Friday, June 29, 2007

The Best Years - Felicity redux?

I watch pretty much everything on the N so it was really only natural that I check out their latest series, the Best Years. They've graduated from high school and are attempting to do a college series, but with really all the same "go there"-ish stuff that the N is known for. I mean, there was a death in very first episode! So it's not really anything that new or interesting, but I'm generally a sucker for this kind of stuff and will probably stick with it for awhile despite some pretty stupid/annoying things about the first episode.

The main character is Samantha, an orphan and foster child who's on scholarship at the fictional Charles University in Boston. The actress who plays her reminds me a lot of Carly Pope from her Popular days (whose character was named Sam too). This Samantha is alright...I feel like they could have made her a lot more annoyingly tough or whatever, but they didn't. Her roommate is Kathryn, a spoiled, rich, small-town girl with a serious superiority complex. They get along fine initially but that gets completely reversed by the end of the premiere, which I kind of appreciated because roommate problems are really par for the course in freshman year. I also kind of appreciated that Samantha befriended the nerdy Asian girl, Cynthia, even though it appears from the promos that they'll be going the route of making her go wild and then end up hating herself, etc. And of course, they had to set up some romance, and that was with Devon, the basketball star, who I found somewhat bland.

Other characters include Dawn, a teen soap actress (they slip in some pretty funny not-so-veiled barbs at Degrassi), and Trent, another student and bartender at the local hot club, Colony.

As for the stupid things...

Stupid thing #1 - The dean of admissions randomly meets Samantha as she gets off the bus and leads her to her dorm room? No sense whatsoever.
Stupid thing #2 - I know that weather means nothing to anyone on TV but it is not cold enough for jackets and scarves at the beginning of a school year in the Northeast.
Stupid thing #3 - Sam arrives at college with one duffel bag. No WAY she fit could fit all those sweaters and boots in there.
Stupid thing #4 - Sam finding out that the bathroom were co-ed when she sees a guy coming out of one while she's in there. Did she not notice the sign on the door when she went in?
Stupid thing #5 - I don't know why TV shows keep insisting that colleges, especially Ivy-League-ish ones, give full academic scholarships. They don't. They give financial aid. A private scholarship from a private benefactor is something else...

Top Chef tackles some family favorites

Remember that stretch of episodes last season where the chefs had to make all this far-from-fine-dining food like from vending machines and for TGI Fridays and for kids at Camp Glucose (that name still cracks me up)? Well, it seems we're back to that again and once again they pretty much floundered...

I was kind of offended by the chefs' negative reactions to all the family favorites that were wheeled out. I know that this isn't exactly the kind of stuff that they cook normally, but you cannot tell me that there is no place for dishes like meatloaf and fried chicken and mac n' cheese and tuna casserole. I mean, they're American classics for a reason. That said, nearly none of the chefs were able to use their skills and creativity to update these classics. Like Colicchio said, most took a pretty literal interpretation of the challenge, and honestly I thought that most of them looked way worse than their original versions (even if they might have been lower in cholesterol).

So Howie wins the challenge and Micah gets sent home, pretty much a complete reversal of last week's results. I can't say I'm really that surprised or disappointed. Howie was really smart with his dish, and he deserved the win. And Micah...well, she was a roller coaster anyway and wasn't really showing signs of stabilizing.

Oh, and what was up with that bizarre Quickfire challenge? Scoop up a bunch of random seafood from a tank with a net and make something with it? Okaaaay. Nothing was really that memorable, except maybe that funny sequence with Micah trying to crack open her conch.

SYTYCD follow-up

So since I posted on So You Think You Can Dance yesterday, it's only fitting that I comment on what happened on the results show last night...

I was pretty shocked. First of all, Shauna and Cedric--not in the bottom 3. I guess I should have seen the sympathy votes coming, but that's really a shame, because Jesus ended up getting kicked off instead. Yes, his solo was somewhat mediocre, but now I'm kind of confused about the judging. I know they call the solos "dancing for your life" but I always thought that the dancer's past performances were taken into consideration as well. I mean, for the past two weeks the judges have been weighing Cedric's strong solo performances against his weak partner performances. But this week they made it sound like they based their decision ONLY on the solos. So even though Jesus has been solid, even impressive, every week so far, while Neil has been inconsistent...Jesus is gone??

As for the girls...I don't know what to think here either. Like I said yesterday I was never a fan of Jessi, and her solo yesterday was truly blah, but the whole hospitalization thing sort of mucks it all up. Was she really judged on her solo or did her health play more of a part? She seemed really shocked and pretty pissed off when Nigel said she was out.

So this leads to a Pasha-Sara pairing for the next episode (which we have to wait two weeks for, argh) which could be really interesting or a recipe for disaster...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance - The couples so far!

Now that it's a few weeks into So You Think You Can Dance, I think I can finally give some of my thoughts on this year's dancers:

Sara and Jesus: One of my favorite couples right now. I like Sara because her b-girl/hip-hop things makes her kind of unconventional...usually the girls tend to be contemporary or ballroom. She's done amazingly well with the different genres thrown at her, though perhaps krumping this week was a lucky draw, although it felt more hip-hop and not quite as scary as I remember it from last year. Love Jesus too--this couple definitely has a lot of fun up there.

Shauna and Cedric: I don't think I really appreciated Shauna at all until her solo from last week. She's pretty awesome, and proved it again last night. Too bad she keeps being saddled with somewhat sucky partners. I'm not going to deny that Cedric is great in his own style, but all his movements have this sort of awkward gangly look to them which just doesn't work with, well, anything outside his own style. I did like that Cedric was so honest about his training and skill level though. I think he'll be out this week.

Lacey and Kameron: I know they're kind of a golden couple at the moment but somehow I'm not feeling them. I know that technically they're both quite good and they're definitely both entertainers but I don't know, maybe that awesome Mia Michaels routine from the first week kind of set up too high of expectations?

Anya and Danny: For some reason I'm still kind of withholding judgment on these two. Nothing they've done has been the least bit bad but nothing has really caught my attention either, especially last night's hip-hop routine, which just seemed pretty standard. Or maybe that's a choreography problem?

Sabra and Dominic: Hands down my favorite couple! I don't remember Sabra being given any screentime at all during the auditions so maybe that's why she's surprised me so much but she's just amazing. She's so light on her feet and she just looks kind of effortless up there. And Dominic continues to about versatility and picking things up quickly! They've got great chemistry and just seem like really nice, fun people.

Lauren and Neil: I'm not sure what to think here. I do like both of them, but somehow their performances just haven't been coming together. They could be in trouble...

Jaimie and Hok: Hok is definitely a fan favorite and I feel like that alone is going to keep him in the competition for a long time regardless of his performances. But luckily he's been doing very respectably. I'm not sure how their jazz routine last night was jazz at all but it was Wade Robson so of course it was brilliant! Jaimie is getting a little overshadowed by her partner, I think, but she's definitely holding her own.

Jessi and Pasha: I kind of knew that something was up last night when Cat refrained from mentioning who the last couple was before the last commercial break. It was kind of hard to tell whether Jessi's condition was serious or not and what her chances were of being back tonight but I'm glad that Pasha got a chance to perform anyway. That boy is so lucky he keeps getting the ballroom draws because he is awesome! Jessi...I feel bad for saying that I wasn't a huge fan of hers (especially the whole "save me from my boring office job as an event planner" thing) but I really do hope she's ok. The show is live, so that decision might not have even been made yet. It would be really unfortunate if she couldn't come back for this reason though...

Monday, June 25, 2007

More food reality!

Hell's Kitchen: Unlike Top Chef, this show is decidedly NOT about the food. It's about Gordon Ramsay. And Gordon Ramsay's temper. Theoretically this should not be enough to carry a show, and I know that for a lot of people it isn't, but for some reason I find it all endlessly amusing. It amazes me how many hapless, crazy contestants they find every year, and how no one really learns. I mean, it's pretty much the same menu every year, every night, and yet they all find new and spectacular ways to screw up. Don't get me wrong, I'd be supremely nervous in front of Gordon Ramsay too, but uh, they signed up for this. But by the end, there really are some competent chefs that don't make me fear that they could be running a multi-million-dollar restaurant. Although I do wonder what that job really entails...

The Next Food Network Star: This show completes the trio of food-reality shows airing this summer. And truthfully, it might be the most interesting. Top Chef is really all about the art, evidenced by the fact that the winner still has to go off and make his or her career. And Hell's Kitchen is all business, the winner gets a restaurant. But here, it's about food AND personality AND money. The judges really have stake in the results: they have to give this person a show and of course they need this show to be successful, so they're extremely honest and there's no producer manipulation here: they ARE the producers. Plus it's really fun to see all the Food Network stars come and host challenges and give advice. They really are good at what they do, and it's nice to see their toned-down off-camera personalities. (Well, actually they're still on camera, but you know what I mean.) Rachael Ray especially cuts down on the bubbliness and becomes a much more normal person. It also gives a nice behind-the-scenes look at cooking TV shows in's way harder than you would think. I mean, talk about multi-tasking! So no, the show's not as wild as Hell's Kitchen or as glamorous as Top Chef, but it's a nice little show.

On a side note, one of the contestants this year was a former child actress: Colombe Jacobsen. I had thought she looked familiar and when I looked her up it turns out that she had been in the Mighty Ducks movies!! I can't be the only dork who liked those...

A Top Chef BBQ

Sorry for the dearth of posts last week. I was at a conference for work and didn't get to watch any TV (it didn't help that the conference center had all of, like, 5 channels). Anyway, contrary to the traditional belief that there's no good TV on during the summer, I've really had a lot to catch up on. First off is of course, Top Chef!

The first episode is always kind of a whirlwind, with so many chefs and only selected dishes really being shown, so Week 2 was a bit of a relief. The pace seemed more relaxed and I felt we saw more food. There are a few chefs that I still feel like I have not seen at all but we're getting there.

The Quickfire was a good one. I like the ones that force the chefs to use their creativity without limiting them. There was a heck of a lot of beautiful-looking citrus there, and some of the chefs came up with some really tasty looking dishes. There was also some not so tasty looking stuff. Micah follows up last week's win with a bottom 3 appearance, which was kind of not that surprising considering her generally negative attitude during the first half of the episode. Hung and Tre still sitting pretty. I think that Hung is supposed to be the arrogant annoying one of this season a la Stephen and Marcel, but I'm not really getting the full force of it yet. And hopefully I won't ever because I had enough drama last season, thanks.

The Elimination Challenge was really normal as well: create some high-end barbeque. I'm from the Northeast so I'm pretty sure I don't even know what real BBQ is but a lot of the chefs really just took the "grilling" part of the definition anyway. Again, some really tasty looking food. I'm pretty sure seafood sausage isn't really a "new" thing, but it looked pretty yummy and I was happy to see that Brian won with it. Micah bounces back from her poor Quickfire performance, proving that she really does have the chops, but I wonder if her roller coaster emotions are going to continue. Sara N. makes a surprise appearance in the top 3, despite what seems like a lack of confidence in general. Not sure about her either.

So 2 people down, 13 more to go. I always like to track the progress of the chefs on the Wikipedia entry and it looks like Micah and Hung are in good position, and Howie's on his way out. We shall see!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Top Chef Takes on Miami

Yay for season 3 of Top Chef! The show's Miami digs are pretty gorgeous...I've never been but now I feel like I'd only want to go if I could stay in place with a view as spectacular as theirs!

We got a sneak peek at this season's chefs in last week's All-Stars special and my first impression was that they were pretty cocky, and with yesterday's premiere, I think I kind of know why...they're actually all very talented and qualified. It seems like nearly all of them are executive chefs or own their own restaurants. The show seems to have kind of amped up their requirements...there are definitely no culinary students or stay-at-home moms in this season. Which kind of makes me wonder what the purpose of the show really is. I always thought that the whole "$100,000 to kickstart their culinary career" meant that they were looking for up-and-comers, not necessarily people who have already rose through the ranks? Or maybe I just don't understand the hierarchies of the culinary world. But regardless, better chefs means better food and hopefully better competition!

I still think that the original season's first Quickfire and Elimination Challenges were perfect and I kind of wish they would bring those back: working on the line and then cooking their signature dish. They served as a nice introduction to each chef: what they were like under pressure and what their personal style was. Jumping right into these more complicated challenges makes it harder to figure out what everyone's about. That said, I did kind of like the amuse bouche Quickfire, if only for the fact that they were caught completely off guard with it. There really was a nice selection of foods for them to choose from but 10 minutes is really not a lot at all to see what's there, conceive something, and put it together.

The Elimination was a tricky one. The best part of it, of course, was Anthony Bourdain! He was so the perfect judge for this, because he's all about the crazy foods. I liked that they revealed that he was going to be the judge AFTER they had all picked their proteins and you could tell that the chefs who went for the safer choices were slightly worried. I don't think it's a coincidence that the top two both came from the second group who had the more "adventurous" meats. As a viewer though, this was kind of like the offal challenge from last season for me. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't eat most of that stuff. I mean, buffalo and razor clams and even geoduck, okay. But alligator? Ostrich? Rattlesnake? Liver of any kind? I think not. So there was no mouth-watering on my part for this challenge.

Micah won the Quickfire, Tre won the Elimination, and Hung was in the top for both, so they seem to be the early frontrunners. But of course with 15 chefs, some were not given much screentime at all, so no point really in making predictions...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kyle XY!

I know my first review of this show last summer was pretty lukewarm, but as with a lot of shows, I kept watching it and found myself liking it more and more. Once they got past all the silly "oh another funny thing that Kyle discovers he doesn't know about being human" episodes and started getting more into Kyle's past, things started getting a lot more interesting. And the Tragers, who initially just seemed almost like caricatures grew on me throughout the first season, and even Josh is tolerable now. Kyle's effect on everyone around him was really believable. In a way, the show reminds me a little bit of Roswell, and a little bit of Dark Angel too, which is a good thing. I've missed my teen genre TV (sorry, I don't watch Smallville or Supernatural...)

Last night's premiere made me pretty happy. I'm really impressed with the casting job they did on Adam Baylin...he and Kyle really did look so much alike. I kind of wish we could have seen more of him, but the writers were smart in not having Kyle separated from the Tragers for too long. After realizing and seeing how lonely Adam's been all his life, Kyle knew that he had to go back. As for all the Zyzyx stuff, I'm withholding judgment on all that for now, but hopefully it'll get developed properly and not get too convoluted. Though with the introduction of the "XX" girl, who I get the impression might be evil, I'm a little worried. The first season was relatively quiet in terms of intrigue and action and all that and I don't think I necessarily want to see the show stray too far from the family stuff.

Oh, and another familiar face popped up on last night's episode! Martin Cummins, who was on Dark Angel (and was also on Life as We Know It)! And of course Nicholas Lea has been on the show for awhile (Krycek from the X-files and also from Whistler). All Vancouver shows...does Vancouver have like a limited TV casting pool or something? Kandyse McClure (Dualla from Battlestar Galactica) was also on Whistler, and the actor who played Adrien on Whistler was in an early episode of Kyle XY too. Hm it seems like all sci-fi shows shoot in Vancouver...the aforementioned Smallville and Supernatural shoot there too (oh, Jensen Ackles was in Dark Angel too!). Okay, obviously I need to stop my internal IMDB-ing, especially since I seem to be mentioning all sort of random shows that people probably have not watched...

Some theater chat

Grey Gardens: This past winter, my mom and I braved the New York TKTS line to see if we could get tickets to a show--any show. We hadn't really done any research beforehand and figured that we would just have to take what we could get when we got to the front of the line. So literally seconds before getting to the ticket window we decided on Grey Gardens, because I'd at least heard of it and some other people deliberating around us were getting tickets to it also. To my surprise, it turned out to be reallty excellent, with a huge powerhouse performance by its star, Christine Ebersole, who plays dual roles. Five months later, she's won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. How cool is that?

Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with Grey Gardens, it's a musical based on a documentary of the same name from the 70s about two relatives of Jackie Onassis, a mother and daughter, who were once at the top of the New York social circle, but somehow ended up being famous recluses in their rundown Hamptons mansion. The first act takes place in the 1940s, with Ebersole as the elder Edith, and Little Edie, the daughter, set to be married. The second act skips forward to the 1970s, with Ebersole playing Little Edie. It's a really different kind of musical than I've seen in the past in that the cast is very limited so it feels more like a play in which the characters happen to sing every once in awhile. There's a full range of emotions running through the show, lots of laughs but also lots of sadness. And Christine Ebersole really was amazing. I'm pretty impressed by theater actors in general...playing the same part day in and day out for months on end and still keeping the performance fresh. How do they do it?

Spamalot:During our trip to the UK last month, my friend and I only had 3 days in London so we were trying to pack in as much sightseeing as possible during the day and wanted to do something a little more low-key during the evenings. So despite neither of us being huge theater buffs, we decided to try and get tickets to a musical in the West End. Both being from New York, we weren't really sure of our chances, but we decided to try our luck at a few box offices and were really surprised to learn that nearly every show had decent seats available right before the show, even ones that are sold out months in advance on Broadway like Wicked and Mary Poppins. Anyway, being in England and all, we decided to see Spamalot! Our seats were waaaay up in the theater, which had some seriously extreme stadium seating. I was in a seat that was sort of sticking out into the aisle with no seat in front of me and at times I felt like if I leaned a bit too forward I was going to topple over and fall off the balcony, but the view wasn't obstructed so I can't really complain. And the musical was really just great fun. It's loosely based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but most of it involves parodying and making fun of musicals in general. I'm not really going to go into the plot much because I personally thought it was a lot more fun not knowing what to expect. I will say though, that I'm pretty much totally dense and didn't even realize that Spamalot rhymes with Camelot until halfway through the show...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars

Even with Season 2 of Top Chef being downright awful at times, I'm still really into this show, and I was ecstatic when I heard that they were doing a Season 1 vs. Season 2 special before the premiere of Season 3. I was definitely rooting for S1 to win, because overall I think they were better chefs and really just more professional and mature. I mean, compare Harold to Ilan. Is there really any comparison? And last night proved that. Anyway, the episode was almost more about seeing who's changed and who hasn't than about the food really, so here's my rundown.

Season 1:
Harold: Still has that hilariously low-key "I'm a cook" attitude. LOVED when he told Marcel to shut up and be professional. The judges seemed to be a bit disappointed in his dish, but I really liked that he decided to do something more rustic and traditional as opposed to all the elaborated plated stuff that the other chefs seem to love.
Tiffani: I remember not liking her all that much, but I think that was kind of magnified by the fact that I did not want her to win over Harold. But with them on the same team and not competing against eachother, she was alright. I get the impression she's matured since the show, and I think she really learned something from it all. And she's probably one of the most thoughtful chefs out there.
Dave: I like Dave. Yeah, he's kind of a whiner but his antics really crack me up. He didn't seem like he wanted to be there, but I'm glad he went along with the team for his course.
Stephen: I despised Stephen during Season 1 but he really surprised me during the reunion and now I kind of like him! I was a little worried when he won the Quickfire and was appointed the team captain, but it was smart of him to choose a theme for their meals and try to keep things coherent, despite the fact that the courses were going head-to-head. I'm not a huge fan of lobster, but his dish looked fantastic.

Season 2:
Ilan: You know, I was rooting for Ilan to win because I couldn't stand Marcel, but overall, he's really just not that great of a chef. He does what he knows and he does it well, but stick him in new territory and he flounders. Badly. Plus, he's still pretty immature. Boo to Ilan.
Marcel: A lot of people started feeling bad for Marcel last season because they felt he was getting the villain edit and then there was that horrible head-shaving incident, but I never bought into that at all. And having seen his behavior on that awful post-finale "Watch What Happens" segment and on this episdoe, I'm even more convinced that he has to be just that annoying. I admit I was a little amused when he decided to do saffron foam on his Quickfire dish, but then he started rapping again and I just like, no. NO. If I never have to see Marcel on TV again I'll be happy. Oh, but I did kind of love his advice to the S3 chefs about not doing duos...seriously, do one thing and do it well!
Elia: Again with the crazy hair. Didn't get much airtime, but I was a little perplexed that her scallop dish won when she did a very similar dish in that party catering episode from her season. I feel like the finale would have been so much better had it been Elia and Sam. She's got her faults too, but she can defnitely cook.
Sam: Was he even there? Kind of hard to believe at this point that he was the fan favorite. The funniest part was when one of the Season 3 chefs said he was "kind of cute" and Ted responded "Kind of cute??"

The special was also a preview to the new Season 3 chefs. It's entirely too early to say anything about them, but I'm excited for this season. Ted Allen's going to be a regular judge, and dare I say that Padma's kind of grown on me? Look for my weekly reviews throughout the summer!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Jericho lives!

So wow. Those nuts really did work!

CBS has ordered 7 episodes for mid-season next year! Season 1 will also be rerun this summer and released on DVD, among other things, to help generate more viewers. This is so awesome!

I think that what saved the show is that Jericho really didn't have awful ratings. According to this list, it was 48th out of 142 network shows for the season, with an average of 9.5 million viewers. Compare that to Friday Night Lights, which had only 6.1, and Veronica Mars, which had a mere 2.5. I know that since CBS is a ratings giant with all of its CSIs and whatnot that Jericho was doing relatively badly. But that's a lot of disappointed viewers.

Anyway, 7 episodes isn't much, but hopefully they can gain some momentum and increase that order. And if not, then maybe the writers can prepare for a real series ending. Regardless, I'm pretty ecstatic that Jake Green and co. will be back!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Battlestar Galactica over next year!

Battlestar Galactica's next season will be its last!

I find this pretty surprising. I'd read before that the producers always intended for the show to have a defined end, but I didn't dream it would be coming this soon. This past season was getting a little cumbersome though, so maybe this is good timing, especially considering the huge revelations made in the finale. And of course a scripted ending is always a thousand times better than a cancellation. And really, four seasons is a good length for a TV series. Some shows definitely go on for way too long. I'm starting to definitely like this trend of producers setting their own end dates for their shows.

Regardless, this is sort of sad news. The show really shocked me by how frakkin' good it could be and of course I don't want to see it go, but let's hope this motivates them to make this final season really kickass.