In Touch

I don’t feel like thinking today. Let’s take a gander at In Touch Weekly, shall we?

Whenever I’ve paged through celeb mags, I’ve found myself alternately amused and horrified – amused that there are people who have made a career out of judging Johnny Depp’s latest contribution to the lexicon of facial hair and horrified that friends with a triple-digit IQ never miss an issue.

Sure, I could actually feel myself getting dumber with each page I turned, but I figured I could make up for it by perusing The Economist on the return trip. You know, kind of like following up a Twinkie binge with some carrot stubs.

Though I’ve encountered In Touch on the newsstand literally hundreds of times, the mag’s particular positioning within the celeb-news food chain previously eluded me. People was the one with the inspirational dreck (“Martha from Des Moines has overcome loss… and learned to love once anew!”) and Us Weekly was the one packed with fashion snark (“Note to Kelly Osbourne: it’s called a mirror. Use it before you go out.” Oh, snap!)

For a while, I thought In Touch’s mission was to capture celebrities at their worst – makeup-free in front of Starbucks or flabby-thighed on St. Tropez. But there’s none of that in the February 28 issue, which, shockingly, is headlined by a Brad/Jen/Angelina story. Those poor kids. If they can’t find comfort in each other’s arms, what hope is there for the rest of us? We’re all going to die alone. Alone! The takeaway from this story: Brad’s grandmother thinks they’ll get back together at some point. There, I just saved you a buck-ninety-nine.

Elsewhere, In Touch delivers on its lowbrow promise. Eight pages of Grammy coverage is highlighted by a Q&A in which Joan Rivers is asked what she’d do to make over James Brown. Shouldn’t we be posing such queries to the Christiane Amanpours of the world? There’s also the requisite news about the supposedly shaky union between Nick and Jessica. Frankly, I hope they fall apart and their MTV show goes down with them, thus freeing time for the network to play old Van Halen videos.

As opposed to Us, most of the humor in In Touch seems accidental. An item on Kirstie Alley’s diet struggles dutifully notes that the hefty thespian “ordered pizza on February 9”; it is accompanied by a photo of a Papa John’s delivery car. The mag undercuts itself, however, with the next sentence: “Even if it was for her kids, it’s hard to resist.” That line made me giggle harder than anything in last night’s Two and a Half Men.

The rest of the mag teeters between obnoxious and irresponsible. “Indulgences” reads like an ad for Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa – which it probably is – and “The List” of the 10 best celebrity abs is nothing more than fodder for people too puritanical to buy actual porn. Most distressing is an item on Mackenzie Phillips’ Botox/Sculptra/Restylane experimentation, which somehow finds itself under the heading of “Health & Happiness.”

In the end, it doesn’t matter what I think about In Touch (actually, it doesn’t matter what I think about any publication, but that’s neither here nor there). To call it a real magazine, however, is to elevate it above grimier gossip rags like the National Enquirer, and it is those publications which constitute its editorial competitive set. No matter how many copies it sells, In Touch has an awfully long way to go before it can be mentioned in the same breath as People and Us.

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