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Chico Alexander

There's an old business adage that relates to customer service: promise only what you can deliver, then deliver more than what you promise. So if you promise something to begin with, then the least you should do is deliver that which you have promised.

Case in point, tonight's premiere of "RU the Girl with T-Boz & Chilli". When it was originally reported, the end prize was that one lucky girl would join along the two surviving members of TLC, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, on what they called "the next phase of their careers". At least that is how it was reported by UPN, the network airing the series. A lot of news agencies, this one included, took the story and ran it, in some cases (or at least ours) linking the original text.

Since then, T-Boz & Chilli have had to state time and again that the point of the show was to put the winner out into the spotlight and get her one foot in the doorway, not search for a replacement for Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, the third member of the group, tragically killed in an accident in 2002. The TV Guide article refuting the earlier claim, quoted the two singers, saying, "It's just an opportunity to give a fan a chance to do ONE song and a performance with us.... It's kind of a way to give back to the fans because if it wasn't for them we wouldn't be where we are."

Thinking to something that Dan Sadro once told me, "if something even remotely looks like a problem, then it is a problem." To this end, I went on a patented Googlequest, looking up the series and what people had to say about it. I had to be quick, because a) original pitches were going at a premium, and b) the supervisor at my work was coming in an hour, and more's the pity if she found me looking for reality show stuff on company time. Ah, the life of a Carolina-educated med tech and his State-educated boss.

Going to our good friends at, we see that the original report did say that the show was an attempt to find a third member to replace Left Eye on "the next phase of their careers." A press release issued June 7 confirms this.

A quick jump to the UPN show site now only lists vague details that RTVW warned us about. "The show's prize is now simply being termed a 'lifetime opportunity' that will select one female performer 'who will join them in an upcoming concert and record with them in the studio," says RTVW editor Steve Rogers. All at the risk of being labeled the Sammy Hagar of the R&B set, no doubt.

My question: if that was the point of the series, then why just now are we hearing that the prize has been reduced to recording ONE song and performing on stage ONE time, when all this time we were led to believe something completely different? Moreover, why are we hearing that this has always been the case?

Could it be because of the backlash caused by that initial announcement? That could more than likely have an effect on a) the output of talent (or lack thereof, we don't know yet) worthy of singing with the two and b) the overall sales of the project once it drops? I can imagine that there would be a lot of people willing to turn a blind eye on TLC after they turned on themselves. After all, Left Eye had her share of fans and supporters. It could be that all of them came out in full force, telling TLC that they're dishonoring Left Eye's memory. Or, if they were anything like me, they could have seen it as reneging on an earlier declaration that 3D, the last album made with Left Eye, would be the final album, and that they would never replace her. All the backpedaling could explain why T-Boz and Chilli are all of a sudden concerned with their fans.

Now I always thought that pissing on Left Eye's grave was a bad idea to begin with, but come on, T-Boz. Come on, Chilli. We're not that stupid. Just tell us you made a mistake, search for your one girl, and be done with it. Please. Don't say one thing, do another, and then tell the world that you were doing the other the whole time. It makes you look bad. It makes UPN look bad. It makes people like us look bad, because now we have to report it. And frankly, I personally don't want to be in this position, because I was a fan since "Baby Baby Baby".

Will UPN have to hire out the best story editors and ADR operators in the business to get themselves out of this one? We don't know. Further, if they were, we wouldn't know how they would manage to conveniently save the day as they have done (rather poorly to the ear of someone brought up in an age of Power Rangers and anime) in the past. One thing is for sure. The changing of end results can have a drastic effect on the show and how it is received by the public audience, and while TLC is to be lauded for stating their loyalty to the fans in both word and deed, they can't be lauded for turning what was heretofore known as a simple talent search into massive spin control for both the group and for UPN.

Of course, all this could be a moot point and the eventual winner could fade back into obscurity. After all, this is UPN, the network responsible for "The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott". And we all know where that road went.

Chico Alexander never had a problem with his girlfriend burning down his house. E-mail him at


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