I'll answer your question before you ask it: Yes, of course I'm bitter. Over the past 12 months, I've bleached my teeth, dropped 35 pounds and trimmed my shoulder hair so that I'm no longer confused with lesser primates. I've started wearing form-fitting T-shirts, perfected a come-hither gaze, and taken penmanship lessons. And yet still I received no love from People's "Sexiest Man Alive" arbiters. Again. So very hurtful.

Because I'm a big person--especially after an around-the-clock Godiva binge following the announcement of Matthew McConaughey's ascension to the sexy throne--I won't let the disappointment affect my report on People, a longtime mainstay on the gilded coffee tables of Chateau Magazine Rack. Besides, the title started slipping somewhere around the time it anointed Jude Law last November and sent him into a serial-infidelity spiral. Don't tell me the two events aren't related.

People has always positioned itself as the "nice" trashbag celebrity newsweekly, throwing in a few heartwarming moments ("man reunites with snapper turtle he gave up for adoption 42 years ago") amid the reports of Estelle Getty's on-set tantrums and liaisons dangereuses. The problem with this formula, however, is that it doesn't leave a lot of room for improvisation. A slow gossip week generally translates into a boring issue, as the mag's soppy reviews and publicist-stamped features don't add much to the canon of western thought.

This means that People has to fall back on its annual "Sexiest Men" exegesis and other gimmicks to maintain interest, and these have been done so many times as to render them somewhat lifeless. Which isn't to say that the mag doesn't do its darndest to spice things up this time around. The Nov. 28 double issue includes a look back at the sexy-man titleholders from years past, mini-features on 2005 sexy-man runner-ups and nominees for sexiest retiree, sexiest jack of arts (what, precisely, is a "jack of arts"?) and sexiest TV villain (whoever slapped the "villain" label on Deadwood's Ian McShane clearly isn't familiar with the multilayered character he embodies).

We're treated to a pentameter-defying poem forgiving sexy Brad P. for his sexy Angie J. indiscretions. We get a sexy chart featuring the sexiest man at every age between 20 and 59 (presumably People believes that one can no longer be sexy at 60--sorry, Dad. Don't leave Mom alone with the gardener). We get sexy looks at TV's sexiest doctors, attorneys, and policemen. There are sexy men on boats. There are sexy men in coats. I do not want sexy green eggs and sexy ham, I do not want them Sam (Donaldson? Sexxxy!) I am.

Then, out of nowhere, Maureen Dowd chimes in with a dependably tart essay on "why we love smart guys"--which, when contrasted with the wee little words and simplistic turns of phrase seen elsewhere in the magazine, likely caused the heads of People copy editors to spontaneously combust (non-passive verbs? gerunds? does. not. compute! KA-BLAMMO). Before the audience gets a chance to gather its wits, Margaret Cho shows up to explore "why we love funny guys"--not that she'd know the gentle, warm type of funny that People readers tend to enjoy if she were impaled on it.

It's all too much. By the time I finished slogging through 125 pages of People sexytudinousness, I needed to be hosed down (to restore consciousness, not to prevent flat-abs-related overheating). A few hours later, I still lack the vim to devote more than a few token words to the many things People does well: its embrace-all-comers tone, its bright and airy layouts, its uncanny ability to prevent celebrity dirt from soiling its inspirational yarns.

Alas, that's my problem, not yours. Of all the publications in the history of magazinedom, People might be one of four or five that appeals in some small way to every reader, regardless of intellect, social standing, or tolerance for Demi Moore. Anybody who claims he or she can't find something diverting in here is full of it.

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