I have a love/hate relationship with reality television. In that I both love and hate it. There are a wide margin of the things that I just can't stand, most them being the ones that do absolutely nothing. It just a show following someone(s) who somebody said was famous enough to have their own show. Big Brother, the Housewife series, really anything on the E! network, it's so pointless. The dating ones are crap as well, forcing twenty people together to fight over one person is hardly love. And while you want to, can you really trust the emotions and acts a person does when a camera is in their face?
But then I love stuff like Project Runway, Top Chef, Work of Art (all on (or started on) Bravo oddly enough), American Chopper (in it's early years); they actually accomplish something. There is an overall goal, and an end product. Actual skill is involved, beyond looking good on camera. Yes, I totally realize that the entire event is a production, it is a tv show after all, but there is still talent needed to be there. The show needs "characters" but to even be considered a character you have to put up to make it that far.
Project Runway I think was one of, if not the, first competition shows of its kind. I loved it from the first season. Take 12 designers, hope they can sew, and put them through a three month relay race of fashion. Awesome. Bitchy egos, stress induced arguements, and the trainwreck that follows. Over times it's gotten more and more produced and staged, the producers trying harder each season to match the raw discovery of the first season, when they didn't know what they were doing and everything was more real. When models didn't show up on time, or didn't at all and forced the skinny gay designer to model instead. When the challenges were more than design something pretty. When the show went to Lifetime, I thought it would die. And when the season finale was made up of three young beautiful women in their twenties, Lifetime's goal demographic, I thought it lost all crediblity. Lucky the next seasons made up for it (somewhat), so that seasons strangeness was blamed instead on being in LA.
Top Chef, the show I really want to talk about right now, has consistantly rocked every season it's been on. The first paved the way, based heavily on the PR show model, but changed enough to really keep it fresh. It had two challenges instead of one, with the first affecting the second, in both theme and varibles. The people are almost more talented and egotistic than anyone on PR. And the challenges, despite aways being food based, continue to be fresh and interesting.
Speaking of challenges, TC is the only show I know that has certain challenges return every season. Two challenges, such fan favorites that since their introduction are the goal to reach, and the most feared, of the chefs involved; the mise an place relay race, introduced in Season 3, and the dreaded Restuarant Wars, in place since Season 1.
Right now I'm watching Season 7 on Dailymotion, because I missed it not having cable, and Season 8, also on Daily, as it happens.
S8 is the first All Star season, returning past seasons second-place contestants as well as fan favorites and those who just stir the drama pot. Today's post title was in relation to Wylie Dufresne, an award winning and envelope pushing chef. He is well known, now, for loving eggs; his first appearance on the show was during an egg themed Quickfire challenge. So when one of the chefs purposely cooked an egg dish for Wylie, he knew what he was doing. But hearing "notorious egg slut" be said out loud, and knowing it aired on national television is just hilarious.
One thing people don't think about show like this, any show that has a presenter, is how hard that job really is. It's hard to feel sorry for somebody who really does nothing in relation to the show aside of stand there, usually look pretty, and talk about what the actual talent is going to do be doing that day, but it's a vital part of a show's survivibility. Think of American Idol; Ryan Seacrest is a douchebag and talking is his only talent (if even want to call it that), but there must be some reason he makes so much money to host the show. So is the same with shows like TC and PR. PR has had Heidi Klum since it's beginning, and lucked out with her. She a model, and kinda sadly shows that fact often, but she has a very good personality and energy that translates well to hosting. That her total time on screen amounts to maybe four minutes total doesn't take away from her presence.
TC, on the other hand, faltered at the gate on that aspect. Katie Lee Joel was best known for being married to Billy Joel. Supposedly she really had a food career, but it was so miniscule that it couldn't have factored in. And she was dull and monotone, something you can't be when trying to convey tension or excitment to the cheftesants, and by proxy the viewers. She was let go after one season and replaced with Padma Lakshmi, who despite being a blip on the food circuit as much as Lee, at least had legitimate shows on Food Network and Discory Channel, and couple awards to back her up. That she was warm and personable helped as well. Almost to illustrate the point, Katie Lee was brought back as a guest judge in S8. Side by side with Padma, it's easy to see why they lost her. She was drowned out by Padma's presence, let alone Tom Colicchio's (who is awesome), was still dull to listen to, and almost looked annoyed to be there. Maybe that part was a bit of resentment, but still.
By the time Work of Art came out, Bravo had the formula down pat as to how to put together a well produced and interesting reality game show. Set number of contestants, all of varying degrees of competience and skill, at least two who are dellusional, half of whom are egomaniacs, and close working and living quarters. Four judges, one whom is also the host, of varied personalities, and one guest judge. One mentor, also possibly a judge, who has a charming accent of some kind, and who tries to help stear the contestants towards something not embarrassing without telling htem exactly what to do. Challenges that test the hamster runners, hopefully making at least one of them say "this isn't what I do" and another say "I've got this in the bag", that are also interesting enough to keep them guessing.
And for the most part they got it. The first season was much more polished than any pervious reality competition show they've presented so far, and did produce gallery worthy pieces; sometimes, about 90% was good but you'd have a hard time finding someone interested in the rest. There were some quality issues, in both the judging and those playing, but that's the nature of these kinds of things. They let the obvious shit kickers stick around long enough to mess with everyone, but got rid of them as soon as it was apparent they weren't going to produce to do anything worth while beyond kick shit. They got three good finalists, one of whom deservedly was shown he's not that hot, and the guy I wanted to win from episode one took it home.
What kinda pissed me off, and it shouldn't have, was that I found out I missed the casting call for the next season. I've wanted to at least try one of these things, just for S&Gs, but know that I'm way behind on even thinking about attempting it. One, I have no portfolio to show, and no current work anyway. Two, I'd need to desperately raise my skill levels to even try. Three, I'd have to think about whether or not I even want to subject myself to reality television.
But it's fun to think about.