TV Kitchens: Turning Up the Heat | Blogh

Thursday, May 8, 2008

TV Kitchens: Turning Up the Heat

Posted By on Thu, May 8, 2008 at 10:59 AM

It was already written out in my head -- my rant about how dull Top Chef has been this season.

Then last night, with the "Wedding Wars" episode, they heard my pleas for more drama and -- I love how low-rent this tactic is! -- kept the remaining eight chefs up all night. Seriously.

Needless to say, the lack of sleep and the nightmare of cooking for a big wedding brought all the petty emotions out. Previously, our gang of professional cooks had been pretty ... well, professional. I respect that, but it makes for lousy TV, and had me pining for the days when Top Chef was filled with beautiful losers who melted down faster than spun sugar in Miami.

What we learned backstage at the wedding: Dale is a big, big brat; Antonia can't manage a team; Andrew is a self-absorbed loose cannon, but funny ("culinary boner"?); Spike is pretty tiresome; and Richard is a stand-up dude. Assuming it was all real, that was right-on of him to give the prize to Stephanie, who cranked out a tiered wedding cake, without even knowing what the reward was. (Prizes are weirdly inconsistent: Last week the prize was a big nothing; other weeks, it's a trip to Italy ... or a book.)

And previews of upcoming shows seem to indicate that since this emotional dam has burst, there will be a lot more entertainment. Look, we can't eat the food, so viewers at home need something to digest.

And speaking of drama, over on Hell's Kitchen this week, there was a classic lazy producers' challenge -- one designed to elicit TV moments rather than test any cooking skills. 

That would be cooking for a picky 16-year-old and her control-freak mom.

OK, so in Los Angeles 2008, there are actually well-to-do teens who have never eaten shrimp? Miss Thing reacted like she's been handed a plate of little rose-pink turds. Well, she may truly have been that dumb: The pomegranates stumped her, too, and ultimately her mom told her which dishes to pick.

The highlight of the show was Chef Matt, who's been throwing himself the biggest Pity Party since day one. He seems supremely useless on the line, and has all the charm of a bulldozer. ("Chicken wings? Every girl wants that at her fucking sweet 16." Nice.) I'm sure the producers just keep him around for laughs, and are sending the dull, indistinguishable girls home first.

But, Hell's Kitchen has been suffering too – like Top Chef, it feels this close to having its gimmick played out. Exhibit A: Dragging some teenybopper revisionist new-wave band into the mix. Pink Spider. What is this, Laguna Beach?

Over on the BBC's slow-motion reality-cooking show Last Restaurant Standing, after what seems to have been several years, we're down to three couples. And no surprises: the eight-course foodies; the Scottish fusion pair; and the healthy, brown-and-green twins. 

Last episode, Raymond Blanc finally left cozy confines of that fake country house they shoot the judging segments in, and visited the last three restaurant. Each restaurant racked up some problems during his on-site visits, but nothing like the spectacular disasters that are the stock in trade of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

Blanc may be a great chef, but he's sorely lacking in the acting department, or even in the fake-sincerity zone. He opted to try Scottish joint's fried Mars bar and the disgusted look on his face was priceless. 

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