Much of the so-called reality TV show is utter dreck. Some are so awful, whether in ads or in flipping channels, I have to wonder what size of crack pipe the network execs were using when they approved it. Having said that, given how much television is wide open to reality television, I do watch a lot. There are what used to be documentary shows: Deadliest Catch, American Chopper, Dirty Jobs. There are the contest shows where the contest is the whole thing, led by the two superheavyweights Survivor and The Amazing Race, both of which are beautifully edited and feature clever stunts and interesting locations.
However, the premier of these reality contest shows are those where the contestants are actually doing what they want to do. Project Runway -- one look at Dr. Phil and you know I have no eye for fashion, but watching these fashion designers work is quite amazing. And the cooking shows, starting with Top Chef. Any surprise both of these are on Bravo?
So this summer, not one or two but THREE cooking shows have started in the last week.
Hell's Kitchen 3
This one counts as a guilty pleasure. Gordon Ramsey has to curse and abuse the contestants to do ANYTHING up to snuff. You watch this partly to see the train wreck which is about to happen. Now okay, the contestants in the first season didn't know what to expect, but come on. This is the THIRD season of Hell's Kitchen. How many brain cells does it take to know that first and foremost getting a dinner service out in the Hell's Kitchen restaurant is going to be key? And that scallops and spaghetti are two of the major appetizers? How could you NOT do a bit of pre-lab before signing up to do this show? And yet... geesh.
I'm not sure the winner is going to be the best person, or that they deserve being set up to run an expensive resort restaurant, but so far I continue to watch. I guess I like train wrecks...
Top Chef 3 Miami
The dean of the cooking shows involves people who are interested in cooking. The setup here involves unusual ways to flummox the contestants and see who can deal with it and produce. Whining about how unfair a particular contest goes isn't going to get you far. In the season 3 opener, the chefs are standing around a lovely spread of food -- and then find out that the spread is their ingredients and they have ten minutes to come up with a little something to taste. Yikes! Or Surf-and-Turf with non-traditional meats and seafood. You can't have just one strength, one kind of food you desire to cook. You need to be nimble and creative to continue on in this show. Time management rules.
The Next Food Network Star
This isn't just about the cooking, it's about the on-air presentation. It's interesting and the Food Network guest chefs, calm cool and collected, are great fun. Mixing in the TV thing detracts from the food -- the show is less classy than Top Chef -- but it's fun. I guess this is not the first season for this show either, but I missed the earlier show, driven off by too many Emeril reruns and the over-the-top Iron Chef America. (The original Japanese Iron Chef show still rules.)
Hey, I've already had my six weeks in hell camp -- it was called Clarion and it had nothing to do with a contest except against oneself. Much more introspective. But it is interesting to see the creative ways people succeed and fail -- especially in an endeavor where failure isn't really an option. (grin)