July 25, 2005 12:00 PM

VH1 (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)

When I heard that this year’s installment of Surreal was going to have a circus theme, I looked forward to grabbing a ringside seat. In seasons past I’ve watched Flavor Flav get freaky with Brigitte Nielsen, M.C. Hammer administer Corey Feldman’s wedding vows and Tammy Faye Messner dissolve into tears at a nudist resort. So I was particularly primed for the sideshow that would be season 5, featuring reality harpies Omarosa (of Apprentice fame) and Janice Dickinson (America’s Next Top Model’s acerbic diva), ’80s relic Bronson Pinchot and a three-legged dog named Lucky. Pass the peanuts.

At least that’s how I felt before another Lifer, “U.K. glamour model” (as VH1 bills her) Caprice, got into a detailed dialogue about toilet-flushing methodology with disgraced baseball slugger Jose Canseco and rapper Sandi “Pepa” Denton. Before Pinchot (Balki from Perfect Strangers) pawed Dickinson and called it “a little bit of friendly gnawing” after declaring, “I think the sex would be amazing.” (I’m pretty sure I saw the slime ooze out of his pores as he said this.) And most definitely before Dickinson had a breakdown about Pinchot’s advances, which she played to Miss Piggy levels of hammy hysteria. Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages: I think I’ve outgrown this.

Sure, there are a few guilty pleasures to be had. As smug as ever, Omarosa declares that she is “more brighter” than Donald Trump. Motocross daredevil (and fiancé of pop star Pink) Carey Hart notes dryly, “It’s definitely a circus in here, and we’ve got plenty of clowns.” And Lucky is so completely random that I cracked up whenever he hobbled onscreen.

Sadly, it wasn’t enough. And thus what I’d hoped would be a breezy summer escape instead devolved into a tedious, skin-crawling turnoff. “It’s like watching a really bad accident,” Omarosa says of arch-nemesis Dickinson. “You can’t turn away.” Wanna bet?

REALITY

Minding the Store
TBS (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)

The Weasel is back, and—shocker!—he’s actually kind of funny. Seriously. The show tracks ’90s-era doofus Pauly Shore as he tries to revive The Comedy Store, the famed L.A. stand-up club cofounded by his dad in 1972. There are some strained subplots, but the best bits involve Shore’s warm rapport with dad Sammy, a spry wiseacre. Biggest surprise: Shore is a babe magnet. Watching women throw themselves at him after a stand-up gig is to behold the power of fame—even the Encino Man variety.

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