[Contains bagel-socks and SPOILERS!!!]
In the wake of my withdrawal from Childrens Hospital, I decided to scarf down the first season of Burning Love (2012), a spoof “reality” dating show created/written by Erica Oyama and directed by her husband, Ken Marino, who also starred as ‘Mark Orlando’ the “toxic bachelor” tasked with whittling down a bevy of beautiful women who are all competing for his attention/affection. Although the premise was inherently ridiculous (despite being based on an existing genre of television), it did mean that the show was jam-packed with awesome comedy actresses, playing hilariously exaggerated (I hope!) caricatures of the contestants who willingly partake in this sort of trial-by-flirtiness:
Malin Åkerman played ‘Willow’, a homeless woman who was more interested in having a roof over her head and access to free food, than in the contest itself… Jennifer Aniston played ‘Dana’, an optimist who naively chose to wear a baggy panda bear costume to conceal her appearance, in the hope that Mark would appreciate her personality before seeing her outer beauty (she was rejected in the first round, sight unseen, of course)… Kristen Bell played ‘Mandy’, a devout Christian who compromised her beliefs to perform a killer stand-up routine, but still got rejected (poor thing)… Noureen DeWulf played ‘Titi’ (“Teety”), a spoiled “princess” whose name was repeatedly mispronounced by Mark*… Beth Dover played ‘Lexie’, an intense stalker-type who was dangerously obsessed with Mark, and got all the best lines in the first three episodes, before being eliminated (boo!)… Carla Gallo played ‘Tamara P.’, a blind photographer who almost made it through to the second round simply because she had the same name as one of the other contestants, and Mark got them confused (so crushing to see her reaction when he corrected his mistake and dashed her hopes!)… Natasha Leggero played ‘Haley’, a promiscuous exhibitionist who was constantly walking around naked (but pixelated) from the waist down, and actually had sex with some random dude during her one-on-one “date” with Mark, behind his back (literally), but in full view of everyone else in the bar (ew!)…
Erin Muroski played ‘Destiny’, a desperate un-trained dancer, who was eliminated toot-sweet… Oyama herself played ‘Shera’, a barely-seen contestant who got bounced off the property within seconds of her arrival, after loudly vomiting onto the pavement beside the parked limo… June Diane Raphael played ‘Julie Gristlewhite’, an otherwise very attractive prospect who was still rebounding from a previous relationship, and kept nervously forgetting her prepared “bon mots”… Deanna Russo as ‘Tamara G.’, a woman with a monkey heart, who nearly died during a workout date with Mark (rather romantically/tragically reasoning that Love is more important than Life!)… Helen Slayton-Hughes played ‘Agnes’, a half-deaf octogenarian who Mark kept referring to as a “cougar”, but eventually rejected for being too old (at which point she was bussed back to her nursing home)… Abigail Spencer played ‘Annie’, the seemingly “perfect” contestant who Mark casually treated like crap throughout the process… Janet Varney played ‘Carly’, a closeted lesbian who grew increasingly (and hilariously) belligerent and bitter the longer she was kept on the show… and Morgan Walsh played ‘Vivian’, a heavily pregnant mother-to-be who tried to hide her baby bump behind various household objects, in the classic sitcom stylee. Oh, and Ken Jeong played ‘Ballerina’, the “exotic” contestant with a fairly obvious “secret”…
There were also cameos by Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor as the “winners” of the previous season… Mo Gaffney as Carly’s pushy mother… Kerri Kenney-Silver as Mark’s besotted co-worker… and Zandy Hartig as the ‘Owner of a Burning House’ that Mark resolutely fails to assist, despite supposedly being a professional fire-fighter. Tch!
Verdict: Although I’ve never seen the “serious” shows that were being parodied here, I found this spoof absurdly funny, and was impressed by how clearly delineated the characters were, given the brevity of the episodes and the size of the ensemble. Even though it meant seeing my faves getting eliminated from the cast as the weeks went by, I loved how the “competition” aspect of the story played out, and thought the twisty ending(s) made for an epic finale. Top marks all around!
* Not that anyone asked, but if I’d been in Mark’s shoes, I would have proposed to Titi by the end of the first night, and just sent everyone else home! Besides being super-gorgeous, she also seemed a lot saner and funner than most of the other contestants… her only real flaw was that she was quite bitchy about her rivals, but I like to tell myself that she was just playing up to the cameras, and would be much nicer in person. Her parents seemed very sweet, so… it’s possible she’d take after them more as she got older, right…?