2007, 99 cents, at American Way Thrift Store, Burbank

First Impression: Here’s the FIRM again.

Second Impression: The title makes me wonder if this routine will make me spontaneously combust. How would I explain the burned patch on the hardwood floor to my landlord?

This DVD was shot in a bare-bones set with white walls and white brick archways, with white sheer paper coating the windows. It looks like aerobics in purgatory. There’s something odd about the image that makes me think that the ladies are actually doing the routine in front of a green screen, and maybe the background was dropped in later. Although, if that were the case, you would think they would have picked a more exciting background.

They could have been doing lunge/overhead press combos in a Japanese bamboo forest, or at the foot of an active volcano, or on the surface of Mars. Imagine if there was a background randomizer feature! How cool would that be? Every time you popped in the video you might be looking at a meteor shower, or a pride parade, or Stonehenge. You’d keep doing the video just to see if you’d found all the backgrounds.

Don’t steal my idea, The FIRM! Oh, wait, I don’t care.

At the top of the routine, there’s a moment so awkward it’s painful. The host and all the helper ladies are standing at attention. The camera cuts to a closeup of the host, who chirps, “Now, let’s begin!” and then there is a pause so big you could drive a truck though it. Nothing happens. No camera cut, no music cue, nothing, as her perfect smile freezes into a pained rictus of anticipation. Then the camera cuts to a wide shot, ladies still at attention, while Jerry the playback operator spills coffee on himself as he scrambles to hit the button.

The host exudes that perky, professional friendliness without warmth that is the signature of the FIRM hosts. I suspect on the path to becoming FIRM master instructors, the hosts must all take a personality removal class, as well as have a “light Southern accent” chip implanted.

That kind of polished perfection comes with a price. I’m sure after the Awkward Pause incident on set that day, the host locked herself in her bathroom and screamed at her own reflection.

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