Monday, June 23, 2008

Another Guilty Pleasure

I'm not a fan of reality TV shows. I have watched enough of the biggies -- Survivor, American Idol, Dancing With Whomever -- to know I don't want to go there. Ten minutes is more than enough. There's no "reality" in them. After five minutes of listening to whining on the island, I was rooting for a volcano to erupt and bury them all in lava twelve feet deep. That anybody would submit themselves to Simon's snarkiness for any amount of fame and money amazes me. That football players can dance? That is not so amazing.

That said, I got hooked into one on the Food Network.

The Next Food Star is, of course, as silly as any of the other reality shows. The premise is simple: A bunch of young folks who want to have their own show on the cooking channel, are put into a communal house, and must face a series of cooking challenges given by well-known chefs. Each week, one of them is kicked off, until ...

In the end there can be only one ...

The contestants in this year's version range from a nineteen-year-old kid who blushes a lot, to a Dallas woman who looks like a Cosmo model with a private entrance at Neiman Marcus. Still left on is a shave-headed black guy who cooks in a hospital, a perky little thing who used to have her own cable access cooking show in college, and somebody's mama who cries at the drop of a hat. Plus a wanna-be stand-up comic whose main goal seems to be able to manage to cook something -- anything -- that isn't raw ...

Nipa the midwestern Indian girl got cut last night, and good riddance.

It is, by design, the bridge of the starship Enterprise. A Rainbow Coalition crew.

They get thrown into the pressure cooker: You have to prepare a meal for thirty Coast Guard guys, on the cutter, using their galley, you have one hour, and you have to use white chocolate or Fruit Loops or grape jelly in your main dish ...

Typically, one, maybe two dishes are edible enough to impress the three-judge panel, the rest stink on ice. On an earlier show, guest judge Iron Chef Morimoto allowed out loud that one pork dish was unfit for human consumption. Last night, one of the chefs said, I took one bite of that crepe and spit it out. Yet these cooks are still on the show ...

It's brutal. Well, faux-brutal. And the funny thing about it is, they must have had thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of applications to be on the show, and these were the best they could do? People who can't cook an egg? Who cringe at touching a fish?

It's Moe, Curly, and Larry meet Joan Rivers in the kitchen. Woo-woo-woo-woo!

They can't possibly be picked for their culinary skills, but for how much people are going to be rooting for or against them. The producers shoot a lot of footage, and then show you what they want you to feel good or bad about. It's a Punch and Judy puppet play, more manipulative than a stadium full of chiropractors ...

The highlight of the season so far is when Lisa from Dallas, who wears three-hundred-dollar blouses, pearls, and hooker heels to cook, slipped and fell on her butt and spilled half a quart of sauce all over herself -- her presentation immediately after that was, hands-down terrific. She needs to slip and fall and coat herself in barbecue soak every episode ...

Ah, what can I say? It's a guilty pleasure.

6 comments:

Jon said...

After you guys mentioned the Dallas woman last time we were up, I had to go check it out on the "Intertron".

She reminds me of everything I find repugnant in Dallas. Watched the intro show where she tried to describe how she was "deconstructing designer dining" to which not one of the judges had any idea what she was talking about. That was enough for us.

But then something horrible happened. We clicked on Hell's Kitchen on FOX (of all networks.) And somehow got hooked in. It's truly awful the verbal and other abuse these people go through. But we're down to the final three now, and they're all pretty decent human beings, all said. Pretty sure how the next episode ends (the 23-year old newbie's got to go) which leaves two skilled, competent people for the final spot. Wouldn't have seen THAT coming from FOX.

I think my favorite part is how at the end of each episode, they all go out to a smoking patio and light up. It's completely truthful to that industry.

Steve Perry said...

Actually, Lisa from Dallas is starting to grow on us. Once she fell and got up, her Needless Markup facade cracked wide open and you got a chance to see past it. She was funny, on-point, and I liked her. Until next episode, of course ...

J.D. Ray said...

My wife is reality show addicted. As I write this, she's watching some show that uses the same formula as your cooking shows on interior designers. Being sensitive creative types, they're all either bitching at someone or crying because they're being bitched at.

Having a small house, I'm light on choices for places to sit with the laptop, and unfortunately, my favorite chair is smack in front of the TV.

--sigh--

I enjoyed the big reality shows for a time. Survivor got my attention for several years, until I realized that every season was the same. And who chooses to go on that show without being able to build a fire out of bellybutton lint and two green twigs?

Hell's Kitchen is the most recent show to get scraped off my shoe. Anyone who signs up for that show without being able to cook risotto in their sleep is a fool. Same for whatever the hell "wellington" is.

I have to admit that I like the dancing competitions, mostly because I like dancing (I'm no good at it, but that rarely stops me from doing things). Dancing with the Stars gets bonus points for hot women in skimpy outfits. Sure, the producers know that, but I'm not afraid to admit that I fit into a large demographic. I like So You Think You Can Dance despite its title. It's a true talent contest, or at least as close as you can get in the realm of reality TV.

Dan Gambiera said...

My decision never to watch a reality show seems to have been a good one.

Steve Perry said...

There's a level of societal connection ...

Hard to draw the line, but sometimes, you watch these things to see what all the fuss is about. To have some idea of what all the talk around the water cooler is about.

A little goes a long way, and pretty quickly, I find myself uninterested in such conversations, but it's like brussels sprouts or boiled parsnips -- you can at least say you have tasted them and thus a reason why you don't eat them ...

Back in the day, the weekly show Laugh In regularly spawned phrases that half the country was using the next day. Big-name celebrity guests would show up and speak one line or phrase and that would be it. I recall with great fondness Richard Nixon, later to be President, saying on-air, "Sock it to me!"

They did, later ...

Steve Perry said...

Sunday night they sent Jennifer home, and rightly so. None of her dishes have been impressive and her on-camera spots have been uniformly awful. Adios, Jennifer.

I thought it was between her and Adam as to who was going to get kicked off. Adam has yet to cook *any*thing the judges liked. He's funny and he has them smiling, mostly, and I guess that since an audience can't taste the food, all it has to do is look good. Last side dish he cooked, however, was polenta, and it looked like it was made from Tweety Bird's radioactive carcass and apparently was the consistency of warm rubber. He's next on on my list to get booted.

I've been rooting for Aaron, but he's fading. Hasn't found his voice yet.