Friday, June 29, 2007

“I took it to mean you’re gay and you want me”: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Todd once justified his continued viewership of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip by describing it as an ‘interesting failure’, and to be quite honest I can’t think of any word or phrase that better sums up what Studio 60 has been for me. I loved the pilot. I continued to like the episodes following. As the show gradually went downhill, I appreciated its faults while confessing that I was still hooked to it. Only in its last batch of episodes (excluding The Disaster Show, which I loved) did it become, in my eyes, unforgivably bad. Yet even then I was not going to stop watching it – not just because I was reviewing it, but because it had proved so continually fascinating. Almost everything about it – the fact that it was written by Aaron Sorkin, the talented cast that was being wasted, the terrible plotlines being pursued – was just fascinating. Often not in a good way, sure, but in a good enough way that I knew at every point that I would continue watching the show right up until the end.

However, I think this blog has ranted quite enough about all of Studio 60’s various faults and mistakes (although if you’re actually up for more of that, there’s no shortage), so I’ll just stick to commenting on last night’s happy finale. Thankfully, it did everything that a good series finale is supposed to do – tied up all the loose ends (Tom’s brother was saved, Matt and Harriet got back together, Jordan was fine), covered its own tracks (apparently, Jordan was in love with Danny since the moment she first met him – at which time, I might point out, she was blackmailing him) and went out on a sweet and life-affirming note. The finale (especially its last couple minutes) actually accentuated one of the show’s mistakes by putting the focus on Matt and Danny as an unbreakable team. The audience always knew this, but beyond the pilot it was a largely ignored theme as the two of them spent less and less screen-time together. Still, it was nice to see their comradeship back in full swing by the episode’s end. I was equally glad that all of the big storylines got happy, uplifting conclusions.

I also really liked the flashbacks (for, like, the first time ever). In sharp comparison to everything else that was going on, I found Matt and Danny’s reasons for leaving the show believable and nicely understated. I especially liked the moment where Danny realised that he had to stick by Matt and follow him out the door. Speaking of which, wasn’t Bradley Whitford just magnetic in this episode? I know I’ve already said it, but boy, he’s really sold every one of his scenes throughout Jordan’s pregnancy scare. It almost made up for how bloated and overwrought the proceedings increasingly felt. Steven Weber was also hilarious once again, and did well with his character’s ‘dramatic realisation’ moment (otherwise an abrupt and hurried character turnaround that I didn’t buy). Nate Corddry once again did beautifully. As for Perry, well, he has been the glue holding this very unstable show together, and his performance throughout has been nothing less than exemplary.

I’m being nice, I know. I’m fully aware that ‘What Kind of Day Has it Been’ exemplified all of Studio 60’s greatest faults and then some. This has been a terrible show, and I am glad to see it go. It has been so frustrating to watch that as of now, ‘Studio 60’ could conceivably enter one’s personal lexicon as a phrase referring to anything which despite great pedigree somehow ended up awful. Yet at this point, who can really be bothered to tear into it? It’s over. It’s done. I doubt many people will be mourning Studio 60 for long. But it will always remain a fascinating example of a surprising TV failure and the ‘downfall’ of a formerly beloved writer – who, by the way, I hope returns to form soon. After all, one misstep doesn’t discount years of quality work.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Boning doesn't necessarily ring a bell.": John from Cincinnati

(My apologies for the lateness of this and the sparsity of posting in June. I've had a huge number of deadlines for a variety of things, and SDD got the short shrift. We'll be back in full force in July, though! For now, I've gotta head out to a wedding, so posting may be sporadic if it exists at all. See you again sometime after Independence Day! -- ed.)

John from Cincinnati's third episode was my favorite of the three on the DVD screeners, and it remains my favorite after watching all of the episodes again in broadcast order. The episode seems to solidify the show as some sort of weird retelling of the New Testament in a modern world where people are skeptical of miracles. Only the doctor, the man of logic and science, can truly appreciate the wonders that are before the people of Imperial Beach. The others all shrug them off and try not to think about them.

There are a lot of complaints out there that you can't tell what this show is or where it's going. While both of those things are true (and I could see making this complaint as a detriment after the pilot), the way we're going there still seems so fascinating and so well-thought out that I'm willing to go along with it. Miracles pile upon miracles, and even the act of skateboarding and letting a smile cross your lips as you do it seems somehow hypnotic and beautiful.

My favorite sequences in the episode were the ones featuring music. David Milch always got a chance to throw a bluesy, rootsy tune on at the end of Deadwood, but the setting precluded him from doing much beyond that. Now, with a modern setting to work with, Milch is revealing himself to be nearly the equal of David Chase when picking songs to score scenes (not quite -- Chase's knowledge of music often seemed dauntingly encyclopedic, and I don't get the sense Milch is quite the same way in that regard).

The first sequence was set to a bit of Sarah Brightman and focused on Dayton Callie's drug dealer, listening to the song and pontificating on how wonderful he found it and Brightman's voice (in typical Milch fashion, the monologue revealed much about the dealer's view of the world without ever coming right out and expressing that). As the music reached a crescendo, the Yosts burst forth from the hospital, miraculously healed grandson in their arms and raced to their car, away from the watchful eye of the press. The moment was anchored by Callie's supremely amusing monologue, but the music somehow became affecting, even as banal and passionless as it was, simply because of the way the show first bumbled toward one of the main themes of all of Milch's work -- the way that humans come together as a community to help each other out, sometimes without even thinking about it.

The second sequence took place when Kai took John back to her trailer so they could "bone" (and it's still odd to me that very few of these characters seem at all affected by the fact that John is a complete tabula rasa -- though I suppose that says just as much about their self-absorption as anything). John commanded her to see God (Butchie having earlier told him to do so jokingly), her eyes rolled back into her head, and she saw a long series of other characters afflicted by a burning sensation in their legs. John looked on, compassionate, but sort of befuddled, and Kai came to, a bit disturbed, requesting that he never do that again. The whole time, an ominous bluesman rumbled from the soundtrack. Who is God in the JFC-verse? It certainly seems he could be an ominous presence.

Finally, the episode concluded with Muse's "Feelin' Good," as Shaun rode on the halfpipe out back to the astonishment and wonder of the other Imperial Beach residents. Sure this began with one of the least subtle cuts ever (Linc said "Jesus Christ" and we IMMEDIATELY cut to a shot of John), but it brimmed with the sort of hypnotic potential and mysticism any good story of the supernatural has.

(Anyone think that they're setting up the doctor to be John's first "disciple"? I kind of do.)

Anyway, I should say a few words about the hotel subplot, as I'm feeling more charitable toward it of late. It's still not my favorite plotline, but the dialogue in it is so crisp and amusingly delivered that I'm willing to cut it a lot of slack ("I'm half-deaf from the leaf blower"). And I like the idea of the hotel haunting these men with their greatest fears or deepest buried secrets or something. As comic relief, it's not a bad subplot. I'm just far more interested in John and his adventures with the Yosts.

I probably won't be around to blog this next week, so let me know what you're thinking.


Big Love Tuesdays: Season 2, episode 15, "Reunion"

Midway through Monday night’s episode of Big Love, “Reunion,” Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) sits in front of a video gambling machine and pokes at the screen, paging through the various games offered. Bill has made a point to the leader of the Juniper Creek compound, Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton), of how immoral he finds gambling, but Roman claims that this is the way to go. By using the machines to profit from others’ sins, the United Effort Brotherhood can pour money into its own way of life. Bill sits before the machine, glasses perched on his nose, and imitates the little beeping noises it makes (Paxton’s performance is probably the weakest among the leads, but he and the writers understand the earnestly dorky and law-abiding way the character engages with the world, and show it in little moments like this). Bill, in his own way in this moment, confronts one of the central conflicts of the whole series.

The central question facing most members of fundamentalist religious groups or sects is how deeply they want to engage with the world. To what degree are they going to follow that old commandment from the Gospel of John to be “in the world but not of the world”? In some ways, the whole of Big Love is about how anyone who professes to believe in a creed or code that goes above and beyond themselves can function at all in mainstream American society, which is built on a long-standing series of compromises designed to guarantee everyone certain rights and freedoms. At one extreme lies the Juniper Creek compound, where those who practice polygamy live in relative seclusion from the rest of the world and carry on in a strange amalgam of 19th century rural life and 21st century intrigue. At the other “extreme” lies what those of us who are not fundamentalists would think of as the normal world -- one where The Newlywed Game coyly hints at sex and one where premarital sex is all but expected of teenagers. The Henricksons espouse the values of the Juniper Creek bunch, but live in the world of the suburbs, all sharply contrasting colors and bright, green backyards. Look past the polygamy and the plight of the Henricksons is the plight of any modern mega-church goer; you can’t serve both God and mammon, but don’t you really want to? That the series plays all of these ideas so unironically is one of the factors that seems to keep some from embracing it fully.
Read the rest here.


"I mean, this is just silly!": Entourage

Sadly a relatively unexciting episode of Entourage (the above photo notwithstanding). Hardly a surprise--this show knows how to spread thin plots over many episodes, and I'm already worrying that the Medellin saga is going to take a very long time to go away. I'm worried about that because I've never been that into the idea of movie, and yet it's dominated the show for a better part of a year now. And once they showed us footage of the movie, it looked kinda half-baked, and now there's this episode's "chase Billy Walsh around LA" plot. I think I have a higher tolerance for Walsh than most, but he is now officially on my annoying list. There's only so much "oh, my movie sucks, I'm drunk and unpredictable" I can take. So, to summarize, I found the episode's A-plot pretty boring, and certainly not funny. The only funny thing about it was when they hit up Billy's sister (I assume it was his sister?) for info, and she was alternately stoned and enraged. She should show up more often! (after all, she's hot too--although that goes without saying for girls in Entourage-world).

The two B-plots were also kinda annoying, although as usual, Piven managed to drag Ari's up a little bit. Drama's OCD routine about throwing a welcome home party for Vince in his new pad was just one looooooooong joke that wasn't that funny and went nowhere. Once again, I preferred Turtle's nonchalant little quips to Drama's hyperactiveness. Not that I don't dig Drama, I'm just finding Turtle's grown on me more and more recently. Although WHERE is his cute girlfriend, please?

As for Ari, it was one of those out of nowhere Ari plots that is not gonna have much bearing on anything. He and his wife fought to get his son (whose existence I was in the dark on, although he may well have been mentioned before) into the fancy private school his daughter goes to, but Ari was later told by Principal Homer Simpson that his obnoxiousness is why his son won't get in. So, this meant some prime shouting-and-walking from Ari and a couple choice moments for the lovely Perrey Reeves. But really, if we're going to have unconnected Ari plots, can't we have some more that are actually set in the agency? I get that they want to include Mrs. Ari, but I'm hoping for more Ari-and-Lloyd action in forthcoming episodes.

So, really, the upshot of the episode was, is Medellin any good at all? Vince seemed to dig it, but Eric (supposedly the wiser) said it was a piece of crap. I'm ambivalent how I want all this to turn out. On the one hand, it might be interesting to do a story where Vince's movie is a failure and he has to struggle to work his way back into the limelight again. On the other hand, would it be that interesting? It's not like they're gonna have Vinnie languish in poverty forever, so the whole thing might just feel like more delaying until the inevitable Vincent Chase success story that IS this TV show wins out once again. Then again, having Medellin being a total success would also be pretty boring, especially considering that the idea behind the movie (and what we've seen of it) just isn't arresting enough. I was willing to get on board with Queens Boulevard's acclaim because we saw basically NOTHING of it, but I'm way less sure about this. Still, I bet Ellin and his boys can spin the plot either way--I just personally hope Medellin doesn't loom over this season as it did last season. New projects for Vinnie! New stories! More Ari! The return of Debi Mazar! This is what I want. But who ever listens to me?


"Are you appreciating the irony that we just held our revirginization ceremony in the sex shack?": Kyle XY

Was it just because I watched last night's episode in a hangover-induced fever state, or was it actually pretty good? I've been praying for some teenage hijinks since the beginning of season two, and they finally delivered. Virgins, sluts (or "chuts," a pronunciation they must have learned from Cherita Chen), cheating, underage drinking, breakups, shame - all aspects of the nightmare that is high school were present and accounted for, and every bit of it made me happy.

There were three main storylines: the high school slam list, Kyle's training with Tom Foss, and Madacorp's attempt to take care of their little Kyle problem. First the most boring: Madacorp. Shifty Madacorp Executive needs to eliminate Kyle, but the presence of the Tragers means he won't be able to do it without raising suspicion. His solution? Download artificial memories into Kyla - now called Jessi - and have her either extract the information they need from Kyle's brain or delete it altogether. I'm not quite sure on this part, possibly because I was too dumbfounded by the idea that they can download and extract memories from Kyle and Jessi's brains like computers. So gestating longer than normal humans makes your brain not just powerful, but computer-like? The fake science on this show is confusing and inconsistent. The best part about this storyline is that Jessi now believes she is bounty hunter Emily Hollander's sister, and will start to assimilate with the teen crowd. Seeing as she seemingly accidentally still remembers the scary time before the download, this should make for some interesting future events.

In Tom Foss land, the lesson of the week is "mind over matter." Foss believes that Kyle can do anything as long as he tricks his mind into thinking he can, and wants him to test that theory by learning to walk on coals. I used to work in reality TV, and on one of our shows we had a ten-year-old walk on coals so I'm not quite sure what this daring feat will prove, but whatever. Kyle's initial failure at this endeavor (wuss!) causes him to completely melt down, and he comes to the realization that he doesn't want to be special, he wants to be normal. Kyle, Clark Kent and Peter Parker should get together and have a big emo-fest over that one. And then they can talk about how they are strangely attracted to their (male) best friends. Anyway, in the end the lesson of "mind over matter" finally hits home as Kyle uses his abilities to save a girl from burning to death. He emerges without being burned, which doesn't go unnoticed by mom Nicole. I think only good things can come of Nicole knowing that Kyle is truly special. Theirs is my favorite relationship and this will only add to the richness as they struggle to keep his secret from the rest of the family.

The meat of this week's episode, however, was blissfully consumed by the teen set. Every year at the beginning of school, a group of kids puts out a slam list: biggest slut, biggest nerd, etc. Confirmed slut Hillary (yay, Hillary!) is determined not to carry the title two years in a row, and decides to revirginize herself. Lori, in the midst of a pretty brutal breakup with Declan, agrees to do it as well. This leads to some pretty darn hilarious scenes at a rager of a bonfire where they get drunk and swear off sex for good, but not before they ask poor little virgin Amanda what "her people do for fun." Snort. Unfortunately, though, it looks like Amanda is ready to give it up to longtime boyfriend Charlie, still not knowing he is regularly getting some on the side from every skank in school (Hillary included). Kyle finds out about this and is determined to tell Amanda the truth. Before he can tell her, though, the slam list comes out and guess who is listed as biggest slut? Ding ding ding, none other than skanky Charlie! Poor little virgin Amanda calls him out in front of the whole school, and it's about as painful as you would imagine. Kyle doesn't come out unscathed, as Amanda blames him for not telling her sooner. Looks like it won't be smooth sailing for them.

Seriously, you guys, that's what I'm talking about! I know I am biased because I'm a whore for teen drama, but every moment of it this week was spot-on. I love how they always manage to do familiar stories without making them seem trite or hackneyed. I also love how the teenagers are realistic. They drink, go to parties, some have sex, some don't, and it all seems so natural. Okay, so a popular band didn't play any of my high school parties, but I grew up in a hick town in Florida. We had parties hidden in the woods, huddled around a trash can fire. Maybe it's different in Seattle. Also, the balance was right on this week. The scenes with Madacorp and Foss fit in so much better because they were supporting the family drama and not overpowering it, and the twist in the Jessi/Kyla storyline was a welcome one. I wondered how they would work her into the teen set, and I think this is a great way to do it. If the season continues like this, I will be one pleased reviewer.

Random thoughts:
- Sour Patch Kid sightings: 1. The creative ways the find to stick product placement in each episode is endlessly entertaining to me. It's so ingrained into the fiber of the show that it seems unnatural when they don't do it.

- The episode title was "The List is Life," a Schindler's List reference that makes me more than uncomfortable seeing that the list in question is a high school slam list and not, you know a list of people being freed from certain death. Maybe it was accidental. Maybe I'm just too sensitive about the systematic murder of an entire race of people. I don't know.

- I know I go on about this every week, but really. What is up with Declan? Are they going to actually out him as gay and in love with Kyle? His obsession with Kyle is getting out of control. I can't be the only one who sees it like this.


Monday, June 25, 2007

"And Grace Diamond's fear: Heaven.": Meadowlands

Previously on "We're So Wacky!": The Brogans moved into Meadowlands, we met a bunch of creepy supporting players, and one of them got beat up heinously by another. Otherwise really, not much.

A funny thing happened to me after I was done watching my Sunday television yesterday. I had finished watching my last episode of the Loop on DVR, my TV went back to the regular channel I had been watching, and I remembered where I remember Danny Brogan from because it was on. He is David Morrissey, star of the wonderful smash-thriller Basic Instinct 2. What this indicates about the quality of this show I am not sure.

All of the Brogans got into some little misadventures this week, so if you don't want to worry about spoilers, you should probably stop reading now. It seems like Danny Brogan is going to be our link to the past of the Brogan family, as all signs seem to indicate it was his crimes and deeds that led them into the witness protection program (where, in Meadowlands, it appears that everyone is a criminal, not just an unlucky witness). While having an uncomfortable conversation with Jack about getting something in his house fixed, he recognizes someone from his past. It seems that somebody who was present at the fateful fire that led the Brogans to Meadowlands has now taken up residence. Is someone after Danny Brogan? We'll find this out later, but he spends the entirety of the episode spying on this resident, breaking into his house, speaking with his handler, or well, a little bit of ultra-violence (more later). He does find something a little strange in the man's house after breaking in, what looked to me like a torture kit of some kind, but after seeing this, the man arrives home and we see a oh-so-dramatic chase through some woods in the town as Danny evades the man. No torture this week, folks!

The daughter Zoe, who has become friends with Jezebel Oglive, freakish looking daughter of the friendly neighborhood exhibitionist, Brenda, spent the better part of the episode bickering with her friend over who could better attain the affetions of one Jack the Sex Offender. Now while I am no teenage girl, and while I also expect there to not be any normal alternatives in Meadowlands, I still think that I would have the sense to get creeped out and stay as far away from the guy as possible. In any case, Jezebel thinks he is gross, but tries to seduce him anyway, in some kind of weird competition with Zoe. She, on the other hand, tries to find out what he has done that landed him in Meadowlands, and eventually gains his trust. He gives away that he had tortured a woman when he was in his teenage years, who accidentally died on him, and for this he could not have gone to jail because he was a minor. Nice guy. Instead of running like hell, she decides that she's going to 'fix' him. Good luck with that one, sweetheart. Oh yeah, and get a new haircut, because the bowl shtick isn't working for you.

The mother, Evelyn, isn't very happy in Meadowlands so far, and is extremely bored. A bored suburban mother, how fascinating. She seems to be reaching out to various people and ideas in order to find herself in this new place. One way is that she is now thinking about having another child with Danny (who suggested it, based on the idea of his handler, last week). Another is that she is trying to make friends, particularly with one doctor York. Last week Dr. York claimed that he loved Evelyn, which seemed a little strange after they had talked all of about, oh, zero minutes outside of one doctor appointment she had. But this didn't seem to phase her much as she ends up going, with Zoe, to dinner over at the York's house. Danny couldn't make it because he was 'working' (read: tracking the guy he remembered from the fire). She ends up getting a little tipsy at the York's, and starts singing songs with the good doctor. After a phone call from Danny, though, she and Dr. York kind of realize their uncomfortable position, and decide to be friends. How very disappointing for the creepy doctor. If I had to bet on which of the Yorks landed them in Meadowlands, Dr. York would be my guess, probably for statuatory rape with one of his patients, or something equally gross. Despite all the attempts the show makes he is the only person on the show who actually legitimately freaks me out. Meanwhile, Mrs. York escapes for a little action with our favorite scum of the town, Jack. I'm not sure what Zoe was doing during a lot of this time at the dinner party, perhaps pondering the thought of having a who can land the biggest freak contest with her mother?

The brother, Mark, boy is this character going to annoy me. Besides being a completely vacant character that provides very little value to the show, he is used to add to the "look how weird we are!" quotient a little too much. So he basically spends the episode stealing clothes from his neighbor Jezebel, continuing his fascination with staring at Jezebel's mother through the windows, and dressing up like his sister. You know, I realize that his being in a fire and getting his hands burned severely might mess the kid up a little bit, but he is a little too "look at how dark and emo I am!" for my tastes.

The real central story of this episode surrounds Jack, however, and at the very beginning of the episode, as he is talking to the handler, we learn that he wants to leave Meadowlands, because of the beating he got from the police officer during last week's show. It is agreed that he will leave at midnight at the end of the day, and he must tell no one that he is going. He goes about his day, being his usual ew self, however towards the end of the episode, while having a little action with the Mrs. Dr. York, he comes to a realization that he likes Zoe, and he wants to see her and not leave Meadowlands after all. He rushes to her house, and up into her room, and sees what looks to be her, staring out the window. When he finds out that it is not Zoe but her brother, he becomes furious, and proceeds to embark in what I can only assume would be an eventual rape. Mark is lucky, however, as Danny comes home from his adventures trying to find out about the stranger, and rips Jack off of him and strangles him to death. Note to Jack: I know you're dead, but in your next life, if you like a girl, the way to her heart is not to sexually assult her twin brother. Then the mysterious stranger, who Danny recognized from the house fire, enters, and after a few moments of scary staring, thanks Danny for doing his job for him! What the..?

So there wasn't really that much more that interested me this week. They actually managed to make one character intriging despite being vile, but they killed him off in the same episode. So now, truly interesting character count? Zero. I meant to say this last week about the show, but I might as well say it now. They seem to be going for a Lost (we're stuck in Meadowlands) meets Twin Peaks (weird! quirky!) vibe of some kind. However the show's quirks and intrique seem somewhat false or there just to be there, and it hasn't yet achieved any of the narrative structure or real mystery of Lost. I think this show would actually be helped if it had flashback sequences, just like Lost? The most interesting things about the characters is what we have not and it seems like we will not be shown anytime soon: what were they like before they were in Meadowlands. If we got bits and pieces here and there, maybe we would crave more.


The Eccentrics: Burn Notice, Meadowlands, Flight of the Conchords and Big Love

The Sopranos is dead. The big network dramas and comedies are on vacation until the cool months (or longer, in some cases). What’s worth watching? Not much. Summer used to be the time when broadcast networks aired frothy fare (Fox’s short-lived, fondly remembered Keen Eddie) or series that were initially deemed too odd to become hits in the spring or fall (like CBS’s Survivor and Big Brother, both of which launched in bathing-suit weather). This summer, the network landscape looks barren, save such showbiz-themed competition series as Fox’s On the Lot and So You Think You Can Dance.

Cable is a desert too, but at least it’s got a wheezy carnival parked on it. There’s a histrionic legal thriller (TNT’s The Closer); a self-pitying, macho soap (FX’s Rescue Me); a feel-good doctor show about organ donation (TNT’s Heartland) and confident but uninspired sci-fi thrillers (USA’s The Dead Zone and The 4400; Sci-Fi’s Stargate Atlantis and its departing SG-1). But there are also four series -- three new, one returning -- that are just fresh enough to stand out from the pack and be worth having an opinion on.


To read the article, click here.


Culinary Review: SDD wraps up the week in television cooking.

Top Chef was back with a vengeance this week, proving itself again to be the finest competitive cooking show on TV.

The episode started with a theme-driven Quickfire challenge, forcing the contestants to utilize any number of citrus fruits in their recipes as this cycle of Top Chef takes place in blistering Miami, where they do citrus right, evidently.

The dishes covered a wide range in successfulness, and those that fared best combined ingenuity with just plain taste, and the chefs that shone were CJ, and the already irritating dynamic duo of Tre and Hung.

Tre and Hung obviously feel themselves to be above the rest of the competitors and while this very well may be true, it already makes for some lackluster television. I can only imagine (and honestly, hope) that one of them, or perhaps both, get brought down a couple of notches before it's all said and done. End rant. Hung again reigned supreme leaving him any elimination worries that we both know he never had.

The Elimination challenge required the contestants to make classy up some barbecue for a hoity-toity picnic thrown by Miami party-planner extraordinaire Lee Schrager. The chefs were aflutter by this challenge, and chaos ruled the day, as this was the first time that all the chefs had to utilize the same kitchen at once, making for crowded and opinionated work quarters all around.

During preperations for this challenge, we witnessed a very despondent Micah who claimed to be distracted by being absent from her young daughter for the first time, though her cynical co-chefs thought that a more likely excuse for her tears and depression was her poor showing at the Quickfire earlier in the day. While I'm all for the cynicism, especially when it comes to reality TV, it seems to me that the most cynical of her competitors were all single, childless men, so I suggest they keep their mouths shut and keep on cooking.

The day of the barbecue dawned sunny and hot and featured dishes that ran the gamut of the culinary palette. It was obvious early on that while the quality seemed to be there in nearly every dish, it was the appropriateness to the situation at hand that served as the losing chefs' stumbling block.

Standing out among all others from this challenge though, were the emotional Micah and promising Sara N., as well as challenge winner Brian whose homemade seafood sausage proved to be the perfect combination of traditional (sausage) and upscale (seafood).

Not so lucky with regards to the Elimination challenge were a diverse foursome. Tre (who truly let the entire state of Texas down with this poor showing at a BBQ challenge) and Sandee (whose poached vanilla/lobster dish did not pass as BBQ fare by any stretch of the imagination) were two, while Joey and Howie bickered over imagined slights as both dealt with the stresses of knowing how inferior their dishes were and that truly, they should most likely be eliminated.

Luckily for them, however, their lackluster pork and chicken dishes sufficed, because it was BBQ the judges wanted and BBQ they did not get from Sandee. So, see ya Sandee, we hardly knew ye and so ends another episode of Top Chef.

Meanwhile, back at the trailer park that is Hell's Kitchen, Chef Ramsey is screaming at his minions, and all is right with the world. This week's episode featured one contestant obliviously cooking with rancid crab, one contestant taking spaghetti from the trash, intending to rinse it off and prepare it for consumption, and one contestant having to leave the competition due to unspecified medical issues. My money's on syphilis! That said, it was both Joanna and Aaron who were disposed of this week, like so much spaghetti.

All par for the course in the tv culinary world. We'll be back next week with more fascinating foodie fables!