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Cruel Cruel Summer

Filed Under: TV Reviews

So I know I’m several weeks late with the inevitable roundup of summer television, but I like to get a little settled before I pass judgment on hours of programming that I’ll probably continue watching out of sheer boredom after I’ve long since established that it’s making me progressively dumber (see: Rock of Love). I like to catch a few episodes, allow myself to get mildly invested in the characters/contestants/suitors before I decide whether a show is “worth” an hour of my Sunday afternoon, which might otherwise be spent watching foreign films, reading literature or pontificating on the meaning of life. Seriously, I’m a very busy person.

So here’s what I’m watching this summer, and what you should be too, if you know what’s good for you.

tvali-100x100THE BACHELORETTE: I’m a little late to this particular line of shows; all I know is both The Bachelorette and predecessor The Bachelor (shit started in 2002!) are the mainstream equivalents of VH1’s romantic contest-based programming. The only difference is there’s more mush—poetry, hand-holding, prolonged eye contact without resulting sexual contact—and fewer strippers. Bachelorette Ali, who is apparently a cast-off from a past season of The Bachelor (sort of the ABC version of Real World/Road Rules Challenge), seems sufficiently generic; she’s the kind of girl you’d pass in a J. Crew with a small dog in her purse. Her eligible men are equally nondescript, to the point that I’ve watched at least three episodes and couldn’t pair names with faces. Fortunately for ABC, the sheer voyeurism of watching people try to fall in love means it’s hard to fuck this one up.

Verdict: Watch with a hand on the remote. Some scenes—like Ali being serenaded by anyone, anywhere—are too perfectly awkward to miss. Others, like the ENDLESS rose ceremony, are easy to skip.

tvtopchef-100x100TOP CHEF D.C.: Here’s the thing about Top Chef: it’s getting a little…old. The formula is the same every season and even though they switch cities, unless you’re familiar with the culinary inner-workings of Chicago versus New York versus D.C., the guest chefs and restaurant cameos aren’t going to make much of a difference. It doesn’t help that a lot of the challenges are the same (and then again repeated on Top Chef Masters which, let’s be honest, is just a space filler between TC seasons so you don’t start watching something else in that time slot). That said, this season of Top Chef seems to have the requisite cast of characters: the early front-runner, the power-hungry female, the trod-upon foreigner. Add some spices and voila! Decent television.

Verdict: If you’ve watched the last six seasons, you might as well keep on keeping on. But make sure you have food around; after one particularly tantalizing episode I found myself dipping pretzel rods in butter.

tvworkofart-100x100WORK OF ART: In its never-ending quest to find the “top” everything—chef, fashion designer, hair stylist, hair stylist for poodles—Bravo has moved on to perhaps the most subjective of all topics: art. Work of Art throws a bunch of weirdos with artistic inclinations in one room, where they tackle assigned inspirations that run the gamut from portraiture to book covers. To be honest, I had limited hope for this show. I get the Bravo thing, I buy into it, but as someone who’s spent life wishing her technical ability matched her drive to create art, I wasn’t keen on watching people have their work slammed. So far, Bravo has proved me wrong: the ‘assignments’ are broad enough that it’s hard to argue people are being pigeon-holed and the variety in skills is huge; the show includes everything from painters to performance artists. The only weak point: the judges. But to be fair, Tim Gunn set the bar pretty high.

Verdict: If you like Bravo’s other fare, this one is well worth the time. And if you don’t like Bravo’s other fare, why the fuck are you reading my blog?

tvyourecutoff-100x100YOU’RE CUT OFF: VH1 never ceases to amaze. Just when I think they’ve exhausted the possibilities for trashy spin-off shows, they come up with something totally original (and by original I mean “original”) to hold the line until Ray J and another gaggle of hookers can be rounded up. You’re Cut Off follows a dozen spoiled princesses (think My Super Sweet 16, plus ten years) as they’re thrown in a house together with a life coach who teaches them lessons like “Toilets don’t clean themselves” and “Shoes don’t HAVE to cost $4,000.” It’s predictably entertaining to watch women who count tiaras among their casual-wear try to figure out how to grocery shop, or sweep a floor. Unfortunately the life coach/host isn’t harsh enough to make me feel like the ladies are learning anything so much as biding time until they can return home to their pampered lives, a few thousand dollars richer (what does VH1 pay its minions these days?) and decidedly more famous. I would venture to say that a re-casting of Sharon Osbourne, who whipped even sluttier and trashier girls into shape on Charm School, would have made for a much better show. Assuming Monique is booked.

Verdict: When it comes to the on-camera demonization of 20-somethings who have never had to work or think for themselves, I am decidedly in favor.


5:45 PM on June 29th, 2010 | 

Posted by kira

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