Stories by Kurt Soller

  • Is MTV's Alexa Chung the New Carson Daly?

    The music video channel is experiencing some serious growing pains, and it hopes Alexa Chung will be its new Carson Daly. That might be part of the problem.
  • MTV, It's Time to Kill 'The Hills'

    MTV's reality TV juggernaut—in which young pretty things become terrible human beings—has become a meta genre: we know they're acting, so those questions about whether it's scripted are older than the Juicy Couture they wore on Laguna Beach. Viewers have abandoned the idea that the lives presented on The City and The Hills are anything close to the lives of Whitney Port or Heidi Montag—they just want to believe that the plot lines are close to anything they could be going through. The network succeeds in furthering this anxiety: they amp up the drama during the off-season, and this summer—in between season 5 and 6 on The Hills and season 1 and 2 on The City, a New York spinoff—the theatrics were especially trenchant. In Los Angeles, Lauren Conrad left the show she helped create, and Kristin Cavallari (who any Laguna fan will remember) was hired by MTV as the show's new ingénue. In New York, Whitney Port and Olivia Palermo were given real jobs (imagine that?), r...
  • Newsweek Can Has Photoblog?

    Today, NEWSWEEK's turned its attention to the hilarious photography blogs that have been cropping up online faster than a Polaroid camera shoots out it's film . In our gallery, you can find out how Web memes from LOL Cats to Cake wrecks came to be, and you'll likely LOL at the hilarious montages put together by our photo department. We chose the blogs that we think are most iconic: hipsters, goth, you name it. So take a look and tell us what blogs we're missing in the comments below.And, yes, we've already heard of People of Wal-Mart. But isn't that a bit in poor taste?
  • What Happens When Facebook Locks Your Account

    Imagine you wake up in the morning, you log into Facebook, and, out of nowhere, you’re told that your account has been disabled. While it’s not exactly a new phenomenon, it’s bound to happen more often as Facebook grows. ...
  • The Jennifer Aniston Problem

     Poor Jennifer Aniston. She’s heartbroken again, and it was a dirty breakup this time. Her boyfriend—a rock musician—cheats on her, and she discovers it by picking up a lipstick-stained wine glass. It’s a fictional breakup, of course—at the beginning of her new movie, Love Happens—but her twisted face and emotional stuttering are straight out of real life, where we're used to seeing Aniston on the receiving end of a guy's bad behavior. While most heroines from romantic comedies are perpetually down in the dumps (see: Sandra Bullock, Rachel McAdams, or even Julia Roberts), Aniston is playing her own version of : it’s impossible to tell whether her character’s pain is any different from her own. Watching her like this feels strange, but familiar. We’ve been force-fed so many details of her romantic rumblings that any time a man cheats on her, walks out on her, or refuses to marry her (as Ben Affleck does in He’s Just Not That Into You), we’re reminded of the days when Brad...
  • Blagojevich Headed to Hollywood, Says He Doesn't Want to 'Embarrass' Obama

    Both of Chicago's famous politicians were in New York today, but while Obama was speaking on Wall Street reform, Rod Blagojevich was speaking for ... himself. He was here promoting the release of his book, The Governor, which is his account on the scandal that made him the governor no more. He's doing the talk-show circuit today and tomorrow, though he was more impressed with radio: "You have to listen to the Howard Stern interview I did," he told this guest Gaggler. "Let's just say he asked me questions that I've never been asked before in a public way."Sounds titillating, so it’s too bad we can’t find a clip (or transcript) online.What's funny to us, though, is that Blagojevich was sitting outside eating lunch, right on the route of President Obama's motorcade. Did he pick this BBQ joint so that he could spot the president? "No, definitely not, but it's interesting because this all goes back to him," he says,...
  • 'Melrose Place' Is Nothing Without Heather Locklear

    The most dramatic block of '90s television will be resurrected tonight, when the CW welcomes us home to Melrose Place. Ten years after it left the air, the salacious soap will return to its proper place: right after the yawn-worthy remake of Beverly Hills, 90210. Since they're back to back, it's unfortunate that the network's second go at Melrose Place falls similarly flat. When the original aired from '92 to '99, it was the kind of period piece─to some working young professionals, anyway─that left viewers both loathing and loving the drama. The bombs, the catfights, not to mention the smoking-hot cast, kept everyone glued to the TV, even if it wasn't the kind of thing you wanted to admit around the office.For a guilty pleasure like that to succeed, a show has to actually be enjoyable. We got hold of the first three episodes of the new series, and the new Melrose Place is more boring than one of Ashlee Simpson-Wentz's blank stares, a residen...
  • My Audition for 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'

    By Kurt Soller A few things really stress me out. Taking the SATs (all three times) was a nightmare, and I hate anytime I fly: all that security, so many conversations with strangers. So I have no idea what I was thinking when I signed up to audition for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire last week. When I arrived at ABC Studios in New York, I was met by a crowd of 50 other wannabe geniuses. There were men with scraggly beards and women in pantsuits and so many New Jersey accents, I thought I had accidentally crossed the river. But all those fears were put to rest when one of the young Millionaire staffers herded the group together and yelled: "Put your thinking caps on." "I don't want to think too hard," muttered the man in front of me, and a few others nodded approvingly. Could somebody please write me that check for $1 million now? I can't handle this much apathy. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is an institution, not just because it may be the last smash...
  • No Drinks for Them

    It's not just partying. Some students are alcoholics.
  • Sandra Lee: The Anti-Julia Child

    If you watch the cooking show Money Saving Meals, you'll see a svelte Sandra Lee working in an impressively clean kitchen. On the first episode, everything is white: the counters, the drawers, the bowls, even the KitchenAid mixer. So is the sweater she's wearing, which may not be a surprise, as Lee has developed a knack over her years on the Food Network of matching her appliances to whatever stylish outfit she has on. The kitchen is so pristine, you have to ask: is Lee actually cooking?
  • Tech: Will Facebook Still Be Around in Five Years?

    The social networking site now boasts 250 million users, but has yet to make a single dollar in profit. Five years after its inception, a look at whether it can last another five.
  • Make It Stop: "In These Tough Economic Times"

    Are we in a recession? A depression? Experts may differ, but here's something we can all agree on: in these tough economic times, the last thing we want to hear, ever again, is the phrase "in these tough economic times." Sadly, the mainstream media—and if you consult Google, yes, NEWSWEEK is probably guilty, too—can't get enough of it. Actually, we did Google it, and this year alone, the nation's 50 biggest newspapers have used the phrase more than 2,500 times. That's a fivefold jump over the same period in 2008. Aside from its crushing banality (we can handle a more nuanced diagnosis, thank you) and its phony compassion (cue the knowing sigh), the phrase is simply lazy—a needless restatement of the obvious. And we've already got a more tidy, colorful cliché for that: it's the economy, stupid.
  • The Trashy Pantheon: Is "Obsessed" the New "Showgirls"?

    by Kurt Soller Confession: I'm obsessed with Obsessed. As I was typing an e-mail to my co-workers about the saturation of coverage, I almost didn't mention that I spent my Friday night watching a different movie-- You know, the Beyonce Knowles and Ali Larter thriller with the terrible previews, the same one that topped the box offices when it opened two weekends ago. It's since earned $56.2 million, which means that enough people have now seen it that I should hardly be embarrassed. Every now and then, a cult movie comes along that's tailor made for screaming audiences who guffaw at things--like, say, adultery--that aren't actually that funny. Usually, these movies combine adult horror with raw sexuality; Snakes on a Plane was rated R for all the gore. Before that, Showgirls rose to video prominence, making millions on home sales after it became the first NC-17 film in wide release. Both those became quick and trashy classics, but Obsessed takes this trop...
  • Log Cabin Republican Hit Hard Times

    In the 2008 election, 4 percent of the voters identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to a CNN poll, and 27 percent of them voted for John McCain—numbers that seem to indicate a healthy space in politics for the Log Cabin Republicans, the party's most visible gay organization. But as its annual convention in Washington wraps up this week, the LCR is running on fumes: it currently has no full-time employees—its executive-director position has been vacant since January—and this year's convention had to be run by consultants from local chapters. "The Log Cabin Republicans are not in any sort of danger right now," says Charles Moran, head of the Los Angeles LCR chapter, who also brushed off the void at the top. "We're not just going to accept anyone who applies. In fact, we can wait: like the GOP is trying to refashion itself, Log Cabin is looking to do the same."Some former Log Cabin officials blame the group's current predicament, ironically, on the man who's...
  • Debunk This Meme: Mass Killings Linked By Economy

    In one month, eight mass killings in the U.S. have left 57 people dead. A unifying theory has emerged: it's the "dismal state of the nation's economy," says an April 8 story in The Washington Post. Other outlets concur. NEWSWEEK's Kurt Soller tested the meme with three leading criminologists.Richard Rosenfeld, president-elect, American Society of Criminology: "There are too few mass murders to draw a meaningful connection … [And] there's no way to prove whether those killings would have occurred under different economic circumstances."Alfred Blumstein, former director, National Consortium on Violence Research: "There's not much linking these shooting events, and certainly not the economy ... If anything, it's a mixture of notoriety [and] retribution against one's enemy. Any sort of pattern here would be a copycat effect."Roger Lane, author, "Murder in America: A History": "Mass killings are different from ordinary homicides; the psychological profile is closer to suicide … It's...

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