Sunday, October 18, 2009

TV Revs-"Top Chef Vegas";"Hank";"Project Runway"; "Hell's Kitchen"

It’s a new comedy yet it’s an old one. For Frazier will make the new comedy “Hank” a success or not. A review.

Has “Hell’s Kitchen” jumped the shark? The series had its finale and a winner was announced. But everything has changed from when this cooking competition was in its glory.

Speaking of cooking competition, “Top Chef Vegas” continues on and only a fool hasn’t yet figured out who will win this thing.

And “Project Runway” continues on and it doesn’t look like any of the male designer contenders is going to win this thing. A look into the making of this popular Lifetime series, complete with pics you’ll see nowhere else on the Internet.

Pic of the Day

Has “Hell’s Kitchen” Jumped the Shark?

We have a winner, let us begin this essay with the ending of this cooking reality series. Contender Dave is the new Chef to be blessed by Gordon Ramsey and is now the Head Chef position at Araxi Restaurant in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

Established in 1981, Araxi continues to raise the culinary bar in Whistler. The winning contestant will have the added privilege of joining executive chef James Walt in welcoming the world during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

As my ageing memory recalls, the reward for the winner of this show USED to be a genuine restaurant of his or her own, NOT a Head Chef position.

Although I must imagine a Head Chef position is quite an honor, it’s not the same as winning a restaurant of one’s own.

The finale this year was also very lackluster. Fox has hung onto this reality series but there’s signs of wear and tear. The show’s format is a bit boring for its repetetiveness. Ramsey opens Hell’s Kitchen for the night. The wannabe Chefs cook the appetizers and main courses. A few of the contenders, on an almost rigid, rotating basis, mess up, generally under cooking the scallops or over cooking the lamb chops. Ramsey cusses and rants, humiliates the offenders, throws the nasty food in the trash and in general makes himself the center of the show.

The humiliated Chef describes the scene in a video-taped vignette that has them either defending their actions or expressing remorse and fear for the rubbery scallops.

I’m very skeptical that a cook could get to a point worthy of contender for Hell’s Kitchen who can’t cook scallops without turning them into rubber.

On the episode aired on 10/6/09, Tenille wins the mini-challenge usually given early in the show. Tenille is a black female chef who’s been featured prominently in many of this season’s dramas. Tenille has a bit of ghetto-tough in her although never mind her corn-rows, she has an impressive culinary background. Her bio indicates that she has a culinary degree and ten years executive chef experience. In that same episode, Tenille was eliminated. It’s almost scripted, it is.

Tenille’s prize for preparing an eggplant vegetarian voted on by a passel of kids as the best of the lot for a food element kids generally do not like was a complete make-over. Yes indeed, a new “do”, new duds. As an aside, noted on Tenille’s bio is the fact that Tenille lost 100 pounds as a result of a gastric bypass operation.

It seems almost fitting that Tenille should win this prize before her elimination that same night, doesn’t it? She had made it to the top four after all. Any viewer could have predicted that Tenille wasn’t going to win this thing.

Dave, the fellow who finally won this thing, re-hurt his already injured hand to a scene of great drama.

On the Hell’s Kitchen episode aired 10/13/09, the three remaining contenders, Ariel, Dave and Kevin, were assigned a mini-task that would have them preparing a dish from three different international cuisines. The catch was that their creations would be judged by chefs with an expertise in each cuisine. Kevin prepared a Mexican dish but he forgot his Mole sauce. I’ve seen this concept on Top Chef as well and I know that the notion of putting chocolate in some form in dishes that would seem very unlikely for this ingredient is something done in Mexican cooking. By me, chocolate is a treat and should be served as such. So hey, I’m glad Kevin forgot the Mole sauce.

Dave prepared an Indian dish and while he said he had no idea how to cook Indian food, the judge for Indian food was quite happy with Dave’s concotion. Ariel prepared a Chinese dish and the Chinese Chef declared it watery and a bit tasteless.

Ariel didn’t survive this show and on the same night, in the hour following this, Hell’s Kitchen had its finale.

This is another reason I think Hell’s Kitchen jumped the shark. A finale is a big deal, something that is hyped for the week prior to draw in viewers. To air the grand finale when the winner is announced on the same night when the top two are announced and immediately following, is odd .

Further, as I recall on earlier finales, the two finalists were assigned a restaurant of their own, even if just half of Hell’s Kitchen itself. The Chefs were even charged with decorating their restaurants!

This year’s grand finale was the same ole, same old.

Whatever the status of Hell’s Kitchen, Dave with the lame arm won the competition.

I thought for sure Kevin would walk away the winner.

On To the REAL Cooking Competition-Top Chef

Not that BravoTV’s Top Chef doesn’t have its quirks. Indeed.

In this season’s competition, located in Las Vegas, there seems little doubt that red-headed Kevin’s going to win this thing. Goodness the fellow has won or was partner in the winning entrees for several shows now. And he did win the elimination round on the episode aired on 10/7/09 as well as the episode aired on 10/14/09. On the former episode, Kevin shared the win with his partner, contender Jennifer. On the latter episode, Kevin won the elimination challenge all by himself.

On the 10/7/09 episode the contenders were given a bag of supplies from famous chefs. Out of this they had to prepare an entrée to please the judges. That show’s Quickfire challenge had some silly challenge that plugged the web site, involving three assigned words requiring the contenders to quickly prepare dishes to match their words. Goodness, Kevin even won this Quickfire challenge.

Notable in the cooking challenge was something called, get this, “egg yolk ravioli”. Folks I’m just a humble cook but the notion of eating egg yolk ravioli makes me a bit nauseous. This dish, prepared by Eli, was not received well by the judges either. Eli, Michael and Ashley ended up in the bottom three. Ashley and her undercooked “neoki” were deemed worthy of a trip out the door. Take your knives, Ashley.

Kevin and Jennifer both prepared the winning dish for this challenge, with Jennifer winning the top prize even though she wasn’t feeling well during that show.

On the episode aired 10/14/09, it was Pig and Pinot night.

The episode began by blatantly promoting Alexia snacks. The quickfire challenge had the contenders preparing a quick dish that would properly accompany a seasoned bag of these new sorts of snacks, which are, I will attest, quite good.

The elimination challenge had the contenders preparing a dish that would match their assigned Pinot wine and right there I’m out in left field.

I’m not a wine person but I must suppose that someone aspiring to a Top Chef status should not only know a bit about wine but also about properly pairing wines with appropriate food. The food item was pork of most any kind and it was all to promote something called the “Pig and Pinot” festival.

So we had pork belly, ribs, pork leg, pork chops…yeah, pork.

One of the more interesting dishes was prepared by Laureen and was called “pork riette”.

Wikipedia defines a rillette as:
Rillettes is a preparation of meat similar to pâté. Originally made with pork, the meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded, and then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste. They are normally used as spread on bread or toast and served at room temperature.

One of the judges called Laureen’s rillette as “cat food”. And you know, it did look a bit like cat food and, in fact, Laureen landed in the bottom three because of her unappetizing entrée, both in terms of look and appearance.

It was contender Ash’s time to go home. He’s been in the bottom three for several times now.

And guess what! KEVIN WON!

Now there’s a surprise.

Robin is the oldest of the contenders this Las Vegas based competition. Look for her to be sent packing real soon. There was some drama in this most recent episode involving Robin and the other much younger contenders. Robin was, also, in the bottom three with Brian and Jennifer completing the top three along with winner Kevin.

Finally, hey, we hear Padma, who is really full of herself, is preginated. Just a rumor.

”Hank”-Frazier Redux

There’s always room for a situation comedy in a proper TV lineup. “Hank” is just such a show featured on ABC, Wednesday, during the benign children’s hour of 8 pm in the evening.

ABC’s HANK web site here.

There’s only one problem with this HANK show and it’s not that big of a problem.

The show is about Frazier only this time Frazier’s name is Hank.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this.

Hank once owned his own business. He was a big important CEO and suddenly he got fired. Now Hank and his family, a wife, a daughter and a son, have to re-locate and start all over again.

Well maybe not all over again because Hank does have some money what with having saved for a rainy day.

The plotlines are typical situation comedy plotlines. Hank’s wife gets a job and Hank must deal with being a house husband. In the most recent episode aired on 10/14/09 Hank got a job in an ice cream parlor along with his rather spoiled daughter. Hank had to sing silly songs and, in general, work like we assumed he hasn’t done for many a year.

Hank’s character is Frazier, pure and simple. But hey, Frazier was a good character, both on Cheers and on the series of this namesake.

Kelsey Grammer is a good actor with excellent comedic timing. If this new endeavor called “Hank” is to succeed, it will succeed, it will be due to the talent of Kelsey Grammer.

Project Runway-Getting Down To a Few

It’s unbelievable what one can do with an old wedding dress.

Indeed on Lifetime’s “Project Runway” episode aired on 10/8/09 the designers were charged with taking the old wedding dress of their assigned divorcee/model and with a budget of $25.00 and a maximum of two additional yards of purchased fabric, create a whole new outfit.

Epperson, who was eliminated for his creation on this episode, created what the judges alternately described as a dress appropriate for Octoberfest or perfect for a pirate’s wench. Epperson was a weird dude at any rate, prone to strange designs often involving strips of fabric affixed to an outfit in strange manners that often brought him praise from the fashion judges oddly enough.

Sharin created a charming dress using some very creative stitching to add a new and intriguing dimension to a tired design. Irena came up with a dress covered with a pretty lace covering.

Epperson, Logan and Christopher landed in the bottom three while Gordana, Sharin and Irena had the top-rated old wedding dress redux designs.

Gordana won this contest and it’s about time. Gordana is not exactly a young woman and she’s hardly anybody’s idea of a top fashion designer. I think Gordana is headed home soon.

On the Project Runway episode aired this past week, 10/15/09, Bob Mackie, famous Cher designer, was the guest judge.

The fashion challenge was for the contenders to create an on-stage outfit for Christina Aguilara, who also showed up to help judge the results.

The inclusion of Bob Mackie was no accident. The designers were told to create sparkly show-off outfits befitting Aguilara that would shine on stage but would allow her the movement required of her craft.

I watched the show from the frantic search for fabric at the infamous MOOD store through to the cutting room tables, back to the sewing machines. I listened to the various video vignettes of the contenders as they lamented, cheered or cried about their designs and the complaints and catty comments about the other contenders.

Project Runway is a show, like all reality competitions of this type, which by its nature has lots of air time to fill until the final reveal of the fashion runway.

It’s done well and the trick is to give glimpses to the designs in progress while saving the entire outfit reveal until the walk on the fashion runway.

Anyway Gordana had immunity from her win from the week prior. It’s a good thing, or said the judges, as Gordana’s design was not all that great.

Sharin got sent home for her design, described as a Halloween costume suitable for a witch. Christopher’s design was also a dud.

Carol Hannah, who consistently comes out on top in this competition, won the top prize for her black on black creation that so impressed the judges.

I don’t see any of the remaining fellows winning this thing. In fact, I put my bet on Carol Hannah.

Finally, how about those contenders maybe wash their hair, maybe get a decent haircut?

I’m just sayin’.

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