Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: Top Chef - An Offer They Can't Refuse (8.8)

The long wait since Restaurant Wars is finally over. I just had a feeling that someone who originally went home for making a simple and obvious culinary mistake was going to go home for a similar reason again. For fun I checked out the web site, where you can do free and fun prop bets on just about anything. I put some points down on some Oscar nominations but I was mostly interested in betting on Top Chef week to week. I evenly distributed my points on three chefs that I thought might be going home: Fabio, Antonia, and Tre. At the time I had no idea what the challenge was and because of that I was way off on two of them but still succeeded with who ended up leaving. If you're bored, check it out.

The Quickfire Challenge was definitely interesting. Although, I don't really want to see any other challenges where the judges don't taste any food (which clearly pissed off at least half of the chefs). The challenge was to design a plate that visually made you want to eat it. I did not want to eat most of those plates. The majority went with a more artistic design rather than highlighting the food. Angelo, being the cocky person that he is, had already decided he would win the Quickfire. He was "inspired" by crocodile skin in fashion so he vacuum sealed some unrecognizable ingredients and wrote on his table (if only that table had spell check). He clearly didn't get it, along with Tre who through some colors on a plate like a mini painter's palette. The only ones I really would have attempted eating were Carla's and Richard's. Richard ended up winning immunity (which we all knew didn't mean anything to him quite yet). Dale put it best when he said he didn't care about the opinion a fashion designer has of his food.

The Elimination Challenge was one of the better ones of the season, in my opinion. Its about time we saw a straight up individual challenge. These chefs already have very different ideas and techniques, its why they're on the show again, and they need to be given their freedom by now. Keeping a classic family-style Italian challenge simple was very refreshing. Its great seeing the chefs pushed to the edge and forced under a lot of pressure this season, but sometimes you just want to see them all cook. There wasn't too much drama this week, that probably goes hand in hand with it being an individual challenge. That doesn't make it any less interesting though. Seeing Mike Isabella talk himself up as the "favorite" and then fail to make his pasta right was plenty of drama. By the way, why didn't he have a backup of dry pasta? Is there a rule or something that no one has ever mentioned EVER? If not, you would think that with everyone's previous experience they would have a simple backup plan. Having an extra pot of boiling water and ten minutes to make some pasta makes sense to me when you're cooking for your life.

The season seems to be getting going now and the judges clearly are only going to be expecting more each week. I just hope some of my favorites (Carla, Richard) make it far enough that I don't feel like I'm missing something in the late episodes.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Top 10 TV Shows of 2010: #2 Parks and Recreation

© Chris Haston/NBC
I did not like the first season of this show to a point that I don't believe I watched it all. Being a fan of The Office and Amy Poehler I of course had to check out Parks and Recreation. Right away I didn't enjoy it that much. Poehler's character was more annoying than entertaining, the premise of the show seemed boring, and it felt all over the place. What really was going on had to with the writers and actors clearly trying to figure out what they wanted make out of this show. Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, who had developed and written for the US remake of The Office, brought too much of that show into this one. It originally aired before The Office, which seemed silly to begin with, and I honestly got tired of the format each week by the time the show I really enjoyed started. For example, the mockumentary style of having sit down interviewed sound bits that made The Office work so well seemed so out of place on Parks and Rec. It was if they put that in there because they had to, or felt it was one of the ways they could be funny.

The first episode of the second season I watched was titled "Greg Piktis". It was the seventh episode of the season. I took a look at it for two reasons: 1) Critics I follow on Twitter kept raving about how this is the funniest show on television and how it had changed drastically from season one. And 2) It was the Halloween episode and TV always does Halloween well. The differences were drastic. They no longer seemed to be relying on Poehler and were giving true voices to every character within the show's world (and process that also took The Office some time but made it what it is today). The show also had figured out that they didn't need to force the taped sit down interviews; they would come when they would make sense whether it was to segway from one scene to the next or to explain something that had happened in the past. After that one episode I went online that weekend and watched the first six episodes I had missed of the season and was HOOKED.

The show works best because the actors and the characters know their place within Pawnee, IN and the story of each week. Poehler gets to shine and use everyone to play off of while turning her character Leslie into a real person rather than just a workaholic. Nick Offerman, as alpha-male Ron Swanson, is used just the right amount to maximize his awesomeness without overdoing it. A nice surprise is the chemistry and friendship that has organically been created with Ron and Leslie. It adds a really nice dynamic that you can look back on week to week that was missing in its first season.

I'm sure everyone has their own favorite characters that make them laugh the most. I love each character a lot but my favorite that gets me the most is the friendship between Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza. Their reactions and polar opposite attitudes always adds a laugh to any scene. And I know a lot of people clearly love Aziz Ansari who has finally gotten a place to shine (and had my favorite moment of the season, DJ Roomba). The late additions of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott to the cast at the end of season two has only added more dynamics to the show without messing anything up, and that has to be hard to do. So if you haven't yet, please check out the next episode of Parks and Recreation now airing Thursdays after The Office where it was always meant to be. The second season is also available on Netflix Streaming to help you get caught up if you need to as well.

Now for you viewing pleasure here is a very random video using the Parks and Recreation opening credits called "Hutts and Recreation". Cracks me up every time:

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Updates Until Next Week

I just wanted to let anyone know (yeah, you) that I won't be able to post anything new until Monday January 31st due to work. I promise I will finish up my countdown of the Top 10 TV Shows of 2010 on Monday and Tuesday and will continue with reviews and hopefully work on my list of Top 10 Movies of 2010 in between that.

In the meantime, I finally got an email subscription going so if you'd like you can enter your email on the right side panel and you'll get an email notification whenever something is posted. You can also still subscribe with your favorite RSS readers as well just below that. And if you have a Google account (who doesn't) you can follow this blog through Blogger by clicking "follow" on the top toolbar. You will not get any email updates that way though. I hope you're enjoying this and always feel free to email me with any questions or comments.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Top 10 TV Shows of 2010: #3 Community

If you don't like Community then I feel sorry for you, and you're probably really really old. When this show got started it was marketed as bringing Joel McHale of The Soup to network television and bringing Chevy Chase back to TV. That potentially is a vast difference in the type of viewer that follows those two stars (although I think Chevy Chase is for everyone). It quickly became apparent that McHale wasn't the star of this show and Chase was being used just the right amount to maximize his craziness. It turns out that Community is one of the best (if not THE best) ensembles of actors/characters on television.

Abed, played by Chicago native Danny Pudi, is the best original characters on television. How he interacts with his friends can only be described as the way a baby alien would try to understand the simple things every person does throughout their day. He's like an encyclopedia of useless movie and TV knowledge that makes even the largest nerd have to check Wikipedia after an episode. If Jim Parsons can win awards for The Big Bang Theory, then certainly Pudi deserves at least a nomination at some point.

What's your favorite episode? If you said Modern Warfare (shown above) then congratulations, you're in the majority! Needless to say, I'm in the majority too! Its just such an amazing episode. What other show can you remember putting normalcy aside randomly throughout the weekly episodes to bring you something so creative and inventive like a school-wide paintball battle in the style of classic action movies? Most likely never because who would dare attempt something like that? On top of that it has really found its own voice by being able to make sure the human side and friendships still find their way into each episode while still being surrounded by the pop culture references and silly gags. All of this combines together for a one of a kind show that is just a breathe of fresh ideas and random enjoyment.

Now here is a Behind the Scenes clip from the Modern Warfare episode, enjoy:

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