Project Runway and Top Chef: Worst. Challenges. Ever.

Oh, I just don’t have the energy to write about these shows in any detail.

Look, I get it. The challenges have to be fun and unusual. A whole series of ‘make your best thing’ would be stupid, and boring. But you can easily have challenges along the lines of ‘make your best thing under these very strict criteria’ as opposed to ‘make your best thing out of materials gathered that you skimmed from a canal while guest judges Itchy and Scratchy fire bees at you’. The difficulties should come from meeting the brief, not the execution of the brief.

I’m all in favour of PeeWee Herman, but Paul Reubens clearly didn’t want to be doing it and felt weird about ‘comedy’ judging something that was serious. Making them cycle around and use other people’s kitchens was just stupid. Not at this stage of the contest. The ‘street muse’ thing for Project Runway was a good idea, but the idea of making people give up their clothes was beyond stupid. Even if we did get a ‘hot’ dude in tiny underpants out of it. That’s an awful lot of air quotes for one paragraph, but they’ve brought it on themselves.

Two of the most obvious boots in the history of these shows. Tom cutting off Grayson at the knees the second he gets the chance. Whatever, totally worth it for the chance to have told him to suck an egg. I still don’t know how Sarah’s making it through. Two bad risottos and now underseasoning. These are big sins on this show. I hope Bev comes back and it’s an Ed, Paul, Bev final three and Ogre Heather and all the rest of them choke on the ASIAN FLAVOURS.

Anthony going home was absurd. It was obvious from about five minutes in when 90% of the episode was him talking to camera or getting strangers to undress. Clearly getting their monthey’s worth from how ‘funny’ he is. His outfit was fine. Little bit 70s loungewear, but fine. He mostly seemed to get ousted on a misunderstanding. He said he made ‘everything from the waist up’ from fabric from strangers, and they seemed to think he just made the turban and the purse. Regardless, he shouldn’t have gone when Jerell’s … Jerell’s whatever that was was in contention. I think that’s overtaken Ramon’s neoprene toilet dress, but not quite beaten Emilio’s washers and string bikini, as the worst garments EVER made on this show. It isn’t a unique vision. It’s just bad taste.

Oh, and Mondo? Wearing a T-shirt with your own face on it as tacky as all hell. Don’t do it.

Project Runway and Top Chef – Stop. Saying. Taste.

So Project Runway had a ‘taste’ theme this week. You may have noticed that from the way that Angela Lindvall kept saying taste about a thousand times in the introduction. ‘There are many kinds of taste and taste comes from lots of places so this week we want to challenge your taste and have you show us your taste by making something in good taste from something with good taste which is to say gelato which tastes nice so you have to take the taste of your gelato and base a garment that is in good taste on the taste of your gelato’s taste. Taste.’ I know she doesn’t write her own scripts, so she’s not entirely to blame, but that shit was clunky as hell. I liked her at first, but now she’s kind of grating. Apart from the moments she SHOUTS RANDOMLY, she just drones. She sounds like one of the Fashion Club from Daria. Maybe she’s just tired from having nightmares about orphans who can’t afford ankle boots.

I enjoyed April saying that she didn’t understand some of the flavours and then mentioning ‘Fruits of the Forest’ like that was some obscure gelato arcanery that only gelato masters with secrets handed down the generations would understand. Rather than, you know. An ice cream. She did somewhat redeem herself when Joanna Coles was all ‘I brought delicious ice cream for everybody! DELICIOUS DELICIOUS ICE CREAM! Taste!’ and handed it to April, all ‘Refreshments!’ and April immediately just tossed it aside and caried on talking about sewing.

Joanna’s visit was weird, though. She wasn’t really giving them any advice or help; she was just serving as weird ‘Voice Of The Audience’ thing, asking simplistic questions about where they get their ideas and so on, which she as a fashion editor has no business asking. It seemed a really clunky way of giving information they thought the audience would want, when we (well, I) just want to hear her being mean to the designers.

Michael Costello continues to be the absolute worst. Gasping, hand-flapping, insincere little wretch. Spending any amout of time with him must just be exhausting. With him and Anthony and Jerrel all not being nearly as funny as they think they are but getting so many interviews, it’s all a bit wearisome.

They continue to all make horrible, horrible clothes. I know that the six hours time limit is a lot to blame in this instance, but still. Kenley’s dress was cute and, as always, very her. Mila used notblack! But still did colour blocking like a champ. Mondo’s was the least bad from him this season, but was still, well, an ugly orange kaftan. Rami’s was hideous in a similar way to Anthony’s. Trying too hard to prove they could do construction. I admired Kara for avoiding the obvious ‘chocolate is brown’ conclusion, but the result was … offputting. Jerrel’s was gross, again. I don’t know how he’s cruising through making these short in front long in back gowns in ugly fabrics with bondage accoutrements. Not good. April’s was a nice idea, poorly executed, but she’s grown on me and she is young, so I’m sure she’ll be fine. I’d rather she’d stayed than a lot of the people left.

Michael can make some prety gowns, but this was not one of them. It sagged weirdly in the middle and the colour was drab drab drab. He does give good back, though. His reaction to winning was typically obnoxious, but I loved how it became glaringly apparent that the ‘industry event’ Miranda Kerr was wearing this to was yet to be decided, and may end up being a trip to Michael to Jack in the Box in Palm Springs. Do they even have Jack in the Box in Palm Springs? Anyway. Clearly this was Schrodinger’s Industry Event.

Speaking of Miranda Kerr, she … isn’t the brightest pair of shoes on the fabulous Neiman Marcus accessories wall, is she? She mostly just echoed what the other judges said, about five seconds too late. There’s a weird inconsistency with the judges this year – genuinely capital F Fashion people like Diane von Furstenberg, or Badgley and Mischka, alongside derpy old Miranda Kerr and Miss Piggy. I did love how Angela said ‘Here’s Diane von Fursternberg to tell you more about the challenge’ and then DvF basically just stood there looking like the leathery beach skeleton she is, winking at people. I still really enjoy Georgina Chapman. She gives really considered, thoughtful feedback and seems to have actual opinions. I still pretend that Mizrahi doesn’t exist.

I’m sorely disappointed that in a challenge that was supposedly about TASTE they didn’t really question the tackiness of some of the clothes. And that there was no Nina to say ‘We have concerns about your taste levels’. This truly is a show in its own mould.

As for Top Chef, wow, Sarah and Lindsay just continue to be utterly unpleasant don’t they? Grinning with delight when Paul forgot his shrimp. Their horrible self-congratulatory love-in of ‘I’d eat that every day!’ ‘no, I’d eat YOU every day!’ ‘IT TASTES SO GOOD’. I kind of yelped with delight when they lost to Grayson and Chris. And of course, they remained classy by implying that they lost because Cat Cora doesn’t like tarragon. Not because it was misjudged in that recipe, or because it was too strong, or any real actual reason. Or not even because Grayson and Chris simply made better food than them. No, it’s because Cat Cora doesn’t like tarragon, and is so lacking in professionalism that that would affect her judging of how well the food was made technicallly. Gross me out.

There’s not a lot you can say about the food, really. Two meatballs, two chicken salads, two Asian barbecues. They all looked nice enough. But that’s what you get when you make them serve food for 200 people in a short period of time, outdoors, in the summer, in Texas. At the risk of overusing a phrase, it’s Top Chef, not Top Caterer. (I would totally watch that show, by the way.) By all means challenge the chefs and make them do different things, and have a couple of ‘bulk’ challenges, but there’s been so many this season. The barbecue one, the steak one, the QuinceaƱera one (bring back Blanca Flores as a judge, by the way), this one… I dunno. I’d just like more ‘fine dining’ challenges that push the chefs in interesting directions, rather than ‘make lots of food in not enough time’.

Of course, the highlight of the episode was Grayson standing up to Tom. The judges on this show, and especially Tom, are hugely inconsistent about what they want, and what they expect, and it was great that Grayson called him out on it. And with such finesse. ‘Like a MEATBALL?’ said in three words what could have been a whole protracted argument about what they should do and how the challenges are set and so on. And he actually shut up! She’s signed her own death warrant, of course, because there’s no way Tom’s ego will let somebody who talked back to him win the competition, but at least she’s going to be on ‘best bits’ clips from now until forever. She really should be Fan Favourite, but nothing can stand up to the might of hausfraus in love with Malibu Chris (who really wasn’t that hot).

Project Runway and Top Chef – Evil Queens and Muppets

I’m not sure either of them really deserve a standalone post.

Top Chef was actually a pretty fun week. It’s a good challenge, and, as ever brings out the best in them. These are the best kind of challenge – it’s a specific task, and not a hugely easy one, but other than that it just lets them cook. No teams, no weird ingredients, no staying up all night. That sort of challenge has its place, but should be the exception rather than the rule. So, as it was in the All Stars season when the challenge was ‘make a dish inspired by your ancestry’ and all the meals were so good that they refused to send anybody home, again the judges kept going on about how it was one of the best meals they’ve had in the competion. Learn from this, show – give them parameters and let them cook. You’ll get to eat better food and we’ll still get good TV.

I think that Bev pretty much sealed her fate with the quickfire. The show is open that the producers sometimes have a hand in eliminations and I’m fairly sure that they would have found the ‘She would have had immunity, but she didn’t! Oh, Cruel Fate!’ shebang too hard to resist. I mean, this is the second time Sarah has made bad (or, rather, not excellent) risotto, pretty much a Top Chef sin of the highest order, up there with using pre-cooked ingredients. Unless it’s a pre-cooked ingredients challenge, of course. But still. Imperfect risotto makes Colicchio almost as angry as Elia calling him about for shilling Diet Coke. ‘Whatever! I don’t even REMEMBER what Elia said. I’m TOTALLY OVER that bitch. I’m sure she’ll do brilliantly in her career that’s MUCH LESS SUCCESSFUL THAN MINE.’ So I find it hard to believe that Sarah wouldn’t have gone home for it without the drama of Bev’s lost immunity.

Tom trying to be funny was gross and lame. Charlize Theron isn’t going to sleep with you dude. And I know it’s not a popular opinion in the Top Chef-verse, but Eric Ripert creeps me out. He’s not sexy. His lips look like slugs. Grayson’s black chicken looked incredible on the plate, as did Chris’s poison apple. I wasn’t so impressed by Paul’s handprint. It was a cute idea, but Chris’s presentation was an enormous amount of work, Grayson’s was daring, and Paul’s was just … a handprint splatted on. But I’d totally eat it and, ultimately, what do I know?

As for Project Runway, first off, congratulations to all concerned for maintaining absolute stoney-faced discipline and seriousness with the concept of designing for Miss Piggy. Some of them seemed genuinely delighted with the prospect (although not all; Mila’s look of undisguised repulsion when it was announced was wonderful.) Especially excellent was Gordana, for being concerned about Miss Piggy’s comfort. The comfort. Of a puppet. It’s still a less absurd proposition than when the Top Chef contestants had to make cookies for Elmo, Telly and Cookie Monster (the pieces of cloth can’t eat; ‘Ripley, she doesn’t have bad dreams because she’s just a piece of plastic’), but as this episode didn’t feature Elmo sassing Padma Lakshmi, I’m afraid Top Chef still wins.

If Michael Costello continues to make not-hideous clothing then I won’t mind his inevitable dragging all the way to the final, despite him being massively objectionable. I mean, seriously. ‘I wasn’t worrying about who doesn’t like me’. You’re a grown man. You have a child. Who SAYS that? Mondo also seems to be heading down the road to insufferable..ness. I liked him in his first season when he was all weeping because he had so much talent and sometimes it just comes out as tears, but this new whiney Mondo who’s making ugly clothes, I am not on board with. Give Kara the gloves or don’t, but don’t give them and then piss and moan about it. If you can’t do something with good grace, don’t do it at all. This entire series exists for him to win, so it’s a shame they seem determined to make me hate him. April’s growing on me still. She’ll be gone in three weeks.

As for clothes, Gordana’s was pretty. Mila’s was Mila and I love her for her steadfast refusal to do anything except Mila clothes at all times. Kenley’s was great and should have won. Michael’s was good. Mondo’s was hideous. Jerell’s was ugly. Rami’s was repellent and I thought it was going to get him sent home. It looked like Carmen Miranda advertising kitchen paper. Anthony and April were fine. I didn’t really like Kara’s, except for the pink piping, which was a really nice touch. Austin’s was just straight-up ugly.

Closing thought: This is Project Runway, not Project Feathered Shoulders.

Top Chef Season 9 Episode 10

RESTAURANT WARS, BITCHES.

Eight cheftestants left means Restaurant Wars time, and as ever, it brings out massively unpleasant aspects of people’s personalities (or rather emphasises them. Hi, Sarah and Lindsay.) The producers must have been giddy with delight at the prospect of boys versus girls once they realised there were four of each left. I think only Donald Trump is more invested in dividing stuff along gender lines. Alan Sugar starts off that way but then gets more entertained by shuffling everyone around like the line-up of the Sugababes until nobody knows team Spark from team Innovate or up from down.

Interesting that they’re serving on consecutive nights, as opposed to two places on the same night. It seems like the girls, going on the second night, would have the advantage – more time to rest and think through things, even if they were banned from actually discussing stuff, as the ’45 minutes to plan’ suggests. At Palm Door. Like palme d’or! It’s funny because it sounds like another word! Even if that’s associated with films and this is a restaurant! I dunno. Maybe they’ve got a photo of Gina Lollobrigida on the wall or something.

The boys go for Canteen, which they seem to think is a really original name for a restaurant, as opposed to really derivative. The girls go for Half Bushel, because ‘the word bushel has meant a great deal’ to Linday all her life. Which: what? The abject chaos that both teams descend into is indicative of the fact that five hours really isn’t enough time to furnish a restaurant and do the prep and pre-cooking for three coures for 100 people. I’m all for pushing the chefs and difficult challenges, but that’s kind of absurd.

Even though the guys got a bit short with each other, it’s Lindsay that turns into a hissing, spitting ball of unpleasantness, most of it aimed, quelle surprise, at Bev. She, of course, criticises Bev for ruining her fish, despite Bev following her instructions. Loved Bev’s passive-agressive interview (while dressed as Punky Brewster), ‘Well, that’s not how I’d do it’ and Grayson’s much more forthright ‘Yeah, well, that’s probably just the cooking technique’. Grayson kind of rocked the whole challenge. She wasn’t a shrieking cow but she wasn’t letting herself get rolled over.

Things I’d eat: Beverly’s ribs, Sarah’s risotto balls, Grayson’s peach salad and her dessert, Chris and Ed’s desserts. The phrase ‘tomato water’ just puts me off immensely whenever I hear it. The rest have blurred into one.

Lindsay lets about 20 people queue up and ignores the judges. Padma screams ‘I’M GETTING LEMONADE’, clearly hoping it’s got gin in it. (The lemonade jug was a really nice touch, to be fair.) Nonetheless, the guys lose because the girls’ food outweighs their appalling service. As usual, Tom follows the tactic of something being a minor quibble at tasting and gradually blowing it up to being the worst thing in the history of food by the time they hit Judges’ Table. (In this case, the lack of coconut in Ed’s Almond Joy.)

Best of all, Beverly wins. She gets a three-litre bottle of wine (stay classy, Top Chef. Wine is best judged by volume) and a trip to the vineyard. Lindsay and Sarah get all snitty. The stew room scene of Sarah telling Lindsay ‘we wouldn’t have won without you and you deserve even more praise’ (wow, subtle) was great, if only because it led to the image of Grayson and Bev cackling and climbing all over each other with delight, while Sarah and Lindsay sit and sullenly pick at bottle labels.

Ed was clearly safe, having made pretty much the only dish from Canteen that the judges didn’t whip themselves into hating by the end. It’s a shame that Ty went, but that’s mostly cos he’s kind of hot. I’m sure he’ll continue to be successful, with a nice sideline in pin-up shots.