Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Talk: Looking forward

J: It's the last Thursday Talk of 2010! What entertainment things are you looking forward to in the new year?

Jennifer: I'm looking forward to the last Harry Potter movie, of course. On TV, the final seasons of Greek and Friday Night Lights, and the new Masterpiece series Downton Abbey. I'm also very curious and somewhat concerned about the American remakes of the British series Skins (MTV) and Being Human (SyFy). I'm hoping they're decent but am prepared to pretend that they don't exist!

Mira: I'm looking forward to the last installment of HP, too! On TV, I'm excited about Glee's post-Super Bowl episode. I also am interested in how they'll end Greek. One other thing I'm curious about is Spiderman, the musical. There's been all this press about injuries and crazy stunts; hopefully this show will actually get on ground and maybe one day (probably not 2011), I'll get to watch it. Songs written by Bono and The Edge. That's all I can think of for now. :)

Happy 2011! Stay tuned for a slight change in our Thursday Talks...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Talk: Movies and TV of 2010

J: Continuing to wrap up 2010...what were your top movies and TV of this year?

Jennifer: As usual I didn't watch a whole lot of movies in theaters this year, but my favorites were Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and Inception. Scott Pilgrim had perfect perfect casting, great music, great video-game-esque action, and was just FUN, while Inception was cerebral and mind-twisting and pretty visually stunning.

On TV, I'm not sure , I think the show I found most entertaining was certainly The Vampire Diaries. Runners up: Community and Parks and Recreation (can't wait for it to come back in January). Continuing excellence: Friday Night Lights and Mad Men. I also really enjoyed Sherlock, Justified, and Parenthood.

Mira: I saw very few movies this year, too. In fact, I get the vague feeling that I only saw two movies in the theater this entire year: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I and Step Up 3D. Haha. I get the feeling that most of my movie watching is on airplanes these days. I did get to watch Despicable Me, Sex and the City 2, Knight and Day, and Going the Distance on the way to and from Europe recently. And on the way to and from Rome in July, I saw... I don't remember. :) Okay my favorite of those movies... Harry Potter. The movie series has only gotten better with each subsequent movie.

My favorite on TV for the year would be Glee (because there is no TV I look forward to more than this show). In particular, my favorite episode was "Duets."

Top Chef: Match Point!

Whenever I see a big "event" on Top Chef, I assume it means catering which I don't think really produces the best food so I was happy to see that the Elimination Challenge was NOT catering, but kind of a culinary tennis game held at Flushing Meadows with a middling pro tennis player as a judge, which had chefs from two teams "serving" up dishes head to head. The food ostensibly had to be geared towards athletes but that seemed pretty open to interpretation.

So let's talk about Jamie. She hasn't necessarily changed since her season, she was smug and defensive back then and she still is. But as Blais pointed out, she's "got a story going on." This is the second time in four weeks that she hasn't put out anything. I don't think I'm alone in finding this...problematic. A Top Chef should win because they consistently cooked great food, not because they're great self-preservationists. She's clearly not a team player and her general air of "whatever" is extremely tiresome.

As for Spike, I actually thought his strategy made sense...the problem was that none of the chefs were going to admit that their dish was the weakest and automatically put themselves up for elimination. And I don't know why he let Angelo bulldoze his dish. It sounded like the shrimp was his downfall though and that was all him. Angelo seemed to kind of screw up Tre's dish as well...I don't think he's deliberately trying to sabotage people but it is a little odd that his own dishes win challenges but when he interferes with another chef, they end up on the bottom.

Really happy for Carla! She'll always be underestimated because she just has a kooky personality but her soup was one of the more interesting things I've ever seen on Top Chef and I'm glad she's breaking out a little earlier this season.

Odds and ends:
- Have we ever seen the chefs socializing outside of their house? The opening segment with them at the "bar" must have been in the morning or something because they seemed to be drinking coffee and eating like...fruit and bread.
- The Quickfire was wacky but kind of comic gold. Using the handle of pan, a cob of corn, a big piece of bacon, a celery stick as stirring utensils? Whacking everything with anything? Apparently a pepper grinder is not a tool though.
- It's "undone-te."
- Mike's childishness vs. Marcel's childishness. Mike is the crazy fun kid that makes everyone laugh. Marcel is the annoying kid everyone wants to smack.
- Mike got a free pass this episode too but nobody really said anything about that...
- Did the "tennis fans" watching get to eat anything?
- Tennis is one sport I actually know the rules of. They were following normal tennis scoring but if they had gotten to 40-40 with only one chef left on each team then I guess they would have skipped the whole deuce thing...
- Next episode looks EPIC. Cooking head-to-head with Tom and then serving dim sum to crotchety Asians? Can't wait!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sing-Off Finale!

So...finales of these kinds of performance reality shows are always kind of a mixed bag. I don't have all that much to say about the group performances with the special guests and judges....I loved Street Corner Symphony with Ben Folds singing "Gone" because I do love that song but everything else didn't really register with me.

The public voted based on the performances from last time so this week's individual numbers don't really matter but I'll review them anyway.

Backbeats - "Firework" by Katy Perry
Is it weird that I haven't actually heard this song before? Maybe that (and the fact that it's Katy Perry...) contributed to why I didn't enjoy this all that much. It was nice to hear Kenton actually sing...this is supposedly "his" group after all. I thought they should have cut last week so not too attached to them.

Commited - "Hold My Hand" by Michael Jackson and Akon
I didn't know of the existence of this song either, but it sounded very much in their wheelhouse and I liked it. Great harmonies and sharing of the lead vocals as usual and their gospel roots really came through.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town - "Love Train" by O'Jays
I have tons of respect for these guys but I have to admit, if this were a longer competition, I'd probably have gotten tired of them soon. They do what they do really well but it doesn't seem like they have a whole lot of range. Which isn't a problem in the real world, just in the world of TV reality competition...

Street Corner Symphony - "Fix You" by Coldplay
I was actually a fan of Coldplay's first album but then they somehow got really annoying and I kind of stopped paying attention to them. But this is a pretty great song and these guys definitely did it justice. Not sure why all the other groups had to come and join in halfway though?

And the winner is...Commited! I think I was personally rooting for Street Corner Symphony but there's no question of Commited's talent, so I'm quite happy for them.

How GREAT is it that this show is already over??

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Talk: Books and Music of 2010

J: 2010 is almost over, so of course that means coming up with end-of-the-year lists. Let's tackle books and music this week. What was the best book you read this year and what was your favorite song/album/artist of 2010?

Jennifer: I finally read Steig Larsson's Millenium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest) this year and while some parts were a little slow going (a lot of pretty detailed stuff about the government and the police and business), overall they definitely lived up to the hype. Once they got going I couldn't put them down! I also read all the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels and LOVED them. Funniest thing I've read in a long time.

In music, my favorite song of the year, hands down, is Robyn's Dancing On My Own. Robyn's been around for years but I never thought I liked dance music -- I don't dance or go to clubs. But this song is infectious. The lyrics are so simple and emotionally bare and I also kinda love Robyn's crazy dance moves in the video. For albums, my picks are The National - High Violet (listen to "Bloodbuzz Ohio") and of course Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (check out "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)").

Mira: (Will answer when she returns from vacation!) Finally answering! My favorite song of the year is Neon Trees' "Animal." It's one of those songs that for some unexplainable reason it makes me really happy to listen to. "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers is another such song. A close second is "The Only Exception" by Paramore. Favorite album, I pick Ingrid Michaelson - Everybody. It's actually from 2009 but I've listened to that album a whole lot the past year. (I first was introduced to her music at a concert in late 2009 and saw her again in 2010 because I like her that much.)

For books, I pick The Hunger Games trilogy. This actually is relevant to 2010 because the final book of the series, Mockingjay, was released in August. I had heard a lot of positive reviews for the series but had held off on reading them until the series was complete so I could read all three together. I also had a lot of school and very little time for fun reading. In any case, it was totally worth the wait and the books were fantastic. They were so good I read 2.5 of the 3 books on my loooong flight from Rome to Atlanta; didn't even nap!

2010 Resolutions: How Did I Do?

Back in January, I blogged about my entertainment-related resolutions from 2010. Let's see how I did!

1. Aim to blog at least once a week.
Well, we didn't miss any Thursday Talks, so I'm going to claim success on this!

2. Stop watching trashy TV, e.g. The Bachelor, most things on MTV.
Check! I gave up the Bachelor/ette and didn't watch a single episode of Jersey Shore, The Real World, or any RW/RR Challenges. I did watch a few episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker here and there though...but at least that has more standalone episodes, not the same idiots every week.

3. Catch up with Lost before the series finale (yes, I started watching it again, but more on that later. I just started season 5).
Another check! I caught up just in time to watch the series finale live.

4. Catch up with Doctor Who (currently on season 4) and Torchwood (still on season 1, though I watched Children of Earth).
Fail. I'm still on the David Tennant specials and haven't started on season 5 of Doctor Who yet. And I haven't touched Torchwood.

5. Make a better effort to attack my Netflix queue (currently nearing 300) and stop keeping discs over a month (waste of money).
Fail. My queue is up to 341...

6. Read more, especially books that I own but have never read/finished.
I'll claim success on this one too, but next year I think I'm going to keep a list of every book I actually finish.

7. Go to at least 1 concert this year. Everyone makes stops in DC but I haven't been to any shows since I moved down here.
Technically success, as I did go see Weezer and Ben Folds. But it's been years since I've been into their music. I'll have to try this one again next year.

So...5/7. Not too shabby!

Top Chef: Getting serious!

Interesting how they're beginning each episode with an extra little elimination recap from the past week. I guess there's more interest since we already know these people and theoretically every elimination should be a shocker since these are the All-Stars?

After some silliness last week, Top Chef gets down to business. This week had the kind of challenges that are usually reserved for later in the season. The Quickfire was the a twist on the now-class mise en place relay race: each team of 4 prepped 3 ingredients simultaneously, then had to create a dish with the ingredients, but time expired for all the teams 15 minutes after the first team finished their mise en place. Superstar NYC chef David Chang was the judge, who I'd been waiting to come on the show (especially since he and Bourdain seem to be pretty chummy), but I thought he was kind of wasted here. At least he was part of the Elimination too. Anyway, two teams elected to do carpaccio since they didn't have enough time to actually cook the lamb, but the team with most time ended up on the bottom. No immunity.

The Elimination challenge was kind of awesome but definitely tough. The chefs were split up and sent to 4 top NYC restaurants: Marea (Italian), WD-50 (molecular gastronomy), Ma Peche (French Vietnamese), and Townhouse (eclectic American, emphasis on eclectic). They sat down for a special meal, then had to create their own dishes that would fit in with their assigned restaurants' menus.

On top: Dale T, Antonia, Angelo, and Tre. Asian Dale capitalizes on Wylie Dufresne's obsession with eggs and wins despite not using any of WD-50's crazy techniques or equipment. Very smart. Nice to see Tre starting to break out a little bit, and man, Angelo is kind of killing this competition so far.

On the bottom: Fabio, Tiffani, Dale L. and Stephen. All of them were pretty aware that they messed up, so no Jen-like outbursts. Two were eliminated this week, so bye-bye to Dale L. and Stephen. I can't say I'm all that upset--while I like Dale as a person, I never really saw him as having as much competitive drive as some of the others. I hear that he and Sara Nguyen from his season have a new restaurant in Chicago that's doing extremely well, so good for him. As for Stephen, he's obviously more of a front-of-house guy now. Nothing wrong with that, but this is a cooking competition.

I'm thinking Fabio's days are numbered, but obviously anything can happen, especially as it seems we're returning to the world of catering next week. But really, he's been on the bottom 2 of 3 eliminations and he's not even saying that many amusing things anymore!

Random observations:
- I can't stand how Angelo must describe all his food as "beautiful." Let the people eating decide if it's beautiful or not, ok?
- The green team's aprons did not look particularly green to me.
- Why am I not surprised that Jamie made soup?
- I can't remember a single Bourdain quote! There's something wrong with that.
- 6 night trip to New Zealand is pretty sweet...but not nearly long enough!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Sing-Off Night 4

Thanks Mira, for getting me totally hooked on this show! Round 1 of Night 4 had the groups put together a "superstar medley," which led to some pretty varied results.

On the Rocks - Elton John
So last time I declared my love for Peter of to-be-eliminated Groove for Thought. Now I totally have a thing for the Peter in this group! Loved his solo on "Kyrie" last time and continued to love him with "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" tonight. The judges never seem to mention this, I guess because it's secondary, but these guys have pretty great choreography. They cover the stage and change up their formations and I think they've been getting much cleaner and tighter.

Committed - Usher
Good choice for them, as I think gospel voices transition really well to R&B. They had fantastic transitions between songs and their harmonies are just sick. I personally don't really like Usher so I can't say I loved this but I so respect their talents.

Street Corner Symphony - The Beatles
"Eleanor Rigby" is my favorite Beatles song but I kind of hate when people try to cover it because it just never sounds quite right. No exception here. The rest was really good was nice to hear some of the other guys get their solo moments during "Help" and Jeremy was great as usual with "Hey Jude."

Backbeats - Lady Gaga
The judges are really in love with Courtney, huh? I thought the "Paparazzi" segment was the best, "Poker Face" was way too fast and had too much going on, and "Just Dance" was fine but nothing special.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town - Otis Redding
This was very, how do you say it, "in the pocket." This was very classic, no percussion or beatboxing but still sounded wonderfully full. Again, nice to hear someone else besides Jerry take the solo in the middle section (don't know the name of the song...I admit ignorance on this genre of music).

Aaaand On The Rocks is eliminated??? Sigh, I was just starting to really like them. LOVED their quippy last words referencing all three judges and "The Final Countdown" as their "swan song."

Ok, Round 2: Judges' Request.

Committed - "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green
Loved this. Very clean and restrained with great trading off of the vocals. It's like Talk of the Town: the Next Generation.

Street Corner Symphony - "Down on the Corner" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
If Nashville is full of these kind of guys, in the words of Liz Lemon, "I want to go to there." They're just so laid back and cool and this was a great choice for them. They're so great when they get into the choruses and sound like they're just...jamming.

Backbeats - "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac
The judges are really going for the classics huh? I know I've been kind of down on Backbeats in general but this was really quite good. Kenton being the "cello" kind of cracked me up a little bit and how they started crying at the end was a little ridiculous but Joanna is always great and they didn't make it too complicated.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town - "House of the Rising Sun" by the Animals
Pretty fantastic...almost haunting. It's kind of hard to say bad things about them...

Ugh, fakeout with the second elimination. It was slightly cruel to make Talk of the Town think that they had gotten eliminated for that split second.

Odds and Ends:
- Opening song was alright. "Use Somebody" still my favorite so far.
- This is neither here nor there, but my favorite color is purple, so I love how much purple all the groups are wearing, especially the guys!
- Liked the little holiday song segments.
- Ben Folds is awesome. So is his Sing-Off blog.
- Not going to vote, but not sure who I'd vote for anyway.
- Bizarrely enough, I think this is the most on-time blog I've ever written...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Sing-Off Night 3

As Mira is on vacation, I might as well step in and take over our Sing-Off coverage. I think the best thing about this show is its limited run: just 2 weeks, 5 episodes. Short but sweet! (Just for the record, the worst thing is Nick Lachey. I assume his ridiculous puns and such are written for him, but his blandly cheesy delivery doesn't help.)

Anyway, night 3 had the groups singing two numbers each: a rock song and a "guilty pleasure" song. Here's my rundown:

Backbeats - "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi and "Love Shack" by the B-52s.
Catherine takes the lead vocals for the Bon Jovi song and while there's nothing really wrong with her voice, I find her sound to be slightly...empty. Kinda reminds me of all the teenage girls on American Idol trying to sing big "diva" songs. I thought they did a much better job with "Love Shack"...kinda crazy with the arrangement and dancing and costumes but I think that's what they were going for anyway.

Street Corner Symphony - "Creep" by Radiohead and "Come on, Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners.
They're one of my favorites and I'm a big Radiohead fan so I was super psyched to hear them do "Creep", and I LOVED it. Radiohead and a cappella, who knew? "Come on, Eileen" was fun but rather messy. I'm surprised none of the judges mentioned their sloppy dancing. I love their lead singer's voice though.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town - "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones and "Easy" by the Commodores
These guys are just so professional. I really don't have anything bad to say about them. I don't always love their song choices but they win me over every time. And they're so cute!

Groove for Thought - "Changes" by David Bowie and "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall & Oates
Their jazzy style is just not my thing, but um, I think I kinda have a crush on their lead singer, Peter. His vocals are so smooth and he does that sideways mouth singing thing and he wears those hats and glasses and skinny ties...haha, I'm ridiculous. Possibly why I wasn't a big fan of the David Bowie song as Amanda sang the solo on that. Their second number was definitely fun but yeah, that doobeedoo stuff just doesn't do it for me in general.

On the Rocks - "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard and "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister
I originally wasn't sure about this group. I thought they were kinda all over the place with Bad Romance in the first episode and Live Your Life from last time just seemed silly but I really enjoyed them this time.  They're still silly, that's basically their vibe, but with so many members they definitely know how to really put on a show. "Kyrie" had the boys getting a little more serious with a more typical college male a cappella sound (complete with collegiate sweaters and letter jackets and rugby shirts) and I think it was my favorite performance of theirs so far.

Committed - "Every Breath You Take" by the Police and "I Want it That Way" by the Backstreet Boys
The judges kinda reamed the Police song for not being "rock" enough, but I am still really impressed by this group. It seems like every one of the guys is capable of a solo and their arrangements just seem really intricate. Neither performance tonight was a knockout but they're definitely solid.

Oh, and as for the opening song...I kind of dislike "21 Guns" and I don't love Catherine's vocals, so it was just meh for me.

I've been in agreement with all the eliminations so far. Groove for Thought was my least favorite group so I was fine with their leaving. I think I can do without Backbeats next, but it's going to be hard to pick among the rest...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nikita: Midseason report

I've only kept up with two new shows from this fall season, Hellcats and Nikita (both on the CW...take from that what you will). Hellcats is just mindless fun but Nikita I think is something more. At times it can get a little repetitive but overall I've been really impressed with its quality and pacing and especially the acting.

I mean, this is definitely my kind of show: we have not one, but two female heroines, high stakes and lots of action and conspiracies, but the world of the show still feels intimate and personal. One of the things I didn't like about The Event or V or Flashforward or any of the other networks' attempts at doing action/mystery shows is that they have these huge, disconnected casts of characters and as a viewer, you're kept in the dark about what's going on. Even on Dollhouse, I hated how in the beginning Ballard was just on the outside doing his own thing...I just wasn't interested. But on Nikita, the setup is actually very tight: there's everyone in Division, there's Alex, and there's Nikita. No wondering what the point of certain plotlines are or where they're going to converge.

That said, it is slightly ridiculous that Nikita and Michael seemingly come face-to-face every single week and at the end of the episode, nothing has really changed. This week's midseason finale finally turned everything around though: Division finally finds out how Nikita has been getting information from the inside (but not from whom), Nikita is actually captured by Division (but then escapes of course), and most importantly, Alex graduates from recruit status.

And dammit, they killed Thom! How it happened did totally make sense and the fact that Alex did it, even unintentionally, does make it a really powerful plot point. Alex and Thom obviously had a connection (and chemistry too...their kiss from a few weeks back was HOT), which might now give Alex more drive, similar to how Daniel's death affected Nikita, but I just really liked Thom as a character and hate that he's gone now. Couldn't they have killed off Jaden instead??

I've liked Maggie Q as Nikita from the beginning--she's sexy and dangerous and decisive but with just enough pathos. She was such a good choice for this series. Lyndsy Fonseca as Alex was a little less convincing to me at first, but she's really grown on me. I like Alex a lot, she's smart and tough but still vulnerable. Xander Berkeley sometimes puts on the evil a little thick, but I don't think Percy is the kind of villain we're supposed to like. That's Michael's domain, and I think Shane West has been acquitting himself pretty well despite my original misgivings. I've also liked Devon Sawa (yes, it's Casper all grown up and buff) as Owen when he's popped up. He and Nikita are kind of hot are Nikita and Michael. Lots of simmering sexual tension on this show!

I think there's still a lot of potential here and am very interested to see how things will operate now that Alex isn't chained inside Division. But sigh, no new episodes until the end of January!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thursday Talk: Guest Question!

Burkie: Congratulations! You've become a big celebrity for some reason and you're appearing on Letterman & Leno and presenting at the big awards shows! That means you need a theme song that has to be played every time you're introduced and walk out onto the stage. What would your theme song be?

Jennifer: Um, I don't really know what criteria should be used in choosing a walk-in song...I figure it should be kind of upbeat and at least represent my taste in music? So my pick is Stillness is the Move by the Dirty Projectors. It's got kind of a quirky sound, and I mean, obviously I'm not going to pick something mainstream. The video is weird even for me though...

Mira: I'm going with a song that makes me happy and makes me want to walk with a happy beat. Okay, no, not walk with a happy beat, it darn makes me want to dance to it. And I'm not a dancer. :) "Photograph" by Weezer!

Top Chef All Stars: Dinosaur time?

It's definitely been awhile since I've blogged weekly about a show...we'll see how long this lasts!

Wow, Jen. I was really a fan of hers during the Las Vegas season. Her performance wasn't that consistent and she had this tendency to psych herself out, but I liked that she was a strong, confident woman in the kitchen and held her own against some of the best chefs of any season (Kevin and the Voltaggio brothers).

But man did she come back with a chip on her shoulder! I was totally cringing watching her be so vocal at Judges' Table and in her confessionals. I'm sure there'll be a reunion this season and I wonder if she'll change her tune after seeing this episode. Also, her dad kind of sounds like a dick.

Honestly none of the dishes in this challenge seemed very inspired. The Brontosaurus team had food that didn't seem very breakfast-like but did seem to have an advantage in terms of plenty of ingredients. I was kind of glad to see that someone finally made good gnocchi though. The T-Rex team did seem to have it a bit rough only being able to use meat/eggs/dairy but it seems like execution was as much a problem as conception of the dishes. All Stars or no, Top Chef is always still Top Chef. These are professionals who would love to do plated fine dining every week but that's not how this competition goes...

Last season I started getting kind of annoyed at the judges (mostly Tom) for being so disapproving all the time. I mean, I guess if the food's bad, the food's bad, but they can be kind of all over the place with their criticism. Usually they appreciate when a chef knows what their mistakes were but Tom blasted Tre for not fixing his sauce. And Katie saying that they shouldn't serve something if it's not good was ridiculous...a missing component can ruin a dish as much as a flawed one. I guess it's unrealistic to expect them to be consistent all the time though.

As for Jamie leaving to get two stitches in her thumb? That did seem a little lame...if it was later in the season I think that could have factored into the judging.

Random tidbits:
- Dale T. thinking that Joe Jonas was a pastry chef
- That one kid examining Spike's chips and dip with a hilarious expression of confusion/disgust
- The return of the robotic Katie Lee (sans Joel)
- Stephen trying to describe his "uncomfortability" about sleeping on cots in the Museum of Natural History (which sounded super cool to me, by the way...I LOVE that museum)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

this is my december sytycd :)

Of course I'll be on break from blogging next week cuz I'll be traveling (Budapest-Vienna-Prague, yay!)... Anyway, night 2 of Sing Off!

I love the 8 group performance of "Use Somebody," by the way.
I also enjoy that they brought back Nota -- the winner last year! We had been wondering what happened to them since they won last year.

On the Rocks - Love their song choice two episodes in a row -- "Live Your Life." Not only were they singing a rap song, which cannot be easy a cappella -- but they were singing Rihanna's part! I love how complete that song sounded, when it's a song that has so much going on in it. "Bad Romance" was fun, but this was great!
Street Corner Symphony - Such a good fit for them, especially cuz watching their lead singer in "Use Somebody," I was saying he's the kind of guy who with that voice should be the frontman for a Train-type of band. :) My only complaint is the lead vocals for this performance was a little tinny sounding rather than full... I love the switch up in the middle of the song; I love changed interpretations!! :)
Eleventh Hour - Sigh, this didn't really work for me. It just felt a little flat in a lot of ways and got a little too busy...
Talk of the Town - They really made "Mercy" their kind of music, not popular America's Top 50's kind of music. :)
Backbeats - They just remind me so much of the SoCals or whatever that group from USC was called last year. And I didn't really like that group that much throughout the competition last year; I was surprised how far they made it. But "Breakeven" was pretty good. Definitely better than the high schoolers...
Committed - I'm so excited about everything they will do in this competition. We have now heard solos from 3 out of their 6 members. And omg, everything they do is amazing.
Groove for Thought - I managed to miss the fact that they were a group of music teachers. That is pretty cool. I think all I liked about this was the bass and the lead vocal, which was a perfect voice for this song. Everything else was just kind of annoying for me.
Whiffenpoofs - I don't know how I felt about that. The last performance was really fun for me, but this one was so... busy for me. But sometimes it was so loud at the audience.

I feel like it would be fun if they made the two bottom teams actually do a sing off to see who leaves. :) It was a lot less obvious to me who would be leaving in the second group of 4. Wonder how they decide who goes in the first group of 4 and the second group of 4?

My favorites: Committed, On the Rocks, Street Corner Symphony.

Monday, December 06, 2010

why i love sing-off!

1) I love Glee.
2) I love a cappella (which Glee goes away from often)
3) Three legitimate judges!

In any case, Season 2!!!
Eleventh Hour - Loved that the high school group did Justin Bieber and they did it so well. And it's funny that they're identity is truly being a "real life Glee." The "homecoming queen" girl really is very talented.
On the Rocks - The University of Oregon group performing "Bad Romance" was really awesome. It was a little cluttered to my ear and the transitions went pitchy, but the performance and dance was so entertaining! Plus it is a great a cappella song.
Groove for Thought - They have an interesting sound but I'm not sure how it can translate to the rest of the competition. I'll have to see more of their stuff.
Pitch Slapped - Love the group name! Cobra Starship, "Good Girls Gone Bad" -- nuts! That is not an easy song to sing, not a cappella!!! I thought they were kinda awesome. But oh well, gone!
Talk of the Town - So cute! Man, another reason why I enjoyed this show so much last season -- the different types of a cappella represented on the show. I really hope they do well and show a unique twist to everything later.
Whiffenpoofs - This season's Beelzebubs? :) Of course they were the "first a cappella" group and all. Okay I was prepared to hate them for being pretentious and I was expecting that all I would like of them would be the white gloves. But somehow they won me over. They took something that was... seemingly boring, and made it fun! [I love that Shawn called the guy out for being beyond pretentious about the Whiffenpoof history.]
Men of Note - I like them. They're adorable and dorky. :) Ben Folds agrees with me! I said it was rushed, Ben felt it was rushed.
Street Corner Symphony - Southern a cappella! Love the idea! I was hoping they'd sing "Ring of Fire" but I really like what they did with "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."
The Backbeats - Haha, I knew I recognized people in this group! I am really enjoying the song choices for this first episode. It was good, but I feel like this group is like the group that the blonde girl was on last year, the one that did the Journey medley. They were good but not standout for me.
Committed - I had such high expectations of this group (from commercials). And they were totally met! I love when a group can take a song you know and make it completely theirs! This is a lot more common in the later rounds where they're given challenges. This was definitely one of my favorite performances of this premier.

Some notes --
I was hoping to see Berklee at least once more. I'd like to see how they do when given a challenge because their arrangements surely would be sick.
No all female groups this year but A LOT of all male groups.
I wish they would stop calling the goodbye song the "Swan Song," or at least not make such a big deal about calling it that.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thursday Talk: Time Travel

J: Time travel as a plot device can be really fun or it can be really bad. What are your favorite movies, books or TV shows involving time travel? And which ones were just stupid?

Jennifer: As a sci-fi/fantasy fan, there are just so many good options! In movies, I have to go with the classic Back to the Future. It's so hilarious when Marty's mom starts hitting on him! My book pick is A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle. It's incredibly imaginative with a fascinating made-up history and just lots of great characters. Oh and of course Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both the book and the movie (because we apparently HP is an appropriate answer for almost every Thursday Talk question). For TV series, I'll plug Being Erica again and of course Doctor Who. I'm generally more a fan of the episodes where they go into the past (like the classic "The Girl in the Fireplace") but the future/alien worlds can be really great too. As for the bad, I really cannot let go of the terrible, terrible last half season of Felicity...

Mira: Well... Favorite blog entries on time travel was definitely this: pooryoricksadventure. ;-) Favorite book for me was Time Traveler's Wife, though I haven't reread it in a while and apparently barely remember the tragedy that hits Henry. Nor have I watched the movie yet (though I love Rachel McAdams!). Jasper Fford's Eyre series does a very interesting thing with time traveling/space traveling. Favorite movie was: 13 Going on 30. It sorta counts as time traveling, right? Least favorite of all time traveling things: I agree, Felicity SUCKED.

Top Chef All Stars

Just a few weeks ago I mused on why I haven't been blogging about Top Chef. It's still an excellent show (and I'm really happy it finally won the Emmy) but it was getting to be too much of the same. Apparently the producers felt this too because they did exactly the right thing: an All-Star season!

They did a really phenomenal job casting the cheftestants from seasons past who either barely missed out on the title or were cut cruelly early or were just popular personalities. There are a lot of contenders. I'll do a rundown later in the post but let's talk about the first episode challenges first.

I liked the concept of the Quickfire, making a dish that represents the city their season took place in, though I thought it was possibly unfair that some seasons had only 2 people while others had 4. I didn't really form many opinions here, although, it's so strange knowing everyone already. Usually the first few weeks of a season I don't know who anyone is and I'm just kind of waiting for the cream to rise to the top. Here, I want to absorb what every single person is doing!

The Elimination challenge, though, was ridiculously brilliant and also a little evil: the chefs all had to recreate the dishes that sent them home. They all looked pissed when they saw what they had to do. And then there's more: they're split into two groups and each will get to eat the others' dishes. And then there's more: they get to watch the critiques. Oh, and by the way, Anthony Bourdain is a regular judge!

It was so interesting to see how different the challenge was for everyone. A lot of the chefs who were booted earlier in their seasons had truly terrible dishes to salvage: Spike's frozen scallops, Dale T.'s butterscotch scallops, Mike's vegetarian dish, Jamie's salty celery. Since they had a lot to improve on, I actually think they fared better than the chefs that made it to their finale. More often than not, the finalists had great dishes conceptually that they just failed in the execution of so I think the difference was probably less noticeable. The exceptions were Angelo, who went on to win, and Richard Blais, who might have won had he not bizarrely continued to garnish his plates after time was up. I did feel bad for Stephen, who was kicked off during Restaurant Wars for being front of house and had three dishes he didn't even really make the first time around.

And the first one out is Elia. I was surprised that she didn't do more with her dish, but she was definitely being a little too proud, thinking that it shouldn't have eliminated her in the first place. I wasn't a huge fan of hers originally but she's obviously talented and being out first really really sucks.

Here's my breakdown of the rest of the chefs:
Stephen (S1) - I remember hating him during the season but at the reunion and various specials he somehow redeemed himself. I see him as more of a sommelier and plating guy though, so not sure how far that will take him.
Tiffani (S1) - I rooted for Harold to win over her because of her sometimes unpleasant personality but I wouldn't mind seeing her do well. I'm curious to see how she matches up against people from later seasons where the talent was seemingly increased.
Marcel (S2) - Still hate him.
Casey (S3) and Dale L. (S3) - I like them both but don't really have an opinion beyond that.
Tre (S3) - He placed 8th in his season, the lowest of all the All-Stars, so we didn't get to see very much of him at all. Definitely looking forward to him proving himself.
Richard (S4) - My first instinct was that he's going to win this. Hopefully his mistake in the first episode was a fluke. All-Star seasons of reality shows can be strange though with top contenders falling early (see Survivor and The Amazing Race).
Antonia (S4) - Meh. The only chef that I don't really remember anything about...
Spike (S4) - I've been to his burger place in DC and it's pretty damn good. I don't know how exactly that translates to the fine dining type stuff of Top Chef though.
Dale T. (S4) - I was a fan of his for some reason despite his anger issues. Hopefully he can keep it together this time (though I'm sure it'll be entertaining if he doesn't).
Carla (S5) - She was the underdog in her season and she's still that now. I imagine her dessert skills will come in handy again.
Jamie (S5) - Don't make scallops every week again! She definitely went home too early the first time around.
Fabio (S5) - I imagine he's kind of just there for the soundbites.
Mike (S6) - I've been to his former restaurant in DC, Zaytinya, and I loved it. Hopefully he'll keep the misogynistic comments to a minimum.
Jennifer (S6) - There's only been one female Top Chef so far. I think a dream top 3 for me would be Tiffani, Jamie, and Jen.
Angelo (S7) - He grew on me throughout his season and being sick during the finale was really sucky, so I guess I'm glad he's getting another chance. It's too soon for me to really be happy to see him again though.
Tiffany (S7) - I got the impression that her season was relatively weak in general, so another case where I wonder how she stacks up against everyone else.

Oh, and I have to say, the season preview looks pretty awesome. Especially....going head to head with Tom Colicchio! Finally putting where your money mouth is, Tom!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday Talk: 'tis the Season!

M: Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season for me. What are your favorite holiday season indulgences (movie/book/tv/music)?

Mira: Little Women
is one of my favorite holiday movies of all time. And I've always thought it was weird that I associate it as being a holiday season movie because the core of the movie is not about the holidays at all but a group of sisters and Jo's quest to be a grand writer. But I love it. And I love it most during the holiday season. Two other more obvious favorites are Love Actually, which takes place entirely in the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year's and a new add to my list: The Holiday, which I just find really cute and enjoyable for whatever reason.

Jennifer: I really enjoyed all the The OC's Chrismukkah episodes, especially the one from season 2 with since-forgotten Lindsay and her "yamaclaus." In movies, I actually watched White Christmas for the first time last year and I was surprised how much I loved it. All I had known about was the song and cheesy poster with the people in those Santa outfits, but that's a very small part of the movie...the rest of it is really funny and smart and the singing and dancing is superb. Vera-Ellen (with the shockingly small waist) is so fantastic in all the dance numbers. I think I'm going to start making it my own holiday tradition! Mira, I also associate Little Women with the holidays even though it's not really a Christmas movie. I sometimes do the same thing with Harry Potter because there are so many memorable Christmas scenes...Hogwarts certainly knows how to decorate!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Skating with the Stars: First Impressions

Well, I'm sure Jenn will have much more to add, especially given that she has been following the Canadian versions on the internet to some extent (and what sounds like a much better potential version in Canada called Battle of the Blades)... but here are some of my first impressions on Skating with the Stars...

- The host, Vernon Kay -- he keeps widening his eyes when he talks. It's kinda scary!! You can see whites all around his pupils and he does it A LOT!
- I think I've heard of ONE of the stars, and that's a barely knowing who she is. Bethany Frankel? Is she one of the real housewives of some city? Oh, it's spelled Bethenny. That's still sad that the only star I heard of is a reality tv star and not really a star... Sigh.
- I know zero of the pros...
- I've heard of all the JUDGES, though. I'd rather they be the stars or pros! But I do like the mix and it makes me happy that they have Dick Button. :)
- I've even heard of the commentator!!! (Well I followed the last winter Olympics pretty closely on the figure skating/ice skating side.)
- The rink is so tiny that it looks like jumps won't be possible ever. Admittedly I wasn't expecting jumps from any of the stars, but when the 6 pros were dancing together... Well it's too small for 6 pros to do anything really cool other than spin around and really just do dance moves... Just kidding -- Johnny Weir did do a jump. :)
- I like that each episode looks to have required elements and they sound reasonable...
- Johnny Weir kind of looks like Jennifer Connelly. And of course he would skate to Lady Gaga in a Lady Gaga-esque costume.
- I really commend the stars for attempting this; I cannot even regular ice skate. But I dunno if even my love for figure skating/ice skating will keep me tuning in every week. Only when I remember.
- This stuff looks ridiculously easy and boring for the pros. At least Dancing with the Stars, the pros get to look like pros...
- Best line of the night: "The fact that you're not gay may be kind of alarming to my husband so we'll just have to pretend that you are." (Bethenny, who's freaky skinny.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday Talk: Sports, Part 2

J: Earlier this year, Mira asked about favorite sporting events. This time around, what are your favorite sports-themed movies, TV shows, books, etc?

Jennifer: I'm definitely not a sports person but I enjoy my fair share of sports-themed fictional entertainment. Of course there's The Cutting Edge...I've watched that movie countless times and can probably quote most of it. I also like various other girly sports movies like Bend it like Beckham, Stick it, A League of their Own, Bring it On, etc. On TV, obviously Friday Night Lights (I actually finally learned the rules of football because of this show) and Make it or Break it (although it got really bad at the end of last season). I can't think of any books...unless you count Quidditch through the Ages?

Mira: Ooh, I like this question and it's funny because Burkie and I were just talking about this the other day. I love most football movies -- Remember the Titans, Little Giants, Varsity Blue, Jerry Maguire, The Blind Side, and I remember enjoying Friday Night Lights (movie version; but tv show is great, too!)... Um, I also loved other sports movies in general: Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield, The Sandlot, Cool Runnings, Cutting Edge, MIGHTY DUCKS!!! Um, okay, so I like movies about sports. But yes, I pick Mighty Ducks (1, 2, 3) as my pick for this week's Thursday Talk. And ahem, Jenn, I think that I'd like to take credit for teaching you the rules of football!!! The TV show just reinforced what I told you. :P

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday Talk: Fairy Tales

M: What's your favorite fairy tale? (Original or reloaded.)

Mira: I think I'd have to go with Enchanted and Beauty and the Beast. I think the latter counts as a fairytale, right? I like the first because it takes a typical fairytale story of a princess, prince, evil stepmom/future mother-in-law, talking animals... Well it was kinda Snow White with Cinderella's animals or something... Anyway it takes all that and throws the story into modern day New York. Fun! Perfect! And now I want to rewatch. Haha. And Beauty and the Beast us simply my favorite Disney movie, period. :)

Jennifer: Hm, interesting question. I remember I had a book of fairy tales when I was younger that I read over and over but I don't know if I had a favorite back then. So I'll just pick one now: The Ugly Duckling. In general I think I prefer Hans Christian Andersen to the Brothers Grimm. I do also really like Ever After...

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Being Erica: Time travel therapy

I've actually been watching Being Erica, a Canadian show, since it first started early in 2009 but apparently I've never blogged about it, possibly because it's just so completely off the radar. In the US it airs on SOAPnet and I mean, nobody knows that they air anything besides the daytime soaps and reruns of the original 90210 and the OC. Even worse, the entire network is actually going to be taken off the air completely in 2012 (they have already committed to airing season 3 of Being Erica, which just started this fall in Canada).

And you know, that's a shame, because I think it's actually a really great show. It's kind of chick-flick-y (probably not for the guys out there) but with this time travel element. I know, it sounds weird, right? The Erica of the title is Erica Strange (played by Erin Karpluk who I now love), a thirty-something woman who at the beginning of the series feels like her life is a mess. She's still single and has no real career despite a master's degree in English and thinks it's all because she's made bad choices throughout her life. She meets a mysterious therapist, Dr. Tom, who invites her to become his patient and she soon finds out that his method of therapy is sending her back in time to relive, and, to a certain extent, redo her regrets. 

Wonky, right? But really fun! Just the fashions alone are great, and the cast does an amazing job playing different ages. In the first season, each episode has Erica returning to a certain regret and generally she learns that the things that happened were inevitable and there's some lesson to take back to her present life, which starts to improve as she gains success in a publishing job and embarks on a relationship with Ethan, her long time best friend. The second season changes things up a little bit, introducing Kai, a character that turns out to be going through the same kind of therapy as Erica with a different doctor. Now in the third season, Erica finds herself almost "reset," having been fired from her job and broken up with Ethan, but is informed that she's now in "phase two" of the therapy: group. (Phase three is apparently becoming a doctor herself?)

The reason I really like this show is that Erica is such a relatable and honest character. Her relationships with her family and friends are complicated and she messes up all the time but she doesn't give up. She wants to help people but doesn't always know the best ways, and she does things she's afraid of, even if they make her look stupid.  It's odd, even with the crazy time traveling and bursting through doors that lead to the past or the present or Dr. Tom's office, this show is actually very...real. It can be funny and sad and dramatic and moving, and I think a lot of that has to do with Erin Karpluk, who's basically in every scene and does a fantastic job carrying the show. 

I just discovered that all of seasons 1 and 2 are on Hulu! If you're at all interested in a fun relationship drama with a little light sci-fi thrown in, definitely check it out! 

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thursday Talk: Spies!

J: Hollywood (and American culture in general it seems) has a pretty big fascination with spies. Who are some of your favorite fictional spies?

Jennifer: I think I have to go with Sydney Bristow from Alias. Probably everyone knows how disappointed I was with the later seasons but she was such a great and instantly memorable character. Obviously kick-ass but also just a really good person who cared deeply for her family and friends. I also really like Chuck, but more the character than the actual show, which has become more of a catch-up-when-I'm-bored show than required weekly viewing. They do use the word "spy" on that show probably more than in anything else I've ever seen...

Mira: Sydney was one of the best, I have to agree. Actually, I still wanna grow up to be her: she was so good! Haha, actually the skill I'd really like to learn is running down the stairs silently with HEELS on. :) Two more I'll name are James Bond, because well he's James Bond, and Jack Bauer from 24 because he's pretty badass.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sherlock: The Game is On

Even though I'm a big fan of mysteries and of all things British, for some reason I've never gotten into Sherlock Holmes. I haven't read any of the stories, I didn't watch last year's movie (because I can't stand Robert Downey, Jr.), and honestly my favorite adaptation so far had been the Wishbone episode of The Hound of the Baskervilles. But after watching the first installment of Sherlock on Masterpiece Mystery this week, I think I finally get it! This is a modern-day adaptation and obviously I can't really comment on how faithful or accurate it is to the original source material, but it was just FUN (especially after three weeks of the very good but very depressing Wallander with a very mopey Kenneth Branagh). I definitely need to check out Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories.

Our new 21st century Sherlock Holmes is played by Benedict Cumberbatch (best name ever) and Dr. Watson is played by Martin Freeman (the future Bilbo Baggins) and they're really great together. This week's episode, "A Study in Pink," showed how they initially met. Watson is just back from a tour in Afghanistan, and though his therapist thinks he has post-traumatic stress syndrome and encourages him to write in a blog, it turns out that he actually misses the action of war. In a chance meeting with an old friend in a park, he mentions he's looking for a flatmate and gets introduced to Holmes, an unofficial police consultant who describes himself as a "high-functioning sociopath." Holmes has just rented the infamous 221B Baker Street and without really knowing what's happening, Watson quickly finds himself as both Holmes' flatmate and sidekick. (The two of them get hilariously mistaken for a couple on a few occasions. Holmes' sexuality seems to be ambiguous, while Watson is definitely straight and keeps unsuccessfully trying to pick up women.)

So Sherlock Holmes is pretty...weird. His hallmark is deductive reasoning, which he uses on everyone in every situation, even when not investigating a crime, and it tends to piss people off. Detective Inspector Lestrade (played by Rupert Graves, who is everywhere these days) calls on Holmes because he knows what he's capable of and has some measure of respect for him, but the rest of the police force is openly hostile. But as the audience we see him more through the eyes of Watson and can't help but like him. He's brusque and socially awkward (characters like Brennan on Bones clearly owe some debt to him) but his eccentricity is amusing and almost endearing.

The series is from two guys from Doctor Who and I can see a lot of similarities, which isn't a bad thing. Sherlock and the Doctor are both brilliant and quirky, and Dr. Watson, like a companion, is our window into their worlds. The writing is sharp and London manages to look contemporary but have that moody period feel. Another touch I liked was in scenes where Holmes is doing his observation thing, little bits of text pop up on the screen to show what he's thinking.

There are two more installments for this first "season," and I believe a second season of 3 "episodes" has already been ordered. (Each episode is 90-minutes without commercials, so is basically a movie.) Highly recommended!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Talk: Living Vicariously...

M: What TV show/book/movie do you love because you enjoy living vicariously through the lives of the characters? What TV show/book/movie do you love because it reminds you so much of who you are/your life?

Jennifer: Tough question! Madeleine L'Engle's characters Vicky Austin and Polly O'Keefe are the ones I loved living vicariously through. I'm not very much like either of them, but both got to do such interesting things. Vicky took a cross country road trip with her big family, lived in a farm town and then in Manhattan, swam and communicated with dolphins, and went to Antarctica. And even though she was kind of a "plain Jane" type, she was always having guys fall for her! As for Polly, she lived on remote islands and went to Venezuela and Greece and Cyprus. I guess I mostly have travel envy! As for the second question, Office Space? I remember watching it for the first time during college with two fellow engineer friends and while we laughed through the whole thing, at the end we were all kind of quiet, thinking "Um, this is going to be our lives!?"

Mira: Living vicariously through... the ABC Family shows: Make It or Break It (Like most other little girls I grew up adoring gymnastics and imagining how I wanted to grow up to be an Olympian. Too late now, darn!) and Greek (It almost makes me feel like I really missed out of a very unique undergraduate experience.)... Real life reminiscent, I'd pick Gilmore Girls just because similar to Rory and Loralie, a lot of my childhood was just my mom and me. And though she wasn't super young like Loralie when she had me, I'm definitely more the reserved and studious type like Rory and she's the crazy and carefree but dependable when needed like Loralie.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gossip Girl: Reasons to still watch

Mira and I are always kind of groaning over how bad Gossip Girl can be sometimes. It seems like she's always contemplating dropping the show but then getting sucked back in, whereas I've kind of just given in and am probably just in it for the long haul. Because, I mean, it's really not all that bad. Some things will always suck (like Vanessa) but there are still some things that the show does well. Here's my list:

Blair and Serena. They were my pick for favorite best friends and this season they're living together, going to Columbia together, and have seem to put their jealousy issues and catfighting aside for the moment. They're both really always better when supported by the other.

No Jenny! Okay, this actually ends tonight. But the first five episodes of the season were so blissfully Jenny-free.

Katie Cassidy. I dropped the new Melrose Place reboot after just the first episode, but Katie Cassidy was one of the only things I liked about it. She fits in perfectly here as Juliet, and of course, Nate is dumb enough to fall for her despite her shady behavior. I still have no idea what's going on with her vendetta against Serena but I'm enjoying the ride and hopefully the payoff won't be lame.

Blair and Chuck. I didn't really buy Chuck's new identity or his thing with Eva (I kept wanting to call her Fleur because she was in Harry Potter) because Blair and Chuck are just always better in storylines together, even if they're feuding and not a couple. I don't know how long this latest "war" will last, or how much more back-and-forth the audience will be able to handle, but as long as we keep getting scenes like that gorgeous one in the train station in the season premiere, I'll be happy.

Chuck and Lily. For some reason I find it kind of touching that Chuck seems to still trust Lily, and that Lily is still interested in being a parent to Chuck despite everything. Lily is so not the paragon of motherhood but I'm glad they remember that this relationship exists. Also, I hope that we've left any and all Lily and Rufus drama behind us, but maybe that's wishful thinking.

Dan staying in Brooklyn, for the most part. Surprisingly the whole thing with Dan being the father of Georgina's baby didn't come off as ridiculous as it sounded like it was going to. Vanessa's annoying as usual, but they kind of deserve each other and I prefer when they stick to their own storylines. Although, I do love it when Dan helps Blair with her scheming...

Serena getting called out. She does always find herself in the most ridiculous situations and it was kind of hilarious when the dean warns her about the drama that always surrounds her. Also hilarious how she takes cabs to class and can never be on time.

If you're still watching, what things are keeping you interested?

Top Chef: Just Desserts

I haven't written about Top Chef in a pretty long time, even though I've continued to watch and, for the most part, enjoy the show. I think the reason is that, after 7 seasons, there isn't anything really new to talk about. Some seasons have immense talent, some are duds, some challenges are really cool, others are totally lame, but the overall effect is kind of just more of the same. I was thrilled to see that it finally won the Emmy for reality competition show this year but it definitely felt kind of…late.

But Top Chef has spawned a couple of spinoffs, Top Chef Masters and Top Chef: Just Desserts. Masters has been pretty fun because the caliber of cooking is obviously elevated but also a little less fun because these chefs, while still competitive, don't see the show as make-it-or-break-it, and are so respectful of each other that there's kind of no drama.

Just Desserts though? Drama drama drama!

I hate to stereotype, but it seems that there are more women and gay men who are pastry chefs. This gives the show kind of almost a Project Runway feel, as someone pointed out. And more drama! Although, the biggest drama queen in the first half of the season was Seth, who's actually straight. His antics were all over the place…from crying because he couldn't finish a Quickfire dish that was "for his mom," to freaking out over an ingredient he couldn't find and then lashing out at the other cheftestants for cheering him on to ignoring challenge rules when he didn't like them. And then…he has to leave the show in episode 4 because of a panic attack! I don't even remember if he had good food or not because of all the craziness!

As for the actual basics of the show, they're pretty solid. I love the premise of the show because dessert has always been sort of the ugly stepchild on the normal Top Chef. No one wants to do it because they're not pastry chefs and it's a risk. But here, everyone's a pastry chef, and maybe more than other courses, dessert is something that can definitely be eaten with the eyes. Also, I personally am more of a baker than a cook, so I was excited at the prospect of being able to make more recipes from the show. I've already tried Eric's Peanut Butter Krispy Bars (a big hit at the picnic I brought them to) and have bookmarked a few others as well. It's interesting also to see the contrast between the trained pastry chefs who know how to do plated desserts where presentation is almost as important as taste, and someone like Eric, who's strictly a baker and had never plated in his life. Dessert is definitely much more than just cakes and chocolate!

Gail Simmons, who I've always liked, is the host, and she's pretty warm and natural. Johnny Iuzzini is the head judge/mentor and I was surprised to like him here. He's been a judge on the regular Top Chef and I remember thinking he came off as really arrogant. But I think that might have been because in the past he was judging regular chefs attempting to do desserts. Here, these are people who ostensibly know what they're doing. The other rotating judges are familiar face Hubert Keller, and Dannielle Kyrillos, of DailyCandy, who's generally bubbly and pleasant.

I'm not sure if I have a favorite yet...Morgan is one of the frontrunners but he's rather douchey and Heather H. has maybe the best technique but she's bitter and catty (she and Zac and Yigit have named themselves Team Diva, which makes me want to hate them too). I wouldn't begrudge either the win though. I think it's still a pretty level playing field and am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

The next season of Top Chef is going to be an All-Stars edition though, and I have to say they did an excellent job with the cast, and I think it's coming at the right time after a pretty lackluster season in DC. Can't wait for that!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday Talk: Halloween!

J: Halloween is coming up soon. What is your favorite Halloween-themed episode of a TV show?

Jennifer: My favorite is still the Halloween episode from season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where everyone becomes their costumes: Buffy a damsel in distress, Xander a solider, and Willow a slutty ghost. Although last year's Community episode was kind of an instant classic, with Britta's super cute squirrel costume, Abed's Christian-Bale-Batman, Pierce's psychedelic hallucination of Annie hilarious!

Mira: My favorite Buffy Halloween moment was season 4, "Fear, Itself" when Anya dressed up as a bunny. (I just did a bunch of searching to pinpoint that episode and verify that it was a Halloween episode. LOL.) Okay, apparently today I cannot remember individual episodes of any show, let alone the Halloween episodes... So I'll mention my favorite series of Scooby Doo episodes from when I was in... uh, second grade?: The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby Doo! That's Halloween-y enough, right? I dunno why but each of these episodes had me scared and I remember really enjoying the series. On a non-tv show Halloween, I particularly love the Halloween scenes in the movie Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan's character learns that American Halloween's aren't about being as scary as you can be, but for girls to be as slutty as possible and get away with it. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Talk: Canceled Already?

M: With a few shows already hitting the chopping blocks, what's a show that you're sad to see going (or on its way out) this season? (Realize that we had a similar question earlier this year about shows that ended too early...) What show are you surprised to see going so strong?

Jennifer: I haven't picked up too many new shows this season, but I was really disappointed (but not surprised) to see Lone Star get cancelled after only two episodes. It's really a shame because the critics really loved it and I definitely wanted to see where it was going. As for shows that I'm surprised are doing well...I guess Hawaii Five-O? But then again I don't watch procedurals or cop shows...

Mira: I'm a bit disappointed to see that Outlaw got canceled already. I kinda liked the premise of a mavericky former Supreme Court Justice, played by Jimmy Smits, taking cases that seem random but actually all hold meaning for him. Jesse Bradford was interesting as the recent Ivy League grad who thought he was getting a job with the Supreme Court Justice but ended up getting something far below his standards; the blond chick who is a lawyer afraid of public speaking and in love with her boss; the chick from Popular, Carly Pope?, as a pretend badass private eye (not quite Kalinda from The Good Wife but good in her own way)... I liked it! I am surprised by how much I like Hawaii Five-O, personally, so given that, I'm not surprised it's doing well. I'm more surprised that The Whole Truth hasn't been canceled yet but perhaps that's just a matter of days. The premise of No Ordinary Family is great but it definitely has its really annoying moments so I'm wondering if it will last, too...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Thursday Talk: Fake bands!

J: TV and movie characters (especially teens) seem to like to form bands. What are some of your favorite fictional musical groups?

Jennifer: My first TV obsession was Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I loved Dingoes Ate My Baby, which was Oz's band (music provided by the real band Four Star Mary...I actually have some of their CDs). Recently I got really into Scott Pilgrim (both the graphics novels and the movie) and Sex Bob-omb (music provided by Beck for the movie soundtrack). Oh, and I love the "band" formed in Once for the recording session and also Where's Fluffy? from Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, even though we never actually see or hear them...

Mira: Aww, Oz! I never knew that was the name of the band. I really like That Thing You Do! and The Wonders. It's just one of those movies that for whatever reason I've watched over and over again and enjoy each time. And they're "one hit wonder" band had a fantastically catchy one hit wonder. :) Another favorite fictional music group.... well I loved TeenNBC so... California Dreams. :)

By the way... HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEN!!!!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Fall TV: No Ordinary Family

I think this definitely has potential. It has a little bit of The Incredibles, a little bit of Heroes, a little bit of Sky High. I'm not yet sure where it's going, but I'm interested enough to find out.

Our family is the Powells: Michael Chiklis as the dad, Jim; Julie Benz as the mom, Stephanie; and Kay Panabaker and Jimmy Bennett as teenaged kids Daphne and JJ. On a business trip turned family vacation to Brazil, the Powells crash in a small plane into some weird phosphorescent water and discover that they've gained superpowers! Jim, a police artist who considers himself to be kind of a failure, has super strength. Stephanie, a rising scientist who struggles to balance her work and home lives, has super speed. Daphne, dealing your normal teen girl stuff, can now read minds. And JJ, who has trouble in school and thinks he's dumb, is now super smart (though his parents don't know yet).

The parents each have their sidekicks: Jim's is George, an assistant DA who even builds him a high tech lair, and Stephanie's is Katie, her lab assistant played by the adorable Autumn Reeser (love her!). George and Katie are both more enthusiastic about the powers than are the Powells themselves and provide some comic relief. Not that the show is super of the things I hated about Heroes was that almost everyone found their powers to be a burden. Remember those mournful videos Claire was making of herself falling off towers and stuff? Here at least we have Stephanie happily speeding through chores and eating a whole plate of muffins (she also has super metabolism) and JJ getting excited reading advanced math books. They're all still figuring out what's going on and having some fun with it.

After two episodes, I think the show is heading towards a Heroes-like mythology, which maybe worries me a little. There's already a bad guy with powers too that has some connection to Stephanie's boss, and Stephanie wants to find out where the powers came from and how to "cure" them (Mohinder Suresh, anyone?). But Jim seems to actually want to, like, catch bank robbers and turn his power into sort of a career, and I'm not sure where they're going to go with the kids. So I'm cautiously optimistic...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

life of my dvr...

Baseline: 3% occupied with a movie I intend to watch at some point but will not get around to for a few months; 5% (8% total) -- 1 episode of Outlaw that Boyfriend may get around to watching one day soon; 10% (18%) -- 2 episodes of Chuck that we will put off watching until we can't afford the space anymore; 30% (48%) -- 2 episodes of The Event, Hawaii Five-O, Undercovers that we will put off watching until we're inspired to try out a new show; 10% (58%) -- 2 episodes of Lone Star that we will put off watching until the DVR runs out of space and automatically deletes it... then the week starts.

How I Met Your Mother
, 3%
Lone Star,
The Event, 5%
Hawaii Five-O,
Chase, 5%
(total 76%)
Watch How I Met Your Mother because it takes 20 minutes to get off, -3% (total 73%).
(Watching off of the Internet: Gossip Girl, House)

Glee, 5%
No Ordinary Family,
NCIS: Los Angeles, 5%
The Good Wife, 5%
(total 98%)
Watch Glee as soon as I get home from class, cuz I can't wait. -5% (total 93%)
Boyfriend gets NCIS and Chase off the DVR to make room for Wednesday, -10% (total 83%)
(Watching off of the Internet: NCIS (bf), Running Wilde--maybe, Detroit 1-8-7 (bf))

Outlaw, 5%
Undercovers, 5%
Criminal Minds
, 5%
(total 98%)
Boyfriend watches Outlaw, Criminal Minds to make room for Thursday, -10% (total 88%)
Watch No Ordinary Family as soon as I get home from class, -5% (total 83%)
(Watching off of the Internet: The Defenders (bf))

Grey's Anatomy,
Private Practice,
(total 98%)
Get some of the earlier TV off the DVR, such as Parenthood, Hellcats -10% (total 88%)
Watch Grey's Anatomy, Nikita pretty much right away, -10% (total 78%)
(Watching off of the Internet: My Generation, Outsourced (bf))

Blue Bloods, 5% (total 83%)

Over the course of Friday and Saturday nights Boyfriend watches Blue Blood (total 78%) and we figure out a way to watch enough TV to get the DVR down to <60% so that we can record Michigan football on Saturday (and delete it soon after) and NFL football on Sunday (and delete soon after) and then on Monday.... We start all over again.

Managing the DVR is HARD!

Thursday Talk: Best Buds

M: Inspired by a comment on House and Wilson's "bromance" on House, M.D.: favorite fictional best friends?

Jennifer: For some reason or another, most of my favorite books and TV shows and movies have to do more with family or romance and don't have many great well-developed two-person friendships. Too often the best friend of the lead character is just there to be supportive or the comic relief/scene stealer. Or there's a group of friends where the individual friendships don't always make sense (like on Sex and the City) or they're just better altogether (like Harry and Ron and Hermione.) So the only pairs that come to mind right now are Seth and Ryan on The OC and Blair and Serena on Gossip Girl (hm, both Josh Schwartz shows). With these pairs, I feel like they took the time to explain why they were best friends and gave them conflict and didn't just take it for granted. Both shows are probably more known for their merry-go-round of relationships but Seth/Ryan and Blair/Serena, rather than any romance, are actually more the heart of each show. (Honorable mention to Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro...just because.)

Yeah, for me, too, I think Blair & Serena instantly. Only problem is Gossip Girl just wouldn't stop with the Blair/Serena fighting, best friends, fighting crap and now I don't care about them anymore. But for the first two years they were the true heart and relationship to root for on the show. Favorite fictional best friends -- I love Meridith and Cristina on Grey's Anatomy. It's funny how they're referred to by their significant others (now husbands!) as the "twisted sisters." But I love how they're so perfectly twisty and negative and competitive together. Honorable mention to Kurt & Mercedes on Glee, just because.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall TV: My Generation

I graduated from high school in 2001, and the characters in My Generation graduated in 2000. I didn't really have a typical high school experience but I came into this show thinking that I'd be able to relate to it in some way, even if it was just the pop culture references from the late 90s that were going to be inevitable. But despite using specific dates and events in the last ten years as part of the storyline, I didn't find too much here to latch onto. There are nine characters from the class of 2000 that some documentary crew interviewed during their senior year of high school and are now catching up with, and I didn't identify with any of them in particular.

Cliches are abound here. Things like the Bush/Gore election, 9/11, Enron, etc. were obviously huge things that happened, but they're used here as direct catalysts in the characters' lives. The "[blank] days later, [character] makes this drastic change" construct is used several times. Brenda ("the Brain") enters college as a science major but switches to pre-law days the election fiasco. Rolly ("the Jock") signs up for the army days after 9/11 and is now in Afghanistan while his pregnant wife Dawn ("the Punk") waiting for him in Texas. Steven ("the Overachiever") has to drop out of Yale because his father was an Enron executive and ends up a surf bum in Hawaii. Kenneth ("the Nerd")'s father shoots himself because his money was tied up in Enron. Then there's Anders ("the Rich Kid") whose high school relationship with Brenda (who's Hispanic) was apparently so disapproved by his parents that he ended up marrying Jackie ("the Beauty Queen") even though he's obviously still hung up on Brenda and Jackie's flirts with everyone else on sight. And Caroline ("the Wallflower") slept with Steven on prom night and got pregnant and had a son and is just now telling him about it.

Oh and then there's Falcon ("the Rock Star") who doesn't yet seem to have a storyline of his own but is just generally annoying.

It's just like, oh, of course the high school couples got mixed up! But of course they're still hung up on their high school loves! Of course no one ended up where they thought they would! Of course their worlds are all now colliding ten years later! You want predictable, you got it, and you're going to get knocked over the head with it!

But you know, despite all this, it was really all very watchable. A lot of the acting was actually pretty good. Rolly and Dawn, the unconventional couple, seem like they really love each other despite only seeing them interact over the Internet. Caroline is pretty believable as the Asian wallflower who gains self-confidence through having a son. And Kenneth -- he's kind of the strangest case, a quiet nerd who declares upon graduation that his goal for the future is to have lots of kids -- I actually got a little misty when he finds out that he's infertile and will never have kids of his own. (Of course it doesn't help that he's letting Dawn, his high school girlfriend who he probably still has feelings for, live with him during her pregnancy. Thanks show, for making everything so obvious.)

I don't know if people are going to like this or not. Critics have blasted it for the problems that I totally agree with, but it's the kind of lazy, soapy television that has the same appeal as like those MTV and Bravo reality shows. These characters are ridiculous and stupid and predictable but you still want to know what happens next. Thursday is an incredibly crowded night for TV so it's off my DVR but it streams online at ABC and Hulu so if I'm bored, it'll be there. Unless it gets canceled that is...

Fall TV: Undercovers

So, what's with all the spy shows? I mean, I like them and all, but is there nothing else to make a show about?

Undercovers is the latest from J.J. Abrams, which most people probably see as a positive but I approach with huge skepticism. Abrams has proved to be good coming up with concepts that are great in the beginning but are hard to sustain and tend to devolve into total crap, e.g. Felicity, Alias, Lost (partially). Maybe he should stick with movies or something?

Anyway, the first season of Alias was pretty fantastic, so I thought maybe at least Undercovers would be good for a little while. But from watching the pilot, this seems to be a totally different kind of show. The two stars, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kojoe (such exotic names!), are ridiculously attractive as married couple Steven and Samantha Bloom, former CIA operatives who are brought back into the spy game after having left to become caterers, of all things.

There's style and action and all that you expect from a J.J. Abrams-direction spy show but it's missing...consequence. There are just no stakes. I get the impression that there isn't going to be too much of an ongoing storyline outside of their relationship and that week-to-week it'll just be fun missions while trying to maintain their cover. I wouldn't want any crazy and stupid mythology like Alias had, but I need a little something more than just pretty people jetting off around the world to banter and fight the bad guys.

Fall TV: The Event

Over the summer, NBC's The Event had the most annoying advertising of all the new fall shows because it basically told you nothing. And guess what? The pilot told us nothing too!

For years, all the networks have been trying to come up with the next 24  and the next Lost. And so far, they've pretty much all tanked. I'm pretty sure this is going to be the latest in that line of failures.

The problem with the pilot was that it somehow managed to be all plot but no substance. All these different characters that aren't connected were introduced but we don't really get anything on what their purpose is or who's good or bad. I assume that the ordinary guy, Sean, played by Jason Ritter who I generally do like, is supposed to be the audience surrogate/hero, but they don't even give us enough on him for us to want to really care.

There's also the president, played by Blair Underwood (who's now apparently Hispanic...I guess we've moved on from black presidents on TV), who's dealing with some weird detention center in Alaska where Laura Innes (of ER) appears to be the leader. These people seem to know something about "The Event" and the CIA is involved somehow too but basically none of it makes any sense. Something happens at the end with a plane and a flash of light or something but I can't even really describe that. It really doesn't help that half of these bits and pieces came in the form of flashbacks.

So what is the Event? Is it alien-related? Science fiction-y stuff? Government conspiracy? Guess what? I really don't care! Needless to say, I lost interest in this very very quickly. I've definitely been hard on Lost for a lot of things but all these wannabes are much, much worse...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

fall 2010

My life has been especially nutso this semester with school and work and, well, trying to keep my DVR percentage low enough to record all the shows in the coming week (it's a hard life!), so blogging has been difficult... But here's a quick little run down of my opinions on Fall TV thus far:

Shows I've already dropped:
- $#*! My Dad Says -- The comedic pauses are just awkward and annoying. Shatner is not the most annoying actor on the show, which already speaks volumes in my mind. One last thing, the show had one funny line and it was not shit said by the dad. Shatner is at the DMV taking the eye exam and is asked to read the large E at the top of the chart. Shatner: "I've never been rear-ended by a large letter E." DMV employee: "You've never driven on Sesame Street."
- Running Wilde -- I love Keri Russell but even she can't keep this show on my priority watch list.
- 90210 (though I dropped it halfway through last season) -- I know I already dropped this, but seeing the stuff going on and reading the spoilers on what is to come... Good riddance!
- Life Unexpected -- Jenn's entry sums it up perfectly. Forced dramatic story lines are just too much! Though it cracks me up that a Melrose Place (new, not old) reject has landed over here.

Shows I'm already committed to:
- Nikita -- Somehow this show became an immediate watch show for me, but I really like the complexity of each character and the fact that they all contribute layers of depth to the show.
- Hellcats -- I like peppy tv shows.
- Grey's Anatomy -- I forgot about the season ending with the shooting spree and the new season dealing with aftermath of that has been built up brilliant so far.
- Private Practice -- I still like the characters on the show enough to keep watching it, though the storylines aren't captivating.
- Parenthood -- This show just keeps getting better for me. The best family drama.

Shows I meant to watch but forgot about:
- Better With You -- Like Jenn, I really like Joanna Garcia.

Shows still sitting on my DVR:
- Lone Star
- The Event
- Hawaii Five-O
- Undercovers
- The Whole Truth
- My Generation
- Chuck

Shows I'm still looking forward to:
- No Ordinary Family
-- But the stupid show is on at the same time as Glee and NCIS! Sigh, so this may end up going the route of Modern Family, where I mean to catch up online but forget to. Hopefully not!
- Glee, Episode 2 (cuz Episode 1 was a bit disappointing) -- Cannot wait for Brittany (my favorite character!) and BRITNEY (Spears)!
- The Good Wife
- Friday Night Lights, the final season! :(

On the cusp:
- Outlaw
- How I Met Your Mother -- We better meet the stupid mother this season. And that wedding in the season premier better be Barney and Robin's wedding.
- Gossip Girl

BTW, an awful lot of weddings in the season premier this year -- Grey's Anatomy had one, Private Practice had one, HIMYM had one!