Sunday, January 16, 2011

Episodes and Shameless

The second episode of Episodes was the kicker tonight. Matt LeBlanc was top-notch and seems to really be having a good time goofing on himself. His 'character' of Matt LeBlanc can turn on a dime from being smart and sensitive to an absolute clod. Tonight he was talking about a documentary he had recently seen on children with Tourette's Syndrome. 'Matt LeBlanc' thought it was hysterical. Damn if I didn't think him talking about it was hysterical, too. This is easily one of the funniest sitcoms of the year.

Tonight's episode of Shameless had much less of patriarch Frank (William H. Macy) passed out on the floor and was all the better for it. A drunken Frank got punched out at his other residence the local watering hole The Alibi and when he stumbled home he took it out on Ian, bloodying his son's nose. Fiona's new hook-up Thiefy McHottie (also known as Steve) was incensed and thinking he was doing the family a favor he dumped a passport-less Frank in Toronto when he was doing a run to Detroit and took a detour. (The timing of this seemed a bit off as Chicago to Toronto is easily an 18 hour round-trip and Steve was back the next day fresh as a daisy but I don't write the show so they don't have my expertise to rely on, but I'll forgive them because they get the other Chicago details like Oberweis right.) Frank wakes up on a park bench and is soon arrested by the Ontario Provincial Police and once in custody loudly protests that he is a US citizen. But with no passport to prove it his protests fall on deaf ears and an outraged Frank goes off on a very funny and topical rant about the snowless Vancouver Olympics and further insult when the Canadians could not get the Olympic torch to light properly at the opening ceremonies. Steve eventually gets Frank back but still incurs Fiona's wrath. We also learn in this episode that the family of seven spends just $120 a week on groceries and also covers utilities while Frank spends over $700 a month at The Alibi. TV critic Ken Tucker said he hates this show but I find it very funny and wry and irreverent and above all, well-acted. We'll see where we are at renewal time.

And once again...

the people of Townsville are saved...

Powerpuff Girls are now on Boomerang!

Worst Cooks in America 2 Episode 3

This week the recruits are being schooled on flavor combinations. At least one problem with these worst cooks, is that on top of having no skills they tend to not be adventurous eaters and even recognizing the ingredients is difficult for them.

The challenge is to create three sauces with no instructions. The recruits have to taste and recreate on their own. The sauces are salsa cruda, romesco and pesto. Ty has never seen or eaten any of the sauces. I see trouble on the horizon.

The pesto teams do not realize that the food processor is for processing food just until done and process the poor basil leaves beyond recognition. Chef Anne's red team prevails.

The romesco teams are stumped on how the sauce is thickened but all agree it's not bread. (It really is.) Chef Robert's blue team makes a tastier sauce and wins the second round.

The contest comes down to the salsa cruda. One team has done inconsistent cuts and taken themselves out of the running. Chef Anne's red team wins the day!

For the second round Chef Anne demonstrates how to make a halibut dish with the salsa cruda, and Chef Robert demonstrates a shrimp dish with romesco. Erica says she doesn't like fish and none of the contestants on the blue team has ever seen a raw shrimp. Blue team has a lot of trouble with peeling and deveining the shrimp and their side of the kitchen soon resembles a slasher flick.

The dishes made by Chef Anne's team have varying degrees of success. Carlos does well, but Priscilla doesn't season her fish. Kelsey doesn't budget her time correctly and undercooks the bacon. Nurse Jen misses the vinegar in the salsa and underseasons her fish. Joshie tastes his salsa then returns the spoon to the fish, which upsets Chef Anne. And it's a shame because he cut the cruda really well. Erika overcooks her fish and her knife cuts are disappointing.

For the blue team, Kelly the vegetarian cooks her shrimp very well. She is also rather excited that she got the poo out of the shrimp. Georg cooks the shrimp well and her sauce is almost perfect and she is more surprised than anyone. Anna cooks her grits well. Kat uses far too many red pepper flakes and seems surprised when Chef Robert's mouth is burned. Matt has killed his shrimp. Ty worked so slowly he didn't finish the dish at all. Chef Irvine tastes the parts that didn't make it to Ty's plate and both the romesco and the shrimp were well-cooked so he dawdled his way to not having a winning dish.

The final challenge of the day is designed to show the recruits that they can make fresh food really easily so they no longer have to rely on frozen meals. Chef Anne demonstrates a dry-rubbed, pan-seared ribeye with mushroom sauce, smashed red bliss potatoes and glazed baby carrots. The recruits are excited but pretty sure they won't be able to multitask properly.

Chef Robert demonstrates an herbed turkey breast with English creamed peas, potatoes and a cranberry compote.

The contestants have 60 minutes to replicate the dishes. Kat is on her way to destroying her turkey when Chef Robert has to tell her to add the chicken stock to the pan so as not to dry out her turkey. She insists she's 'got it' but it's clear she seldom does. Anna is doing really well and Kelly decides she is the blue team stepchild.

Over on Chef Anne's team, Jen is on her way to destroying her steak but decides not to panic. Joshie is in love with his carrots and their glaziness. Priscilla decides her problem is her fear. I'd say it was adding what looked like a cup of cayenne to her dry rub. That's gonna hurt later. Erika plays with her hair while cooking and loses time because she has to run over to wash her hands every time. The wasted time kills her carrots. Ty decides that he is worried about overcooking his food and his solution is to pull the pans off the burners and he decides to cut and plate his turkey really early. As in pink early. Georg cannot work the burners on her stove. Matt burns his potatoes and decides that making new ones even wider will improve his second attempt. For a scientist he is not too bright. Once again, Kelsey chars her food and the steak is her first victim, followed by her blackened carrots next. Everyone is plating or resting their steaks and Priscilla hasn't started cooking hers yet - her only hope is that Chef Anne is part werewolf and likes it bloody. Kelly forgets to slice her turkey but comes in under the wire.

Joshie redeems himself on the steak round. Carlos undercooks his steak. Erika overcooks everything but her steak still tastes good, it just doesn't look good. Jen cooks her steak well! Priscilla puts a slab of steamed steak on her dish and her potatoes are not caramelized. And the cayenne comes home to burn Chef Anne! Kelsey's dish is an all-around disaster.

Over on Chef Robert's blue team Kat is up first and fails on the cranberry compote. Anna does well. Kelly's cranberries popped! Matt has several problems. Overcooked chicken, the peas are wrong and then the PAN cooked the potatoes wrong. Matt's metric was off. I swear that's what he said. Georg undercooked her peas, the turkey is bland. Ty is sure he hit the dish out of the park and his peas are OK and his potatoes are OK but his turkey is pink and inedible and Chef Robert can't try it.

In the stew room all the recruits are sure their number is up. Ty thinks his only hope is that someone was worse than him.

Blue team winner: Anna! Anna thinks Chef Robert is hot and oh yeah, she won a challenge!

Red team winner: Joshie, believe it or not! Then he's cocky and I don't like him anymore.

The other recruits moving on are Kelly, Georg and Kat. Ty and Matt are in the bottom on the blue team. Red team members moving on are Jen, Carlos and Erika. Kelsey and Priscilla are in the bottom.

Matt must go back to his labs, slide rules and Texas Instruments calculators and leave boot camp. For the red team, Priscilla will go back home and her husband will still be doing all the cooking.

Next week: grilling!

Gilmore Girls

The Gilmore Girls is still shown on Soapnet. And I still hate Jess.

That is all.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blogging Miss America

Introduction of the States:
Miss Georgia is apparently concerned about the width of her nose as the ‘slimming’ makeup is quite apparent. Maybe one of the other girls helped her with her makeup?
Did they write their state blurbs by themselves?
Miss Oregon did crack me up by telling me in her state it’s not permitted to harass Sasquatch. Gotta like a well-placed pop cultural reference.
I wish I had remembered to buy marshmallows so I can throw them at Miss Texas and Miss California.
Miss Utah: ‘Tonight, 53 women share a dream. Not a husband.’ Snark!
Miss Washington seems to think making a reference to the vampires in ‘Twilight’ will endear her to the judges.
The pageant has returned to ABC and is hosted by Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke. I find myself feeling very very glad Samantha Harris quit as the co-host of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ so that Burke could act as co-host tonight. It should be enough that the contestants might stumble over their responses; no one needs Harris doing it, too.
53, culled to 11. Semi-finalists: Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, Arizona, Hawaii, Virginia, Arkansas, California. America’s semi-finalists are New York and Delaware who has alopecia and is wearing a wig. I think it’d be cool if she came out with a completely different color of hair later. The rest of the contestants also voted in the final two semi-finalists: Kentucky and Miss Sasquatch, er, Miss Oregon.
It’s 2011. Swimsuits. Seriously? Well, I guess it’s still an easier way to get money for school than strapping on thirty pounds of football gear and risking concussion week after week.
Ok, now it’s down to 12: Texas (marshmallow), Arkansas, Delaware No-Hair, Arizona, Hawaii, Washington, Kentucky, California (marshmallow), Oklahoma, Virginia, New York, and Nebraska.
Evening wear: Texas wears a champagne-colored beaded gown; Arkansas wears a basic black column gown with some kind of weird strap; Delaware No-Hair wears a white gown with multi-colored beads and a funky train; Arizona’s gown is the color of a beaded desert with a sheer lower skirt; Hawaii wears a white gown with a sunburst around the middle; Washington wears a gray silk gown with embroidered rosettes only to mid-thigh; Kentucky wears a champagne beaded one shoulder gown but wishes she was rocking a Lady Gaga get-up; California wears fire engine red with a weird one-shoulder strap; Oklahoma wears a navy Herve Leger-type banded gown with a tiered and ruffled lower skirt; Virginia wears a white beaded gown; New York wears an Art Deco style black velvet gown with a pave design at the waist; Nebraska wears a white one-shoulder gown with lots of beading at the top.
This show must have the shortest commercial breaks ever; we come back from break and two of the contestants are putting on and tying their toe shoes.
Only ten of the contestants will go on to perform in the talent competition.
Nebraska is playing a ‘Chopsticks Concerto’ on the piano. I am SO not making that up.
Washington sings ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone.’ I am not making that up, either.
Arizona sings opera. It’s weird to see really skinny women sing opera. She’s at least as good as that Brit a couple years ago on Youtube.
California sings ‘I Who Have Nothing.’ Another white girl who thinks she has soul.
Oklahoma dances a ballet number en pointe. Girl has got muscles!
Hawaii sings Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ with ukulele accompaniment to start it off.
Delaware No-Hair dances a contemporary ballet to Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel.’ Oklahoma has her smoked on the dancing talent, but at least her hair stayed on.
Virginia is a ceilidh dancer and channels Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance.
Arkansas is a ventriloquist/singer. Again, I’m not making that up. And she yodels. OMG
Kentucky sings Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come.’ Her grandparents wrote the song for Sam Cooke.

Again, there are very short breaks. Miss Kentucky comes out onto the stage putting her earring on and then hikes her strapless dress up.

Interview questions.
Miss Hawaii is asked if considers herself a Hawaiian, an American or a citizen of the world and repeats the word ‘world’ about seven times.
Miss Washington takes on a political question about civility in political discourse and endorses non-partisanship in a very civil manner.
Nebraska handles a Wikileaks question and endorses security first, right-to-know second. And was not assaulted by Julian Assange.
Oklahoma gets a question about privacy on the internet and endorses thinking before you act, but, curiously, not thinking before you post.
Arkansas is asked about whether or not Americans should be required to buy health insurance and does not answer the question. She’s got a future in politics!

Then the pageant had 43 former Miss America’s on the stage. Starting with Miss America 1943!

Fourth runner-up whose name I will forget tomorrow: Miss Oklahoma, Emoly West.
Third runner-up, another name I will forget tomorrow: Miss Washington, Jackie Brown.
Second runner-up, one more name I will forget tomorrow: Miss Hawaii, Jaelee Fuselier.
First runner-up who will have to do the work if the title winner can’t perform her official duties: Miss Arkansas, whose name I’ve already forgotten.

And Miss America is Miss Nebraska, Teresa Scanlan, who is the youngest contest at just 17 and the youngest Miss America ever. Or almost jail bait. I guess 'Chopsticks' really impressed the judges.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top Chef: All-Stars - Marcel is STILL a tool

Yes, Marcel is still MARCEL. Tonight's episode starts with Marcel bitching because he didn't win the last challenge. Dale Talde, who did win, showed a remarkable amount of restraint in not taking Marcel out behind the woodshed and thrashing him. A new Dale?!

The cheftestants go out to Montauk and must catch as many fish as they can in a five hour period and then serve 200 people in a team challenge. No one wants Marcel on their team. Dale seems to be a fish whisperer and has a catch within a few minutes. Team Blais/Fabio/Marcel have nothing after three hours but things turn around and the teams have time to make endearingly inappropriate comments about 'rods.'

Then off to a beautiful farmer's market. Blais and Fabio have bonded over fishing and have started a bromance. The cheftestants muse that Jamie is the weakest link. Well, duh. Weakest link AND biggest bitcher.

Inexplicably, Blais and Fabio have let Marcel talk them into making a single dish. Little by little the bromance fades and Blais starts to browbeat Fabio.

Jamie is convinced her dish rocks, but judges were not too thrilled. I'm crossing my fingers it's time for her to go.

And the winner of a trip to Amsterdam is Carla! HOOTY!

Marcel is his usual ungracious self when Carla comes back to the stew room and is excited about her win. Go figure, Blais, Fabio and Marcel catch hell for making only one dish. All the components didn't quite come together. Antonia got hosed out of a win because Tiffani and Jamie made very weak dishes. Jamie decided to flavor her dish with watered down cucumbers. I wish I were making that up. Marcel, in a shocking twist, added FOAM to his dish. The judges are not happy.

And the two chefs who must pack their knives are Tiffani and Jamie. I'm sorry about Tiffani but I'm glad to see Jamie go home - she was easily three weeks past her expiration date on this show.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Showtime launches two new series

Showtime aired two new series tonight, 'Episodes,' starring Matt LeBlanc playing himself (sort of) and 'Shameless' starring William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum. HBO used to be the home of edgy must-see water-cooler series but has been shown up by the upstart Showtime.

'Episodes' is a half hour comedy about two British comedy writers who created an award-winning show for British TV. They are wooed by a slimy American executive and come to Los Angeles to recreate their series for an American audience. The main character in the British series is played by a distinguished and very portly actor (he played Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter movies) who must audition for the American network execs. He's quickly deemed too British and not right for the role he originated. Little by little the Brits learn that the American network head hasn't actually seen their show, though his sycophantic support staff has. The Brits are told they are in luck because a hysterically funny actor is available and ready to return to television: Matt LeBlanc.

The series really sends up Hollywood in a wink-and-nod 'Entourage' manner but has the added element of the incredulous Brits.

The real winner for the evening was 'Shameless' the hour dramedy about a struggling Chicago family and their shiftless drunk of a father. The mother is long-gone and oldest daughter Fiona moves heaven and earth to keep her five younger siblings clothed, fed and cared for while also working at any kind of job to keep a roof over their heads. Oldest brother Lip (short for Philip) is a science whiz with big plans for himself, brother Ian wants a career in the military but has a secret involving his married male Muslim boss, younger brother Carl is a budding criminal, youngest sister Debbie has a good heart and will care for her dad when he's passed out on the floor and the family is rounded out by baby Liam who looks nothing like the rest of the clan.

Responsible Fiona likes to blow off steam and catches the eye of wealthy well-bred Steve (played by a smoking hot Jason Chatwin) when she's out dancing with her neighbor Veronica. When a purse-snatcher steals Fiona's purse, Steve pursues him but the thief gets away. When the bouncer refuses to let them back in Steve punches him and gets in a skirmish then goes home with Fiona and Veronica (who was accepted to nursing school but never got to attend) who tend to a cut on his head. Sparks fly between Steve and Fiona but they are interrupted by the police dropping off a drunk and passed out Frank. Fiona is sure Steve was slumming and she'll never hear from him again but is surprised when he shows up. He seems too good to be true and tries to kill Fiona with kindness but she's still pretty sure he'll get bored or fed up with the chaos that reigns in the Gallagher household and refuses to put all her eggs in his basket, as it were. But like so many other things on this show, not everything is at it appears and Steve's got a secret, too. The show has a gritty realism and no aspect of life for the Gallaghers is sugar-coated. The show is based on a British TV series set in hardscrabble Manchester, England and is helmed by John Wells who was the show-runner for 'ER' and 'The West Wing.' The show carries Wells' trademark a-lot-of-things-happening-at-once style and has smart writing.

'Episodes' airs Sunday night at 8:30 central; 'Shameless' follows at 9 central.