Thursday, October 22, 2009

High Voltag-gio

The sixth season of Top Chef, set in Vegas, continues to roll along. It lacks the lovable personalities of last season. There is no kooky Carly or fabulous Fabio (who's scored himself his own TV show on Bravo) but it is using some nice Vegas inspired twists such as high stakes quickfires. Though it lacks the cuddly factor, the food being put out by some of the chefs seems outlandishly refined, innovative, and inspired. The downside to watching a food competition like this is that there's no certainty in being able to form an opinion, because, obviously, I can't actually taste the food. Add to that, that I don't really trust twatface Tom Colicchio's opinion about the taste of the food, it's really impossible to get an accurate read. But, judging from what I can see put on the plates and descriptions of the ingredients used, I can get a sense of what's going on, and it certainly appears as though they truly have tapped into some serious talent.

There are four bonafide competitors this year who consistently put out plates that look delectable and interesting. There's redbeard Kevin, who looks exactly like the claymation Kris Kringle from those Christmas specials from when we were kids. He whomps out mole and meat like it's a celebration, and even though he stumbled this week during restaurant wars and undercooked lamb, it was a misstep that was tempered by him also producing another pork plate that looked succulent. Then there's Jen, who looks like she's grimacing even when she smiles. She's Eric Ripert's handpicked protege who mistook black cod for trout (whoops!) and screwed up a real trout dish this week when her sauce broke, but who also has taken top honors in a couple quickfires and eliminations.

And, then, of course, there's the Voltaggio brothers. By their general demeanor it'd be easy to tag them as the Brothers Grimm, with their scowls and sourpusses, but then I look at their food and it makes my mouth water even on screen. And, as the season has worn on, the dynamic between them has become even funnier to watch. The younger one, Michael, is so completely transparent and brutally obvious in his sibling rivalry one-upmanship. And though the slightly older Bryan seemed to be more even-keeled on the surface, there's no mistaking his reaction this week when he told Michael he didn't want to share his prize. The best is the look on the other's face when one of the them wins a challenge. There's this internal duality going on where they're half pleased for their sibling, and half seething that they were bested. It's great!

All the other contestants this year fall way below the top four's skill sets, and I'm really hoping we don't get a "shocking" elimination due to a screw up this year, thus opening the door for a bullshit winner like last year's Hosea. Stefan got totally robbed last year, and if these four don't make it to the end to battle it out against each other, it'll be rather shitty. Mike Isabella's overblown ego is worth a couple of laffos each week, as is watching the fuckery commence between Robin and Eli. But V is for villain and the Voltaggio bros, I think, also get to take top honors in that category. They really aren't bad guys, but it is funny watching Michael snap at Bryan and act like a typical, bratty younger brother regressing to six years old. It's even better to watch him take over the kitchen and bark out orders to everyone while they intercut that footage with him giving a monologue about he's a really great guy. And it's even better to watch him wear down Bryan week-by-week, leaving me to wonder if it's not a bit of gameplay to sabotage his biggest competition by making him lose focus.

In all fairness, I don't really think Michael is a bad guy. He's got sibling issues, oh yeah. (I bet Thanksgiving and Christmas is a real circus around that family table) But he probably is a nice enough fellow who happens to be a control freak in the kitchen. Thing is, I've worked in kitchens, and they can work just fine with someone in charge who's on an even keel, but someone most certainly does need to be in charge, and if they get snippy and bark orders, that's pretty much par.

In other reality/competition TV villain area, since the advent of DVRs, I picked up watching the old horse Survivor again. They're shoving Russell down our throats as a "villain" but I just don't see it. A real villain doesn't know they're an asshole. (Please see last year's Coach as a prime example of someone without a lick of self-awareness of their own douchery.) Russell is just a guy who's saying that he's a villain because he's taking credit for kicking everyone out so that he can look like a master gamer. Bleh. Given the focus they're putting on him, though, I assume he wins.

Speaking of villains who sort of aren't, Dexter murders all other current dramas, retaining its groove for this year. The thing is, even when I see certain twists telegraphed, it still manages to surprise me with how it's carried out, or it still manages to keep the tension high. And this week Michael C. Hall was inspired. I love it when he turns all evil and excited when he's ready to plunge the knife into some real asshole. This week, he had to trick his prey into hunting him before he turned the tables and, well, got her on his table, all wrapped up in cellophane and tape. When she made her second insouciant rape comment, he cracked me up with his, "What is it with you and rape? Nobody's raping anyone!"

Someone else who's not at all lacking in his own knowledge of what constitutes an asshole is Larry David. This year's Curb Your Enthusiasm is on fire! Oh. My. God. This show is cracking me up every week. Wheelchairs, blow jobs, pie, packaging, cancer -- all those things that make for high comedy. Larry never minded playing an asshole or villain, but this year he's also reveling in playing the buffoon. He's mixing in more physical and screwball comedy this year, while retaining the rapid-fire, improv dialogue and genius intertwined plots that come full circle. Meanwhile, he's always got enough dysfunction splashing around to make even the Voltaggio brothers humbled. All of that combines to make a concoction so outstanding that even twatface Tom Colicchio would have to bow down to it.

No comments: