won't we, by ersatz girl-on-girl hate crimes and synthetic casting-office debate: ''She has the look of a starlet, but she doesn't have the game.'' ''Uncover your blocks.'' ''Baby, get thicker skin.'' (Weekly unspoken but implied advice: ''More. Lip gloss. Now.'')

Oooh, the show is deep in its shallowness, this Splenda-frosted Twinkie. And it's profound in its unintended satire: The 10 ambitious bonbons living on their own Hollywood desert island with reward challenges of ''coaching sessions'' and immunity challenges of ''screen tests'' are apparently the last innocents in America not to know that the very term "starlet" denotes a presence, a perfume, a whatever-it-takes will to be famous (kudos to you, Mario) that has little to do with acting chops.

We can see what they can't, that this is their starlet moment, this fleeting spotlight. Whoever wins the smackdown -- and with it a ''career-launching role'' on "One Tree Hill" -- will never get another moment like this (cue Kelly Clarkson), as a reality-show contestant representing the state of Hollywood wannabe-dom on The WB -- the Starlet Network.

None of which explains the presence of Miss Faye Dunaway, who has always been a star, my friend, never a starlet, and whose participation has become a must-see reality show in itself. ''This is not the Paris Hilton School of Acting,'' she admonishes sternly; other career guidance is delivered while peering over handsome reading glasses artfully used to express emotion in contrast with her sphinxlike visage.

But, of course, it is. "The Starlet" compels because it contracts all of performance, all of fame, all of reality TV and all of American ambition to the impacted condition of the P.H. School of A, where a powerful sense of entitlement in pursuit of a dream can't be taught.

EW Grade: B+

'Grey's Anatomy'

Reviewed by Kristen Baldwin

It's an epidemic: Networks can't stop with the medical dramas.

The latest entry in the tumescent genre is ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," which follows a group of attractive but clueless surgery interns working at a Seattle hospital.

But what does Hollywood really know about the sleep-deprived, pressure-filled lives of fledgling doctors? To find out, we asked Dr. Pippa Newell, a second-year surgery resident at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, to diagnose "Grey's Anatomy": Is it creatively stable or terminally cliche?

As told to Kristen Baldwin:

Before I saw the first episode of the show, I was worried that there was going to be a lot of sex in the call rooms, and I was going to have to say that was really inaccurate because it's never happened to me. But, fortunately, there was no sex.

I love the diversity of the intern characters. There's the cocky jackass Alex (Justin Chambers); the pushy Cristina (Sandra Oh); the pretty, timid Izzie (Katherine Heigl); and the dopey George (T.R. Knight). Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) seems really believable -- tough but not overly assertive.

I've heard stories of interns and attending physicians getting together, like Meredith and Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), but it's very hush-hush. Most attendings are old and married and gross. If they were as hot as Patrick Dempsey, maybe it would happen more.

It seems like "Anatomy" is all about competition and the surgeons' egos, but hospitals are not about ego. The patient comes first. The scene where the interns are heckling George during his first surgery, taking bets on whether he's going to fail -- that kind of thing doesn't happen.

And if somebody's spilling stool into the abdomen, the attending isn't going to taunt the intern -- like ''What the f--- you gonna do?'' -- the way Dr. Burke (Isaiah Washington) does to George. It's training, not harassment.

But the first time I watched the scene where Meredith's patient has a seizure and she doesn't know what to do, honestly, I felt nauseated because I've been in situations like that where I've felt just helpless. It was too accurate.

There's a lot more downtime for the residents on the show than in real life. And no shifts are 48 hours. It makes for good TV, but it's against the law in New York, fortunately for me. At the end of the shift, Meredith looked way too good to be post-call. If I'm really going to respect this show, by the sixth episode I want to see bags under the eyes; I want to see yellow teeth from drinking too much soda on call; I want to see a unibrow on somebody.

Still, I think it's a great show. I'm totally hooked.

EW Grade: A-

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