Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dear Giada, how can I get your life?

Although quality certainly matters to me when it comes to eating, there's still nothing that quite compares to the euphoria I feel when faced with massive amounts of food, for example at all-you-can-eat buffets. Surprise — I'm a glutton! What's that you say? You're not surprised? Well, congratulations on your powers of inference; now shut up.

Anyway, given my happiness at seeing a well-laid spread, I was of course delighted to discover "Behind the Bash," new to the Food Network this season. Giada De Laurentiis follows the preparations for big celebrations like a benefit for the NYFD thrown by Dennis Leary or a Grammy after party.

I fully expected to spend the last few minutes of each episode salivating over the reveal of the banquet tables. But surprisingly, I found that I was rarely that impressed with what I saw. I think that the cinematography is mostly to blame, as the shots of the party itself never seem to provide a satisfyingly close view of the food — and definitely not the lingering, and I'm sure loving bordering on obsessive, gaze that I would give to everything.

However, the episode that I saw most recently was an exception. In the episode, Giada took the viewer behind the bash to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Days of Our Lives." I was a little bored with the time she spent going through the wardrobe closet and checking out the set. But the food, oh, the food! Seeing the abundant vittles being scooped onto partygoers' plates, I let out several involuntary exclamations. And had to restrain myself from clenching my fists and shaking them at the TV in violent envy of Giada's life.

Then I noticed something that gave me a little bit of hope; I recognized Giada's husband and best friend from the "Chefography" episode that covered her life. They were hanging out at the party with Giada! So now I have a new goal in life: to seek out a friend who can open up this world of culinary pleasure to me. Not to be desparate, but if you know anyone, um, please send them my way.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bye, bye, Billy!

Like any red-blooded woman, I love watching the pre-award show specials where the networks give us a chance to size up all the stars' dresses. However, next time, I am considering watching with my TV on mute. Why? Because Billy Bush is possibly the most incompetent improvisational celebrity interviewer ever.

Look, I'm sure it's an extremely high-stress situation for him and the other hosts. But you would think that since this is his job, he wouldn't be so visibly awkward, making his segments completely unenjoyable to watch and leaving me counting the seconds until he throws it over to someone else. Yes, Nancy O'Dell has her own share of uncomfortable moments (see: Warren Beatty and Annette Bening), but she seems infinitely more polished than poor Billy. If only the cameras had stayed with Tim Gunn and Maria Menounos the whole hour, given that the Emmy Awards are all about honoring quality television and all.

(Although given the somewhat motley crew of nominees this year, I guess maybe I should put a qualification on that last statement and say that the Emmy Awards are ostensibly all about honoring quality television. Where the hell is the much-deserved nomination for "The Gilmore Girls," I ask you.)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Just Beachy

Today I got a wonderful TV surprise: I noticed that a couple of "Laguna Beach" episodes would be on in just a few minutes, and I thought it would be good background noise while I got dressed and otherwise made myself presentable to the public. I assumed they would be episodes I had already seen from the second season. But apparently, unbeknownst to me, the new season of "Laguna Beach" started a couple weeks ago. So what did I see when I tuned in? A new cast of characters just waiting to delight me with their ridiculous antics. Hooray!

So far, I'd have to say that the clique war lined up for this season is looking very promising. This time around, it seems that the producers have done an excellent job of pitting a group of totally unsympathetic girls against a gang of likeable kids (even though the central character's naivete does grate on me the tiniest bit). I think it makes the drama much more enjoyable to watch when there are characters the viewer can clearly root for and against. Of course, I like finely shaded complexity in some of my entertainment (e.g. my forever favorite "The West Wing"), but this is "Laguna Beach," for heaven's sake. Bring on the soap operatics!

Here's the only thing I don't understand: why does everyone think Cameron is so hot? Yes, I can see that he obviously works out, but I just don't see the draw. Then again, he is about a decade younger than I am, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"The Hill" Makes Me Ill (through no fault of its own)

If you're a loyal reader of my blog (which, granted, is impossible because I have no readers, but just hypothetically), then you know that I love "The West Wing" more than all other TV shows. So, of course, I tuned in to the premiere of "The Hill" on Sundance tonight to check it out. The show follows the staffers of Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL), providing just the kind of political behind-the-scenes look that should enthrall me.

And in one sense, it does. I'm totally engaged by the fast-paced maneuvering on screen. But at the same time, I'm totally depressed. The first episode is all about the lead-up to the 2004 presidential election, and for some reason these poor saps really think that Kerry is going to win. It's awful to watch their optimism knowing that they are wrong. In particular, the close-up shot of the Kerry-Edwards sign on the front lawn of Wexler's Chief of Staff reminds me of the Kerry-Edwards signs I fruitlessly passed out in Pennsylvania probably around the same time that this episode was shot.

Even so, I'm going to give "The Hill" another try next week. After all, the fact that it left me with a sinking feeling verging on nihilism is no reflection on the quality of the show itself. I guess that's the double-edged sword of reality TV — at least reality TV where the action is not completely orchestrated by producers: viewers are treated to the voyeurism that they ask for, but that means they are also denied the escapism that makes most TV watching so delightful. Plus, you can't count on the beautiful narrative arcs and sharp dialogue that Aaron Sorkin provides. If only we lived in his world. I bet Wexler's staff would like that too.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

So You Think You Can Create a Good Reality Competition Show?

Given the amount of time I spend parked in front of my TV, you might think that I would have seen "So You Think You Can Dance" before tonight. But no, I never felt any inclination whatsoever. In fact, I didn't even bother to give it more than a moment's thought, so I actually thought that it was a celebrity dancing competition show a la "Dancing with the Stars." I know: shame on me.

Anyway, the show happened to be on when I turned on the TV this evening, so of course I got sucked in. But I can confidently say that I will not become a regular viewer of this series (unlike my continuing guilty pleasure "Windfall"). There are so many things wrong with it, the overall experience is pretty poor.

Most notably, why do they have such a loud audience? When I watch people dance, I like to hear the music that their movements are choreographed to, not the screams of adolescents.

And Mary Murphy, please don't speak ever again. Thank goodness for DVR, which allowed me to fast forward through her inane commentaries.

And who the hell is Cat Deeley? (That's a rhetorical question. I know she's some sort of model/VJ, but why oh why is she hosting this show? Way to be awkward, lady.)

But even with its faults, this show does have one thing that makes it stand out above the others of its kind: real heart. Or, at least, the contestants have heart — I don't know about the producers. It's obvious that these kids have really bonded and care about one another, which is nice to see. And if it's all an act, I don't care. Why not? Two reasons:

1) I much prefer to see competitors who are good sports over competitors who are vicious, no matter what the television networks think.

2) I won't be watching this show ever again anyway.

Speaking of which, here's what I really don't understand: how my TV happened to be on Fox when I turned it on tonight. When I leave in the morning, it's always on NBC because I watch "The Today Show" while I get ready. So how did it get onto this other channel? Darn that Fox; I thought it was just their news that was fishy, but there really is some sort of larger conspiracy.