September 11, 2013

Fall 2013: The Assholes And Villains Of Reality Television

The villains and assholes of reality television include Teresa Giudice of RHONJ, Jeff Lewis of "Flipping Out", and Rob Mariano of Survivor.
Without villains and assholes and bad behavior on reality television, there wouldn’t be any drama. Without drama and conflict, there wouldn’t be a reason to tune in and watch each week.

If Jeff Lewis was sickly sweet on Flipping Out , and NOT the queen of mean, would anyone watch the show? Where would the Real Housewives of New Jersey  be without an asshole like Teresa Giudice? On CBSSurvivor, contestant Rob Mariano was the ultimate asshole, and he was compensated handsomely because there was a spike in ratings, and he added conflict and drama to the show.

In this season’s crop of our favorite reality television shows, we have a new crop of villains and assholes, and we’re going to look at some of them this week.
Lifetime television's Project Runway Season 12 Contestants

TV Talk: Project Runway  Season 12

Season 12 of Lifetime’s Project Runway, and the search for the “next great American fashion designer,” began airing  July 18th, 2013. The new season featured 15 new contestants, plus Season 11 designer Kate Pankoke, who was selected to return to the competition in an online survey of Project Runway  fans.

To date, 8 episodes have aired, with 6 more to go.

This season, the brilliant and inimitable Tim Gunn, was given a powerful one-time veto. His veto power could be used once if he disagreed with the judges elimination decision, and he could save a contestant from being sent home. In the “Let’s Go Glamping” episode 6, Heidi Klum uttered the dreaded “auf wiedersehen” to designer Justin LeBlanc, and Tim used his veto to keep Justin in the competition.

Lifetime's Project Runway Season 12 contestant Kate Pankoke makes a dramatic entrance.

After 8 episodes, I have to admit that after 12 seasons, and 2 seasons of All-Stars, that I largely agree with the judges decisions during Season 12 so far. I also think that Tim saved the right designer at the right time.

Every successful reality competition television show needs an asshole to create conflict, and keep viewers interested, and this edition of Project Runway  is no exception.

The first fashion designer to reveal that they were an asshole was in “An Unconventional Coney Island” episode 3. Miranda Levy’s passive aggressive behavior, and the bullying that she directed to teammate Timothy Westbrook, was mean and unconscionable. Timothy handled his elimination with grace and humility, while Miranda flew under the radar, until her elimination during “Shoes First!” episode 7.

The fiery Russian contestant, Sandro Masmanidi, walked off the Project Runway  set and quit while the judges were deliberating during “Tie The Knot” episode 4. His bad behavior went beyond being an asshole, and he could always get a job as a poster child for clinical therapy and anger management. The tirade he directed at designer Helen Castillo was disturbing and very hard to watch, and I was relieved that he punched a camera and not a fellow contestant.

Lifetime's "Project Runway" Season 12 contestant Helen Castillo's three winning looks.

I was disappointed that Sandro’s emotional breakdown happened during the Project Runway  episode devoted to marriage equality, and newlyweds Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Justin Mikita’s gay marriage charity organization, Tie The Knot. To Sandro’s credit, he made a brief appearance on the next episode to apologize for being an asshole.

Fashion designer Ken Laurence is still in the competition, and at this point, he gets an honorable mention in the Project Runway  Season 12 asshole sweepstakes. Ken is a talented self-taught fashion designer from Alabama, and I have no doubt that the 24 year old has had to overcome a great deal of adversity, to reach the top ten this season. Regardless, I also recognize that his emotional flare-ups happen because he feels insecure. While he’s been mouthing off each week, I think he’ll learn from his mistakes, and be better for it.  

Designer Justin LeBlanc is hearing impaired, and he’s a very talented designer. I applaud Justin for his fortitude, and am glad the Project Runway  producer’s gave Justin a chance to compete.

Kate Pankoke was NOT my favorite contestant during season 11 by any stretch, and the way she treated fellow designer Tu Suthiwat Nakchat, offended me. This season, Kate seems to have matured and grown up, and her talent has been on full display and she’s a sure contender for the finals.

I think that New Jersey’s Helen Castillo is a shoe-in to reach the Project Runway  finals, with 3 wins to date. I love Dom Streater’s work, as she’s consistently good. I think that Dom, Bradon McDonald, and the 2 Alex’s (Alexander Pope and Alexandria von Bromssen) will battle it out for the last two spots in the finals.

Michael Kors appearance last week as a guest judge on “Having A Field Day” provided a brilliant comic touch that had me laughing long after the episode was over. Poopy pants……….

Project Runway  airs each week on Lifetime - Thursday nights at 9pm EDT and 8pm CDT.  

Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" Season 5 contestants.

TV Talk: Top Chef Masters  Season 5

I don’t have too much to say about Bravo’s Top Chef Masters - Season 5, except that it fills the void until the start of Top Chef - Season 11 - New Orleans, on October 2, 2013.

The cheftestants on Top Chef Masters are all good chefs, and I always  root for the San Francisco Bay Area representative in the competition.

While I’ve always loved good food, I wouldn’t describe myself as a “foodie” per se, but I know my way around a restaurant.

I was 16 years old when I was hired as a dishwasher and busboy, which was my first restaurant job.  When I was a working actor in San Francisco, I supplemented my meager acting income as a server, and worked in some pretty good restaurants, including a local favorite that earned two Michelin stars.

My biggest complaint about Top Chef Masters is the fact that the judges do a very poor job explaining what they are tasting, and they do a downright terrible job articulating why they reach a decision, and make the choice to eliminate a chef each week.

The Top Chef Masters  judges seem to allow a chef’s reputation among restaurant critics to inform their decisions. They also appear to go easier on a chef if their cumulative effort has exceeded their expectations. I think that Top Chef’s  judges are more judicious and fair, because the contestants are younger, and they’re still establishing themselves in the culinary world.

Top Chef Masters  and Top Chef  are TV shows, so they need to create a dog and pony show for the viewers, and I get that. I would love to see a full season of each show with blind tasting, along side the current format, to see if a blind panel comes to the same conclusion as the dog and pony show  panel.

In spite of my feelings about the judging, I like the judges on Top Chef Masters (and Top Chef  too). Gail Simmons is nothing short of great, and James Oseland knows his food and often adds a comic element to the proceedings.

Judge Ruth Reichl doesn’t get enough screen time in my opinion, and she’s the most experienced critic on the judge’s panel  Her legendary review of New York’s Le Cirque, written during her tenure as The New York Times chief restaurant critic, went beyond great journalism. That singular review changed the restaurant industry for the better, and was a shot across the bow to restaurant owners, about how they treat their guests.

I scratch my head every week at the other two judges, and wonder if they were chosen because they have little impact on the show’s budget.

I’m rooting hard for Douglas Keane to win. He’s not just a great chef, he’s a great person too, and if you ever had a chance to dine at his outstanding restaurant Cyrus, you know what I mean. For me the experience was sublime.

I was shocked when chef Sang Yoon survived to compete again, after “Catch of the Day” episode 7. Sang Yoon is the asshole on Top Chef Masters  Season 5, and he’s a chef who likes to scream at servers, and anyone who works for him, which was readily apparent in “Restaurant Wars” episode 5, and you couldn’t pay me to eat his food.

Even an idiot knows that the recipe for a great restaurant consists of teamwork, respect for your co-workers on both sides of the line, and more teamwork. Yoon may be a great cook, but that doesn’t make him a great chef. I hope he falls flat on his face, and that the judges don’t reward him for his bad behavior.

Bravo’s Top Chef Masters  Season 5 can be seen on Wednesday night 10pm EST and 9pm CDT.

TV Talk: Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles  Season 6

Is there a bigger asshole on television, and in Los Angeles real estate, than Josh Altman of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles ?

I think not. Straight talk indeed!

Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles  Season 6 can be seen on Wednesday night at 9pm EST and 8pm CDT.

straight talk in a queer world.              
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