You might think small talk in lab revolves around the most recent scientific breakthrough (It’s Nobel week!! Eeeee!!!) or the latest micropipettor improvement (“you know, the ergonomic design of my last micropipettor really made those serial dilutions for the Bradford assay zip by”). Well, frequently it does. (I’ll save you the breath: “nerds.”) On Thursday mornings in my lab, however, the conversation centers on trashy TV. Wonderfully delicious, shamefully melodramatic, gasp-inducing pearls of guilty television pleasure. What shows? America’s Next Top Model and Gossip Girl, of course. The CW’s new Wednesday night line-up has quickly become our gush-worthy, ridiculously entertaining fountain of water cooler talk. (heh) Well, lab bench-side talk, I should say.

Let’s start with America’s Next Top Model. What attracts us to watch young women compete viciously to be the apple of Tyra Banks’ eye? Well, first off, it’s a world of which we know nothing. Modeling? To my lab friends and me, that means constructing molecular models for organic chemistry. Second, sometimes I don’t get what the judges are talking about. Frequently they describe the model contestants as lacking “passion” in their eyes or not being able to “smile” with their eyes. Unless the photo’s blatantly terrible, I don’t get it. When Tyra demonstrated “smiling” with her eyes, I was enticed and impressed, but I sure don’t understand those subtle differences from the contestants. It’s baffling and so intriguing. Finally, Tyra Banks is hilarious. Check out this clip from her talk show. I just can’t get enough of her. Did you know Oprah supposedly has tapped her to inherit her show? Maybe it’s just a rumor, but Oprah has been grooming Tyra with her own talk show. So far in this ANTM cycle, I’m rooting hardcore for Heather, Lisa and maybe Ebony? I haven’t decided for sure because I still don’t know all their names.

Gossip Girl. Ah, what an opulent, addictive view of Manhattan teenagers attending a posh private school. This show has everything. Beautiful rich, sex-crazed, young, incredibly precocious high school students who drink alcohol and go to clubs just like the ladies of Sex and the City. As a viewer, you almost forget they’re all too young to get past the bouncer. Who cares? We want to see drama, and we all know drama is fueled by alcohol. (Okay, as an aside, I certainly do not condone under-age drinking especially in high school.) Also, the token “poor” student (read, at least middle class) is our somewhat righteous, definitely hottie of a hero who’s destined to end up with our rich-but-troubled blonde beauty of a heroine (her younger brother attempted suicide the year before and her mom’s trying to cover it up for the sake of her family’s appearance). Lasting sexual tension can be key for a series’ success. Sure, this exclusive niche may not remind you of your high school days (though mine are somewhat similar, minus the clubbing and stuff because I definitely was not that cool). Yet, I would argue that the premise is almost enough to make you wish some of your more boring moments in study hall or commute in a school bus home on I-95 were replaced with field hockey slap-fights and limo rides to school. Oh man this stuff is good.

These shows are silly, perhaps too young for me and possibly hurting my brain. Whatever. They’re free online here. Check them out. If you manage to catch them by next Thursday, you can join in my lab’s rehash of how Tyra told yet another 19 year old she must “really want to be a model to win” or how S and B got in a huge fight over that hottie Dan. I can’t wait for next week!

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