Thursday, April 24, 2008

Top Chef: The missing ingredient?

I haven't blogged on "Top Chef" at all this season, even though I've watched every episode. Mainly that's because, though the show still succeeds in making me hungry at 10:30 at night each week (particularly during last week's tailgating challenge), the contestants and the drama haven't really engaged me. This is only the second season I've watched, so I thought I'd ask the more veteran "Chef" fans: is it just me, or has this season been pretty bland? And what do you think the difference is between this one and one of the better earlier seasons?

15 comments:

Eric said...

I agree with you and I think there are a few reasons:

1. The cheftestants aren't taking as many risks - very few dishes have given me the "I'd give my left arm to try that" response.

2. The cheftestants have a narrower range of skill and experience - no overreaching line cooks this time. The high end and low end are pretty close.

3. Colichio, as noted by The Onion AV club seems less engaged and is certainly getting less screen time.

4. No clear villain in the Stephan/Marcel/Hung mode. A lot of arrogance and conflict, but nothing that really goes over the top the way those guys did.

Alan Sepinwall said...

3. Colichio, as noted by The Onion AV club seems less engaged and is certainly getting less screen time.

He's also been kind of a dick this year, even though he keeps trying to defend it by saying, "Everything's good, so we have to nitpick."

4. No clear villain in the Stephan/Marcel/Hung mode. A lot of arrogance and conflict, but nothing that really goes over the top the way those guys did.

Yeah, I think they hoped Richard would annoy more people than he has, but while the guy's cocky, he's not a jerk. The moment in week two or three where he offered to give his mayonnaise to the guy (Andrew? Spike?) who had forgotten to buy some showed that he's definitely no Hung.

Taleena said...

There has not been an "Oh Dear Lord WHY??!!" cuisine moment yet and while contestants are annoying the have also remained adult and civil. When they quarrel the talk through it to apologies afterward.

Last season had Brian and his amusingly named dishes and the full level of hyper crazy. the Season before was a season full of jerks and the first season had Harold and Tiffany's mouthwatering food.

I think it will pick up as the chaff get eliminated.

Susan said...

It's not just you. It's a bland season. Season 1 was great - a new concept, great cheftestants. Season 2 was too much personal drama, not enough focus on the food, hard to find anyone to like. Season 3 was a return to form, with lots of cheftestants who made great characters, as well as many who were easy to like and root for. This season... I find that I don't love anyone or hate anyone. My reactions are much more watered down - I think some of them are okay, some are annoying. And that's not enough to keep me engaged. I keep finding myself falling asleep by the 10:30 mark.

Carrie said...

I agree the show has not had a lot of drama, but that seems to be because, as is usually the case with Bravo's shows, they try to cast for talent and not drama. Once in a while, there is an intersection of a gifted contestant who is a big personality(Christian from Project Runway), but Bravo doesn't seem to go looking for it. It makes the show more fun to watch for someone like me, who prefers the activity of the challenges to weird dramatic throw-downs.

Elwood said...

It's not just you...this season is a snore-fest, and with last night's elimination they lost whatever drama they hoped to create with the couple-as-competitors.

It's Richard's season to lose, and to Dale if he does. No one else is even close.

bill said...

This is the first season I've watched and only because I'm a huge fan of Richard Blais. It's slightly entertaining, but the editing is so unfair, there's so little emphasis on actual cooking, and as last night showed the judging can be incomprehensible. Probably won't be back for another season.

It is interesting paying attention to how the editing attempts to portray people and then how the viewers react in various forums.

Yeah, I think they hoped Richard would annoy more people than he has, but while the guy's cocky, he's not a jerk. The moment in week two or three where he offered to give his mayonnaise to the guy (Andrew? Spike?) who had forgotten to buy some showed that he's definitely no Hung.

The mayo was the first episode, which also had Richard taking Andrew's pizza pan. It was weird reading so many people have a negative reaction to someone I've met a number of times and think is a nice guy. I don't watch a lot of reality programming but hopefully I'll keep this mind before making snap judgements on people based on unreliable editing.

I'd love to see more film from the kitchen as there appears to be a lot of interaction and tasting of each other's dishes. And as last night showed, there can be a lot cooperation getting plates out the door.

I had Richard, Stephanie, and Andrew pegged as my early favorites. Stephanie is dropping fast and Dale looks very strong.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Tom is getting less air time. One thing that isn't bland is the amount of cursing and drinking the chefs are doing. Seems like every week someone is mouthing off...

Anonymous said...

This is my first season watching, so I don't have a comparison to earlier seasons. But I've been watching Hell's Kitchen (and Ramsay's other shows as well, BBC and US versions...we like cooking shows here...haha), and the Top Chef's seriously kick the Hell's Kitchen chefs butts. This season on HK, I would hire ANY of those people. I think the talent level on Top Chef is far superior.
I was bummed to see Jen go on Top Chef...I thought she had a lot of interesting ideas for food (and I have already made her beignets that she made last week -- superb!).

Anonymous said...

I think there needs to be a little more originality from both the chefs and the producers on the show. I'd like to use to examples:
1. Last season in Miami the surprise nighclub/late-night food edition was really fun and gave the contestants some interesting challenges. This years Second City bit just didn't seem nearly as wholesome, nor as mean. Although I guess making them move half way through prep is pretty cruel.
2. I really didn't like the progression of the cinema episode. It was clear all the contestants used some movie they can cook to even if Spike was the most blatant. It would have been far more original to see a list of the critic's top movies and then have the chefs do their preparations around each one.

In other words, this season still entertains and I'm glad they are weeding off the more annoying characters but I do agree that originality is lacking. But I think the production itself is partially to blame.

Lane said...

anyone else irked that the team that didn't even use the ingredient (Polish Sausage) they were assigned avoided elimination?

Those 2 were so holier-than-thou with their refusal to use it (even though it is associated with Chicago) yet they used store bought sausage of another variety. (When last week the girl who made sausage and peppers for the tailgating was thrown under the bus for not making her own sausage)

stevie said...

I don't care for reality TV, but I live in Chicago and love food, so I've been watching this. I really like it, purely because of the lack of human drama and the focus on cooking.

That being said, I think Padma Lakshmi is the twelfth Cylon, and Colichio is similarly robotic and cranky.

They need a Tim Gunn. Or at least more Ted Allen.

Rick Pecoraro said...

I find Top Chef is at its best when Anthony Bourdain is the guest judge because... well, he has a way with delivering criticism.

Unfortunately they used him on the first episode -- an episode where he was paired again Rocco Dispirito, a guy who he trashed last season on the Bravo blogs. I was actually hoping the two of them would get into it. Wasn't the case.

Hooked on Houses said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling this way about the season. I've always been a pretty rabid "Top Chef" fan, but this time around I just can't seem to care. I can't keep the contestants straight or remember their names, and I have no one in particular I'm rooting for.

My DVR went on the fritz last week and erased two episodes I had saved, but I didn't much care (The Office and 30 Rock eps that vanished were another story!).

Dave Sandell said...

Something that doesn't help is that the talent at the top and the talent at the bottom is pretty obvious. If the final four isn't Richard, Dale, Stephanie & Andrew I'll be floored, and I think Richard & Dale are the obvious picks to win. Since Richard is more cutting edge, I think the Top Chef producers would like to add him to their pedigree.

I keep waiting for them to knock Nikki & Mark out of the lineup and they keep squeaking by.

I'm sure it will be back for another season, and I'm invested enough in the top four this season that I'll be excited to see how it plays out. I would like them to spend more time showing the cooks cook and less time showing them bicker.