As I prepare for Thursday's cranberry transfusion, it dawns on me that I have many, many things for which to be thankful. I'm thankful that the calendar gifts me a holiday devoted exclusively to eating, watching football and scratching myself (ordinarily, I call this "Saturday" or "Sunday"). I'm thankful that I have my health, my marbles and my glorious hi-def TV set. And especially, I'm thankful that I live in a country in which no fewer than five mass-circulation weekly magazines employ licensed private detectives and trash-can sleuths alike to determine, conclusively and nonlibelously, who's boinking Jenny Aniston. Truly, it is a wonderful time to be a semiliterate American.

Star, to me, ranks as one of the least offensive gossip rags (that's a compliment, I suppose). It boasts minimal intellectual and emotional pretense, as opposed to People's occasional tugs on the ol' heartstrings. It comes across as less sleazy than the National Enquirer, less screechingly unfunny than Us Weekly and less desperate than the two indistinguishable Bauer titles. If I were ever forced, under threat of deportation, to pay actual U.S. currency for a gossip magazine, Star would probably be my choice (again, that's a sort-of compliment).

While Star doesn't aim high in its design or words -- check out the 52 exclamation points split between the two table-of-contents pages -- it also doesn't pretend to be anything other than a quickie, lowbrow companion for commuters and/or pedicure zombies. The Nov. 27 issue mostly eschews grainy, shot-from-afar paparazzi shots in favor of shiny, happy ones of well-appointed starlets. It captions the pix concisely and gives them plenty of space; rarely do more than three occupy a single page. The mother-of-all-prime-examples of this? The opening six-page volley of "Star Shots," which is everything its name implies. Too, it comes complete with neo-Dickensian wordsmithery like "va-va-voom" and "look who's channeling Liz Taylor in 'Cleopatra'!"

Star prides itself on its eye for detail, whether waxing euphoric over Matthew McConaughey's new tattoo or a "Knifestyles of the Rich & Famous" comparison of two recent Madonna photos. The mag also excels at repurposing the same-old same-old as something unique: as best as I can tell, there exists almost no difference between the content lumped under headers like "Who's News?" (Nicole Richie's cat, apparently), "Just Asking" and "Stars: Are They Normal or Not?" Yet the magazine, by virtue of its creative presentation, makes each section feel relatively distinct. In a topically shallow magazine genre such as this one, that passes for achievement.

Apropos of nothing: If Tony and Eva can't make it work, what hope is there for the rest of us?

The issues I have with Star are the ones I'd likely have with any celeb-gossip title. The quotes from unnamed "witnesses," "sources" and related gawkers, like "They were holding hands, kissing and leaning into each other dreamily," make the idealistic, multisourcing journalist guy deep inside me retch. Here's a question: Can one lean into someone else "dreamily"? Most certainly, one can gaze dreamily or dream dreamily. I spent a full six minutes thinking about this.

I find it comical how Star only takes potshots at lesser lights (profile-wise, not talent-wise), like Jason Schwartzman and his "teeny weeny" frame or Kevin Connelly ("Nicky Hilton didn't seem to mind that the 'Entourage' star is one inch shorter than she is. Or did she? She just dumped him!"). This would be more excusable if Star had even a semblance of personality; the mag embarrasses itself with its "Worst of the Week" style commentary (Kerry something-or-other is dubbed a "referee in drag") and charisma-free "Star staffer says" blurbs ("If K-Fed has a sex tape, he's even slimier than I thought!").

The entertainment content -- a "Lost" primer, a meager holiday-movie-season preview - reads as if staffers spent 12 minutes assembling it. Plus the mag willingly and "exclusively" sidles up to personalities like Deelishis (who?) and Dayna Devon (who who?). The four-page spread on the latter does, however, offer the most cringingly ass-kissing sentence I've read in quite some time: "Not even that [some kind of toilet explosion involving either a diaper or an M-80] stopped the brave domestic diva from inviting Star to a pre-holiday turkey dinner at her $4 million, 8,600-square-foot estate, where she and her husband, plastic surgeon Brent Moelleken, and their adorable daughter, Emmi Reese, 1, showed off their home's old-Hollywood glamour -- and her cooking skills!" To recap: Dayna is brave, rich, happy, fetchingly fertile and handy in the kitchen. Somebody's publicist ought to be receiving a basket of papaya about now.

So that's that. Really, there are worse ways to pass a few idle minutes than with Star (that's almost-compliment number three right there). I still hope you've got a more worthy alternative -- say, something from the Richard Russo canon -- if you find yourself stuck on the tarmac for eight hours, but otherwise Star'll do just fine. Yup.

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