Tag Archives: television

We Watch The Taste: Episode 3

I may have an unhealthy addiction to cooking competition shows, but now I’m being enabled as Autumn, Alex, and myself all watch this new show. The Taste is like The Voice meets Masterchef, where the judges each have a team and the judging is done blind. Since lack of blind judging has been a major complaint on shows like Top Chef, I’m excited to see a show were personal bias is as close to eliminated as humanly possible.

We’re starting with the third episode, which is the first official episode. The first two were the frustrating and annoying audition rounds. Our four judges seemed determined to hold out for some culinary genius that never came, saying repeatedly that food was good but they passed. But! That part is over and now we’re on to the good stuff.

Favorite Team/Mentor:

Autumn: Nigella; Bourdain a close second. They both are very much anti-pretentious–the arrogant professional chefs who did not make it onto the teams get quite a public shaming on this show. Nigella is a home cook and is patron saint of home cooks so it feels like rooting for the underdog.

Alex: For me it would be Malarkey. But to be honest some of that is because of the name. I wasn’t familiar with the other chefs aside from Bourdain before this show, and I’m not a fan of Bourdain. I do like Malarkey’s style though and the kind of food he is looking for from his team.

Tori: I’m totally Team Ludo. He seems to think this some incarnation of Hell’s Kitchen where he needs to berate his team into not failing. It’s a terrible strategy but I have an affinity for people on reality shows who try to play the game, even when it’s the wrong game. Hell, especially when it’s the wrong game. I also adore Bourdain and he’s always a favorite guest judge on Top Chef but I unfairly blame him for the level of snark in TC judging now: like they saw how popular he was and decided that was the way to go.

We're all rooting for you, Lauren. Don't screw this up.

Favorite Individual Cheftestants:

Autumn: Lauren (Team Nigella), Uno (Team Bourdain). Lauren is a home cook and I personally worry about the range of her repetoire–this is something I identify with while watching her compete. Uno’s use of organ meats in her dish made her an obvious choice for Bourdain. I like cooks that can use “icky” ingredients successfully.

Alex: Khristianne Uy from Team Malarkey. Duck Fat seared Scallops? I don’t even like scallops and I want those in my mouth. Also she had to put up with Charlie Sheen, so obviously she can handle any of the crap these guys put her through. I also like Lauren Scott from Team Nigella, because she is young and yet is so passionate about food. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with!

Tori: I love Khristianne (Team Malarkey). She seems to have a unique culinary point of view which is the judge way of saying I want to eat her food. I have an irrational love for Jeff because he reminds me of Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec. I share the Lauren love, but I also love of the nerdier guys like Paul. I was totally ready rake Paul over the coals for calling Sarah a damsel in distress but then they cut to her holding a towel that was on fire, and then another towel catches fire on her station, and I was like, “Okay, Paul. You win this round.” Diane drives me nuts. I appreciate her desire to be a personality but she grates, which is too bad because her food might be awesome. It’s too early for me to pick an outright favorite though.

Overall Initial Thoughts and Impressions:

Autumn: I absolutely adore the attempt at blinding in this show. Having studied neuroscience I know how crucial this is to judging something fairly. I do have to say that the professional guest chef judging the teams’ dishes while standing in front of the contestants is not blinded. I understand why this was done for the sake of drama, but why sacrifice the show’s major strength–its testament to objectivity?

Alex: I didn’t dig the first two episodes, but after seeing the first episode of the teams working together I think my opinion of the show will be changed. I love cooking shows, and contest cooking shows, so I don’t see what I wouldn’t like. I also like the idea of the judges not knowing who prepared the dishes – it means less bias and more concentration on the food. I do feel that should continue to be the main focus of the show as it progresses.

Tori: I love the idea of blind tasting to foster fair judging based solely on the food. I also like the challenge of the cheftestants having to fit their flavor profile into “one bite” on a spoon. It means they really have to think about each element. I’m hoping that as the show goes on, teams band together and learn from mistakes, rather than it turning into senseless shouty drama.

Are you watching The Taste? What do you think so far? Who are your favorite mentors/cheftestants?

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Masterchef Recap: Episode 3.4 – The Top 18

Top 18!

This is the REAL start of the competition because if you didn’t make it this far, no one will remember you. The top 18 home cooks amateur chefs enter the Masterchef Kitchen for the first time except they also were there last week, so what? Ramsey waxes poetic about how you won’t find a better, more state of the art kitchen anywhere in the world.

Australia coughs politely but doesn’t have time to protest between their six Masterchef episodes a week. (SIX! Including a weekly Masterclass! I’m jealous.)

Tonight’s cocktail is called The Sweet and Sour Graham, because Graham can’t decide if he wants to be Simon Cowell or Paula Abdul, and weirdly enough it leaves Ramsey to play Good Cop more often than not.

1 1/2 ounces Peach or Orange Voda
Splash of Triple Sec
3 ounce Strawberry C Odwalla
Top with club soda and garnish with a strawberry

Three minutes in, Graham plugs the 3-piece Masterchef Knife collection and then they introduce a Mystery Box challenge. They can use only the ingredients in the box. The winner gets a huge advantage.

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TV Recap: Masterchef US 3.01 & 3.02

It’s that time again! Masterchef is back in the States. This is the show were amateur chefs compete in order to win some cash, a cookbook deal, and enough notoriety to launch their culinary career. (Do I sound like Padma?) But before we begin, let’s mix up a drink, shall we?

I’m dubbing tonight’s drink a SOUR JOE. It will wipe that sneer off anyone’s face!

2 oz Jameson (or preferred whiskey)
2 oz Club Soda
1 oz Sweet & Sour Mix

Mix in a shaker, serve over ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Voila!

(Note: Stoney didn’t invent the cocktail with a recap — I’ve seen it all over the place, and even on TWOP–but she and her crew of recappers are hilarious and awesome, so I suggest you check out Hey, Don’t Judge Me.)

All right, let’s get down to business. Since these are the fairly lackluster Top 100 Episodes, I’m going to do both in one go.

Episode 3.01:

EXT. A Shipyard Covered in Onion Crates

Camera montage of people talking about their love of food. Including a quirky girl with a big silver butterfly bow in her hair. Also a blind chick. But her dream is the same, y’all. Who said it wasn’t? They deserve a gut punch.

Music from some John Williams rip-off soundtrack. Ramsey tells us thousands of people applied but this group succeeded. Do they have what it takes? They applaud to say yes.

Joe shows the contests what $250K in cold, hard American cash looks like. Graham tells everyone cooking isn’t the path to fame, but the winner will get their own cookbook. YAY! Ramsey says the real prize is a trophy. I’m pretty sure the Aussies don’t get a trophy. (The Junior Masterchefs do though.. Also we need that show please.)

Graham flashes the apron. It’s not as dirty as it sounds. They tell the cheftestants they need to work for their chance to get one. Good luck, guys. This part is American Idol vicious.

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My Thoughts on Lady Watson, Let Me Show You Them

It was reported this morning about how CBS will be producing a pilot of new version of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a modern, updated take. (Exactly like, say, BBC’s Sherlock. Where Watson writes a blog.) Titled Elementary, it will star Johnny Lee Miller as Holmes and…. Lucy Liu as Watson? What? She’s the first ever female Watson, ever, guys. Isn’t that ponies and rainbows?

image from Wikipedia

I was at work, so I only know my online social circle reacted–perhaps there are lot of people cheering and going “WOO! Yes! This is the best!”–but the general consensus I heard was “No thanks.” Possibly because we’ve all just watched Sherlock twenty times and it’s hard to reconcile our mental images of Stephen Moffat’s brilliant show with Liu playing Watson in a mini skirt ($10 says she wears one in the first episode*). I don’t think all of us are anti-lady Watson, although I’d argue it ruins some of the dynamic. Maybe it’s possible to get that same Bromance with a girl. I mean, Robin from How I Met Your Mother managed to bro it up with Barney for a while. Then sex happened.

That’s my biggest beef with it. I feel like it’s inevitable that the writers will fall into the ROMANCE trap. With Boy Watson, who at least in the BBC version is pretty emphatically straight, they can explore the dynamic of close, platonic friendship, which is something I adore and relate to. People of all genders can love each other and put up with crap and get into spats and make up all without the romance or sex. But it’s hardly shown that way in fiction, and almost never on television, where the only time men and women are friends is before, after, or during some kind of romance. Unless it’s unrequited love. That women and men can be actual, platonic friends is something I want to see more of. So if manages to do that, well…

I still probably won’t watch it but at least I’ll respect the show on some level. I can’t watch it, because I’ll mentally compare to, again, BBC’s, which is a shining example of how creative, well-acted, and overall well-produced television can be. (Assuming the pilot is picked up at all. That remains to be seen.)

While we talked about it today, my friends and I came up with really awesome twists on detective shows that can star and feature female detectives, sidekicks, and the like, without doing a gender-swap remake. I’d personally love to see a Sherlock-esque female lead on a TV show. Bones came close in the beginning, but eventually that dissolved. My friend Angeline said, “When a man is obnoxious and sneering and arrogant, that’s sexy. When a woman is all those things, it’s threatening.” Why can’t we have an anti-social super smart woman who really isn’t interested in romance or having kids?

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To combine that thread of thought with my friend Angel’s idea (their names are totally coincidental, btw) why not make a Steampunk Victorian detective show? It could feature a female lead, a Holmes-style figure, and a female sidekick or straightman, like Watson. Plus steampunk is really de rigeuer right now. Yes, I know, the costume budget would be big, but I know lots of people who would watch the hell out of that.

Or as my pal Michelle suggested, what about a show where two friends (either or both can be women) who are huge fans of Sherlock Holmes open a detective agency. They can solve murders and mysteries, while referencing famous detectives. Hell, they can even have a friend who keeps trying to be their Moriarty and they have to explain that Moriarty is really more chaotic evil than one can achieve by throwing water balloons at their cars.

It’s not that I don’t want to see more women in smart, well-written roles on television. I do. I think a lot of us do. But I don’t even want to see more Sherlock remakes (there are probably a hundred thousand), especially on the heels of the BBC version that basically blows the others out of the water. And maybe Elementary will be a brilliant in its own right, and maybe Liu will turn out to be the best Watson on this side of the pond, but there are so many creative, new ideas that get swept aside, both in television and film, for the sake of more remakes and reboots. The “with a chick!” only makes me groan and feel like it’s a cheap gimmick to sell an another version of an over-saturated series.

*Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Also I think I’m picturing Liu as her character from Ally McBeal. 

5 Classics Repackaged For Kids Today

A while ago, the internet erupted like a volcano when new Twilight-themed covers were put on the classic novel Wuthering Heights. This is because it’s the one book Bella has actually read, despite supposedly being an avid reader. I thought it was a stroke of marketing genius. I mean, check it out:

It even says “Love Never Dies.” It’s totally trying to cash in on the vampire mania with a book that has nothing to do with vampires. People were amused, outraged, and just amazed that publishers would do it. I thought, why stop there? So I’ve repackage five classic novels to grab attention on the shelves, just in time for the holiday season.

Packaged to appeal to: fans of Transformers
Why it works: Hey, it’s about a guy who turns into a bug. It’s practically the original Transformer, right?

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NBC, you really Britta’ed this one.

Any nerd worth her salt has heard by now that NBC has pulled Community from its midseason lineup – and if said salt-encrusted nerdette is anything like me, she isn’t at all comforted by the fact that the network still plans to shoot and air all 22 episodes. (Cue Joss Whedon fans: “But at least you get a whole season!”) Mainstream networks don’t tend to have a great track record when it comes to sticking with shows that are actually well-written, have a great cast, and don’t insult the audience’s intelligence. But that’s another conversation entirely, and I’ve had a martini, so let’s just stick with the facts here before I go on a gin-fueled rant about why Journeyman got cheated out of a full season and proper ending.

My first reaction was to screech, “Noooooo!” Darth Vader-style and then frantically post my outrage on Facebook, because honestly, at this point, it’s become a reflex. I, for one, welcome our new social media overlords.

However, my brother’s reaction when I told him the news was a lot more in keeping with the actual spirit of Community: he made a hilariously exaggerated sad face and sang, “Troy and Abed on hiatus!” Which got me to thinking.

Maybe it’s not over. Maybe we shouldn’t be losing hope just yet. (Ha, ha. I know. Just roll with me on this one, folks.) Maybe if we try something super crazy – something Señor Chang crazy – we can get NBC to see the error of its ways. Here are a few ideas:

  • Charity paintball event held at the NBC studios. The first person to cause Matt Lauer to have a nervous breakdown wins, and the ensuing footage is incorporated into the season 3 finale.
  • Put a singular die into a fancy envelope and mail it directly to Jeff Zucker. He probably won’t understand what the hell it’s all about, since he’s likely never seen a single episode of the show, but the influx of game pieces might distract him long enough to forget about canceling it.
  • Convince Johnson and Johnson to make Hawthorne Wipes a real thing – then orchestrate a tie-in with Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. Honestly, that script will write itself, saving you on payroll for at least a week.
  • Bring Allie Brosh on board. She can just MS Paint the really detailed special effects. Nobody will know the difference, since Community’s budget for that is pretty much on par with your local public-access channel.
  • Starburns:  how about a spin-off featuring his adventures in fast food, with new characters Goatriangle and Quadrimullateral?
  • Three words, which I think you’ll find are my most understated yet eloquent solution to all of this: Blanket Fort Ubiquity. I think Professor Professorson would agree. You can’t ignore a proliferation of blanket forts all over the country. You just can’t.

I’m going to close this post with the only way I deem appropriate: with a song.

Rooooooooooxan–

Dammit, Winger.

TV: 2 Broke Girls – Potential Unrealized

Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs try to rise above their cliched dialogue.

2 Broke Girls may be the most disappointing sitcom I’ve seen in recent years. Two young women trying to make their way in the big city by waiting tables in a diner should be right up my alley. For one thing, I waited tables for nearly a decade myself, and two, I’ve been dying for a sitcom to take on the nuances and insanity of the business. And it is insane.

The stories servers can tell you range from the absurd to the horrific to the completely unbelievable. And I don’t mean cooks spitting in your soup or anything like that (that happens rarely and most servers I know have never witnessed it or done it, despite the temptation.)

Everything from customers losing their tempers because you failed to bring a side they forgot to actually order to people throwing fits because they got 3 croutons less than their dining companion on the free dinner salad. Point is, there’s a wealth of material there that’s never seen the light of prime time. 2 Broke Girls squanders it for raunchy humor, stale sitcom premises, and cheap, obvious jokes. When our veteran waitress Max (Dennings) asks the new girl, Caroline (Behrs) to marry the ketchups, she pairs up the bottles. Obvious.

But I can forgive a slip that, to most people who haven’t had to actually marry (mix half empty) ketchup bottles, might be funny. I can’t, however, crack a smile at the lazy dirty jokes. The unnamed Russian waitress sleeps with someone in the walk in (yes, this happens, but not nearly as often as line cooks might hope), and later her uniform is given to Caroline, unwashed. Cue “I hope this is clam chowder” stain joke. Eww. Not funny.

The laugh track is unnecessary (it’s always unnecessary and I wish networks would retire it already) and the pilot’s plot is predictable and utterly uninspiring. Dennings is likable and works with what she’s given. She’s believable enough as a hard-working server with two jobs, even if the rest of the cast seems pulled from the pages of the Stereotypes R Us catalog (right down the eldery black gentlemen and the skeezy band-guy boyfriend).

It’s shame a concept with the potential to be something wholly unique and new only manages to be forgettable, unoriginal, and even a little disgusting.