We like it better when you fake it

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Just look at that perfectly artificially-lit babyface on the left: Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy) looks so angelic and unassuming with that faraway Christ-baby gaze and those enviable cheekbones you could rest multiple copies of the Oxford English Dictionary on. And fans of Grey's (and Old School) like her that way: delicate and dainty and incapable of plucking the head off a dead dandelion. (It aches, you know.) Last week, though, they got a taste of Pompeo's offscreen persona when she was on Punk'd, and now they're saying the bitch is crazy.

Here's the gist of what happened: Pompeo appears to be wearing a white cotton nightgown to a chic outdoor L.A. eatery; the waitress flirts with her fiancé; Pompeo says she'd like to stab the waitress, let the blood trickle down her face, and watch as her make-up gets smeared from the impending blood flow. Pompeo titters. End scene.

The fact that some fans of Grey's are freaking out over the incident extends beyond the notion that Pompeo's seemingly love of the bloodbath is incongruous with her lil' dumpling public profile: It's that we want celebrities to be unvarnished and incapable of evil, even if it's our own schadenfreude that fuels us to watch them in these controlled environs in the first place. We like knowing, say, that they take dumps like the rest of us. But we don't want to know that they do it, for example, on public-school playgrounds.

Soon, wanting to see them fall is replaced with a blind empathy only the best editing and publicist can create. The thing that keeps viewers hooked to celeb-reality TV is the chance to bear witness to one of those very-special episodes or moments that reveal how much more decent of a human random celeb is than originally thought. (Maybe Danny Bonaduce is just a clusterfuck of pain and confusion and his actions are totally forgivable. Or maybe not.) Which is why 2005 made us long for a time when celebrities were so much better at faking it.

True, there were a number of awful celebrity-reveals this season. But these made for the greatest and most awkward misdeeds:

1. Ellen Pompeo: Ok, this wasn't exactly a reality TV show, but Punk'd exposed her in some muumuu-for-the-housebound expounding on the laws of brutal knife wounds and their effect on an overly made-up face. Grey's will never be the same, especially when there's blood involved.

2. Danny Bonaduce: He somehow became the shining example of a fractured man who can overcome his cracked past, even though his definition of "working on a relationship" means not banging the blonde chick at the gym. The guy goes to rehab and suddenly his 'roid-raging abusive ways are completely erased like an Etch-a-Sketch that just needs a little shaking up. You know what? If Bonaduce were some unknown motorcycle mechanic from Jacksonville, Wyoming, people would be organizing rescue missions for his wife. Instead, the dude gets a pass because he has a shred of humanity, which is revealed to us only because he goes on crying jags. Forgive him, dear TV watcher, he is a rich celebrity whose life has been more difficult than the average man's.

3. Christopher Knight (aka Peter Brady): He was the buff and kind patriarch on The Surreal Life, which is why people tuned in to watch him and Adrianne Curry, the model he met in the Surreal house, on My Fair Brady. One too many viewings later, and it's revealed that Knight is mostly a cold-hearted lech who passes gas a lot. In the end, though, the 48-year-old former Brady tried to make up for it by proposing to his 22-year-old girlfriend while simultaneously patronizing her on national television.

Yeah, I think we saw this on Joe Millionaire, and he went down as the one of the biggest dolts in TV history. Then again, he wasn't a celebrity. So who cares if he's a good guy or not?

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