The Taste


There’s a new reality food competition show in town, ABC’s The Taste. It features Anthony Bordain, Nigella Lawson, Brian Malarkey, and Ludo Lefebvre. So we have two Americans, a Brit and a French chef, only one woman though. I figured Anthony would eat Nigella alive, but they seem to respect each other. Time will tell if as the competition gets more intense,  the judges will duke it out more. With Reality TV forced drama comes with the territory and we all expect it.

I watched the first episode, which was two hours and I wish had been 90 minutes or an hour. After awhile you got the drill and it became a drill. The premise is that each chef will choose four contestants for his or her team. That process was the theme of episode 1. Contestants have an hour to make a dish and put just “a taste” i.e. one large mouthful on a ceramic spoon. In a blind tasting the judges decided whom to keep and whom to reject. When two judges chose a person, they then offered reasons why their team would be best and the contestant chose a chef.

They tested dozens of tastes and more were awful than were good. By the midpoint it became clear that simplicity and good technique would win judges over. People who packed too many flavors into a spoon were rejected. Lots of backstories were mixed into the competition. That must be an ABC thing, because the Food Network doesn’t do that much. One contestant was an older Jewish woman who wore headbands and glitzy knitwear. She wanted to win the $100,000 so she could take care of her husband. Several people had hard luck stories and some quit their jobs to be on the show. Not the wisest move in this economy, though the publicity may earn them a better job. I found the woman from Mississippi who cooks in her small trailer, where the fire alarm goes off in the kitchen daily to be quite entertaining and I hope she’s around for awhile. The David and Goliath aspect of amateurs beating professionals is a good touch.

I’m an Anthony Bourdain fan and that’s what drew me to the program. Yeah, he can be mean, but he also shoots straight and the truth that stings is better than a pretty lie that deludes. It’s clear that The Taste isn’t as cool or interesting as his Travel Channel programs but it’s not going to ruin his career.

It’s not as good as Chopped, not yet at least. But it’s also not a bad way to spend an hour when you just want to chill out and you don’t want violence or sheer stupidity.


The Glee Project: Actability

Executive Producer, Ryan Murphy considers who should go

This week’s homework was Robert Palmer‘s “Addicted to Love” and Dianna Agron was the mentor. While the Glee Project contestants sang they each had to portray an emotion written on a big flash card Dianna held. It was pretty artificial and as there’s little context and the feelings on the cards weren’t necessarily aligned with the lyrics, the assignment felt like an exercise in a bad acting class.

No one was particularly natural in their interpretation, but Dianna was complimentary and especially thought Ali and Michael did well. Dianna chose Michael as the winner, which he could use as acting lessons. He’s going to have to demand a lot of himself to remain in the running.

Addicted to Love (song)

Addicted to Love (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The group number was Pink’s “Perfect” and the video was a fake movie trailer, so no dancing again this week. Dianna coached Michael with some useful advice on creating a back story to help with the ad libbing. The information she imparted was probably the most specific and helpful.

Robert, Nikki and Zach were very emotional as they announced that everyone was doing a last chance performance so that all the writers could see them. That rather sucked as if they all did so well, why should they all be in jeopardy. Professional writers should be able to work with any of these and don’t need to see

There were writers and of them only one was a woman. Michael did a fine job, but why one earth did they have a boy sing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”?

As Lily (Mae) sang, I thought she lacks the vulnerability Ryan Murphy wants. Yes, she’s got a weight problem, but she carries her weight well enough and she’s so confident. It’s not a liability.

Some people are deliberately big as their heft makes them more heft in a group. It’s a power thing with them and I think Lily’s such a person.

Ryan said the thought Ali didn’t perform well in the video and seemed skeptical when Zach and Robert defended her. She belted out her song. Ian liked her and envisioned her as a promisculous bitch. Why that came to mind baffled me.

Blake was cute when he sang delighting the writers with his leading boy charm. Ali Adler missed his wound, honing in on what I see as Blake’s deficit.

Aylin was introduced to the writers as the Muslim in the contention. Robert mentioned that her parents are conservative, as Aylin reminds us each week, though I wonder. They did send her to a rather progressive They were excited about the freshness of Aylin’s religion. One writer thought that she was an absolute original as opposed to say a “new Rachel” or a “new Finn.”

Ryan asked the writers if they felt they were compelled to pick someone completely new and different or were they compelled to “just pick a new star.” It was a loaded question as it was posed just after they saw and discussed Aylin. The reply was pick a star, which I’d say makes the most sense. The new and different is likely to backfire, especially if the writing sticks with the goal of being provocative and comes from writers who tend to stick with slightly skewered stereotypes.

Then Ryan suggested they eliminate two more more contestants. At the start of the series, they said they’d only have one, not four winners. (Of course, they could hire someone who lost.)

I could see eliminating any of them. There’s no clear winner or losers this week. No one messed up on the words. Blake did have trouble in the studio, but no one else did. Lily dominated her scene, so that might cost her.

In the end Michael and Lily are sent home. That’s fine. Though I thought Michael’s sharp improvement had earned him a place for the finale, I see that like Lily he’s not what the writers are looking for.

The Glee Project: Romantic-ality

They’re down to 6 contestants. Only two guys remain: Michael and Blake so I’m guessing they’re safe. The theme is romantical-ity. Lily admits to having a crush on Blake and figures the others do too. So we’ve got a little romance to kick off the theme.

The homework song is “More than Words” by Extreme and the songwriter will accompany them on guitar when they perform. I’ve never particularly liked this song. It’s just way too saccharine.

The contestants decide to pair up and the pairs come down to Shanna and Michael, Ali and Blake and Lily and Aylin, who are fierce rivals. Going for some shock value, Lily and Aylin decide to kiss when they sing. Aylin seems to really not care how her parents will react to having the world see their daughter flout their religious beliefs.

Darren Criss returns as mentor. He saw Michael and Shanna as stiff and Lily and Aylin did not ge the reaction I think they expected as no one mentioned their kiss. Instead they were seen as too serious.

Blake won because he was earnest, not a quality that fits the theme. When he won, he was happy and mocked the girls who mention their previous winnings. He seemed like a poor loser when he won. Since he won, Blake could choose

Shanna struggled in the studio. Michael was good in the studio, which surprised Nikki. Lily and Ali were great when recording as well while homework winner golden boy Blake stumbled. He can’t sing harmony.

Lily toned down her acting while Michael brought his up and that really impressed the judges. Shanna and Aylin had trouble looking natural and like they weren’t just dancing.

The video takes place on a Saturday during detention. Implausibly enough it’s on a Saturday and the principal leaves all the kids in the classroom and they easily run out of the room in pairs and get “romantic” in various parts of the school. The singing was good, but the What’s weird is that although the theme is “romanticality” none of the judges make any of the performers sex it up as they forced Nellie to do. Why the difference?

[Digression: Adam Levine from Maroon 5 appeared in an ad for ADHD meds. Doesn’t singing and songwriting pay any more? Is this what happens when kids download pirated music? So sad.]

Shanna, Aylin and Blake had to perform for Ryan. Shanna harped on the fact that she felt Micahel belonged in the bottom three and that she thought they were too terrific to merit that. Blake got “Losing My Religion,” Aylin got “The First TIme Ever I Saw Your Face and Shanna had “

Aylin forgot the lyrics. Ryan asked Aylin about how she thought Muslim girls would react to seeing someone like her on TV. It seems like he’s trying to do market research as well as cast the show. His naivete is showing. I suppose he’s never heard of a fatwa. I don’t think it’s particularly bold or wise to present the Muslim teen rebelling against religion. It would be interesting to show one living out that religion, believing in it whole heartedly. Weith Aylin, we’ve only gotten superficial glimpses at her faith and culture. That’s true of all the contestants and a failing of the show.

Astutely, Robert asked her about the backlash. However, the elimination round is not the time he’d get a real answer. Usually, people say what they think will keep them in the game. I wouldn’t expect Aylin to say that “While, my family’s pretty peace loving, there are some folks I know who’d hunt you all down if you disrespect Islam the way you kinda do with Christianity.”

Ryan notes before Blake comes out that Blake lacks a bottom, depth. How true. He’s petrified to sing. He does fine with the song, but he shows no vulnerabilities.

Shanna comes out dolled up with curly hair and a short red dress, after Ryan’s told that she’s too “bubble gum-ish.” Ryan did think there isn’t much to Shanna as far as creating a character. He asked her if she was complaining about her position in the bottom three. When he asked her what kind of character she could be, Shanna suggested she’d play the athletic girl who was in a bunch of activities. Boring. Later she admitted that she thought she didn’t believe she should be in the bottom three. Kudos for speaking up to Ryan. He then said he could write for the feisty Southern girl. (That could be a character, the Southern Red State Girl, though it would be better if she played up her family background.)

The judges thought Aylin didn’t offer much beyond good singing and that Blake coasted on his charm. Nikki thought all of them cracked. Before they presented the result, a trailer for next week showed Aylin in a hiljab, so obviously she stays. Nikki also brought up the issue that they only have two remaining men so it seemed unlikely that Blake would be eliminated, despite his

Note: Turks don’t usually wear hiljabs (the head coverings worn my Muslim women, called jilbabs in Indonesia.)

As they walk up the the list, Aylin and Blake express pessimism and Shanna seems rather confident, which was kind of a “tell.” Shanna was sent home. She’s basically too mainstream and didn’t know how to develop a character for the writers. She hadn’t been in the bottom and didn’t know what to expect. It’s a point in the competition that those who’ve been up for elimination have an edge as they know how to talk with the judges. If she had thought to mention how her mother was a druggie and that was hard, she might still be on.
Now my current favorite to win is Ali. I hope I haven’t jinxed her.

The Glee Project: Tenacity

In the teaser, everyone who’s left talks about how intense the competition has gotten.

The homework assignment is Survivor by Destiny’s Child, which the judge Amber Riley will evaluate. She proved her tenacity by showing up despite having stress fractures in both legs. Amber wanted Abraham too be less of a diva and said that Lily didn’t show the feeling that she should. Amber loved Aylin’s voice and was struck by how much Ali went for it, so she was chosen as the winner.

There was no choreography this week was

The song for the video was “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor by Abraham struggled to get the notes, while Michael had problems, again, with lyrics. Nikki said  Shanna was great as was Blake, while Lily was too loud in the group recording. Aylin seemed to savor pointing that out as their rivalry heated up.

When filming the video, they had to do an intricate obstacle course in one take. If a single person screwed up, they had to redo everything. Lily, Aylin, Michael and Abraham had to do double dutch jump roping and they kept screwing up requiring more takes. Abraham sprained his ankle, but kept plugging along showing his tenacity. At the end Ali had to shoot a basket with one hand. She kept missing, which is understandable since she’s shooting from a lower position. In the end, the director had the other contestants lift her chair up closer to the basket. The whole shoot took 34 takes and exhausted the whole crew.

The video was far better than last week’s.

Lily, Abraham and Michael were selected for the bottom 3. Lily still can’t sing well in a group and Michael keeps flubbing the lyrics.

Lily belted out a song from Funny Girl with excellence. Michael was good, but I don’t remember that performance all that well. Abraham sang Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and also did a good job. In the end Ryan and Co. decided Abraham should go. While he’s not the strongest contestant, I was surprised Michael’s still around since learning the lyrics is pretty basic.

N.B. In my opinion no one has more tenacity than Nellie who put up with a lot of pressure to adopt a fake pin up girl persona. I expected Shanna now to get this pressure, but she escaped that fate.

Next Food Network Star: Justin

It’s official. Justin was voted the Next Food Network Star and I’m disappointed. I was rooting for Yvan or maybe Martie. But the public has spoken and I can accept the verdict better because viewers voted. Justin’s kinda cool in my book and I’d like to visit his restaurant. I’d watch his show out of curiosity, the problem is I have no interest in eating his food. I’ll watch him make it, but it’s too sci-fi, other worldly for me.

As for the show itself, the review of the season was awfully tedious. It would have been better as a half hour program. Or if they somehow did a little more cooking, that would have been interesting.

The Next Food Network Star

Martie, Yvan, Michele and Justin (clockwise)

Where has the summer gone? Already it’s time to choose the Next Food Network star. I haven’t watched from week one, but I have watched for a lot of the time. I like this “reality” show as the challenges are authentic, the show is testing the contestants ability to perform and cook.

Now we’re down to four contestants and I’ll share my preferences. We’ve got Michele on Bobby Flay‘s team, Yvan on Giada’s team and Justin and Martie on Alton’s team. is too tattooed and her food is too concentrated on seafood for me. I do like Yvan and would be happy to watch him week after week. He’s sweet and I’d make the dish he did on his pilot. I know my nieces and nephews would enjoy the sweet corn macaroni and cheese he made. Justin is interesting and while I’d go to his New York restaurant Do or Dine if I lived in New York, I wouldn’t make his edgy, mad scientist food. Southerner Martie is so down to earth and real. I do think I’d make her dishes and I would watch her. Though the Food Network has Paula Deen and now her son with their shows, I’m tired of the Deen’s. I always thought a week of Paula’s food would make your cholesterol and blood pressure skyrocket, while your midsection exploded. So I’d say Martie offers something new. Yet I think she’s a dark horse.

To sum up, I’m rooting for Yvan and Martie, but my guess is Justin will win. I’ve seen the polls on the website and he ranks highest.