Tag Archives: tv chefs

TV talk

Last summer, I wrote about how I love British TV and their personalities and shows that have come here to grace us with their presence.  Hell's Kitchen and So You Think You Can Dance? remain classics and I think are way better than some of their peers.  HK is great because instead of having contested voted off by America, other insipid contestants, or a panel of washed up, so-called experts, they are voted off by Gordon Ramsay himself, whose wisdom knows no bounds.  Yes, each week's "winning team" (as determined by GR) nominates the contestants who most deserve to go home, but GR can and will completely disregard their nominations and send whomever home he wants to.  And he'll do things like off to send a promising-but-not-ready chef to culinary school.  It's too bad the contestants are pretty much all douches, but I'm looking forward to fall's Kitchen Nightmares, where I can get my GR fix without the dumb reality show premise.  SYTYCD? (does it have a question mark? I don't know, it should, as well as an exclamation point) is not exactly a meaningful television experience, but it's way better than American Idol and more entertaining.  This season brought the astounding robot stylings of Brian Gaynor and the brilliant improvised swing of Jamal Weaver (sorry I couldn't find just the swing part, but it's worth watching it all).  Plus, hostess Cat Deeley is a gentlewoman and a scholar.

But anyway, back to actual British shows.  I've also alluded to Little Britain recently, which is hysterical and should be added to your Netflix queue.  It's sort of hard to watch it all back to back, as many of the sketches are very repetitive, but it is quality stuff.  I hear they are going to bring it here to HBO, a la Ali G, which could be either really great or really bad.  Also recently, I watched the entire British Office series, which is two short seasons plus a special.  I'd seen the first season before but ages ago and I didn't remember much of it.   Without a doubt, Ricky Gervais is a comedy genius and it is great, but I'm going to come out and say it: I think the American Office is better.  While I realize much of the first season of the American version was ripped off from the original show (jokes, characters, and plotlines), I think the American version has grown into something in its own right that is amazing.  Last season's finale was one of the best of any show I've seen: drama! romance! intrigue! surprises!  The Pam-Jim romance is more nuanced and tragic than the Dawn-Tim romance, though that got me too in the original series.  Not to mention the developing drama of Michael and Jan, or Dwight and Angela.  I think it's the minor characters like Kelly and Creed that make it awesome.  The Creed Thoughts blog is maybe the funniest thing ever.  I can't even read it in public, it's so funny.  I see that there have been many updates to the blog since I've last seen it, I think I know what I'll be doing for the next few hours!

So, I've said it, it may be unpopular or even sacrilege to spurn the original show, but I think I prefer Scranton to Slough.

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Bourdain in Beirut

Last night, I watched my other favorite TV chef's special Bourdain in Beirut on the Travel Channel.  Tony Bourdain was filming an episode of his show No Reservations when the bombings started in Lebanon and they filmed their time there.  It's really fascinating and sad what's happened to the city, he also wrote about it for Salon.com: Watching Beirut die.  You'll have to watch a brief ad to read it for free, but I think it's worth it.  The show is rerunning this week a few times on the Travel Channel.

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The TV is better, too

Yet another thing I was looking forward to when going to England was the TV.  Yes, watching TV on vacation.  But this is a country that has brought us such quality programs as AbFab, Monty Python, The Office, and the original Drew Carey-free Whose Line is it Anyway?

The first show I discovered there was Homes Under the Hammer.  It's basically a program where they show a property (usually in questionable condition), then show the auction, then show the winners and check back later on their renovation progress.  It's excellent if you like to look inside other people's houses and the auction winners are generally not very telegenic with unintelligeable accents, which makes for TV gold.  Who wouldn't want to buy an old post office in a dodgy neighborhood in Scotland?!  What can't you learn from a man who buys falling down house without an inspection because he thinks the surrounding buildings will "hold it up fine"?!  Sadly, my ghetto cable company doesn't carry BBC America, but if you have it, you can enjoy it Sunday mornings.

While I am not generally a reality TV person, I will watch anything with an acerbic Brit judge.  Naturally, I want American Idol, but the dance competition So You Think You Can Dance? is even better as it features ballroom dancers doing hip hop and liberal use of jazz hands.  My absolute favorite is Hell's Kitchen, with the incomparable Gordon Ramsay.  HK features some very cheesy production values and all of the contestants are hateful, but you get to hear Gordon call all of them "stupid f*cking donkeys" and make aspiring chefs cry.  So I figured, if we were getting such meanness from British TV personalities that is probably watered down for American television, the judges on BBC must be totally ruthless!  I was lucky enough to see the debut episode of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, where girls compete to be Maria in a new production of The Sound of Music.  Did I mention it features Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber?!  I am not a big fan of his work, but he really should be on more TV shows.  HDYSAPLM? shows him watching audition tapes in his home and while the (disappointingly) perky and encouraging judges pass girls through to the next round, he mutters "Oh…no" and pretty much passes through whoever he wants to.  I think my ears might bleed if I had to hear "A few of my favorite things" over and over, but it's pretty awesome.

On a final (non-British) note, if you don't already watch HBO's Deadwood, go rent the DVDs and catch the final (ever?) episode next Sunday.  It's is the best f*cking show in ages.  Ian McShane is magnificent as Al Swearingen, the dialogue is like Shakespeare in prison (see this counter for the latest number of curses per episode), and the characters are (sort of) based on real people!  See this great L.A. Times article for more on the show and it's fantastic language.

Back to London recap soon..

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