Reality Check
by Leslie Carroll, contemporary (2003)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-2000-5


A friend - British, naturally - always claim that the most toxic thing in the world that can happen to a great British phenomenon is its Americanization. When I think about UK's Mind Your Language as opposed to the drek What A Country!, I think he may have a point. Mr Bean was cool until that American upstart Mel Brooks bastardize that lovable goon in that hideous American movie. Let's not start about the dire Americanized Queer As Folk.

Besides, a country that cannot appreciate the joys of men in Speedos can't be much fun anyway, if you ask me.

Then one day people realize that there's this woman called Bridget Jones that everyone finds funny. And look, she makes Helen Fielding lots of money. Then American authors decide that they too can do chick-lit.

There are some things, if you ask me, best left to the British to do best.

Leslie Carroll's Reality Check will fit the label of chick-lit. Its heroine-centered format is definitely one for the Fieldingian wannabes. But this book is just not funny, its name-droppings seem superfluous instead of hard-punching, and its heroine is so disgustingly perky that I can imagine the Mog Ryan creature thumbing her pert nose at me.

In this story, our heroine Liz Pemberley is a copywriter at an ad agency (if they're not copywriters, they are editors at some fashion magazine or a tabloid). She decides to sign up for a reality show called Bad Date. She meets a contestant named Jack Rafferty. When she is not talking about fashions or describing her day by day itinery (shop, chit chat, get rashes, fall down, make a fool of herself), she is indulging in tedious little episodes of misunderstandings with Jack.

Adele Parks introduced a reality show in her book, and it's called Sex With An Ex. Ms Carroll's idea of a "reality show" are a bunch of freaks telling an audience their bad dates while being connected to a lie detector. In a world of Joe Millionaire, Temptation Island, and The Bachelor, Ms Carroll's idea of a tacky reality TV show is not only laughable, it's pathetic.

There are some juvenile but amusing humor such as Liz's campaign involving a brand of tissue called Snatch (you like your Snatch moist or dry?) but those are quickly abandoned for tedious lil' Elle-type psychodrama episodes consisting of Jack and Liz really (stupidly) misunderstanding every single gesture of the other. That or Ms Carroll has Liz rambling on and on in epic speeches, firmly mistaking "non-sequitur" for some new brand of ha-ha's for the new millennium.

Nothing bites or even stings in this book. The humor is pensive and timid. Like when a Bad Date contestant (female) reveals that her worst date was sex on a beach with her cousin named Julia. The host quickly zips on to the next contestant, making me shake my head in disbelief. I mean, which host in this world will let such a prime rating burner get away like that? Or more importantly, what is Ms Carroll thinking to imagine that I will prefer listening to Liz ramble on and on about the pains and trials of her job instead of Julia's Lesbian Sex Romp?

Reality Check is like an overlong Cathy comic strip that just does not know (a) how to be funny, (b) how to develop decent characters, (c) how to create a plot that isn't just a long list of product placement or tedious episodes of "precious" little misunderstandings, and (d) when to pull the plug on the whole tediousness. It's too bad this isn't a TV show. If it is one, cancellation is imminent, and that's a good thing.

Rating: 54


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