Thursday, June 24, 2010

What I Watched Last Night: Two-Day Catch Up Top Chef Edition

The night before last- Doctor Who Season 5

My good friend Mallory had been berating me for weeks- months even- about how I was a bad fan because I hadn't watched any of the new Doctor Who episodes except for that one with Tony Curran as Vincent Van Gogh, because, did I mention that I love Underworld: Evolution? I quit watching new Who about three-quarters of the way through the first Tennant season. I don't quite remember why I stopped. Maybe my lingering adoration of Christopher Eccleston's Nine and his enormous ears was getting in the way. Tennant's first season seemed unusually full of maudlin nonsense, and so, weeks before Rose even got dumped in that alternate dimension I had already quit. I realize that quitting that early means I missed some of the best stuff, like "Blink" and the entirety of Donna (except for that one episode, you know, that one. The wedding one.)

But now, I'm back, and I'm never leaving. Matt Smith's Eleven is a revelation, all coltish and manic trickster energy, and in the six episodes I've watched he still seems to be learning how to coordinate his limbs. Amy Pond is a great companion, with a background and a personality and a complete, refreshing lack of any father issues (so far. I'm only up through "Flesh and Stone.")

I'm sure there are other places on the internet that discuss new Who in a much more intelligent way, but I love, love, love the way the Moffat era is shaping up. Even the requisite and really uneccessary Dalek episode was pretty great, with the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill, and the hilarious experience of hearing a Dalek ask the Doctor if he would like some tea.

Ultimately, I think Doctor Who will always be about the perils of non-action in the face of evil or wrong. Intervening in the lives of others can bring pain and suffering (as it does time and time again for the Doctor, no matter which face he's wearing at the time) but the worst kind of suffering is that which is brought about not by making the wrong choices, but by making no choice at all. When the Doctor tells Amy and Vincent Van Gogh not, under any circumstances, to follow him, Vincent turns to Amy:
"You're going to follow him, aren't you?"
"Of course."
"I love you."
Of course Amy is going to follow him, because hanging back is the worst option to take, in the Who or the real world. If something happens to the Doctor while she hangs back she will bear the responsibility for his injury (or death! it can happen!) Amy is going to follow the Doctor because the Doctor always goes in. I think that's the choice that the show asks us to make, time and time again.*

Other things I've loved so far:
"We have no need for comfy chairs, sir."
"Yogurt is horrible. It's stuff with bits in."
"Let's get you sorted!" "That's what I've been trying to tell you!"
Last Night- Dance Your Ass Off, Design Star, Next Food Network Star, True Beauty, Top Chef

In addition to terrible movies and good science fiction shows I also love reality TV. Specifically, I love competition shows and shows about hoarders. Since I don't have cable I usually get together once a week with my awesome aunt who also lives in the city and we watch the shows we both like. My favorite of last night's block is clearly Top Chef, which last night had what might be the best Quickfire challenge I've ever seen: the chefs had to cook a sandwich in pairs, wearing a two-headed apron, only using one hand each. Literally one person had to be the right hand and one person had to be the left. Either someone at Bravo is a massive Evelyn Evelyn fan or they just had a stroke of genius. It forced the cheftestants to work together in a way that they literally never have before. The one guy's fear that his partner would cut off his hand: hilarious.

Less amusing was a strain that occurred in two shows last night, Top Chef and Design Star: the idea that if a contestant didn't make their ideas heard they were "allowing" themselves to be bullied. I think that kind of misses the point of bullying- the point of bullying is to win. Sometimes, standing up to the person who is asserting their opinion does not result in that person taking your ideas into account. The people who sign up for reality shows are not rational actors, and someone like Crazy Nina is not going to listen to sweet, porcelain Emily because she was clearly cast as the crazy bossy contestant, and that is her role. The same thing happened in Top Chef when Kenny knew they didn’t have enough vegetables in their school lunch but “allowed” Angelo and his partner (whose name I forget- Tracey? She talked adorably about raising her partner’s kid) to ride roughshod over his suggestions. Since Angelo & Tracey (?) had immunity, the assumption on the part of the judges is that Kenny needed to assert himself and make himself heard more on the topic. This mentality doesn’t take into account the realities of the competition reality-show dynamic, which is that in any situation where contestants have to work together, if someone has immunity & a personality like Angelo’s, that person will end up being the leader by default and won’t really be into taking ideas from someone who doesn’t also have immunity.

I hope that made sense. At any rate, on Top Chef the lady who was a self-taught caterer got sent home for her too-starchy, two-pound-of-sugar pudding, and Texas Tera got sent home on Design Star for painting a room yellow. My fervent hope is that next week on Food Network Star horrible douche Paul gets sent home for being a terrible, un-charismatic jerk. And like the adorably outsized (personality-wise and otherwise) dancetestants on Dance Your Ass Off, my thoughts on this particular motivational weight loss program will have to wait for another day.

*And yes, I realize I'm doing analysis on a show about an alien who travels through time in a police box picking up women to hang out with. I KNOW THIS.

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