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Thursday, July 8, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Reality Check

Dwarf is beefy competitor in "Amazing Race"

Seattle Times staff reporter

And they're off. "The Amazing Race," that Emmy-winning adrenaline rush of a show, premiered Tuesday, sending 11 two-man (or bowling mom, or cousin, or online lover, etc.) teams racing around the world in pursuit of a $1 million prize.

The team to watch this season appears to be Allison (whom you may remember as the cheating, lying, scheming runner-up from "Big Brother 4") and her long-suffering boyfriend, Donny. ("I seriously don't know why Allison and I are still together," he says.) The bickering begins immediately during a car ride to the Los Angeles International Airport: She's driving, he's backseat-driving. They might as well just get married and be done with it.

The underdog favorites, meantime, are cousins Charla and Mirna, who defiantly claim that they "don't need anybody" after their offers of teamwork with other pairs are rebuffed.

Charla, who is a dwarf, proves to be a tough competitor, at one point carrying a 55-pound slab of raw, smelly beef on her shoulders — don't ask — after her cousin sinks under the weight of the meat, sighing: "I will get mad-cow disease. God help me." Honestly, where do they come up with this stuff? (10 p.m. Tuesdays, KIRO-TV.)

"Big Brother 5"

In the unnecessarily long extended season premiere of what I like to call "The Poor Man's Real World," 13 houseguests move into the "Big Brother" house. This week's Big Scandal: They have nothing to eat but peanut butter and jelly for a week. Boo-hoo. None of you sissies would last a day on "Survivor." Especially you, "Holly of Hollywood." BTW, why is Julie Chen hosting this show? Doesn't she have, like, a real job? (9 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays, KIRO-TV.)

"For Love or Money 3"

The most feared word in the language of reality-TV dating is: "but." As in, "I'm crazy about you ... you're amazing ... I have such a great time with you — but ... " Bachelor Preston Mercer delivered that line, pretty much verbatim, on Monday's season finale to ... the money-grubbing Rachel. She did not take it well. (Think Tara's indignant rose-ceremony rant to Jesse Palmer on "The Bachelor 5.")

I would be shamelessly gleeful about two-faced Rachel's come-uppance — it turns out she had the $1 million mystery check — except that now she gets another chance at the million bucks along with the company of 15 unsuspecting bachelors in "For Love or Money 4," premiering next week (9 p.m. Mondays, KING-TV).

In a new twist (of course), the outspoken Andrea returns as Rachel's competition. Since Rachel and Andrea can't stand each other, this should make for some quality reality TV.

Meantime, Preston and his chosen one, PJ, floated off on a cloud of lovey-dovey bliss after PJ spouted some drivel about how "money can't buy happiness," and Preston, in a surprise move, followed suit — in case anyone still cares. Next!

"The Simple Life 2: Road Trip"

Our favorite bumbling socialites, Paris and Nicole, pulled a Lucy-and-Ethel-at-the-chocolate-factory last week during their disastrous venture into the world of sausage-making. We'll spare you the gruesome details, but suffice to say, ground meat wound up all over the ceiling, walls and on Paris and Nicole.

The girls cleaned up their act enough to unload about $100 worth of sausages on passing motorists, then made a "special" sausage for the teenage son of their host family — flavored with dog food. (9 p.m. Wednesdays, KCPQ-TV.)

"Last Comic Standing"

Gary Gulman is so not funnier than Ant. He's just taller. But Ant got the boot after this week's head-to-head competition, despite Gulman's totally uninspired riffs on Oreo cookies and his mom. Bo-ring. (9 p.m. Tuesdays, KING-TV.)

Casting call

"The Apprentice 3" launches a nationwide casting call tomorrow in L.A. The casting crew is scheduled to visit Seattle in August, exact date to be determined. The show, featuring His Hairness, Donald Trump, is slated to premiere in winter 2005 following this fall's "The Apprentice 2." Visit www.nbc.com for details.

Tidbits

"American Idol 3" winner Fantasia — who has officially dropped her last name, à la Madonna (or Esther, or whatever she's calling herself these days), Cher, Prince et al. — reached the No. 1 spot on this week's Billboard charts with her debut single, "I Believe." ...

"Survivor" couple "Boston Rob" Mariano and Amber Brkich are in talks to televise their upcoming nuptials sometime next year. Have at it, kids, but we have one little request: Please, no pink.

Pamela Sitt: 206-464-2376 or psitt@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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